Graduate Student Success- Natural and Health Sciences

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Do you have a success to share with Marquette University's Graduate School?  We'd love to hear from you. Tell us about your new job, presentation, publication, or any other award or honor you've recently received. We will post your story here and on the Marquette University Facebook and Twitter pages. 


Nicholas Langer - Chemistry, Ph.D.

Nicholas LangerNicholas Langer is a current doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry who was recently awarded the Richard W. Jobling Distinguished Research Assistantship. The award is made possible through a generous donation to Marquette University to encourage and support research activity by doctoral students in the fields of science and engineering.

Langer’s research focuses on two major classes of nanomaterials: quantum dots (QDs – the same material for which the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded) and gold nanoparticles (Au NPs). Due to the small size of the nanomaterials (smaller than the wavelength of visible light), the materials have fascinating light absorbing properties that lead to their widespread use in LED displays, biomedical imaging, sensors, electronic devices, and much more. Nanomaterials are typically coated in other organic molecules to increase their stability and impart functionality. Langer’s research in the Kedem lab aims to understand the degree and nature of effect these molecular coatings have on the behavior of nanomaterials with respect to their catalytic activity as well as their ability to form ordered patterns on surfaces. He discovered a polymer coating for Au NPs that doubles their performance, showing that ligand design is a promising approach to the development of more efficient NP catalysts.

Langer has presented his work at the American Chemical Society’s fall 2022 and 2023 meetings, at various field-specific conferences, Marquette’s Celebration of Research and Forward Thinking symposia, as well as the 2024 Catalysis Club of Chicago’s Young Scientist Symposium.

When Langer isn’t researching, he enjoys exploring Milwaukee’s various districts and visiting Wisconsin’s state parks.

MMadison Suttonadison Sutton - Biological Sciences, Ph.D.

Madison Sutton is a current doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences who was recently awarded the distinguished Arthur J. Schmitt Fellowship. These awards go to individuals who are emerging leaders in their field and focus on furthering their development as leaders and mentors in their careers.

Sutton’s research focuses on songbird responses to climate change. She conducts her research at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon and measures how climate and species interactions shape distributions and ultimately survival for birds. Every year, she mentors and leads students in the field to conduct their own research focusing on addressing our understanding of the natural world. She is also an active member in ecological societies and committees that focus on increasing representation and diversity in ecology.

Sutton is a first-generation graduate student from Stewartsville, New Jersey. She has been to 45 out of 50 states studying birds. When she is not out birding, she can be found reading, cycling or playing with her nephew, Rowan.

Nick Schneider

Nick Schneider - Biological Sciences Ph.D.

Nick Schneider, a 5th year doctoral student in the department of biological sciences was recently awarded the Rev. John P. Raynor, S.J. Fellowship for the 2023-2024 academic year. The fellowship is awarded to graduate students to “engage in advanced study and research to prepare themselves for professional lives of service to their community and country.”

Schneider’s research focuses on the protein pyruvate carboxylase, which is crucial for functional metabolism in humans. Schneider states, “Certain cancers love taking advantage of pyruvate carboxylase to rapidly grow and divide, making pyruvate carboxylase a promising drug target for cancer therapeutics. My project involves discovering drug-like inhibitors that target pyruvate carboxylase in cancer cells. Using verified pyruvate carboxylase inhibitors against cancer cells would cripple the cancer’s ability to depend on pyruvate carboxylase, reducing their ability to divide and metastasize.”

Schneider recently presented his work at the Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference and the Gordon Research Conference. He has plans to attend and present at both conferences again in 2024.

Carolin JoyCarolin Joy - Chemistry Ph.D.

Carolin Joy is a doctoral student in the department of Chemistry who has recently been awarded the prestigious Arthur J. Schmitt Fellowship. The Arthur J. Schmitt Scholarship Leadership Fellowship identifies talented Marquette doctoral students and fosters their development as socially responsible leaders in the Marquette community and beyond. One of the goals of the fellowship is to further students' formation as leaders working for positive social change in the spirit of Marquette University and Arthur J. Schmitt. This vision is accomplished through supporting their doctoral studies and promoting leadership development and opportunities.

Carolin’s research is centered on studying the phenomena of energy transfer that takes place during molecule-molecule collisions, primarily in the Interstellar medium (ISM). Carolin stated; “The study of rotational energy transfer holds significance in understanding the physical conditions of ISM that favor star formation, the evolution of galaxies, and the interpretation of astrophysical observations from telescopes.”  Carolin plans to present her research endeavors at the upcoming 54th Midwest Theoretical Chemistry Conference hosted by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Carolin Joy is from Kottayam, India. She credits her advisor Dr. Dmitri Babikov, and her family for encouraging her and shaping her into the person she is today. When she is not studying and researching, Carolin  enjoys spending her free time trying out different cooking and baking recipes.


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Past Success Stories


Nicole Wells- MSN Nursing

Nicole WellsPost-Graduation Job Success!

Nicole will be starting as a Registered Nurse at St. Luke's Emergency Department in July 2020 and graduating with her MSN in August 2020. 




Giovanni Berardi, Clinical & Translational Rehabilitation Health Science PhD

Giovanni Berardi presenting at the Three Minute Thesis at Marquette University2019- Giovanni is a PhD candidate in the Clinical and Translational Rehabilitation Health Science program. He attended the American Physical Therapy Association 2019 Combined Sections Meeting (Jan 23-26) with support of the Graduate Student Research Travel Award.

Berardi was selected to perform a platform presentation on his work detailing the pain and fatigue response during exercise recovery in people with fibromyalgia at the Marilyn Gossman Graduate Student Research Seminar. This seminar highlights the professions developing researchers.

Previous work: Giovanni Berardi attended the World Congress on Pain (hosted by the International Association for the Study of Pain) in Boston, Massachusetts on 09/12/2018 to 09/16/2018.  Berardi performed a poster presentation of his work detailing the change in pain modulation with isometric and dynamic resistance exercise in people with fibromyalgia.  He was also selected to partake in the Pain Research Forum Correspondents program, which is a science communications training program that provides knowledge and skills needed to communicate science effectively to a wide range of pain researchers and to patients and the broader public.

Earlier in 2018, Giovanni was awarded a Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) Scholarship by the Foundation for Physical Therapy. More specifically, he is a recipient of the Bella May Award, funded by the Bella J. May Scholarship Fund. This award is peer reviewed process by the Foundation for Physical Therapy.

Berardi also the winner of the 2018 of the Three Minute Thesis Competition for his research on Resisting the Pain Epidemic: Pumping Up Pain Relief

Christopher Sundberg - Clinical and Translational Rehabilitation Health Sciences PhD 

Chris SundbergChristopher Sundberg graduated from the Clinical and Translational Rehabilitation Health Sciences PhD program (now known as Exercise and Rehabilitation Science) in May of 2018 under the mentorship of Dr. Sandra Hunter and immediately following graduation began his postdoctoral training with Dr. Robert Fitts in the Department of Biological Sciences. He was recently awarded a 2 year postdoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association (totaling $103,328) to support his research project, entitled Mechanisms of fatigue in older adults: Role of vascular function and bioenergetics. The primary aim of this project is to identify the causes for the increased fatigue that older adults experience when performing dynamic exercises. The central hypothesis is that the increased fatigue in older adults is due to a greater accumulation of metabolic by-products within the muscle as a result of the combined effects of 1) impaired skeletal muscle bioenergetics and 2) vascular dysfunction. The long-term goal of the project is to generate an in-depth understanding of the fatigue process that can be used to develop targeted therapeutic interventions to improve exercise intolerance, physical function, and overall health in the aging population.

Theresa Hardy- Nursing PhD

Theresa Hardy Nursing Graduate Student at MarquetteFollowing graduation, Theresa Hardy from Marquette's PhD program in nursing accepted a postdoctoral training position in epigenetics research at New York University.

During her fifth year in the Nursing PhD program, Hardy attended the Sigma Theta Tau conference in Dublin, Ireland to partake in a poster presentation session. Hardy's presentation about her research, entitled Biobehavioral predictors of anti-Müllerian hormone: A Systematic Review, examines a biomarker of ovarian function called anti-Müllerian hormone. Hardy worked to increase the understanding of the hormone in the general population so that it can be used to more accurately reassess reproductive potential. Her research examines the biological and behavioral factors that affect the hormone's concentration so intervention can be made to prevent a premature decline in ovarian function and fertility lifespan. Hardy will completed her PhD in May of 2018, and plans to start a postdoctoral fellowship afterwards. Her fellowship will be funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research.


Lauren Sara-  Clinical Translational Rehabilitation Health Science

Photo of Lauren Sara, CTRH doctoral student at Marquette UniversityLauren Sara, a second year Clinical Translational Rehabilitation Health Science doctoral student was awarded a Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) Scholarship from the American Physical Therapy Assocation. This award recognizes "the most highly qualified doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows preparing for research careers." These scholarships were developed in an effort to prepare clinicians for a career in research and ultimately one that will contribute to evidence-based physical therapist practice. Lauren received this award for the second year in a row. 


David_Defilippis_Marquette_Graduate_ProgramDavid Defilippis had a secure diesel mechanic job with good pay  and benefits in his mid-20's before he made the bold decision to leave to study biology and pursue his doctorate with Marquette's Department of Biological Sciences. This spring, he was awarded a three-year, $144,000 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Read about his Long Road to Ecology journey to success here.



Sergio Estrada Villegas, a PhD candidate in the Biological Sciences Department, recently traveled to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico to attend a conference for the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation and give an oral presentation about his research. His research, entitled Dynamics of biomass accretion in the absence of competition in tropical successional forests, discussed the competition between plants in areas of the tropics that are being deforested and are quickly regeneration into early successional forests. These types of forests have the capacity to transform large quantities of atmospheric carbon dioxide into wood, but no one had considered how plants and trees may affect the speed at which early successional forests transform carbon dioxide into wood. Estrada Villegas and his fellow researchers provided evidence that lianas (woody vines) slow down tree growth and decrease the capacity of early successional forests to accumulate biomass (wood). Their results show the role of lianas in successional forests might be more detrimental than previously predicted. Once done with his doctoral degree program, Estrada Villegas hopes to work in academia or in NGOs and continue studying how tropical successional forests may help curb climate change and protect biodiversity.

Doug Lyke, a fourth year PhD candidate in the Biological Sciences Department, recently traveled to Newry, ME to attend the Gordon Research Conference and participate in a poster presentation session. His presentation, entitled Actin and the Sequestration of Protein Aggregates, looked at the involvement of the cellular cytoskeleton and movement of protein aggregates. Many neurodegenerative diseases are the products of protein aggregation, and Lyke and his fellow researchers believe understanding the dynamics of cellular components to manage them is crucial in being able to efficiently understand, treat, and prevent these diseases. After receiving his doctoral degree, Lyke would like to pursue a career as a scientist in the industry or biotech field.

Katherine ManiatesThird year Biological Sciences doctoral student, Katherine Maniates, plans to travel to University of California, Los Angeles for the 21st Annual C. Elegans Conference sponsored by Genetics Society of America. At this conference, Maniates will give a poster presentation on her research, entitled The miR-44 family of microRNAs are essential for normal fertility in C. elegans. MicroRNAs as a set of regulators are essential for both development and physiology, however little is understood about the functions of individual microRNAs. Maniates's research looks into one group of microRANs, the miR-44 family and has identified that these microRNAs are important for normal fertility in C. elegans. After completing her doctoral program, Maniates plans to pursue post-doctoral research, and eventually a career in the academic setting.


Meghan FealeyBiological Sciences fifth year doctoral student, Meghan Fealey, traveled to Los Angeles, CA for the 21st Annual C. Elegans Conference sponsored by Genetics Society of America at the University of California, Los Angeles. At this conference, Fealey gave an oral presentation on her abstract during the Gene Stability, Gene Expression and Technologies parallel session. Her presentation, entitled Developmental regulation of H3K9me2 and chromatin compaction by C. elegans synMuy B proteins, focused on how DNA organization and compaction is achieved and what proteins within the cell are important for this. Fealey's research determines that a group of tumor suppressor proteins organize DNA and ensure that the surrounding genes are repressed, which gives insight to gene regulation and helps researchers understand cancer biology more thoroughly. In her future plans, Fealey hopes to continue her research through a post-doctoral research position, and eventually move on to teach and conduct further research at a university.

Monique TarrantCongratulations to current Master of Science in Nursing student, Monique Tarrant, for receiving the 2016 Milwaukee Black Nurses Association (MBNA) Graduate Scholarship! The mission of the MBNA is to support, empower, and educate nurses of color around the Milwaukee area, and Ms. Tarrant continues to live by this mission through her work. 



Maja WhitakerMaja Whitaker, a second year graduate student studying speech-language pathology with a Bilingual English-Spanish specialization, recently attended a conference in Philadelphia, PA sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. At this conference, Whitaker presented a poster, entitled Vowels Acoustics in English-Accented Spanish, which demonstrated the qualitative research she has done in her field regarding this area. In her research, Whitaker examined that English-Accented Spanish speakers may show greater variability in individual vowels compared to native Spanish speakers. Whitaker, who recently received the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship, plans to either work as a speech-language pathologist with elementary-aged students or in a medical setting with adult patients upon receiving her Masters of Science.

Miguel Sotelo, a second year doctoral student, recently traveled to Minneapolis to give a presentation on his research, entitled Methods for Whole-Brain Probabilistic Tractography in Acute and Chronic Stroke Survivors. In his presentation, Sotelo explained the methods he implemented to use a probabilistic model of brain connectivity with information of local fiber orientation, and the results the research yielded. Sotelo plans to receive his PhD in Functional Imaging, and eventually teach at the university level.

Brice Cleland, a graduate student in the Clinical and Translational Rehabilitation Health Science program, recently attended the Society of Neuroscience Conference in San Diego, California. At the conference, Brice presented his research on whether the affected limb in stroke survivors retains motor abilities during pedaling.

Previously in his third year Cleland presented at the Society of Neuroscience conference in Chicago, IL this fall. His presentation, entitled Reducing pedaling-related brain activation volume post-stroke does not depend on task performance, investigates factors that contribute to movement-related brain activation in stroke survivors. A recent study demonstrated that stroke survivors have decreased brain activation compared to controls during a pedaling task. This change in brain activation may result from changes in the structure or function of the brain or changes in the way that movements are performed. The factors causing changes in brain activation post-stroke are important because they potentially can be manipulated to improve brain activation and movement. When Brice graduates from Marquette, he plans to work as a researcher and professor at a university.

Evan Hess, a third year graduate student at Marquette University in the neuroscience program, was featured in the influential Fall 2016 issue of the Society for Neuroscience quarterly newsletter. In his research, Hess found that astrocytes are a key component in compulsive behaviors.

Brian Pattengale, a third-year PhD student studying Chemistry, presented his research on the application of ZIF-67 to Photocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution at the Gordon Research Conferences at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. His research aims to fundamentally understand the transient photodynamic catalytic events that underlie solar fuel conversion reactions. After earning his degree, Brian plans to pursue research and continue a postdoctoral position.

This summer, graduate students in the Biological Sciences program participated in a research 'elevator talk' competition. The science conducted in their research labs can be complicated, so the studentsthe students used these elevator talks to break down their research projects into 60 second, easy to understand presentations. Summer research students, which included undergraduates from Marquette University and other institutions, served as judges. Videos of the elevator talks can be viewed online.


Laurie Kunkel-JordanThe Nurses Foundation of Wisconsin recently announced that Laurie Kunkel-Jordan, a current Marquette University PhD student in nursing, is the winner of the 2016 Research Grant. Laurie's research explores newly graduated nurses and preceptorship. You can read more about Laurie's research on the Wisconsin Nurses Association website.



Doug LykeDoug Lyke is currently a third year PhD student in the Biological Sciences department and had the honor of presenting a poster at the Allied Genetics Conference in Orlando, FL this July. Doug's posted was entitled Early Stage Prion Formation and the Insoluble Protein Deposit (IPOD) and his research looks at proteins that are directly related to neurodegenerative diseases in the model organism yeast.  Specifically, Doug's work focuses on the cellular pathways by which these proteins enter their diseased conformation.  The significance of this work is that it will hopefully uncover details of the pathways that these different diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's take in their early development stages, and then this information could be applied to developing better treatment options in human health. In the future, Doug hopes to use his degree to work as a scientist in the biotech industry. Doug was also awarded the Summer 2016 Jobling Travel Award. 


Amanda BaumAmanda Baum, fifth year Chemistry PhD student, presented at the Bioinorganic Chemistry (Gordon Research Seminar) Conference in Ventura, California in January. Her presentation on Biologically Relevant Fe(II) Complexes Containing Redox Active (Hydro)quinone Ligands focuses on the preparation and characterization of synthetic metal complexes that mimic the structure and/or function of iron-containing enzymes in nature. These efforts combine inorganic synthesis, spectroscopic methods, and reactivity studies. Her research group expects that studies of the synthetic models will provide insights into the function of the biological enzymes and also reveal new and interesting chemistry.

Maria Bengtson, Biomedical Engineering PhD student, won the Pierce Prize Competition last week at January Dissertation Boot Camp. She gave a two-minute presentation on her rehabilitation engineering research for her dissertation, and her peers voted her presentation as the most clear, concise, and compelling of the 17 competitors. The Pierce Prize Competition is a friendly competition on the last day of Dissertation Boot Camp that honors Mr. Craig Pierce, who retired from his position as the Assistant Dean of the Marquette University Graduate School in May 2015 after serving the Graduate School for 17 years and starting our first Dissertation Boot Camp 10 years ago.