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Unveiling the 2024 Awardees for the URC Graduate Student Stipend and Research Cost Program for Faculty-Student Collaboration

Unveiling the 2024 Awardees for the URC Graduate Student Stipend and Research Cost Program for Faculty-Student Collaboration


The URC Graduate Student Stipend and Research Cost Program for Faculty-Student Collaboration advances high-potential research, scholarship, and creative work following the Teacher-Scholar model of graduate education while providing summer stipend support to outstanding graduate students, as well as funds to support related research costs. 

Awards were given in the following areas: Arts & Humanities, Behavioral & Social Sciences, Life Sciences, and Physical Sciences & Engineering. The total award includes up to $6,500 for stipend support and up to $1,000 for research costs payable to the department. These awards are overseen by the University Research Council, the University of Cincinnati's oldest and most prestigious internal funding mechanism.  

Congratulations to the following awardees!  




Arts & Humanities

JeMiah Baht Israel

Image of JeMiah Baht Israel


College of Arts & Sciences

Freedom Ride: A survey of Historical Sites Associated with  African American Life, Culture and History

The Freedom Ride project will focus on five major sites that set the standard for the interpretation of slavery and African American history. By comparing and analyzing the methodological impact of the interpretation and preservation of African American history at premier historical sites, my research will help establish and implement best practices for smaller, local research sites to actively amplify the voices of the historically silenced. The Freedom Ride project will also play a critical role in my dissertation research and successful completion of my PhD program, in addition to a publication in premier public history journal.


Charlie Beckerman

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Creative Writing Fiction Concentration

College of Arts & Sciences

Living "Underground"

Underground is a work of historical fiction set in London during the Second World War, and examines the phenomenon of Tube Station sheltering during and following the Blitz as a metaphor for the secret lives led by LGBTQ+ people at this time. Through the lens of the protagonist’s ex-patriate existence, I explore the connection between public and covert identity, as well as the protections and limitations of living in hiding, whether that be in the closet or in tunnels deep below the surface. I will use these funds to travel to the United Kingdom to continue the work of recursive research which historical fiction requires, and to write in situ a completed draft of the novel.



Holli Carrell

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Creative Writing Poetry Concentration

College of Arts & Sciences

Lake Of

This award will facilitate the research and writing of Lake Of, a documentary, long-form poem that examines the Great Salt Lake's history and current ecological predicament, blending poetry, prose, archival documents, and photography. Much of Lake Of will examine the history of Mormon settlers' encroachment and colonization of indigenous lands and waterways in the Salt Lake Valley in the mid-19th century and its ecological impact today. This project will comprise a significant portion of my Ph.D. dissertation, a hybrid poetry manuscript examining gender, Mormonism, and the American West.



Ilir Isufi

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Philosophy, PhD

College of Arts & Sciences

Examining the impact of social media self-diagnosis of mental disorders on personal autonomy

Mental disorders such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder are increasingly prevalent among adolescents and adults in many parts of the world, and are currently at the center of a self-diagnosis trend on social media platforms such as Instagram, X (Twitter), or TikTok. Existing research overwhelmingly underscores the low quality and misinformation propagated by mental health and self-diagnosis content on social media, but the ethical ramifications of self-diagnosis remain severely understudied. This project aims to shed light on the ethical complexities of self-diagnosis in the digital age and to advocate for responsible mental health practices.



Jinkyung Lee

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Political Science, Ph.D.

College of Arts & Sciences

International Regulatory Frameworks for Nuclear and Cyber Security: A Comparison of International Regulatory Frameworks for Nuclear Material and Personal Data

Cybersecurity is continuously evolving, with ongoing development in methodologies and research domains. To investigate this field, we propose leveraging a comparative analysis approach inspired by established methodologies within nuclear security research. This project aims to compare international regulatory frameworks governing the transfer of nuclear materials with those governing personal data. Through this comparison, we aim to delineate the nuances between the control mechanisms of nuclear materials in nuclear security and the regulatory landscape surrounding personal data in cybersecurity.



Zachary Peck

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Philosophy, Ph.D.

College of Arts & Sciences

Cyborgian Collective Action in Action: A Case Study Using LLMs in the Classroom

Generative AI is likely to be increasingly relied upon in the future workforce. Consequently, educators ought to find ways to integrate generative AI tools into the classroom to prepare students for the type of work they will likely be called upon to do. However, given the fact that generative AI makes plagiarism easier than ever, it is critical that educators teach students how to use generative AI in a way that maintains the students’ intellectual autonomy. For my project, I will be developing a course assignement structure that integrates a specific type of generative AI (namely, large language models – e.g., ChatGPT) into a traditional philosophy writing assignment.




Behavioral & Social Sciences

Charlie Giraud

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Psychology, Ph.D.

College of Arts & Sciences

Does Resilience Promote Sexual Minority Women's Mental Health? An Examination of Within-Person Associations Over Time

With the rates of mental health issues being higher in sexual and gender minorities than those who identify as heterosexual, there is a critical need for research to identify factors that promote positive mental health and protect against psychological problems in sexual minorities. Specifically, sexual minority women experience the largest mental health disparities in the sexual and gender minority community. Therefore, the aim of this project is to rigorously assess resilience as a protective factor against mental health problems among sexual minority women. This work will extend the existing literature by examining longitudinal associations between resilience and depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and providing evidence for the direction of effects between these associations.


Alexis Kimmel

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Clinical and Translational Research, M.S.

College of Medicine

Attitudes and behaviors regarding the use of healthcare among persons experiencing homelessness in Cincinnati, Ohio: A Qualitative Review

Persons experiencing homelessness (PEH) face many barriers to accessing healthcare, which may partly explain the existing disparities in life expectancy seen in this population. There is a critical need in the Cincinnati area for an effective street medicine program that addresses these serious public health concerns and ideally decreases rates of acute unscheduled care. To inform the creation of such a program, it is imperative to first understand the existing behaviors and attitudes surrounding healthcare utilization among this population. This study will survey PEH in the Cincinnati, OH area and use descriptive statistics to analyze survey responses.


Isabella Pallotto

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Psychology, Ph.D.

College of Arts & Sciences

Validating a Screening Measure Assessing Parent Anxiety About Introducing Complementary Foods to their Infants

Physicians have noticed that many parents are anxious about introducing solid foods to their baby; this anxiety may cause parents to delay introducing foods which can negatively affect their baby’s nutrition. However, there is no way to understand the scope of this unique anxiety because there is no way to measure it. In my current work, I am developing a screening measure to identify parents with anxiety about introducing solid foods to their infant; the URC award will support validation of this new measure so that it can be used by primary care practices to identify these parents and connect them to resources to help them manage their anxiety. It is important to ensure that screening measures are valid and reliable so that they can be used and trusted by clinicians.


Tarcisio S. Moreira

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Psychology, Ph.D.

College of Arts & Sciences

Analyzing the effects of temporal demands on route selection of wheelchair users in an adaptive-sports-inspired virtual environment.

Very little research has focused on how WCUs perceive their surroundings and detect information relevant to safely navigating the field of play or even public spaces that often were not designed for their unique needs. This project aims to identify the decision-making process of route selection in WCUs using an interactive VR navigation task that entails making pass-through ability decisions while under time pressure. An innovative feature of my project is the use of VR to develop a testing scenario specially designed to mimic the adaptive-sports environment.



Pranjali Sathe

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Criminal Justice, Ph.D.

College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services

Prisoners on the Move: Examining the Nature and Effects of Prison Transiency on Incarcerated Individuals

Incarcerated individuals experience multiple inter-facility transfers during a single prison sentence. We refer to this trend as “prison transiency”. Yet no information exists on the reasons underlying prison transfers and their effects on prisoners. The current project aims to fill this knowledge and research gap by examining the prevalence, correlates, and impacts of prison transfers on prisoners over time. The findings of the project will help inform us how the seemingly mundane administrative practice of prison transiency may have diverse short- and long-term impacts on incarcerated individuals, their families, and prison systems alike.


Claire Underwood

Image of Claire Underwood

Early Childhood Environmental Education

College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services

Nature-Based Early Learning in a Changing Climate:  Equipping Teachers for a New Normal

As climate disruptions increase, early childhood educators who regularly bring their classes outside are being forced to adapt, given the health risks posed to young children who are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts. While research has explored climate impacts in more traditional preschool settings, few studies explore the impact of climate-related weather events on nature preschools. This mixed methods multiple case study addresses an important gap in the literature, exploring how nature preschools across the United States are impacted by and adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis to inform strategies to support the physical and emotional well-being of nature preschool students and teachers. In doing so, this work seeks to make an important contribution to addressing children’s climate vulnerabilities while upholding children’s rights to rest, play, education, and a sustainable environment.




Life Sciences

Evans Abor

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Pathobiology & Molecular Medicine, Ph.D.

College of Medicine

ROR1 as a Novel Therapeutic Target in TSC/LAM

The current FDA-approved treatment for Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) and Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) involves the use of Rapalogues, such as Everolimus and Sirolimus. However, the effectiveness of these drugs is limited by tumor regrowth after treatment withdrawal and their cytostatic nature. Therefore, there is a need to comprehend the pathogenesis of TSC/LAM and explore alternative therapies. The proposed research aims to explore the roles of the upregulated Receptor Tyrosine Kinase-like Orphan Receptor 1 (ROR1) and assess the potential use of zilovertamab vedotin in managing TSC/LAM. By understanding the involvement of ROR1 in TSC/LAM and evaluating the efficacy of zilovertamab vedotin in preclinical models of TSC/LAM, this study holds the promise of proposing a novel treatment paradigm for TSC/LAM that circumvents the cytostatic limitations associated with the current therapy.


Milad Ahmed

Image of Milad Ahmed

Biological Sciences, PhD

College of Arts & Sciences

Phosphodiesterases as molecular markers of cAMP microdomains in the human pathogen Trypanosoma cruzi

This study aims to investigate the role of compartmentalized cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signals in Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasite that causes a silent but deadly disease in the Americas, known as Chagas disease. We used CRISPR/Cas9 technology to generate mutant cell lines where phosphodiesterases (enzymes that degrade cAMP) have been modified to alter cAMP levels in the contractile vacuole complex and the flagellar tip of the parasite, two subcellular compartments that we recently described as cAMP signaling microdomains in T. cruzi. These mutant parasites are expected to reveal the individual functions of the microdomains necessary for parasite response to extracellular cues and for survival under stress conditions. Findings from this study could lead to develop new strategies to disrupt the parasite's life cycle and stop the transmission of Chagas disease.


Hayde Kamila Cuervo-Jimenez

Image of Hayde Kamil Cuervo-Jimenez

Pathobiology & Molecular Medicine, Ph.D.

College of Medicine

The role of Interleukin-21 in MASLD progression.

The obesity pandemic continues unabated, the United States leads the way with 1/3 of adults being obese. Obesity is a major risk factor for metabolically dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) and metabolic-associated steatohepatitis (MASH) the most common chronic liver disease in the Western world, affecting one in four adults in the U.S. The development of MASLD and its progression is complex and poorly understood. However, is well accepted that the immune system and their secreted mediators are a critical causative link between obesity and MASLD pathogenesis. This proposal will define the contribution of the IL-21/IL-21R axis to MASLD pathogenesis. At completion of these studies, we will have: (i) validated the key IL-21 producing cells and (ii) identified the IL-21R expressing compartment responsible for amplification of MASLD pathogenesis. As effective therapies for MASLD are lacking, newly acquired knowledge will provide a solid foundation for the design of novel therapeutic approaches.


Zhixin Lu

Image of Zhixin Lu

Cancer Biology

College of Medicine

Elucidating the crosstalk between RON and EGFR in promoting EGFR targeting therapy resistance in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

The URC grant will support our research proposed to fill the knowledge gap on RON-modulated signaling pathways in aiding tumor cells escaping EGFR targeted therapy. I anticipate that the completion of my proposed experiments will provide molecular mechanisms on RON and EGFR crosstalk and insights on novel multi-kinase targeting approach to enhance therapy resistance and improve patient outcomes.


Maliha Marzana

Image of Maliha Marzana

Materials Science, Doctoral

College of Medicine

Graphene Fiber for Electric Power Distribution

The research project focuses on developing graphene fibers for electric power distribution in lightweight aerospace vehicles and also testing the obtained graphene fibers for field emission as an electron source for vacuum electronics. Expected outcomes include the fabrication of conductive fibers to replace heavy materials like copper and aluminum, promoting eco-friendly electric-powered transportation, along with enabling the creatin of new generation electronic devices. The project aims to address environmental concerns surrounding graphene production and disposal while ensuring safety and reliability in power distribution, aligning with regulatory standards. Ultimately, the research seeks to drive interdisciplinary collaboration, fostering innovation and sustainability for a more eco-conscious future in electric ground and air transportation, as well to unveil a novel source for tailored field emission.


Ann Maria Mathew

Image of Ann Maria Mathew

Infectious Diseases

College of Medicine

Exploring the Role of Clostridioides difficile Strains and Toxins in the Release of Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor (MIF) during Clostridioides difficile Infection (CDI)

Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) is a nosocomial infection causing approximately 15,000 deaths annually in the U.S. Our lab has previously demonstrated that macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), a pro-inflammatory cytokine, is elevated in the plasma of CDI patients and CDI mouse model. The current project aims to investigate the role of specific C. difficile toxins in inducing MIF production during CDI. Using a CDI patient cohort, we will identify which C. difficile strain is associated with the highest systemic MIF levels, and in vivo, we will investigate which C. difficile toxin is responsible for elevated MIF production using different toxin-deficient mutant strains of C. difficile. The findings obtained from this project will guide us in establishing a prognostic marker based on MIF and C. difficile toxin type in CDI.



Physical Sciences & Engineering

Oluwaseun A. Adekoya

Image of Oluwaseun A. Adekoya

Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D.

College of Engineering & Applied Science

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Powertrain Co-design  Using Simulation-based Integrated Dynamic System Design Methods with Model Predictive Controllers (MPC) and Dynamic Programming (DP)

This research aims to address some of the challenges encountered by autonomous systems while trying to accurately and independently make their own decisions without endangering human lives and properties. At the same time, the study does have real-life implications in that, performing trial-and-error techniques in the design and production of self-driving dynamic systems (e.g. autonomous vehicles) incur substantial costs and time. The research aims to bolster efficiency by minimizing the energy consumed by these complex dynamic systems and the corresponding maintenance costs, prioritize safety to mitigate accident risks, and promote accessibility to drive economic growth while addressing environmental concerns. It employs an innovative design methodology tailored to optimize performance under adverse weather conditions, unforeseen events, circumstances and uncertainties at reduced production and manufacturing costs.


Rui Chen

Image of Rui Chen

Chemistry, Ph.D.

College of Arts & Sciences

Developing copper-sensitive fluorescent probes for super-resolution and two-photon bioimaging

In this project, I will design and synthesize a novel copper-sensitive fluorescent probe via incorporating a copper-catching group into the octupolar structure of two-photon absorbing dyes. The distribution and accumulation of copper ions in live cells during the process of cuproptosis will be studied. In addition, the deep bioimaging of tissues, such as organoids, will also be investigated under advanced two-photon microscopy. Upon the completion of this project, fundamental insights into the molecular design and the practical applications of our copper-sensitive probes will be obtained and disseminated through research publications and intellectual disclosures.


Maria S. Kelly

Image of Maria S. Kelly

Chemistry, Ph.D.

College of Arts & Sciences

Enhancing Cancer Diagnostics through Deep Learning Optimization for Surface-Enhanced Raman (SERS) Exosome Classification

This project will involve building a deep learning model that can distinguish between healthy and multiple types of cancerous exosomes, utilizing surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) to enhance the signal of molecules within exosomes. Through extensive testing and optimization of various neural networks, we will produce a robust model that can both diagnose the cancer and concentrations of new samples while also labeling the most distinguishable regions of the spectra that will aid future sensor development. Overall, this project will enhance the detection of cancer in direct patient applications through diagnosing cancer type and providing sample details all through a rapid and non-invasive process.


Katelin Weitzel

Image of Katelin Weitzel

Environmental Engineering, Ph.D.

College of Engineering & Applied Science

Mitigating harmful algal blooms: novel chitosan derivative and clay-based coagulation and flocculation treatment for floating floc formation

Cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cHABs) can lead to concerns with water quality, drinking water treatment, and public health. This project focuses on addressing cHABs through a treatment approach using a water-soluble chitosan derivative in combination with bentonite clay, to remove cyanobacteria from lake water through naturally buoyant floc that rises to the water surface after a short settling period. These flocs, laden with cyanobacteria, can then be skimmed off the water surface and removed. This research aims to develop an environmentally friendly treatment solution for managing cHABs.


Rachel Wiggins

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Aerospace Engineering & Engineering Mechanics, Ph.D.

College of Engineering & Applied Science

Planar Laser Induced Fluoresce (PLIF) of a Flow-through Rotating Detonation Combustor (RDC)

Rachel's project focuses on investigating the performance of an optically accessible flowthrough RDC to stabilize combustion with core flow using OH* PLIF, a non-intrusive laser diagnostic technique. The research aims to understand core-pilot interaction and stabilization mechanisms, quantifying the shear layer between core burning and detonation, and exploring the physical structures and energies of core and RDC pilot flame dynamics. Expected outcomes include insights into detonation wave structure, the impact on detonation stabilization of core flow, and features of reactions within the RDC.


Ahmed Youssef

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Physics, Ph.D.

College of Arts & Sciences

Development of a data-driven model for Hadronization using Hyper Networks

What is the fundamental building block that comprises everything, from the smallest cells to human beings, and extends to every object around us, up to the universe itself? All these entities are constructed of atoms, which can further be deconstructed into quarks—the most elementary building blocks. Despite its fundamental nature, the combination of quarks into particles remains a physical black box, with no theoretical framework for description. However, globally, over 10,000 researchers heavily rely on simulating these processes. This project is part of a broader research program that aims to leverage AI for simulating these intricate processes utilizing models similar to those used for ChatGPT or image generation