The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) plays an essential role in supporting the innovative research and graduate education that are cornerstones of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  WARF invests in graduate education through University Fellowships, Advanced Opportunities Fellowships/Graduate Research Scholars, and Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowships Program. The following profiles illustrates the diverse and important ways that WARF contributes to graduate student success at UW-Madison.

Rachel Silver

Ph.D. candidate, Educational Policy Studies, Anthropology

Faculty advisor: Nancy Kendall, Associate Professor, Educational Policy Studies; Claire Wendland, Professor, Anthropology

Rachel Silver’s research explores the relationship between discourse on girls’ education and sexuality in international development and the lived experiences of young women. Her dissertation is an ethnographic examination of the diverse meanings attached to schoolgirl pregnancy in Malawi, and the consequences of these on girls’ post-pregnancy opportunities.

Silver first investigates how student pregnancy has come to be understood as a social problem for actors in a range of social locations from the village level to the UN. She then explores how the reform of a Malawian policy related to student sexuality shapes the possibilities for girls’ wellbeing.

Silver holds an M.A. in African Studies (Yale University) and in Anthropology (UW-Madison), and has conducted research in Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, and the U.S.

José Rodriguez-Molina

Ph.D. Candidate, Cellular and Molecular Pathology

Faculty advisor: John Svaren, Professor, Comparative Biosciences

José Rodriguez-Molina is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the Cellular and Molecular Pathology program at UW–Madison and the School of Medicine Public Health.

Rodriguez-Molina’s research looks at the Sox10-downstream genes. Sox10 controls essential genes for the identity of Schwann cells, therefore, making it an important transcription factor for the peripheral nerve system. Rodriguez-Molina’s research goal is to determine the Importance of Sox10 genes in Schwann cell Biology.

Upon graduation, Rodriguez-Molina plans to pursue a career in public policy in STEM education.

Jose "Tony" Jimenez-Torres

Ph.D. Candidate, Biomedical Engineering

Faculty advisor: David J. Beebe, Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Tony Jimenez-Torres is a fifth year Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering.

His research involves the design and development of microfluidic tools that are used to create organotypic models to study different diseases. Besides the tool design and development, he also studies the differences of tumor and normal angiogenesis in vitro using primary cells isolated from human tissue. The main goal of this project is to create a tumor organotypic model to study cancer progression and tumor metastasis. In addition, he uses the same model to investigate the behavior of normal and tumor-associated endothelial cells and how the process of angiogenesis is affected when anti-angiogienic drugs are introduced to the model.

Samuel Acuña

Ph.D. Candidate, Mechanical Engineering

Faculty advisor: Darryl Thelen, Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Samuel Acuña is third year Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering. He is a member of the UW–Madison Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab.

The focus of his research is to improve balance and prevent falls in the elderly and those with lower limb neuropathy. He is building insoles and ankle devices to help the nervous system detect sub threshold pressure & proprioceptive signals. In his lab he assesses dynamic balance with virtual reality hallways for their treadmill.

He is also examining muscle activations pre/post physical therapy with a neural stimulator on the tongue.

Elsa Noterman

Ph.D. Candidate, Geography

Faculty advisor: Keith Woodward, Associate Professor, Geography

Elsa Noterman is a Ph.D. student in geography. Her research focuses on the socio-spatial struggles involved in the ongoing development and management of multiple material and immaterial commons. Specifically, she examines the differential ways that communities understand and interact with shared resources across space and over time. She has conducted research in the U.S., U.K., Denmark and Guatemala.

Adela Cedillo

Ph.D. Candidate, History

Faculty advisor: Steve J. Stern, Professor, History

Adela Cedillo is a fourth-year student pursing a Ph.D. in history at UW–Madison. Cedillo’s dissertation research contributes to an emerging field of study that re-conceptualizes the history of Cold War Mexico by counteracting the official narratives that depict an exceptionally stable post-revolutionary Mexico, and by placing political violence as one of the most salient features of the period. Her research focuses on the interactions between the dirty war and the first war on drugs during the 1970s in Northwestern Mexico.

Melissa Charenko

Ph.D. Candidate, History of Science, Medicine and Technology

Faculty advisor: Gregg Mitman, Professor, History of Science

Melissa Charenko’s research explores the origins, development, and consequences of discussions about anthropogenic change and deep time. Through her research Charenko aims to show that the knowledge generated by the paleo-disciplines challenged assumptions about the stability of earth’s systems and the future of life by both lengthening and broadening the scale of earth’s history, which transformed the way environmental change and human agency were understood.

Sofiya Hupalo

Ph.D. Candidate, Neuroscience

Faculty advisor: Craig W. Berridge, Professor, Psychology

Sofiya Hupalo is interested in the neuropeptide, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). CRF has been studied extensively for over three decades as a stress-related neurotransmitter, but no one had yet examined the cognitive actions of CRF in the prefrontal cortex – a brain region that regulates higher order cognition. The data she collected in her rotation in the Berridge Lab her first year of graduate school suggested that CRF acts within the prefrontal cortex to impair cognition. This finding motivated her to continue her research in this area.

Jaye Gardiner

Ph.D. Candidate, Cancer Biology

Faculty advisor: Nathan M. Sherer, Assistant Professor, Cancer Biology

Jaye is a fifth year graduate student in the Cancer Biology program. She is a graduate research assistant in the Sherer Lab. Her responsibilities include: molecular cloning and microscopy designing, conducting, and analyzing independent research and interpreting experimental results, and mentoring and training two undergraduate students in their own independent research projects. She is focused on the role of HIV-1’s glycoprotein, Env, specifically, Env’s cytoplasmic tail domain in the formation, regulation, and turnover of HIV-1 cell-cell contacts and their impact on a cell population.

Amir Mashal

Ph.D. Candidate, Electrical Engineering

Faculty advisor: Michael S. Arnold, Associate Professor, Electrical and Materials Science Engineering

Amir Mashal is a fourth year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical and Materials Science Engineering at UW–Madison.

Mashal’s research looks Graphene electronics (transistors, photodetectors, energy storage), semiconductor/device fabrication, microscopy (SEM. AFM, optical), spectroscopy (Raman, EDS), and electronic measurements (absorption, photoresponse, transconductance, I-V, 4-probe).

Adrienne Wood

Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology

Faculty advisor: Paula Niedenthal, Professor, Psychology

Wood is a fifth year Ph.D. student in psychology at UW–Madison. Wood studies the mechanisms that guide humans’ recognition of facial expression of emotion, and has been able to examine the implications of her research for specific clinical populations, such as individuals with facial paralysis.

Lauren Moscoe

Ph.D. Candidate, Botany

Faculty advisor: Eve Emshwiller, Associate Professor, Botany

Lauren Moscoe enjoys learning and teaching about ethnobotany: the interactions between human cultures and plants. Her research interests center around agrobiodiversity and traditional crops. In her dissertation, she is exploring the on-farm conservation, genetic diversity, and nutritional composition of the Andean tuber crop, oca (Oxalis tuberosa), in Cusco, Peru. Prior to coming to UW-Madison, she received her B.A. from Williams College and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala.

She has enjoyed teaching undergraduates throughout her time at UW-Madison, and has been a TA for Introductory Biology, Survey of Botany, and Ethnobotany. In addition, she developed and instructed the course, Plants and Humans. In 2014 she received a Teaching Fellow Award from the College of Letters and Sciences. She is also the recipient of the Society for Economic Botany’s Richard E. Schultes Research Award and Graduate Women in Science’s Nell Mondy Fellowship.

Monica Yue

Ph.D. Candidate, Molecular and Environmental Toxicology

Faculty advisor: Richard Peterson, Professor, School of Pharmacy

Monica Yue investigates the effects of TCDD on development in the embryonic zebrafish. TCDD is a ubiquitous and persistent environmental contaminant, and its action is mediated through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). Zebrafish are especially sensitive to TCDD and early life exposure leads to a variety of developmental malformations in the embryo.

In 2014 Yue won the Victor A. Drill Abstract Award from the Midwest Regional Chapter of the Society of Toxicology. In 2015 Yue received the Dr. Razia Zaman-Dr. Shahanara Zaman Saroya Graduate Student Award for Excellence & Scholarship from the School of Pharmacy.

Maia Pujara

Ph.D. Candidate, Neuroscience

Faculty advisor: Michael R. Koenigs, Associate Professor, Psychiatry

Maia Pujara’s research focuses on understanding how the brain processes information about rewards to guide decisions. Because the ventromedial portion of the prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is thought to be a key area of the brain involved in making decisions about rewards based on their value, she investigates the ways in which these psychological processes can become impaired in patients with damage to the vmPFC. Pujara has also analyzed the brain activity of criminal inmates with psychopathy in response to rewards, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Katelyn Milliman

Ph.D. Candidate, Astronomy

Faculty advisor: Bob Mathieu, Professor, Astronomy

Katelyn Milliman studies the dominant formation mechanism for anomalous stars (blue stragglers, sub-subgiants, etc.) in open cluster environments. Her work focuses on investigating the surface abundance of these stars and the binary populations of intermediate aged open clusters, primarily NGC 2506, NGC 6819, and NGC 7789. Milliman holds an M.S. in Astronomy from UW-Madison (2011). She graduated from the University of Florida in 2009 with a B.S. in Astronomy and a B.A. in Physics.

Aaron Reich

Ph.D. Candidate, Chinese

Faculty advisor: Mark Meulenbeld, Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Literature

Aaron Reich is a Ph.D. student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Chinese religions and religious art. His research focuses on the visual culture of Daoism during late imperial and modern periods. In its preliminary stages, Aaron’s dissertation examines the dynamic between iconographic convention and ritual efficacy. Outside of China, Aaron’s teaching interests include many global and theoretical topics, such as religion and material and visual culture; ritual and semiotics; and relationships between religion, aesthetics, and self-expression. Aaron holds M.A. degrees in Art History, Chinese, and Asian Religions, and his current and past projects explore the transdisciplinary overlaps between these three fields. Since 2007, he has worked as a research and technical assistant for the Daoist Iconography Project, an international research database for the study of representations of the Daoist pantheon and the function of these images in ritual contexts. In the fall of 2015, Aaron is leading two discussion sections as the teaching assistant for Asian Religions at UW-Madison. Aaron is also Editorial Assistant for the journal Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews (CLEAR).

Kousei (Martin) Perales

Ph.D. Candidate, Freshwater and Marine Science

Faculty advisor: Jake Vander Zanden, Professor, Zoology

Kousei Perales is studying how droughts alter the quality of habitat in lakes and how that impacts fish communities. Kousei is also studying the relationship between lakeshore residential development, habitat and fish communities in northern lakes.

Before coming to Wisconsin, Kousei was part of a research group at UC Davis investigating the relationships among water quality, slough morphology, hydrodynamics, and their effect on food webs and fish communities in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. An essential component to understanding the spatial distribution of native fishes in this tidal freshwater system is to document seasonal and spatial water quality trends. Additionally, Kousei has done fieldwork in Alaskan backcountry studying movement of several salmon species, sampled fish in Idaho to understand impacts of dams on reproductive success, and surveyed Puerto Rican streams to understand how urbanization alters fish communities.

Laura Stephenson

Ph.D. Candidate, Communication Arts

Faculty advisor: Marie-Louise Mares, Associate Professor, Communication Arts

Laura Stephenson is a Ph.D. candidate at UW-Madison with an M.A. from University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School. Her research focuses on the role of television in the home, specifically understanding parental mediation and the impact of family life stage, with the driving question: how do parents use media within the home at different stages of their child(ren)’s development to strengthen the parent-child relationship? Her dissertation focuses on mechanisms connecting shared media exposure with parental perceptions of closeness and child disclosure. In addition, she is currently working on a project with Marie-Louise Mares, Amy Nathanson (The Ohio State University), and Nicole Martins (Indiana University) on parental conflict surrounding children’s media use. She continues to hold an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, given by the Graduate School. This competitive, merit-based fellowship is intended to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the graduate student population at UW-Madison.

Amanda McMillan Lequieu

Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology

Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Professor, Community and Environmental Sociology

Amanda McMillan Lequieu is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the joint departments of Sociology and Community and Environmental Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research and teaching interests continually return to questions of place, rurality, community, and home. Her passion is to understand how rural people adapt to globalizing economies and changing environments over time, through the lens of land tenure, environmental history, and economic development. She values the stories people tell about their places, their people, and the crises they are facing head-on. Her qualitative field work has taken her from historical archives, to kitchen tables in dairyland Wisconsin, to red-dirt roads post-war northern Uganda.

Maria Serakos

Master’s degree student, Public Affairs

Faculty advisor: Barbara Wolfe, Professor, Population Health Sciences

Maria Serakos is a second year masters of public affairs student at the La Follette School of Public Affairs. She is interested in studying social policies, including those related to poverty and inequality, education, and health. Since beginning at La Follette, she has worked as a project assistant for Professor Barbara Wolfe, where they reviewed the preliminary social and economic impacts of the Affordable Care Act, and has recently begun working with the Center for Demography and Ecology. Upon obtaining her MPA, Maria hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in economics and ultimately an academic career in policy research.

Prior to coming to UW-Madison, Maria worked at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, where she assisted in evaluating a gang reduction and youth development program, developing and analyzing federal databases on criminal case processing, and evaluating the mental health outcomes of individuals in the criminal justice system. She has a wealth of nonprofit experience, including working at the Children’s Defense Fund—Minnesota and the Jeremiah Program in Minneapolis. She completed a year of postgraduate service with Lasallian Volunteers by teaching high school in rural Washington state.

Miachou Lor

Ph.D. student, Nursing

Faculty advisor: Barbara Bowers, Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Programs and the Charlotte Jane and Ralph A. Rodefer Chair, Nursing

Maichou Lor’s research interests center on improving health service delivery and outcomes for first-generation elders with limited English proficiency, beginning with the Hmong elders. Her research focuses on developing culturally and linguistically appropriate data collection methods to inform national disease tracking and health risk surveys for non-English speaking older adults, beginning with older Hmong along with understanding system related barriers to the implementation of translational change in the health care setting. Lor was recently awarded the F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institute of Health.

Lor was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, living with an extended Hmong family. She is the first person in her clan to finish a university degree. She received her undergraduate degree from the UW-Madison in 2011 and her master’s degree in 2013.

Michael Halpin

Ph.D. student, Sociology

Faculty advisor: Joan Fujimura, Professor, Sociology

Halpin is a doctoral student in Sociology with a focus on ethnographic research in the fields of medical sociology, science studies and social psychology. His dissertation addresses how neuroscientific perspectives impact mental illness, specifically in relation to conceptualization, analysis and treatment of mental disorders. Halpin’s dissertation draws on 120 interviews with health professionals, researchers and individuals with mental health conditions, as well as one year of ethnographic observation of neuroscience laboratory. Along with fellow graduate student Dagoberto Cortez, he is also conducting an ethnographic investigation into mixed-martial arts (MMA), an increasingly popular combat sport. This project addresses stratification within MMA, use of performance enhancing drugs and fighters’ experiences with injuries. Halpin received his M.A. in sociology from the University of British Columbia and his B.A. from the University of Calgary. Halpin’s previous studies have focused on a number of topics, such as Huntington Disease, suicide, prostate cancer, and sex work. His research has appeared in Social Science and Medicine, Sociology of Health and Illness and Culture, Health and Sexuality.

Halpin is a 2014-2016 winner of the Two-year Top-up Fellowships from the Holtz Center, as well as the 2012 Holtz Graduate Scholars Summer Fellowship. In 2011 Halpin received the Sir James Lougheed Award of Distinction from the government of Alberta, Canada, as well as a fellowship from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Halpin has also received research awards from the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the American Sociological Association. He is currently serving a two-year term as student representative for the American Sociological Association’s Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology.

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