Students, faculty honored at inaugural Graduate School Honors Banquet

Vice Provost for Graduate Education André Christie-Mizell honored outstanding graduate students and members of the graduate faculty at the inaugural Graduate School Honors Banquet on March 31, recognizing the 2023 recipients of the Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award and new awards to be presented annually. 

“The students who received awards are remarkably talented—they represent the outstanding scholarship, leadership and innovative spirit of our Graduate School community,” Christie-Mizell said. “The faculty we celebrated with awards have mentored over 150 students collectively. By applauding outstanding faculty mentors, we can enhance our culture of mentorship at Vanderbilt and continue to center the experience of our students.”   

Christie-Mizell presented the Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award and two new awards: the Distinguished Partner Award and the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. Irene Wallrich, associate director of the Russell G. Hamilton Graduate Leadership Institute, presented the Excellence in Leadership Award, and Deanna Meador, deputy director of the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, presented the Excellence in Innovation Award.   

Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring 

The Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring award was established in 2022; this annual award honoring outstanding mentorship affirms the Graduate School’s mission of helping our students reach their full potential as scholars and human beings. The winners receive a prize of $1,500 and an engraved award. The Graduate School honored four individuals with this award: 

  • Shihong Lin
    (Shihong Lin)

    Lin has been at Vanderbilt since 2015, becoming an associate professor in 2021. His primary appointment is as a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a courtesy appointment in chemical and biomolecular engineering. He is also serving as the director of graduate recruiting for environmental engineering. One of his students shares what makes Lin’s mentorship impactful: “One of the things I admire most about Dr. Lin’s mentorship is his humble manner and enthusiasm for research. Whenever there is a new topic to be understood, he is always willing to ask questions and discuss with the group, even if he is the most senior and knowledgeable in the room. This approach has created a culture of openness and collaboration in our research group, and it has made me feel comfortable seeking his advice on any research-related issues.” 

  • Christina Karageorgou-Bastea
    (Christina Karageorgou-Bastea)

    Karageorgou-Bastea has been at Vanderbilt since 2002, becoming an associate professor of Spanish in 2009. She is serving as the interim director of Graduate Studies, a role she has held in the past. In this role, she has championed student professional development, ranging from organizing job search and application workshops to planning rehearsals of campus talks. Her impact goes just beyond academic mentoring, as one of her mentees says this: “In addition to growing as a scholar under the tutelage of Dr. Karageorgou-Bastea, she also made an impact on the person that I have become. As a continual advocate for those that are different, marginalized by society or without a voice, Dr. Karageorgou-Bastea helped expand my worldview in order to better appreciate and celebrate those that are different than I am.” 

  • David Cole
    (David Cole)

    Cole is a Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Psychology and Human Development. He is also serving as the director of graduate studies for psychology and human development, a role he also previously held, and he served as the department chair from 2008 to 2013. In addition to these roles, he is the co-director of the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience program. Cole is the first-ever recipient of the Peabody Award for Graduate Student Mentorship, highlighting his commitment and dedication to mentorship. One of his colleagues says this about Cole: “More than anyone I have met, Dr. Cole is highly dedicated to student success—his own students, others’ students, students who have already graduated and even students at different institutions altogether.” 

  • Larry Marnett
    (Larry Marnett)

    Marnett is the Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research, as well as University Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry and professor of pharmacology. He was the founding dean of the School of Medicine Basic Sciences and is now dean emeritus. As one of his colleagues aptly says, he is now returning to “his beloved laboratory” after his dedicated service as the dean. Over the course of his career, he has helped mentor and train 47 Ph.D. students, 10 masters students and 49 postdoctoral fellows. One of Marnett’s past mentees shared the following about his impact: “I have learned an immeasurable number of things from Dr. Marnett as my mentor. It’s trite to say he made me a better scientist. Dr. Marnett taught me how to be analytical, yet not hypercritical. He taught me how to communicate and be confident. He taught me how to be welcoming and inclusive to others in all walks of life.”  

Outstanding Doctoral Student Award

Established by Christie-Mizell, this award recognizes students who demonstrate exceptional scholarly accomplishments. The awardees were nominated by faculty and selected from across the various colleges and schools for their overall academic record and the outstanding quality of their research, scholarship and/or creative expression. The winners receive a prize of $500 and an engraved award. The Graduate School honored three individuals with this award:

  • Molly Richard, community research and action Ph.D. student
    (Molly Richard)

    Richard’s main research areas are surrounding homelessness, housing insecurity and poverty, with an additional focus on evaluating the policies and services created to address these topics. In her dissertation, Richard is utilizing geographic variations in potential causal factors, such as felony conviction rates, to understand and model the reasons for racial disparities. In this research, she is hoping to better understand how structural racism contributes to the racial inequalities in homelessness and how various government and community entities can effectively respond. As one of her faculty mentors aptly pointed out, there is strong potential for her research to have a broad impact, as it has already been cited over 850 times. 

  • Carlisle DeJulius, biomedical engineering Ph.D. student
    (Carli DeJulius)

    DeJulius’ research focuses on “developing therapeutic polymers and microparticles with antioxidant and drug delivery properties.” Her approved thesis proposal is “Antioxidant Polymer Technologies to Treat Inflammatory Diseases.” Her research interests include drug delivery, microparticle fabrication, antioxidant polymers and degenerative diseases. DeJulius has co-authored eight published manuscripts, with three of these as the lead author, and she has other manuscripts in the preparation stage. She is also a named inventor on two patent applications that have resulted from her work. In addition, she was a Fellow in the NIH Training Program for Innovative Engineering Research in Surgery and Intervention. 

  • Andrew Burnside, philosophy Ph.D. student
    (Andrew Burnside)

    Burnside has successfully defended his dissertation prospectus, “The New Categorical Imperative: Reevaluating the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory.” His work in critical theory will contribute to contemporary debates in ethics and political philosophy. Burnside serves as the president of the Philosophy Graduate Student Association, as well as being a teaching assistant for multiple philosophy courses. His scholarly work is being recognized by the larger philosophical community, as he has five peer-reviewed articles and “has presented or is scheduled to present papers and comment on 15 papers at conferences.” 

Excellence in Leadership Award 

Awarded by the Russell G. Hamilton Graduate Leadership Institute, this award celebrates a graduate student who has made a significant, positive impact through their service to their community and who has inspired and empowered others to do the same.The winner receives a prize of $500 and an engraved award.

  • Thao Le, Medical Scientist Training Program, M.D./Ph.D. student
    (Thao Le)

    While also engaging in numerous leadership activities in the service of her program, the university and the greater Nashville community.Le has served as a class representative for the Student Advisory Committee, as student leader and university chair for the Student Wellness Committee and as the graduate student representative on her department’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.From 2019 to 2020, Le served as the student life liaison for the Graduate Student Council. In this role, she successfully advocated for poster printing and dependent care travel grants for graduate students and implemented improvements to the university Complaint and Grievance Procedures in the student handbook. Within the greater Nashville community, Le has served as the co-director of the psychiatry clinic at the Shade Tree Clinic, which provides medical care to uninsured individuals.  

Excellence in Innovation Award 

Awarded by the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, this award recognizes a graduate student whose groundbreaking discoveries, translational activities and commitment to sharing their experiences with others helps strengthen the innovation culture on campus. The winner receives a prize of $500 and an engraved award. 

  • Anupam Kumar, biomedical engineering, Ph.D. student
    (Anupam Kumar)

    Kumar has demonstrated a true passion and commitment to innovation from his direct translational exploration of his graduate research through the Wond’ry’s entrepreneurship programs to his overt support of others looking to begin their own innovation journey. Through his research, he demonstrated his innovation capabilities as he combined electronic hardware, software and industrial design to develop a wearable low-cost neuroimaging device for naturalistic environments—all with the goal of driving positive value change by improving the way ADHD is diagnosed and treated in children. Additionally, he shares his accumulated, multi-disciplinary expertise by mentoring students, staff and faculty through the Wond’ry’s makerspaces, where he is helping to grow the next generation of innovators through hands-on workshops that he develops and leads.

Distinguished Partner Award

Vanderbilt is a uniquely collaborative place; the Graduate School has many campus partners whose support and collaboration makes their work possible. This award gives special recognition to one partner office who has improved the Graduate School’s service to students. The winner received an engraved award.

  • Olivia Kew-Fickus and the Office of Data and Strategic Analytics
    (Olivia Kew-Fickus)

    Kew-Fickus has served as the chief data officer and the executive director of Data & Strategic Analytics since August 2021, after having served as assistant provost and executive director of planning and institutional effectiveness in the Office of the Provost for two years. Under the leadership of Kew-Fickus, team members from DSA have provided vital support to the Graduate School as they have tackled and solved complex, systematic challenges—like creating a central repository of all graduate student funding information, allowing us to quickly respond to student questions and make targeted, strategic investments in graduate education. Additionally, DSA has assisted in creating complex workflows through REDCap to administer five provost supplements totaling more than $5 million in funding to advance graduate education.

(Members of the Office of Data and Strategic Analytics)