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New Royster Society Five-Year Fellows Have Varied Research Interests

soffellows2012-500August 31, 2012

New five-year Royster Fellows for 2012-2013

Nineteen new graduate students from around the world are beginning their first semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with five-year fellowships in the Royster Society of Fellows.

Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Royster’s generous gifts established The Graduate School’s interdisciplinary fellowship program in 1995. Since 1996, more than 400 graduate students have pursued their doctoral education at Carolina as members of the Royster Society. In 2009, the University established the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professorship for Graduate Education, made possible by a lead gift from the Roysters and matching funds from the state’s faculty endowment trust.

The 19 new Royster Fellows were recruited to Chapel Hill from places as diverse as Jamaica and Japan. Their highly competitive named fellowships are funded by private gifts and, in the case of the Chancellor’s Fellowships, through Chancellor Holden Thorp’s designation of private funding toward this graduate fellowship program.

“Through the Royster Society of Fellows, some of the world’s most talented graduate students pursue their education at Carolina—where they make substantial contributions to undergraduate teaching, to research and to University outreach,” said Steve Matson, dean of The Graduate School. “We appreciate the generous support that has enriched the University’s efforts to successfully compete with the best institutions in the country for these exceptional graduate students.”

The Royster Society fellowships provide full financial support, interdisciplinary learning, professional development and a mentoring network to enable students to excel in their graduate studies. Close to 100 students receive funding and participate in the Royster Society of Fellows of The Graduate School each year.

A committee of faculty decides which applicants will be offered the fellowships based upon their academic performance, research, work, service and life experiences, and their potential for leadership in the future.

“We are excited to welcome 19 new doctoral fellows into the Royster Society of Fellows,” said Sandra Hoeflich, associate dean for interdisciplinary education and fellowships in The Graduate School. “We have the highest expectations for all they will contribute to Carolina.”

Following are the new five-year fellows:

  • Rachel Bleich, Pharmaceutical Sciences. Her research interests involve the study of signaling pathways and drug targeting in cells as it relates to human diseases, specifically cancer.
  • Annalise Blum, Environmental Sciences and Engineering. She plans to use engineering and economics to inform policies for developing countries that are focused on providing people with safe and affordable water and sanitation services.
  • Candace Buckner, Religious Studies. Her research interests include early Christianity (in particular, saints’ lives), early Christian art and architecture and their representation in literature, and the eye and memory in early Christian thought.
  • Zena Cardman, Marine Sciences. She plans to study deep-sea microbiology, focusing on a hydrothermal vent system in the Sea of Cortez.
  • Mary Domenico, Communication Studies. Her research interests include the rhetoric of capital murder trials, the rhetoric of jury selection, rhetorical aspects of trying youth offenders as adults, and gender and communication.
  • Heather Couture, Computer Science. Her research interests focus on applying image analysis and machine learning techniques to solve challenges in the natural sciences, including planetary and biomedical science. Her current project involves computing cell and nuclei features for a skin cancer study using microscope images of biopsied tissue samples.
  • Elliott Hauser, Information and Library Science. His work seeks to support the representation and use of conflicting information in research databases, such as the sometimes conflicting evolutionary trees produced in the field of phylogenetics.
  • Mark Janko, Geography. His research interests focus on spatial and molecular epidemiology, which draws on tools and methods from molecular biology, geography and statistics to explain how and why infectious diseases move across the landscape.
  • Sydney Jones, Epidemiology. Her research explores how neighborhood environments affect human health, specifically with regard to obesity and its prevention through physical activity and healthy diet.
  • Preetesh Kantak, Business. Kantak, who worked extensively in the capital markets before coming to Carolina, plans to focus his research interests on the intersection of finance and international development, specifically on how financial intermediation and the markets impact development and general economic well-being.
  • Lan Le, Health Behavior. His research interests include the health of migrants and refugees, the social factors that contribute to disease, and interventions for improving diet and physical activity.
  • Qi Lu, Art History. Lu, who recently graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, plans to focus her research on East Asian art, especially funeral art.
  • Catherine Pitman, Chemistry. Pitman plans to focus her research on artificial photosynthesis, the creation of hydrogen and oxygen from water and sunlight in laboratory conditions for use as clean fuels.
  • Robert Soto, Chemistry. His research interests include sensor development and micro/nanofabricated chemical instrumentation, technologies with implications for medicine and industry.
  • Cheryl Varghese, Education. Varghese’s research interests are in special education, literacy development and education policy.
  • Vidya Venkataramanan, Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Her research interests are in understanding context-specific hygiene and sanitation behavior in urban areas of developing countries and using this understanding to inform and develop appropriate sanitation technologies and interventions.
  • Melecia Wright, Nutrition. Her interest in public health nutrition is motivated by the global rise in the incidence and mortality of food-related lifestyle diseases.
  • Shiyou Wu, Social Work. Wu plans to focus his research on the impact of poverty on individuals’ health outcomes, with an emphasis on developing intervention research to improve health status. He also is interested in how migrant youth adapt to school and other aspects of their lives.
  • Rae Yan, English and Comparative Literature. Her research is focused on exploring both the conservative and radical narratives of revolution in Victorian literature and how this literature influenced revolutionary impulses in China.

From the Graduate School news at

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