NC State
Graduate Student Association

Spring 2017 Winner Bios

Kristen Hopperstad

Conference: 6th International Forum for Sustainable Vector Management, Chongqing, P.R. China

Kristen Hopperstad is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. After completing her B.Sc. at the University of Texas-Pan American, she began her doctoral studies at NCSU under the supervision of Dr. Michael Reiskind. Her doctoral research investigates a possible recrudescence of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, in the United States. Kristen uses an integrative landscape ecology and population genetic approach to investigate the ongoing interplay between the two species. Upon graduation, she plans to work at the federal or state level in arthropod disease vector research and control.


Lisa Johnson

Conference: American Society for Horticultural Science 2017 Annual Conference, Waikoloa, Hawaii

Lisa is pursuing a Ph.D. in Horticultural Science at NC State, working towards understanding why edible fruit and vegetable crops are left behind on farms, never reaching our nation’s food supply. She is also developing protocols for measuring the volume of crops that are underutilized, producing videos to train growers in measurement, and designing a harvest aid intended to improve gleaning efficiency. Lisa holds a B.S. and M.S. in Horticulture from the University of Georgia, and is looking forward to an academic career path focusing on applied research with fruit and vegetable growers.


Nathan Kotecki

Conference: Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Ripton, Vermont

Nathan Kotecki is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in the Creative Writing Program of the English Department, with a concentration on Fiction. As a novelist, he is interested in the romantic potential of nineteenth century authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Thomas Hardy to inform modern conventions of fiction writing. He is the author of two young adult novels and regularly works with middle and high school students on their creative and compositional writing skills.


James Withrow

Conference: Animal Behavior Society

James will graduate in May 2017 with his MS in Entomology, after which he will be continuing in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology as a PhD student in the Tarpy lab. He is broadly interested in the evolution of reproductive castes in social animals with research focused on the behavior and reproductive quality of honey bee queens, including how workers select larvae from particular “royal” patrilines to rear as new queens, queen-queen interactions, and queen mating behavior.


Kalysha Clark

Conference: International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Umeå, Sweden

Kalysha Clark is a second year graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Her research includes varying aspects of the field, including studying family dynamics of wildlife value orientations, identifying the use of climate change to inform longleaf pine management planning, and evaluating environmental education programs. Following completion of her degree, she hopes to work at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences so that she may combine her love of conservation research with her passion for educating the public.


Laura Belica

Conference: American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, California

Laura Belica is a Doctoral Candidate in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology in the Center for Geospatial Analytics and Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources.  Her transdisciplinary research integrates her interests and experience in ecology, hydrology, and geospatial modeling and is focused on developing and validating a high resolution, spatially explicit, process-based model of stream temperature to better understand stream temperature responses to landcover and climate changes at the spatial scales and timeframes of concern to natural resource managers.  With support from Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory and LTER, she is collecting data to validate her stream temperature model in the Southern Appalachians where the impacts of changing climatic patterns and landuse have the potential to impact stream thermal regimes and the diverse aquatic fauna the region is known for.  Using the most accurate, highest resolution, spatially continuous data available to estimate stream heat fluxes is a major component of her work which she actively pursues by developing and testing methods that employ new and emerging environmental sensing technologies (such as UAVs, LiDAR, and TIR) as well as using established techniques.  Laura’s career experience as an agency Biologist drives her interest in ensuring the stream temperature model will be useful for natural resource managers and landowners and she is collaborating with colleagues in the College of Natural Resources to integrate resource manager information needs into the model design and visualization of results so that it will facilitate “real-world” alternate scenario comparisons for specific places and situations in decision making discussions.


Fall 2017 Winner Bios

Jennifer Baltzegar

Conference: Entomology 2017: Ignite. Inspire. Innovate., Denver, Colorado

Jennifer Baltzegar is a PhD Candidate in the Genetics Program and an NSF IGERT Fellow in Genetic Pest Management. She has developed a broad background in population genetics, with an emphasis on species management of natural populations. Currently, she focuses on elucidating the fine-scale population structure and the evolution of insecticide resistance in Aedes aegypti, the Yellow Fever Mosquito, to facilitate mathematical modeling of new control methods. She plans to pursue an academic career path.



Megan Ennes

Conference: 12th Conference of the European Science Education Research Association, Dublin, Ireland

Megan is a doctoral candidate and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in Science Education. She is working with Dr. Gail Jones to examine the effect of museum based family STEM programs on youths’ science interest, self-efficacy, and career aspirations. Her presentation in Ireland discussed science museum educators’ levels of self-efficacy in teaching. Megan’s goal is to work in academia developing and improving professional pathways for informal science educators.


Katie Green

Conference: American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York, NY

Green is a third year PhD student in STEM Education.  Green’s main research focus is on how culture and science intersect in formal learning environments and is particularly focused on how students navigate cultural borders when learning about evolution.  Green intends to pursue a career as a professor at a research university, where she can assist future science teachers in considering culture as an integral influence on learning.


Rob Moore

Conference: Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2017 Annual Conference, Jacksonville, Florida

Rob is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences. After earning an MS in instructional technology from East Carolina University, Rob began his doctoral studies at NCSU under the direction of Dr. Kevin Oliver. His doctoral research examines the influence that pacing condition (instructor-paced versus self-paced) in three Harvard massive open online courses has on the demonstration of cognitive presence. His research analyzes data provided by Harvard’s Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL) Research Team. After graduation, Rob plans to pursue a tenure-track professor position in the field of instructional technology.


Yaewon Park

Conference: The Fiber Society 2017 Fall Meeting & Technical Conference, Athens, Georgia

Yaewon is from Seoul, South Korea. She graduated from Seoul National University with BS and MS in Textile Science. In 2014, Yaewon started her doctoral study in Fiber and Polymer Science at the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science with the provost doctoral recruitment fellowship. With guidance from her advisor, Dr. Ericka Ford, Yaewon is developing bioinspired mineral coating on nanofibers. She wants to continue creating polymeric nanofibers with desirable functionality as a professor at a research-intensive university, where she can continue her research and prepare students in fiber and polymer science.


Ryann Rossi

Conference: Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation 2017, Providence, RI

Ryann Rossi is a PhD candidate in the Department of Applied Ecology. Her research aims to understand the abiotic and biotic drivers of coastal ecosystems and how they interact. She is particularly interested in biotic drivers in these systems such as herbivory and disease and how they may influence coastal ecosystem function under climate change and in the presence of other abiotic stressors (e.g., drought). Through her research, she hopes to inform management and conservation practices of coastal ecosystems.



Katie Smith

Conference: 42nd Annual Association for the Study of Higher Education, Houston, Texas

Katie Smith is a third-year Ph.D. student in Higher Education in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development and a current graduate assistant in the NCSU Office of Institutional Research and Planning. A former career advisor at Duke and Elon Universities, Katie’s research interests center around college students’ career-related experiences, decisions, and post-graduate outcomes. Katie is originally from upstate New York and holds an M.S. in Higher Education from the University of Rochester and a B.A. from SUNY Geneseo. Upon graduation, Katie hopes to pursue a career in education research.



Spring 2016 Winner Bios


GSA Award for Conferences Awardees – Spring 2016

Thomas Gemmer
Conference: The 66th International Astronautical Congress, Jerusalem, Israel

Thomas is a doctoral student in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering working in the Engineering Mechanics and Space Systems Laboratory under Dr. Andre Mazzoleni. His doctoral research is broadly targeted to work on advanced, plasma based spacecraft propulsion systems: particularly systems that make use of the low-density plasma of the solar wind. Thomas’s long-term goal is to be a part of making the advancements necessary to allow humanity to explore and investigate the universe, or at least our small corner of it.

grad studentCasey Grieshaber
Conference: American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Kansas City, MO

Casey Grieshaber is pursuing her Master’s degree in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. Her research examines the relationship between contaminants and the health of riverine sport fishes. Specifically, she examines endocrine system disruptions and their subsequent impacts on fish reproduction. By understanding how contaminants alter the health of wild fishes, we can more effectively manage sustainable populations. We will also assess water and sediment quality to determine what improvements can create healthier river ecosystems. Upon completion of her Master’s degree, Casey plans to pursue a career as a fisheries biologist. 

grad studentMichelle Luo
Conference: 251st American Chemical Society National Meeting, San Diego, CA

Michelle Luo is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. After completing her B.S.E. at Princeton University, she began her doctoral studies at NCSU under the supervision of Dr. Chase Beisel. Her patent-pending work focuses on developing genetic tools based on CRISPR-Cas systems with applications in fundamental biological research as well as industrial strain development. Michelle intends to pursue a career in industry research and development where science and technology interface with healthcare solutions.

grad studentEmily Meineke
Conference: Ecological Society of America, Fort Lauderdale, Fl

Emily recently earned her Ph.D. in Entomology studying how heat created by urban development “the urban heat island effect” increases insect pest abundance on street trees. She will soon begin postdoctoral appointments at Harvard University and the University of Copenhagen studying how climate change has affected insect pest damage to plants worldwide.

grad student


Dishit P. Parekh
Conference: Printing Future Days (PFD) Conference, 3 – 11th October 2015, Technische Universität Chemnitz, Germany

Dishit P. Parekh is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department working under the supervision of Dr. Michael D. Dickey at NC State University. His research focuses on using liquid metals for 3D printing at room temperature for the development of flexible and stretchable electronics ( This work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) along with 3D Systems (based in South Carolina). The future project goals involve rapid prototyping of such 3D printed electronic devices that can be used in low-cost, consumer-friendly wearable sensors and antennas that can help the progress of Internet-of-Things (IoT) in healthcare and soft electronics.

grad studentEli Typhina
Conference: (1) 9th International Conference on Interactive Mobile and Communication Technologies and Learning, Thessaloniki, Greece; (2) Consuming the Environment, Gavle, Sweden

Eli Typhina is a doctoral candidate in the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media Program. She researches ways to prompt environmentally friendly behavior through the design of physical and digital environments, such as the layout of urban parks and use of mobile applications for environmental public participation. Upon graduation, Typhina plans to launch her consulting agency, where she will work with environmental organizations and government agencies to research and construct sustainability initiatives addressing issues such as climate change and water pollution.

grad studentJiadeng Zhu
Conference: Materials Research Society, Phoenix, Arizona

Jiadeng Zhu is a third-year doctoral student in Fiber and Polymer Science under the direction of Dr. Xiangwu Zhang at North Carolina State University. His research interest spans from materials synthesis, electrochemistry, and cell design to advanced characterizations with the goal of understanding the synthesis-structure-performance relationship in energy-related materials and their underlying reaction mechanisms. His current research focuses on lithium-sulfur batteries, lithium/sodium-ion batteries, thin film, polymer synthesis, and carbon-based materials’ applications.


Fall 2016 Winner Bios


Angel Cruz

Conference: The 2016 ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona

Angel is pursuing a PhD in Agroecology in the Crop and Soil Science Department. Here research examines the relationship between soil health and food security for smallholder farmers in rural El Salvador. By showing that farmers who have healthier soils also have higher yields and thus increased food security, we can improve funding and extension efforts throughout Central America.  Angel spends about half the year conducting field research in El Salvador, partnering with a local NGO and a University, and half the year at NCSU doing lab work, taking classes and writing. After graduating in 2017, Angel plans to pursue a position as a tenure track faculty continuing international and sustainable agriculture research.

Karen G. Jones

jones_smallConference: NodiCHI 2016: Game Changing Design, Gothenburg, Sweden

Karen is pursuing a Master in Art + Design with a concentration on Animation/Interactive Media in the College of Design. Building on her experience as an author, illustrator, and animator she is creating a multilingual storytelling platform for tablet that combines animated narration in American Sign Language (ASL) and static English text with illustrated picture support to offer an inclusive means of storytelling for those that wish to share reading activities in ASL, as well as support for foreign language curricula for non-native ASL users.



Michael Fisher


Conference: International Congress of Entomology & Entomological Society of America, Orlando Fl.

Michael Fisher is a 3rd year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology under the supervision of Drs. Wes Watson and Coby Schal studying bacterial species diversity of the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius and the influence of their microbiome on their biology and life history. After completing his M.S. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2007, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy and has been an Active Duty Navy Entomologist in the Medical Service Corps since. He has been studying insects and arthropods of public health for the past 15 years, and is a Board Certified Entomologist specializing in medical and veterinary pests. Upon graduation in 2017, he will continue service in the military at Navy Medical Research Unit 6 in Lima, Peru, assume duties as the director of the Vector Biology Department and conduct research on vector-borne diseases such as Zika, Yellow Fever, Dengue, Leishmaniasis and Chaga’s.


Karen Tharrington

View More: Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) , Austin, TX

Karen Tharrington is a doctoral Candidate in the TELS Learning, Design, and Technology program under the direction of Dr. Kevin Oliver.  Her research centers on Foreign Language pre-service teacher preparation and professional learning networks; specifically, to what extent pre-service teachers value connecting to a virtual community on Twitter, and how the experience shapes their perspectives on teaching practices. After graduation she plans to continue work in the Teacher Education field.



Yanqi Ye


Conference: 2016 AIChE Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Yanqi Ye received her BS degree in Textile Engineering in 2014. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate student in Prof. Zhen Gu’s laboratory in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina University. Her current research interests include controlled drug delivery, micro and nanotechnology for cancer immunotherapy.



Spring 2015 Winner Bios

Melissa Pickett
Melissa earned her B.S. degree in biology at the College of Idaho in 2011. She joined the Environmental and Molecular Toxicology Program at North Carolina State University that fall as a PhD student, and is working in Dr. Nanette Nascone-Yoder’s lab to uncover molecular mechanisms underlying vertebrate gut development. After graduating, Melissa hopes to pursue a career in academia.

grad studentShayan Safavizadeh
Conference: Transportation Research Board 94th Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., January 11-15, 2015
Being interested in construction procedures and knowing that civil engineers play an important role in building, maintaining and expanding the societies, I have spent the past 14 years of my life studying civil engineering and doing research on the behavior and performance of construction materials such as cement and asphalt concrete. I received my B.S. degree in Civil Engineering (2005) and M.S. degree in Construction Engineering, and Management (2008) from Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic) in Iran. I am currently a PhD candidate in Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at NCSU and my research is focused on the fatigue and fracture characteristics of grid-reinforced asphalt pavements and effect of interlayer systems in mitigating the asphalt pavement distresses. After graduation I would like to put my knowledge of construction materials into practice and add to my experience and knowledge of construction materials and management by being involved in construction industry in a professional environment.

James Creager
James (Jim) Creager, a Georgia-native, moved to North Carolina in 2012 to attend NC State. He has since received a B.S. in Computer Science from the Department of Engineering and is currently a Ph.D. student of Human Factors and Applied Cognition in the Department of Psychology. His focus is applying psychology to industry by considering human nature during product design and development. His current research is a) examining how software interface designers can maximize human-information processing capabilities, b) developing new usability methods, and c) integrating human factors methods into the design cycle. After completing his Ph.D., James wants to lead an industry team of talented user experience researchers.

Anna Miller

Katherine Kandalec

Meghan Rebuli

Matthew Morriss


Fall 2015 Winner Bios


xzhangXiao Zhang
Conference: IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium 2015, Taiwan

Xiao Zhang is from China and is in the 4th year of his Ph.D. program at NC State University. He is currently working on developing the next generation ultrasound technology under Dr. Omer Oralkan’s supervising in the department of Electrical Engineering. The goal of Xiao’s work is to enable the 4D ultrasound imaging system for the human health improvement.



cradeCandalyn Rade
Conference: 2015 International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services Conference, Manchester, UK

Candalyn B. Rade is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Applied Social and Community Psychology program at North Carolina State University. She is teaching assistant and a graduate research assistant in the Forensic Psychology in the Public Interest lab. Candalyn is also a student representative for the Society of Community Research and Action (SCRA, division 27 of the APA) Southeast region and has worked as a Community Action Fellow with the North Carolina Community Action Association. Her research interests include stigma toward ex-offenders, access to community-based resources, and successful community reentry of justice-involved individuals with and without serious mental illness.

jmoeringJordan Moering
Conference: TMS 2016 Annual Meeting & Exhibition, Nashville, TN

Jordan’s Ph.D. research focuses on gradient structured nanocrystalline metals which exhibit extraordinary strength and ductility and his work has begun shedding light on the mechanisms governing  their deformation behavior. In addition to research, he also owns and operates an internationally recognized fine art photography company with his amazing wife, and has recently co-founded a startup company that uses Navy technology to detect foodborne pathogens in real time. His goal is to use his understanding of science and technology to create innovative solutions to complex global problems.

Brittany Mertens
Conference: European Colloids and Interfaces Society 2015 Meeting, Bordeaux, France
Brittany is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering working under Prof. Orlin Velev.  Brittany studies the Norovirus and its interactions with different types of surfaces, surfactants, and metal ions.  Understanding these interactions allows the research group to develop novel cleaning and disinfection strategies to prevent the spread of Norovirus-related illness.

Sarah Evans
Conference: Digital Games Research Association Annual Conference, Lüneburg, Germany
Sarah Evans received her Master’s in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University in 2014 and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in NCSU’s Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on gaming and social networks through various critical, rhetorical, feminist, and ethnographic methods. Sarah intends to pursue a career in academia researching and teaching game studies from a critical feminist perspective.