Life Sciences Graduate Students Receive NSF Scholarships
In recognition of the research achievements and work plans of graduates, three students from Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences have been named 2022 Graduate Research Fellows by the National Science Foundation.
Tasneem Fayek Mohammed, Jynx Pigart and Nicholas Wiesenthal were all shortlisted for this distinguished award supporting early career graduate students.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports outstanding graduate students pursuing research-oriented master’s and doctoral studies in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or in the STEM education.
Scholars receive a stipend of $34,000 per year for three years, as well as a $12,000 stipend for tuition and fees, allowing students to focus on advancing their own research projects rather than teaching or working on research projects on behalf of their advisor. .
All three winners are current members of the Assistant Professor’s Lab in the School of Life Sciences Katelyn Cooperwho also recently received the NSF CAREER award, along with several other funded projects.
In addition to this year’s three laureates, current member of the laboratory and doctoral student Carly Busch received the GRFP in 2020, and recent PhD student Logan Gin received the award in 2017.
“This means that all five PhD students that Dr. Cooper has mentored (or will mentor) have had the NSF GRFP – that’s a pretty fantastic chance for any faculty member, and even more impressive for an early-stage faculty member. career!” says the teacher Sara Brownelldirector of the Research Center for STEM Inclusive Education (RISE). “Katey Cooper’s research program helps make SOLS and ASU a hub for research in biology education, and the caliber of the students enhances the quality of this program.”
the Cooper Biology Education Research Laboratory focuses on creating a more diverse and inclusive scientific community through a better understanding of how mental health affects students in biology learning environments.
“I’m really beside myself, I’m so impressed and grateful to NSF to fund students who have proposed mental health-focused research projects at undergraduate and graduate levelsaid Cooper of his students‘ GRFP Award.
“It’s just such an example to students do the research you think is important,” she said. “You should dream big and think deeply about issues that are really difficult, even if others think you should avoid these topics.”
Tasneem Fayek Mohammed
Tasneem Fayek Mohammed will obtain his master’s degree in biology this spring. A student through and through at ASU, she also earned her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences.
Her current research focuses on the biology and experience of medical students with stress and depression, examining underlying factors and exploring ways to create more inclusive courses.
Originally from Palestine, Mohammed’s personal experience in researching science graduates sparked a deep interest in the intersection of personal culture and academia.
“Reconciling these cultural disconnects gave me a sense of empowerment, but I realized that this was not the case for all students and that such disconnects often discouraged students from becoming scientists,” he said. she declared. “As I began to conduct more research related to mental health in my Masters, I realized that the combination of these two passions could have a profound impact on how we think about the challenges faced by students from different cultural backgrounds. are facing in higher education and what we can do to create a more inclusive scientific community.
After graduating, she will continue her studies in ASU’s Biology and Society doctoral program, where she hopes to further her research as she works toward her goal of becoming a full professor.
“During my PhD, I will embark on a new area of research aimed at deepening our understanding of the intersection of mental health and science education for students from different cultural backgrounds,” he said. she declared. “I hope that I will establish easily accessible resources and services for underrepresented students and have a global impact by fostering inclusive science environments.”
Jynx Pigart is an incoming doctoral student in the School of Life Sciences biology teaching program.
“Being a recipient of the NSF-GRFP, and having it awarded before I even started graduate school at ASU, has incredibly validated my internal commitment to making the most of my experience as a student in higher education. “, she said.
Pigart plans to study student mental health in learning environments, with a particular interest in groups that have historically been undersupported in STEM, including LGBTQ-plus and low socioeconomic status populations.
Pigart cemented his interest in biology, teaching, and student mental health during his undergraduate studies. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from East Carolina University, where she served as an undergraduate teaching assistant in introductory biology labs for three years, and completed her senior thesis on health mental and social support of undergraduate students in virtual environments. When she first started applying for graduate school, she considered programs specializing in her experiences and interests as separate subjects before discovering Cooper’s lab.
“There is no other lab in the country that intersects all of these interests as succinctly as Dr. Katey Cooper’s lab succeeds,” she said. “I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to have the research interest I chose if it weren’t for the unique opportunities at ASU.
“I look forward to the future!”
Nicholas Wiesenthal is a first-year doctoral student in the Biology and Society program.
“As a researcher in biology education, my current research focuses on exploring the mental health of graduate students in research and learning spaces and how research and teaching of graduates in STEM can exacerbate or lessen depression and/or anxiety disorders,” he said.
Last year, he co-authored an article in CBE-Life Sciences Education, a free online quarterly journal published by the American Society for Cell Biology. In a qualitative interview study of 50 life science doctoral students from two different institutions, Wiesenthal and colleagues in Cooper’s lab identified four aspects of graduate school that influenced student depression: the degree of structuring of teaching and research; positive and negative reinforcement; success and failure; and social support and isolation.
He is currently working on a similar study examining both graduate student depression and anxiety disorders to see how well the findings are generalizable with various demographic groups nationwide.
“With growing concerns of a mental health crisis in higher education, I have become really passionate about finding the underlying causes of problems in graduate programs that can worsen mental health,” said he declared. “By doing this kind of work, it can shed light on the mental health of graduate students in academia and hopefully lead to changes that can help students with depression and/or anxiety disorders succeed in as graduate students.
Carly Busch is a second-year doctoral candidate in the School of Life Sciences’ Biology and Society program and was awarded the NSF Graduate Fellowship in 2020 while starting at ASU.
A native of Houston, Texas, Busch earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in biology at Whitman College before coming to ASU to work in Cooper’s lab.
His current research focuses on biology education.
“A few years after graduating, I learned that there was a whole field dedicated to exploring research questions related to biology education and I knew it would be the perfect combination of teaching and impactful research,” she said.
“I am currently working to assess the impact on undergraduate STEM students of an instructor revealing their LGBTQ-plus identity during class,” she said.
Findings from his research suggest that instructors’ openness about their LGBTQ-plus identity has a positive impact on students, regardless of how they identify. Students report feeling better able to approach and relate to their instructor, and an increased sense of belonging in science in general.
LoganGin received his PhD in Biology and Society in the fall of 2021 and received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2017.
He worked closely with Brownell and Cooper to complete research on how scientific communities can create more inclusive environments for students with disabilities, co-author of a number of research papers on the subject.
His research resulted in a dissertation that examined the challenges faced by students with disabilities in the changing learning environments of higher education. Presenting the results of a number of studies, Gin argued that institutions need to consider modifying student accommodation to better support students with disabilities.
Gin has now accepted a position as Deputy Director of STEM Education at Brown University’s Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning.