LAS postdoctoral students and faculty honored with awards, grants

CATEGORIES: Announcements

Seven postdoctoral scholars and two principal investigators in Liberal Arts and Sciences departments have been awarded for their contributions to the Iowa State community. Postdocs are eligible for the Postdoctoral Seed Grant, Postdoctoral Scholar Excellence Award for Teaching and Mentoring Students, and the Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award. Principal investigators are eligible for the Postdoctoral Mentoring Award.

Postdoctoral Seed Grant

These competitive grants provide postdoctoral scholars a valuable opportunity to apply for research funding in the role of a principal investigator. Postdoctoral scholars are expected to develop independent research, and this grant is an opportunity to gain experience doing so.

Elizabeth Elliott, a postdoctoral scholar in Psychology, researches a rarely studied phenomenon: the decision-making process that occurs during deception detection.

Her seed grant will be used to fund two studies in which she will examine deception detection dynamically (i.e., moment-to-moment). Her goal is to test a novel approach using sophisticated technology, improve metrics, and embed the data into a well-known model of decision-making.

“As an international postdoc, it is difficult to get funding through traditional channels,” Elliott said. “This award allows me to collect pilot data from two studies to strengthen my application for a highly competitive NSF grant.”

Krishna Sharma is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Chemistry. His research is centered on developing novel synthetic strategies to explore peptides in drug discovery and development, which will lead to new therapeutic agents against various diseases.

“Antibiotic resistant-bacteria are a growing health crisis, thus, there is a critical need to develop new antibiotics with different mechanisms of action compared to current approved drugs,” Sharma said. “My approach will be focused on identification of newer scaffolds against antibiotic resistant pathogenic bacteria.”

Sharma is grateful to Iowa State and to his program for this honor.

“This seed grant presents a great opportunity for me to explore new ideas at the initial stage as a principal investigator. It will help me to think independently for solving healthcare issues,” he said.

Postdoctoral Scholar Excellence Award for Teaching and Mentoring Students

This award honors postdoctoral scholars who have made innovative and significant contributions to training future scientists at Iowa State. Receiving this award may reflect a postdoctoral scholar’s excellence in either classroom teaching or in supervision of undergraduate or graduate students in research.

Phillip Klahs, a postdoctoral scholar in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, is passionate about plants and strives to share their exceptional biology with students at Iowa State.

“My goal while teaching and mentoring is to change how students see the botanical world around them and develop a persistent curiosity for plants,” Klahs said.

Receiving the Postdoctoral Scholar Excellence Award for Teaching and Mentoring Students helps Klahs feel appreciated for his work.

Matthew Mastroeni is a postdoctoral scholar in Mathematics.

Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award

This award honors postdoctoral scholars who have made innovative and significant research contributions to their field of study.

Mohsen Aliabadi, a Mathematics postdoctoral scholar, researches groups and vector spaces by utilizing tools from additive number theory, linear algebra, and combinatorics. He also works on generalizing existing results to another mathematical structure called mathoids. He is honored to be recognized with a Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award.

Santanu Pakhira works as a postdoctoral scholar in the Ames Laboratory.
“Quantum materials having unusual magnetic and electronic properties are the next generation of promising materials for energy-efficient, faster, and more accurate electronic devices, along with quantum computing,” Pakhira explained. “My main objectives are to discover different novel quantum magnetic and electronic materials and study their interesting bulk physical properties. My research activities at Iowa State involve single crystal growth of different such materials and characterization of bulk crystallographic, magnetic, and transport properties.”

Pakhira added that he feels deeply honored to receive an award for his research, and that it will inspire him to do more innovative work in the near future.

Jien Zhang, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, studies the interactions and feedback among the agroecosystem, climate, and human activities using computer modeling, statistics, and geospatial analysis.

The Postdoctoral Scholar Research Excellence Award, he said, is “a strong recognition of his work at Iowa State, as well as my long-term career.”

Postdoctoral Mentoring Award

This award recognizes principal investigators’ excellence in their mentorship of postdoctoral scholars. The purpose of the award is to promote a collaborative research environment for postdoctoral scholars at Iowa State, eventually leading to their successful transitions to the next stage in their career.

Psychology professor Christian Meissner takes a collaborative approach to mentoring, focusing on core skills and competencies that postdoctoral scholars would like to further develop. He offers opportunities for leadership of projects and for the development of novel lines of research that leverage their collective strengths. He also spends time discussing other areas of professional development, including issues surrounding collaboration, grant writing, teaching, reviewing articles, mentoring students, and managing service obligations.

“It is incredibly humbling to have been nominated by current and former postdocs,” Meissner said. “Mentorship of postdocs and graduate students is the most important activity that I engage in. I’m truly grateful for this recognition.”

Yuyu Zhou, associate professor of Geographical and Atmospherical Sciences, focuses on preparing postdoctoral scholars for the next stages in their careers, building an engaging and exciting research environment, and training postdocs to work both independently and collaboratively on projects.

“Receiving this award is a great honor because of the recognition from the postdoctoral scholars and university,” Zhou said, adding that the award will encourage him to continue good practices in mentoring postdocs and to improve his mentoring based on feedback.