Monday, February 12, 2024

Annually, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of Undergraduate Research solicit nominations from the campus community for exceptional undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral researchers from a wide range of disciplines and departments.

This year’s cohort of winners includes individuals whose research helps us better understand a wide range of topics, from the molecular underpinnings of bipolar disorder to racial politics in the early 1900s to new methods for flood control. 

“These students and postdoctoral scholars are exemplary in their commitment to discovering new knowledge that helps all of us understand ourselves and the world around us better,” said Marty Scholtz, vice president for research. “Through these awards, we celebrate some of the institution’s brightest rising stars. With training and mentorship available from University of Iowa faculty, they are well positioned to make significant advancements in their fields of study and future careers.” 

The winners will be recognized at a celebration of student and postdoctoral research on February 28. 


Postdoctoral Research Excellence Award

Karina Kruth portrait

This award honors postdoctoral scholars and fellows whose research and scholarly activity is recognized as highly original work that makes a significant contribution to the field.

The 2024 winner is Karina Kruth, whose work to elucidate the relationship between metabolic stress and neuronal dysfunction helps fill an important knowledge gap in bipolar disorder research. “Karina’s postdoctoral research holds tremendous promise for improving our understanding of this devastating disorder and identifying novel therapeutic targets,” said Peggy Nopoulos, Paul W. Penningroth Professor of Psychiatry in the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM), who nominated her for the award.


Graduate Research Excellence Awards

These awards honor students in terminal degree programs who are conducting research and scholarly activity that is recognized as highly original work that makes a significant contribution to the field. Eligible students shall have completed a minimum of two years of graduate work in the current program of study and students in PhD programs must have completed their comprehensive exam.

Andrew Boge portrait

Andrew Boge is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies studying rhetoric and public advocacy. His research focuses on the racialization of Asian Americans in the United State in the early twentieth century. “He is the epitome of a graduate student who fully leverages the opportunities at the University of Iowa, fostering growth within his department and beyond, engaging in innovative interdisciplinary research, and harmoniously blending scholarship with public engagement,” said Jiyeon Kang, associate professor of communication studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), who nominated him for the award.


MEgan Ronnenberg

Megan Ronnenberg is a doctoral student in the School of Social Work. A former childhood educator, her research focuses on early childhood education and childcare access, program quality, and disparities in discipline including expulsion, suspension, and seclusion. “Megan has helped shine a light on early childhood education suspension and expulsion,” said her nominator for the award, Megan Gilster, associate professor in the School of Social Work in CLAS. “Her primary data is an important advancement in the field of early childhood education research.”


Maxwell Hammond

Maxwell Hammond, a doctoral student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, conducts research in the domain of soft robotics. “Max has developed a groundbreaking mathematical framework that enables the precise control of soft robotic arms with infinite degrees of freedom,” said Venanzio Cichella, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. “This innovative approach has far-reaching implications, particularly in fields such as ocean exploration, medical robotics, in-space exploration, and more.”


Riley Post portrait

Riley Post is a doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who studies flood mitigation methods, with a focus on distributed storage as a means of flood control. He was nominated by Witold Krajewski, who holds the Rose & Joseph Summers Chair in Water Resources Engineering in the College of Engineering. “Riley is developing numerical simulations of the hydrologic and hydraulic elements of the system that will allow him to explore the effectiveness of active control of small farm ponds and wetlands under the conditions of uncertainty in rainfall forecasting,” said Krajewski.


Excellence in Undergraduate Research Awards

These awards, offered by the Office of Undergraduate Research, sponsor up to five undergraduate students involved in research and creative work. Winners receive an OUR fellowship for the upcoming semester. 

The 2024 winners are: 

Max Halbach

Max Halbach is earning bachelor’s degrees in history and education, with a minor in anthropology and a certificate in Native American and indigenous studies. Max was nominated by Tom Arne Midtrød, associate professor of history in CLAS. 




Jasmyn Hoeger

Jasmyn Hoeger is majoring in biology on the cellular and developmental track. Jasmyn was nominated by Ryan Boudreau, associate professor of internal medicine – cardiovascular medicine in CCOM.


Grayson Talaski

Grayson Talaski is a biomedical engineering major, with minors in chemistry and pre-medicine. He was nominated by Don Anderson, professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation in CCOM.


Sam Thompson portrait

Samantha Thompson is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, with a minor in Spanish. Her nominator is Christopher Ahern, professor of molecular physiology and biophysics in CCOM. 


Sabrina Vlk

Sabrina Vlk is a mechanical engineering major, with a minor in mathematics and an Artificial Intelligence, Modeling, and Simulation (AIMS) certificate. She was nominated by Venanzio Cichella, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.