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External Funding,

This fall, the Graduate School honors the 2023 cohort of Graduate Students of Distinction. Together, these 21 students received over $1.3M in external funding toward their graduate educations. The full list of Graduate Students of Distinction, 2023 is:

Alyssa Smolensky – School of Natural Resources

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Honorable Mention


Alyssa Smolensky, a master’s student at the University of Missouri, is pioneering a unique computational approach for promoting biodiversity and community wellness in urban areas. Her research focuses on building data-driven models and simulations to examine nature-based solutions as mechanisms for improving ecological and socio-economic resiliency in developed landscapes, which are considered to be extremely vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change. Alyssa’s work challenges the overarching belief that urban areas provide little to no value in contributing to conservation goals, and instead implements a broadly-applicable, computational framework to identify, analyze and quantify the impacts of sustainable development projects on wildlife, people and the environment. She has forged partnerships with several nonprofit agencies to incorporate large datasets from longitudinal environmental monitoring studies, and advocates for mass adoption of data collection and monitoring efforts for natural resources in urban areas.  

Austin Lawrence – Pathobiology Program

Leakey Foundation

Austin Lawrence Final

Austin is a paleoanthropologist and anatomist studying the diversity of skeletal form and function in living humans, other extant primates, and fossil hominins. His research is focused primarily on developing tools for interpreting the postcranial skeleton of fossil hominins to better understand the patterns and drivers of behavioral, ecological, and taxonomic diversity in human evolution. Austin received his PhD in Integrative Anatomy (Pathobiology Area Program) from the University of Missouri in July 2023, and in September will begin a position as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago.

Brayden Routh – Biomedical Sciences

American College of Vet Ophthalmologists

Brayden Routh Final

Brayden obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma State University in 2015 and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Oklahoma State University in 2020. Following veterinary school, she completed a year-long Veterinary Medicine & Surgery Rotating Internship in Atlanta, GA followed by an Ophthalmology Specialty Internship in Birmingham, AL. Brayden is currently a second-year Ophthalmology Resident and graduate student at the University of Missouri. She is honored to be part of our CVM’s vibrant comparative ophthalmology research team where she is currently investigating novel therapies for corneal scarring. Her group is dedicated to the improvement of vision in both people and animals. Outside of the residency program, Brayden actively pursues a variety of art projects and enjoys outdoor activities including hiking, kayaking, camping, and spending time with her beloved hound dog/heeler mix dog named Tallahassee.

Corinne Sweeney – School of Natural Resources

Ducks Unlimited Cooperative Grant

Corinne Sweeney Final

Corinne Sweeney is a Ph.D. student in Fisheries and Wildlife in the School of Natural Resources. She received her B.S. in Ecology and Biology and her M.S. in Ecology from the University of Georgia. She is the student representative for the Ozark-Prairie chapter of the Society of Toxicology and Environmental Chemistry (SETAC) and the secretary of the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Graduate Student Organization (WAFSGSO). Her research focuses on the potential impacts of agrochemicals on non-target insect species. 

Cynthia Tang – Medicine

National Institutes of Health Fellowship

Cynthia Tang Final

Cynthia Tang is an MD-PhD Candidate and NIH F30 Fellow at the School of Medicine/Institute for Data Science and Informatics. Prior to joining Mizzou, she graduated from The College of Idaho and worked at Washington University in St. Louis as a research scholar and clinical research coordinator where she discovered her passion for patient care. Cynthia’s current research focuses on the emergence, spread, and clinical impacts of influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses. She also serves as President-Elect of the American Physician Scientists Association where she is working to expand diversity, inclusion, and accessibility for current and future physician-scientist trainees across the nation. Her professional interests include pediatrics and health equity. Beyond science and medicine, Cynthia enjoys hiking, aerial arts, traveling, and coffee.

Dain Jacob – Nutrition & Exercise Physiology

American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship

Dain Jacob Final

Dain is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. His work examines the biological differences between males and females on the blood flow and blood pressures responses to low oxygen breathing (hypoxia). His dissertation work is focused on examining the underlying mechanisms in controlling blood flow and pressure responses to hypoxia and how these may or may not differ between males and females, which has implications for hypoxia-related diseases (sleep apnea, COVID-19, heart failure, etc). This research is supported by the American Heart Association and Mizzou’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. When not in the lab, Dain enjoys being outdoors and spending time with friends and family.

Elizabeth Dorssom – Political Science

Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University

Elizabeth Dorssom Final

Elizabeth Dorssom earned a Political Science PhD from Mizzou in 2022. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lincoln University-Missouri. As a graduate student at Mizzou, Dr. Dorssom was the recipient of multiple fellowships, including: the Dan Searle Fellowship from the Institute for Humane Studies, the Oskar Morgenstern Fellowship from the Mercatus Center, and the Institute for Qualitative and MultiMethod Research Fellowship from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Dr. Dorssom also received several research grants from Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies
at American University, the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma, the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center.

Dr. Dorssom was also the recipient of numerous awards, including: the Edith Taylor Therrien Award for highly accomplished women graduate students from the Department of Political Science, the Outstanding Graduate Student Award from the Graduate Association of Political Scientists, the David M. Wood Excellence in Political Science Research Award from the Department of Political Science, the Excellence in Student Leadership Award from the Graduate Professional Council, the Outstanding Graduate Student Award from the College of Arts & Science, the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Graduate Professional Council, and the Missouri Excellence in Political Science Teaching Award from the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs.

During her time at Mizzou, Dr. Dorssom served as a Graduate Writing Group Facilitator, Graduate Student-Faculty Liaison, Graduate Student Mentor and Orientation Leader, on the Mental Health Task Force, and on the Racial Equity Advisory Panel. She also taught numerous workshops for graduate students, including: Grants 101, Experimental Methods in Political Science, and MultiMethod Research.

Dr. Dorssom also published in Social Science Quarterly, and Political Science Educator.

Hanamori Skoblow – Human Development & Family Science

P.E.O. Scholar Award

Hanamori Skoblow Final

Hanamori graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Beloit College, and earned her Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science from the University of Missouri before continuing on to pursue her Ph.D. While at Mizzou, she has received the College of Education and Human Development Outstanding Graduate Student Leadership Award, the Lawrence Ganong Graduate Student Fellowship, and the Marilyn Coleman Outstanding Human Development and Family Science Graduate Student Scholarship. In 2022, she was selected as a Summer Policy Intern with the Gerontological Society of America.
Hanamori’s research focuses on the biopsychosocial connections that shape aging across the life course. To date, she has primarily examined: (1) the intersections between perceptions of aging, close relationships, and health in older adulthood; and (2) the link between early-life socioeconomic position and later-life cognitive functioning.

Jasmine Godwin – Human Environmental Science

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Jasmine Godwin Final

Jasmine is a New Haven, Connecticut native, who completed a bachelor’s degree at Tuskegee University, is a second-year graduate student (MS/PhD) in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. Her program of research focuses on the Black Family unit and how systems such as racism and colorism influence the way families socialize their children.

Her NSF-GRFP research project will investigate the influence colorism messages African American fathers transmit have on their daughter’s self-esteem and dating preferences. She plans to eventually incorporate these findings into community-based programs that parents, and more specifically fathers, can attend to promoted healthy communication between themselves and their daughters around skin tone and colorism. After earning her PhD, she plans to pursue a career in academia as a faculty member at a R1 university. Jasmine is advised by Dr. Antoinette M. Landor, Associate Professor in HDFS.

Kendra Esparza-Harris – School of Natural Resources

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grant

Kendra Esparza Harris Final

Kendra Esparza-Harris is a doctoral fellow in the Center for Agroforestry, pursuing a PhD degree in Agroforestry with a minor in International Development, and a certificate in Society and Sustainability. Her research focuses on domestic and international interdisciplinary application of silvopasture. Following the completion of her graduate program, Kendra aims to develop interdisciplinary approaches and strategies to address challenges associated with agriculture-wildlife interactions, and natural resource management.

Lucas Kuehnel – Chemical Engineering

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Lucas Kuehnel Final

Lucas Kuehnel is pursuing his PhD in chemical engineering with a research focus is THz energy harvesting technologies for waste heat collection

Madison Musich – Psychiatry

Sleep Research Society Grant

Madison Musich Final

Madison Musich is a psychology doctoral student in the area of cognition and neuroscience. Madison earned a B.S. in psychology with a concentration in mind, brain and behavior, and a minor in statistics from Colorado State University. She also just received her M.A. in psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia examining cognition and arousal factors associated with objective and subjective sleep discrepancy in older adults with and without insomnia. Madison is a graduate research assistant in the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory where she investigates the neuropsychopharmacology of aging and age-related neurodegenerative disorders using behavioral and neuroimaging techniques. She is also a graduate research assistant in the Cognition, Aging, Sleep and Health (CASH) Lab where she examines the impact of sleep on cognitive aging. Her research interests include studying healthy aging, neuroimaging, and data analysis.

Andria Caruthers – School of Natural Resources
Caruthers Andria Final

Andria is a USDA-NIFA fellow within the Center for Agroforestry. She is working on her PhD in Natural Resources and is advised by professors Robin Rotman, J.D., Dr. Corinne Valdivia, Dr. Benjamin Knapp, and Dr. Michael Gold. Her research is focused on exploring the resources landowners use to transition into perennial crop production and what role elderberry production plays as an enterprise diversification strategy for growers. She was awarded a graduate student SARE grant to fund research with elderberry growers and provide education to the public on planting and processing elderberry for home use. She collaborates with Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture on planting and management of a native plant medicinal demonstration garden and provides outreach and education to the public on uses and benefits of planting native edibles in urban spaces.

Samantha Carter – School of Natural Resources

National Science Foundation – Law and Science Dissertation Grant

Carter Samantha Final

Sam Carter is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Natural Resources. Her research focuses on natural resource law and policy, environmental justice, and the rights of Indigenous people. She is the President of MU Four Directions Indigenous Peoples and Allies. Following the completion of her degree, Sam will be joining the STRONG Manoomin Collective at Northwestern University as a postdoctoral fellow, working to develop policy protections for manoomin wild rice.

Stephen Czujko – Classical Studies

Archaeological Institute of America – Pomerance Fellowship

Stephen Czujko Final

Stephen Czujko is a Ph.D. candidate in the Ancient Mediterranean Studies at the University of Missouri- Columbia. His research focuses on ceramic craft production in the eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age. He is interested in the use of instrument-based geochemical and mineralogical techniques for the characterization of different technical actions necessary to pottery making. Currently, he is also a graduate research assistant in MURR’s Archaeometry Laboratory. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Stephen attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio where earned his B.A. in Classics. He received his M.A. from the University of Arizona in Classical Archaeology.

Talyia Fordham – Nutrition & Exercise Physiology

National Institute of Food and Agriculture Predoctoral Fellowship

Talyia Fordham Final

Talyia Fordham is a first-generation student hailing from Tooele, Utah. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Fitness from the University of Missouri (2019) and embarked on her graduate studies in nutritional sciences in the fall of 2020, working under the guidance of Elizabeth Parks, PhD. Talyia’s passion for women’s health has translated into several studies investigating the relationship between food, metabolism, hormones, and health. Outside her academic pursuits, Talyia enjoys weightlifting, gardening, video gaming alongside her partner, Marshall, and spending quality time with her four furry companions: two dogs, Baxter and Bailey, and two cats, Kit Kat and Snickers. Talyia has been recognized through the prestigious 2023 USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Predoctoral Fellowship. This esteemed fellowship supports two pivotal studies. The first study delves into the intricate relationship between insulin and fat production in human milk, while the second investigates how reducing carbohydrates and simple sugars can mitigate the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in adolescent girls with polycystic ovary syndrome. Upon the successful completion of her degree, Talyia aspires to extend her training in a postdoctoral position. Her eventual goal is to establish an academic career that revolves around nurturing the next generation of scientists and continuous discovery of the profound connections between a woman’s reproductive health and her dietary choices.