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Research and Innovation

Graduate Research Forum 2023: Top presenter awards

Meet the top three winners of the oral and poster presentations from the 15th annual forum

Graduate Research Forum poster session in Fritz Pavilion
Poster session from the 15th annual Graduate Research Forum
Research and Innovation

Graduate Research Forum 2023: Top presenter awards

Poster session from the 15th annual Graduate Research Forum

More than 95 graduate students presented their work at the Miami University 2023 Graduate Research Forum held Nov. 3. The top presentations and posters were selected by Graduate School alumni and faculty judges. 

Forum presenters often must present their very technical projects to groups of generalists and non-experts, Michael Crowder, associate provost and dean of the Graduate School, said. "This style of communication is different from what our students experience at their disciplinary professional society meetings and is a skill that we promote.” 

The top presenters each receive $300 in professional funds. The forum and the awards are sponsored by the Patricia and Stephen Lang Graduate Research Support Fund, the Paxton Graduate Research Fund, and the Miami University Graduate School.

Meet the top presenters, below (note: student-written biographies are in quotes).

Alfredo Ascanio

Top Oral Presentations

Alfredo Ascanio, doctoral student in Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (EEEB)

  • Presentation: "Habitat Disturbance and Multigenerational Emergence Trends in Brood X Cicadas (Magicicada spp.) in Southwest Ohio"
  • Advisor: Tereza Jezkova, associate professor of Biology 

Ascanio received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela, where he specialized in coral reef ecology and data analysis. At Miami, his work involves trying to develop new methodologies to study species diversity, their ecological niches, interactions, and geographic distributions. The work presented at the GRF was the result of one of the mentorship experiences he had with an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) student in 2021, Brianna Louis '22, focusing on studying declining emergence trends of Brood X cicadas in southwest Ohio. "I love to do both, working in developing new computational methods to study our biodiversity, while also being able to do field work to understand more, even if only a little, a species like these cicadas. Improving our knowledge of particular species and populations will lead us to better conservation solutions that will allow us to keep sharing the world with these awesome living beings."

Runcie Chidebe

Runcie C.W. Chidebe, doctoral student in Gerontological Studies

  • Presentation: "An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Older Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer"
  • Advisor: Jennifer Kinney, professor of Sociology and Gerontology 

Chidebe received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he conducted an experiment on the effects of exposure to media-portrayed ideal body image on body satisfaction. He also holds a master’s degree in Transforming and Leading in Health Care from Birmingham City University, United Kingdom, where he conducted a mixed-method study on the push and pull factors in the clinical oncology workforce. At Miami, his current research focuses on aging and access to cancer care, workforce issues of older adults, and veterans’ health. He is exploring the intersection of aging and access to cancer treatment, the exclusion of older adults in oncology clinical trials, and how older adults live with metastatic breast cancer in Nigeria. He argues that “while the burden of metastatic breast cancer (mBC) is devastating to all cancer patients, older adults living with mBC have a poorer prognosis, more physical symptoms, poor access to palliative care, and experience social isolation; we need more research to support older adults living with cancer.” His current research on “Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Older Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer” was accepted for presentation/poster at several international and national meetings. As part of his graduate assistant work, Runcie is also working with Phyllis Cummins, senior research scholar at Scripps Gerontology Center, on a research project exploring adult numeracy, literacy, and problem-solving skills in STEM education at U.S. community colleges.

Prachi Wele

Prachi Wele, doctoral student in Biology

  • Presentation: "Is Colorectal Cancer Different Between Males and Females?"
  • Advisor: Haifei Shi, professor of Biology 

Wele received a dual degree of bachelor of science and master of science in Biological Sciences from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal, India. At Miami she works with Haifei Shi, professor of Biology, and Xian Wu, assistant professor of Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Health, on obesity-influenced colorectal cancer. “Her thesis work focuses on identifying differences in colorectal cancer between men and women and understanding how estrogen protects women from getting colorectal cancer. Literature studies have rarely incorporated obesity, sex-based differences, and the role of estrogen altogether in understanding colorectal cancer. This study will explore the research gap at molecular, cellular, and metabolic levels.''

Rahmat Jabale

Top Poster Presentations

Jabale Rahmat, master's degree student in Biology

  • Presentation: "Wing Enhancers of Vestigial Evolved Through Modifications of the Body Wall Enhancers"
  • Advisor: Yoshinori Tomoyasu, associate professor of Biology

Rahmat received his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Independent University, Bangladesh. His research in the Tomoyasu lab involves searching to find an answer to a century long debate about the evolution of wings in insects. “Insects are the most diverse and widespread organisms, and the evolution of wings are often attributed to their massive success. The molecular mechanism of how the wings evolved remains elusive. I am investigating the underlying molecular mechanism of how wings evolved in insects using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, a very powerful model organism in biological research. I am focusing on vestigial (vg, a crucial wing gene) wing enhancers, which are regulatory elements within DNA that govern when, where, and how much of the vg gene will express during development.  My research has provided evidence about how the vg wing enhancers have evolved through modification of vg ancestral body wall enhancers. This work lays a foundation on understanding the molecular mechanism of wing evolution from the body wall and paves the way to study which parts of the body wall might have contributed towards the evolution of wings in insects.”

Amanda Reichert

Amanda Reichert, doctoral student in Psychology

  • Presentation: "Role of the Paraventricular Nucleus of the Thalamus in the Expression of Threat and Safety"
  • Advisor: Jennifer Quinn, associate professor of Psychology

Reichert received bachelor's degrees in Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion from Nebraska Wesleyan University. “There, she found a love for philosophical approaches to scientific problems and the value of theoretical backings for current research methods. At Miami, she utilizes this passion to investigate stress and trauma research from a variety of perspectives. Her work focuses on the lack of safety behaviors that can occur following traumatic or stressful experiences in rodents, a relatively new and largely understudied field. She hopes this research can broaden our understanding and create better treatment of trauma- and anxiety-related disorders millions of people around the world suffer with daily.”

Anil Upreti

Anil Upreti, doctoral student in Cell Molecular and Structural Biology (CMSB)

  • Presentation: "miR-26 Regulates Lens Transparency in Mice"
  • Advisor: Michael Robinson, professor of Biology 

Upreti, a Biotechnology graduate from Kathmandu University, Nepal, “embarked on a transformative journey” when he joined the Robinson lab. "My research revolves around the intricate realm of ocular development in mice. My work encompasses a dynamic blend of wet lab experimentation and computational analysis of high-throughput sequencing data, aiming to unveil the epigenetic, genomic, and transcriptomic intricacies guiding cell differentiation. Leading four pivotal projects — characterizing the lens epithelial explant system, elucidating FGFRs' role in cellular differentiation, identifying novel enhancer elements for transcription factor, and profiling mice eyes at single-cell resolution — I am driven by a passion to decode the genetic and epigenetic factors shaping ocular development and disease. Through multi-omics and systems biology approaches, I aspire to contribute novel insights into the complex molecular processes orchestrating cell fate decisions during eye organogenesis."