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President's Awards

Kate Arildsen

Kate Arildsen '22

“Phenotypic characterization and mRNA expression analysis of deregulated anthocyanin pigmentation mutant in Medicago truncatula”

Kate is concluding her undergraduate research program at Eastern with her poster presentation at CREATE. She has been chosen for the highly selective Fulbright-Mitacs Globallink program, an internship that will take her this summer to the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, under the tutelage of Dr. Xin Li.

In addition to CREATE and her Fulbright-Mitacs internship, Kate has co-authored a manuscript being currently prepared for publication in Plant Methods, and will soon submit a second manuscript for publication to that journal. She presented at the Virtual Worldwide Summit of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in summer 2021, as well as at the ASPB’s Northeastern Section meeting in October 2021, for which she won the “best undergraduate presentation” award. 

Kate has worked for several years with Biology Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan on research that focuses on mutants of the model legume “Medicago truncatula.” Writes Professor Veerappan, “Understanding the genetic, molecular and biochemical mechanisms of how legume plants . . . capture atmospheric nitrogen into biologically available ammonia will help us to engineer non-legume agricultural crops . . . and minimize pollution caused by expensive synthetic fertilizers.” Applauding the quality and rigor of Kate’s research, Veerappan concluded, “Kate is an outstanding researcher, and she has made significant contributions in characterizing the dap mutant.”

Kate’s B.S. in in biology, with minors in Bioinformatics and Cannabis Cultivation and Chemistry. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in plant molecular genetics. “Anthropogenic climate change has already significantly impacted agriculture, with no indication of slowing down,” says Kate. “It is my goal to engineer stable crops that can have moderate to high yield while being resistant to temperature fluctuations, nutrient instability and pathogens.”

“The conferences that I have been able to attend have given me many opportunities to network with scientists and fellow students . . . Having a first-author publication as an undergraduate students, along with my awards, scholarships and conference presentations, will strengthen my application to graduate schools. Undergraduate research has already provided me with a wealth of opportunities, and I look forward to what other doors it will open up.”

Marissa “Rosie” Luther

Marissa “Rosie” Luther '22

“Distrust, fear and loneliness: Evaluating former Jehovah Witnesses using LIWC”

Rosie has been busy this spring presenting her research on psychological trauma. In addition to participating in this year’s CREATE Conference, she was one of seven Eastern students to present research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, held virtually from April 4-8.  More than 3,200 students from across the country participated. Rosie has also submitted her research for publication in the American Anthropologist journal, and is applying to present at the 38th annual meeting of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies.

A transfer student from Manchester Community College, Rosie has worked with Anthropology Professor Mary Kenny, Psychology Professor Lanagan-Leitzel, and most recently with Psychology Professor Krysten Salters-Pedneault.  Her recent research focuses on the experiences of people exiting a religious group. The psychological and emotional impact of being a member of a “high control” group can include stress, psychological trauma, and even suicide and familicide.

Rosie plans to become a researcher for a year following graduation in May 2022 while she applies to graduate school. She is considering Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology at the University of Texas in Austin and the University of Colorado in Boulder, as well as several Ivy League programs.  Her long-term career goal is work with people experiencing religious trauma. “Eastern has allowed me to discover a new field of research, a direction for my career going forward, and opportunities for self-discovery of my own capabilities . . . I believe my work is important and impactful, and I can pursue it thanks to opportunities I was able to take advantage of at Eastern.”

Professor Salters-Pedneault writes, “. . . not only has Rosie conducted exceptionally strong work, she is by far the most self-directed student I have ever worked with . . . Her sample was recruited nationally, which is rare for undergraduate research in psychology, and this work alone contributes to our understanding of how leaving high control groups and facing consequences such as disfellowship and shunning, might affect individuals . . . The work she has done in this project far exceeds what is typically produced in an independent study; she is essentially conducting graduate-level research.”