Sharon Graham
Self Graduate Fellowship

KU announces Self Graduate Fellows

Wed, 09/21/2011

S.N. Johnson

Matt Josephson

Karl Kammerer

Angela Pierce

Brittany Rover

Lei Shi

Jenna Wasylenko

Sarah Wildgen

More Information

LAWRENCE — Eight doctoral students have been selected to receive KU's prestigious Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship as they begin the 2011-2012 academic year. The 26 current Self Graduate Fellows are among 131 students who have benefited from the fellowship since it was established.

Self Graduate Fellowships are four-year awards to new or first-year Ph.D. students who demonstrate leadership, initiation, and a passion for achievement. The fellowship covers full tuition and fees, provides a $29,000 annual payment, and includes a unique development program. The Fellow Development Program provides general education and training in communication, management, and leadership to assist Self Fellows in preparation for future leadership roles, complementing the specialized education and training provided in Ph.D. programs.

The fellowship’s mission is to identify and recruit exceptional Ph.D. students who demonstrate the promise to make significant contributions to their fields of study and society as a whole.

Madison "Al" and Lila Self of Hinsdale, Ill., launched and permanently endowed the Self Graduate Fellowship in 1989, motivated by their strong belief in the vital importance of developing leadership for tomorrow. Madison Self is a 1943 KU graduate in chemical engineering. Lila Self is a native of Eudora and attended KU with the class of 1943.

The new Self Fellows are:

Sarah “Nikki” Johnson (bioengineering) had spinal fusion for scoliosis at the age of 12. That experience shaped much of her early life, and she is now using that personal knowledge to prepare for a career in biomedical product development. In the long term, Johnson plans to manage a translation research lab that focuses on spinal biomechanics, device development, and pediatric deformity correction. Johnson also recently received a three-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She is conducting her research under the guidance of Lisa Friis, associate professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the program track in biomedical product design and development in the bioengineering program in the School of Engineering. In her first year at KU, Johnson received the Stroebel Scholarship.

Johnson received a B.S. in biomedical engineering in 2010 from the University of Memphis. As an undergraduate, she received numerous scholarships, including the Women in Technology in Tennessee Essay; the Tennessee HOPE; the General Assembly Merit; and the Herff Presidential. Her awards include a Sigma Xi Research Award, Outstanding Senior in Biomedical Engineering Award, and the Undergraduate Research Scholar Award. Johnson has worked as a product development intern at Medtronic Spine and Biologics in Memphis, and as a research assistant and undergraduate tutor at the University of Memphis.

She is the daughter of John and Kathy Johnson of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and a graduate of Blackman High School.

Matthew P. Josephson (molecular biosciences) has learned to conquer any Rubik’s cube put in front of him. His dream is to have the same insight while conquering complex biological questions as a leader in biomedical science policy. Making quick yet thoughtful decisions won’t deter him either. He’s had ample experience with that as a lead zip-line guide in his hometown of Juneau, Alaska. For the past year, Josephson has worked as a research technician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. His research there focused on cardiac myosin interactions. Josephson received his B.S. degree in biology in 2010 from South Dakota State University. While an undergraduate, Josephson conducted research focused on rice seed dormancy. At SDSU, he was a member of the men’s swim team and was the team captain his senior year. He was awarded a Gold Medal Athlete Award, given to student athletes who show excellence in academics and athletics. As a high school senior in Juneau, Josephson received a Territorial Sportsman Scholarship for students dedicated to preserving natural resources. He has earned the rank of Eagle Scout and a bronze palm from the Boy Scouts of America.

Josephson is the son of Ron and Jeanne Josephson and graduated from Juneau Douglas High School.

Karl L. Kammerer (business) co-founded and managed his own business with a modest 15 credit hours in KU’s School of Business under his belt. The year was 2005, and Kammerer found himself managing Professional Toxicology Services in Lenexa, Kan., while also working on his bachelor’s degree. The company provides products and services to organizations to keep them in compliance with state and federal drug testing regulations. Kammerer developed and promoted new product offerings, implemented pricing strategies, and led all aspects of financial management. He hopes to combine his interests in innovation, entrepreneurship and inter-organizational relations during his graduate work in strategic management. In the future, Kammerer hopes to be a leading researcher in the field. He received the Paul Landis Scholarship his freshman year and received his B.S. in 2007 and his M.B.A. in 2009 from the University of Kansas. Kammerer has volunteered as an academic assistant at City Union Mission, tutoring homeless men in basic math and English. He has also served as a volunteer with Angel Food Ministries, a discounted food distribution service in Shawnee, Kan.

Kammerer is the son of Kurtis L. Kammerer, Spring Hill, and Jennifer L. Kallery, O' Fallon, Mo. He is a graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School.

Angela N. Pierce (anatomy and cell biology at the KU Medical Center) experienced a rare and painful disorder as teenager. She made a promise to herself to make the world a better place, and today she is keeping her word. She plans to pursue a career as a pain research neurobiologist, serve as a liaison between collaborating healthcare disciplines, and advocate public policy for complementary health care research on a federal and international scale. At KU, Pierce’s research is focused on the neurological mechanisms of pain. Before beginning graduate school at KUMC, Pierce completed her Doctorate of Chiropractic Cum Laude with Research Honors (2010) from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, and is a nationally board certified chiropractic physician. She also received a B.S. in biochemistry and B.A. in Spanish (2006) from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. At the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research, she was the principle investigator studying electromyography, won third place in a literature review from a symposium on nutrition and obesity, and published a case study about an unusual presentation of lung cancer. In addition, she won the Dr. Frank Sartz Philosophical Recruitment Scholarship and was a finalist for the Dr. Virgil V. Strang Philosophy Award upon graduation. She served as a clinical teaching assistant, student instructor of the peripheral nervous system, and completed three clinical internships, including a volunteer internship to the island of Viti Levu, Fiji. During her undergraduate career, she completed an academic internship at the Instituto Technológico de Costa Rica, received numerous foreign language performance awards, and was invited to join the International Foreign Language Honor Society.

Pierce is the daughter of Sondra Moran, Joplin, Mo., and a graduate of Joplin High School.

Brittany L. Rover (bioengineering) has seen success come with hard work and dedication. An accomplished student-athlete and musician, Rover is now setting her sights on better understanding neurological disorders. She’s interested in the chemistry and physiology behind diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and hopes in the future to play an active role in removing current obstacles to treatment. Rover received a B.S. in chemical engineering (2011) from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. At Iowa State, she was a cross-country varsity letter winner, was selected five times to the Academic All-Big 12 Team, was a President’s ACE Scholarship recipient, and was the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering 2009 Annual Scholar-Athlete. She has worked as a research assistant in the ISU Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, where she focused primarily on biochemical and genetic engineering laboratory techniques in metabolic engineering. In 2009, Rover participated in an international summer field study course in biology at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Valencia, Spain. Rover was a four-year member of the varsity Cross Country and Track team and played viola in the symphony orchestra and various music ensembles. She has also worked as a semi-professional violist and as a swim instructor.

Rover is the daughter of Craig and Diane Rover and a graduate of Ames (Iowa) High School.

Lei Shi in electrical engineering has already gotten a close look at the importance of remote sensing systems to understand global climate change. As a graduate research assistant working for KU’s Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), Shi spent several weeks in Chile as the primary radar operator during the 2009 NASA mission to Antarctica helping gather data on the thickness of the Antarctic ice. The data collected will help researchers predict the rise of sea levels and climate change. In the future, Shi wants to apply his engineering knowledge to develop even better systems that will be directly and immediately beneficial to society. Prior to returning to KU for graduate work, Shi worked as an electrical engineer for Honeywell FM&T in Kansas City. There, he performed prototype miniature initiation circuit design and testing. As a master’s student, Shi has recently played a large role in the development and operation of the Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder in support of Operation Ice Bridge program based out of Punta Arenas, Chile. Shi received a B.S. in electrical engineering (2005) from the University of Kansas. As an undergraduate, Shi received a Summerfield scholarship and a School of Engineering Scholarship. He is currently president of the KU graduate engineering association and from 2009 to 2010 was president of the CReSIS student organization.

Shi is the son of Yupu Shi and Qingwen Li and a graduate of Northeast Magnet High School in Wichita.

Jenna M. Wasylenko (chemistry) is passionate about using her knowledge as a chemist to positively affect the world. Wasylenko plans to use her research interests in nanotechnology and physical chemistry to pursue a career in renewable energy. At KU, Wasylenko’s research involves using femtosecond transient absorption spectroscopy to study charge transfer kinetics and dynamics of new hybrid nanostructures. During her first year at KU, Wasylenko earned the chemistry department’s Adrienne Hiscox Mitchell award. She received a B.S. in chemistry with a minor in physics (2010) from Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Va. Among the awards Wasylenko received at Sweet Briar are the Betty Bean Black Scholarship, the 2009 Community Service Award and the Sweet Briar College Student Endeavors Research Grant. At Sweet Briar, Wasylenko was the Chapter President of the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society, served on the Sustainability Steering Committee, worked as an instructor with the Sweet Briar Outdoor Program, and served as the student representative on the Sweet Briar College Presidential Search Committee. Her undergraduate research experiences include NSF-funded programs at Virginia Commonwealth University and at the University of Kansas. Her research has covered quantum dots for solar cell applications (Sweet Briar), organic synthesis (VCU), and biodiesel research (KU).

Wasylenko is the daughter of Mary and James Wasylenko and a graduate of Lansdale (Pa.) Catholic High School.

Sarah M. Wildgen (chemistry) is eager to return to industry with new knowledge to apply to the bioanalytical field. At KU, she is currently developing novel biosensors for multiplexed detection of biological samples with a goal of improving diagnostic capabilities for various forms of cancer. Before beginning graduate school, Wildgen worked as a research associate with Kemin Industries in Des Moines, Iowa. Working in the Food Technologies Division, she developed and optimized an extraction process to isolate a specific antioxidant molecule from plant material which is used to improve the shelf life of various food products. Wildgen received her B.S. in chemistry with a minor in mathematics (2009) from Drake University in Des Moines. While an undergraduate, Wildgen received the Drake Presidential Scholarship, Delta Gamma Foundation Scholarship, Outstanding Senior in Chemistry Award, Dr. William Homer & Florence Coppock Chemistry Research Award, and the American Chemical Society POLYED Organic Chemistry Award. She was president of the Chemistry Club, president and vice president of Foundations for Delta Gamma Sorority, and vice president of Service for Order of Omega. Wildgen is also a graduate of Drakes’s Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute.

Wildgen is the daughter of Paul and Sue Wildgen and a graduate of Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park.

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