Doctoral students present diverse body of research

Mayank Puri presents his chemistry doctoral dissertation to Robin Voreis on Tuesday afternoon at Coffman Union during the 2015 Doctoral Research Showcase.

James Healy

Mayank Puri presents his chemistry doctoral dissertation to Robin Voreis on Tuesday afternoon at Coffman Union during the 2015 Doctoral Research Showcase.

Charlie Bartlett

After years of work, recipients of doctoral fellowships had the opportunity to share their research with the University of Minnesota community on Tuesday. Colorful posters and presentations filled Coffman UnionâÄôs great hall at this yearâÄôs doctoral research showcase, where 85 researchers explained their dissertations on a wide variety of topics. HereâÄôs a sampling of some of those projects: Leah Hakkola Organizational leadership, policy & development Hakkola wants colleges and universities to think more critically about how they discuss diversity in their recruitment processes. Hakkola, who obtained her undergraduate degree in sociology and American studies from St. Olaf College, is examining diversity discourses in college recruitment by analyzing language in schoolsâÄô websites and printed materials in addition to looking at how recruiters discuss diversity at college fairs. She said she found that a misalignment between an individual student or recruiterâÄôs definition of diversity and an institutionâÄôs interpretation can lead to disconnect. âÄúMy hope is that these findings will help colleges and universities âĦ think more deliberately about how they talk about diversity and how they frame it in their recruitment materials because it does matter,âÄù Hakkola said. John Berini Conservation biology BeriniâÄôs research focuses on the effects of climate change on the declining moose population in northern Minnesota. Specifically, he looked at how warming changes the chemistry of plants that comprise moose diets. Berini said as temperature increases, plants produce more chemicals, which could be harmful to moose and could be affecting their ability to survive and reproduce. He said thereâÄôs still work to do on the study, and he wants to continue researching and teaching at the post-doctorate level. âÄúI love asking questions and trying to answer them,âÄù Berini said. Berini received his undergraduate degree in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology from the University. He said he went back to school out of a love for research. Chase Hobbs-Morgan Political science Hobbs-Morgan, a University of California-Santa Cruz political science graduate, wanted to address the issue of climate change from a political theorist standpoint. He said his research looked critically at arguments about climate change and found that people donâÄôt view environmental problems as social problems. Many people are focused on finding a quick solution, he said, rather than realizing the importance of taking collective responsibility. Hobbs-Morgan said he hopes to change the way people view climate change and encourage them to see it as âÄúindirect violenceâÄù rather than a technical problem for scientists and politicians to solve. Coming from an environmentally conscious family, Hobbs-Morgan said his pursuit in researching green issues was natural. Haiming Liu Rehabilitation science LiuâÄôs research focuses on identifying the cause of muscle atrophy, which is a condition where muscles break down and cause frailty. She said she tested her research by developing frailty criteria for mice which resembled that of a humanâÄôs, as well as identifying certain cell-signaling pathways in mice that cause the condition. LiuâÄôs research has found that increased aerobic exercise can help prevent the onset of frailty. She said she hopes a better understanding of what causes frailty will lead to a better understanding of how to treat, and possibly prevent, its effects on the body. Liu, who studied physical therapy in her home country of China, said she chose the UniversityâÄôs graduate school because of her interest in research. Hamed Samavat Nutrition Samavat, who received a nutritional sciences degree in Iran, is looking at how certain components in green tea can alter levels of a personâÄôs biological markers that would cause breast cancer. For the study, he analyzed a sample of women who are at a high risk for breast cancer and had them take green tea pills for a year while he measured their biomarkers. Samavat said he found a correlation between peopleâÄôs metabolism and how the green tea components affected their biomarkers. Samavat came to the University with an interest in chronic diseases, and he said he hopes to continue researching cancer and ways that diet âÄî rather than medication âÄî can affect a personâÄôs risk. Clio Pitula Child psychology PitulaâÄôs dissertation expands upon an ongoing University study that researches how internationally adopted children develop socially. She is specifically looking at the effects of early-life stress that stems from a lack of stable home life during childhood. âÄúWhat IâÄôm trying to show with all my research is that we really do need to work on improving social skills in this population,âÄù Pitula said. PitulaâÄôs interest in working with people is what sparked her research idea. Pitula received a degree in psychology from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. By working with a group of kindergartners, she said sheâÄôs found that early-life stress leads to more difficulty adapting socially later in life. She said she hopes to further study how to help internationally adopted children.