3 grad students win 2015 Sigma Xi Research Awards

Monday, March 2, 2015
Top: Kungang Li with School Chair Reginald DesRoches at the annual CEE awards reception in November. Middle: Peizhe Sun with his adviser, Ching-Hua Huang. Bottom: David Young with DesRoches at the November awards reception. (Photos by Jess Hunt.)

The Sigma Xi Society has announced its 2015 research award winners, including three graduate students from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Kungang Li won the Best Ph.D. Thesis Award for his work with Yongshen Chen, who noted the significance of Li’s work in a nomination letter.

“[The] outcomes of his Ph.D. project are not only scientifically significant but also have broader benefits to society by allowing industrial manufacturers, regulatory authorities and researchers to gain insights into the potential biological effects of nanomaterials,” Chen wrote. “His Ph.D. research would further help the Environmental Protection Agency to set national standards for regulating manufactured nanomaterials.”

Li’s thesis, “Investigation of the Aggregation of Nanoparticles in Aqueous Medium and their Physiochemical Interactions at the Nano-Bio Interface,” made a quick impact, Chen wrote. The methods he developed “almost instantly found application in the industry.”

Peizhe Sun also won the Best Ph.D. Thesis Award for work that “significantly improved the understanding of environmental behavior of veterinary pharmaceuticals,” according to his co-advisers, Ching-Hua Huang and Spyros Pavlostathis. In their nomination letter, they noted the impact of the thesis, “Transformation of Veterinary Ionophore Antibiotics under Conditions Related to Water-Soil-Litter Systems.”

“Peizhe’s Ph.D. thesis and closely related research has generated a total of eight peer-reviewed journal publications (six published, one under review, and one in preparation),” they wrote. “Notably, five out of the eight papers are published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology, one of the highest impact journals in the field of environmental engineering.”

Sigma Xi also recognized David Young in the Best Master’s Thesis category. His project with Donald Webster was “Turbulence-Copepod Interaction: Acartia tonsa Behavioral Response to Burgers’ Vortex,” which was “one of the best M.S. theses that we have encountered in many years,” according to CEE Awards Committee Chair David Frost.

Young studied how some zooplankton interact with turbulence in the ocean (that interaction disperses the tiny organisms, which also influences how larger marine organisms, like fish, are distributed).

“The thesis committee members’ response to David’s thesis was overwhelming positive — they recommended almost no changes,” Frost wrote. “That is a testament to David’s ability to write a high-quality thesis to describe his superb and comprehensive research work.”

All three students also won awards from CEE in the fall for their graduate work.

They’ll accept their Sigma Xi awards at a dinner April 15.