Photos of NASA/Ohio Space Grant Consortium scholarship winners

Students will study bacteria that cause infections in contact lens wearers, a disease that ravages beech trees and variable stars in the night sky.

Three STEM majors awarded NASA/Ohio Space Grant Consortium Scholarships

October 12, 2017

Ohio Space Grant Consortium logoThree students from the BW School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing will receive 2017-2018 Undergraduate Junior-Senior Scholarship awards from the NASA/Ohio Space Grant Consortium (OSGC).

The students will pursue and present research into bacteria that cause infections in contact lens wearers, a disease that ravages beech trees and variable stars in the night sky.

The OSGC is part of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant) funded by Congress and administered through the Office of Education at NASA Headquarters. Space Grant consists of a national network of colleges and universities that work to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, including competitive scholarships for STEM majors.

BW students chosen as 2017-2018 recipients are:

Tayla Brooks

Photo of Tayla BrooksBrooks is a senior biology major who, under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Kovach, chair of the BW biology department, plans to study one of the organisms responsible for causing bacterial keratitis. This serious eye infection affects a significant number of America's 30 million contact lens wearers, particularly those with compromised immune systems and inadequate lens cleaning routines. The goal of the study is to better understand the organism, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, in order to arrive at more effective treatment protocols.

In the future, Brooks looks to pursue a Ph.D. in plant biology with a focus on genetic engineering.


Joel Kavaras

Photo of Joel KavarasKavaras is a junior mathematics major who plans to combine his academic passion for mathematics and biology into a career focused on the application of mathematical tools to solve problems in conservation ecology and computational biology. Under the guidance of BW mathematics professor Dr. Aaron Montgomery, Kavaras will undertake a research project which could offer insights to combat the spread of Beech Leaf Disease. The ultimate goal of this research is to show whether graph-theoretical models can be used to find patterns in the spread of this destructive disease.

Kavaras plans to pursue a Ph.D. in applied mathematics with the aim of solving various ecological problems in Northeast Ohio.

Kyle Pellegrin

Photo of Kyle PellegrinPellegrin is a senior physics major and mathematics minor.  Under the guidance of physics professor Dr. Peter Hoekje, and Gary Kader, director of the Burrell Memorial Observatory, Pellegrin plans to work in concert with the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) to gather data on variable stars. The initial focus of Pellegrin’s research is Algol, a well-known variable star whose variation in brightness will provide a perfect case study. As a precursor to the research, Pellegrin and three other physics majors are working to verify the Burrell Observatory telescope camera to AAVSO standards.

Pellegrin aspires to obtain a Ph.D. in astronomy and to teach at the university level where he can share his love of physics and engender a passion for science in his future students.

Presentation and pursuit of excellence

"We congratulate these students and their research mentors," said Dean Jim McCargar. "Scholarships that support students in their pursuit of excellence are important to their future as leaders who will contribute to the STEM workforce."

The students will present their research at the Annual Student Research Symposium held at the Ohio Aerospace Institute in March 2018.