Photo of NASA/Ohio Space Grant Consortium scholarship winners

Students will research Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and a destructive pathogen destroying American beech trees.

STEM majors awarded NASA/Ohio Space Grant Consortium scholarships

April 19, 2018

Ohio Space Grant Consortium logoThree students from the BW School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing will receive 2018-2019 Undergraduate Junior-Senior Scholarship awards from the NASA/Ohio Space Grant Consortium (OSGC).

The students will pursue and present research on Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and a destructive pathogen destroying American beech trees.

The OSGC is part of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant) funded by Congress and administered through the NASA Headquarters Office of Education. 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 2018-2019 recipients are:

Garrett McCue

Photo of Garrett McCueMcCue is a junior neuroscience biology major who, in collaboration with biology and neuroscience professor Dr. Jeffrey Zahratka, plans to study Alzheimer's disease. The team will use the roundworm C. elegans as a model since humans and C. elegans share a related gene structure. The study will focus on the PPP2R4 gene that aids in the dephosphorylation of protein fragments which can assist in the reversal of Alzheimer's. McCue and Zahratka will be adding extra copies of this gene to C. elegans that have Alzheimer's with the hope of seeing the side effects of the disease slowed or even reversed.

McCue plans to pursue a career in the medical field.


Sarah Shapley

Photo of Sarah ShapleyShapley is a junior neuroscience biology major. Under the guidance of biology professor Dr. Jackie Morris, Shapley will be conducting research to understand myelination in development. Using zebrafish as models, Morris and Shapley will measure actin, a structural protein, at different stages of development by interfering in its assembly or disassembly. This research will assist in understanding the mechanisms of demyelination in multiple sclerosis and may provide insight into therapies for the disease.

Shapley plans to earn a doctorate in an interdisciplinary-based neurobiology program and pursue a career in pre-clinical research for the development of pharmaceutical interventions in neurodegenerative diseases.

Joel Kavaras

Photo of Joel KavarasUnder the guidance of mathematics professor Dr. Aaron Montgomery, Kavaras, a senior mathematics major who won an OSGC scholarship last year as well, will continue his research focusing on beech leaf disease, a destructive pathogen that was first found in Lake County, Ohio, and has since spread to four states and Canada. The disease affects American beech trees by damaging the leaves and eventually killing the tree, but the causal agent of the disease is unknown. Kavaras’ task is to create mathematical models of the spread pattern to shed light on possible causes and, hopefully, combat its further spread.

Kavaras plans to pursue a doctorate in mathematical ecology and would ultimately like to work in higher education or a government agency.

Continuing the pursuit of excellence

"The OSGC scholarships are providing financial support to students pursuing excellence in the classroom and in research," said associate dean Dr. Jim McCargar. "The results of student research in the previous round of scholarships led to a proud showing by last year's awardees, Tayla Brooks, Joel Kavaras and Kyle Pellegrin, at the recent Annual Student Research Symposium held at the Ohio Aerospace Institute. I fully expect that the current group of OSGC scholars and their mentors will continue to represent the very best in mentored undergraduate research."

The 2018-2019 award recipients will present the results of their research at the Annual Student Research Symposium at the Ohio Aerospace Institute in March 2019.