KU students, alumna win $30,000 research fellowships


From University Relations
By Mary Jane Dunlap

Two University of Kansas students and a 2008 KU alumna have won $30,000 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

The recipients with KU connections are

--Ali Nabavizadeh, graduating senior in ecology and evolultionary biology from Olathe, whose research of the mechanics of the jaws of plant-eating dinosaurs has uncovered new information about how the jaw bones enabled the prehistoric herbivores to thrive.

--Brian L. Quanz, doctoral student in computer science from Cary, N.C., who is developing software able to predict cargo security, genetic predisposition and other outcomes in a data-driven approach.

-- Laura A. Stiles, 2008 graduate in engineering physics and a former Goldwater scholar from Prairie Village, now pursuing a doctorate in aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

They were among 950 fellowship recipients announced recently by the NSF. About 10 percent of those who apply for the NSF fellowships are selected. Graduate research fellowships provide an annual stipend plus tuition and discretionary funds for up to three years. The fellowships support students in the early stages of their research-based masters or doctoral degrees.

Quanz works with Jun Huan, assistant professor of EECS and a researcher with ITTC. Quanz is helping objects determine their own safety level. His artificial intelligence tools process data collected within sensor networks charged with tracking assets along the supply chain. Quanzs data analysis serves as the foundation for a threat detection system, providing cargo shipments en route with greater visibility, security and accountability. The alert system is part of ITTCs Transportation Security SensorNet project, led by Joseph Evans, ITTC director and the Deane E. Ackers Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Quanzs artificial intelligence algorithms also have applications in bioinformatics. Genes, in effect, have on/off switches. ITTC researchers, including Huan, are examining why these genes, such as those in cancer cells, are expressed in some people while remaining off in others. Quanz is attempting to expose the role diet, stress and other environmental factors have in flipping on those switches.

"The fellowship, which I am honored to receive, gives me the freedom to pursue different research avenues," Quanz said.

Huan said, "The NSF fellowship is a great achievement for Brian. It also reflects the strong graduate program that we have at KU."

Quanz is a spring 2007 electrical engineering graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He was admitted into KUs fast track doctoral program in which students usually graduate in five years, compared with six years needed in traditional doctoral programs. KU accepts highly qualified applicants who have completed their undergraduate degrees directly into the electrical engineering and computer science program.

He is the son of Leo and Susan Quanz and the grandson of Mary Novitsky, all of Cary, N.C.

For more information, contact ITTC.

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