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Outstanding Students Honored by International Women’s Organization

April 13, 2017

Only one hundred students across the U.S. and Canada were chosen to receive a $15,000 Scholar Award from the International Women’s Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) in recognition of their academic excellence. Seven of them are enrolled at the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

They are Molly Crossman (Psychology), Angela Johnston (Psychology), Rebecca Liu (Immunobiology MD/PhD), Stephanie Loeb (Engineering and Applied Science), Kristen McLean (Anthropology), Madeline Sherlock (Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry), and Jennifer Sun (Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology).

P.E.O. Scholar Awards were established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based funding for a select group of women chosen for their high level of academic achievement and their potential for having a positive impact on society.

Crossman’s dissertation evaluates the influence of brief interactions between humans and both therapy dogs and pet dogs on psychological stress. Her adviser is Alan Kazdin, the Sterling Professor of Psychology and director of the Yale Parenting Center and the Yale Innovative Interactions Lab.

Johnston compares human learning with that of domesticated dogs and wild dingoes to determine which aspects of the process are unique to people and which are shared with other species. Her advisers are Laurie Santos, professor of psychology, and Frank Keil, the Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Psychology.

Liu is in the seventh year of the MD/PhD program doing research on the interactions between the microvasculature and immune cells in inflammation, specifically in the context of infection and transplant rejection. Her adviser is Jordan Pober, the Bayer Professor of Translational Medicine and professor of Immunobiology, Pathology, and Dermatology.

Loeb focuses on the engineering of nanoscale photonic materials that can capture sunlight and convert that light energy into heat. Working in the lab of Jaehong Kim, the Barton L. Weller Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, she hopes to find ways to use photothermal materials to disinfect pathogens in drinking water.

McLean’s field is medical anthropology and global health, and her adviser is Catherine Panter-Brick, professor of Anthropology, Health, and Global Affairs. McLean focuses on the Kono District of Sierra Leone, a diamond-mining region heavily impacted by civil war (1992-2002) and the Ebola epidemic. She examines how young men raise their children in the aftermath of conflict, the impact of their engagement on family wellbeing, Sierra Leone’s culture of caregiving, and the division of gender roles and responsibilities during the outbreak of disease.

Sherlock works on “riboswitches” — a type of gene control device in bacteria made of RNA. The switches she studies are triggered by a toxic molecule called guanidine. Her research has shown that these RNAs turn on a variety of genes whose function it is to overcome the toxic effects of guanidine when it builds up to high levels. Ron Breaker, the Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry is her adviser. Sherlock recently won prizes at the annual RNA Society meeting in Japan and at an RNA Society-sponsored meeting in Florida for this research.

Sun is studying how insects sense the chemical world around them to find the food they eat and the people they bite, with the goal of advancing the development of effective control methods for insects that transmit harmful diseases like malaria and dengue fever. Her adviser is John Carlson, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Sun also won a fellowship from the National Science Foundation. She serves as her department’s representative to the GSA and as treasurer of GPSCY

The P.E.O. Sisterhood, founded in 1869 at Iowa Wesleyan College, is a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting higher education for women. There are approximately 6,000 local chapters in the United States and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members.