UNMC students honored with NU fellowships

by Melissa Lee, University of Nebraska | August 13, 2014

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Duy Minh Ha Phillip Purnell
Two UNMC students were among seven recipients of 2014-15 Presidential Graduate Fellowships announced Tuesday by University of Nebraska Interim President James Linder, M.D.

These fellowships honor a select group of NU graduate students each year on the basis of high scholastic performance and personal accomplishment. Fellows receive a stipend provided through the University of Nebraska Foundation that allows them to pursue their studies full-time.

The UNMC students selected for the fellowships were:

Other recipients

Other fellowship recipients included:

  • Danielle Haak, of Milwaukee, Wis., a Ph.D. student in natural resource sciences at UNL.
  • Jonathon Sikorski, of Hudson, Wis., a Ph.D. student in educational psychology at UNL.
  • Trisha Spanbauer, of Stevens Point, Wis., a Ph.D. student in earth and atmospheric sciences at UNL.
  • Elizabeth Heinrichs-Graham, of Marshalltown, Iowa, a Ph.D. student in psychology at UNO.
  • Meg Marquardt, of Omaha, a master's student in English at UNO.
For information on the other fellowship recipients, click here.

Duy Minh Ha, of Portland, Ore., an M.D./Ph.D. student in cellular and integrative physiology.
Ha graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree in biology as well as an honors certificate in the Mind Brain Behavior Program's neuroscience track. He was former president of the Graduate Student Association and member of the UNMC Student Senate Executive Council. Currently, Ha is the co-founder and co-president of the UNMC Interprofessional Society and member of the American Physician Scientist Association Policy Committee. Over the past few years, Ha has co-authored 13 publications and abstracts, and received more than 17 different honors, including the UNMC Graduate Student Scholarship for Leadership. He has spent his time at UNMC investigating peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is a condition caused by blockages of the arteries that provide blood flow to the arms and legs.

Phillip Purnell, of Sacramento, Calif., an M.D./Ph.D. student in pharmacology and experimental neuroscience at UNMC.
Purnell received his undergraduate training at the University of California-Santa Cruz, majoring in molecular, cell and developmental biology. He completed his master's degree at California State University, Sacramento in molecular and cellular biology. His Ph.D. dissertation research focuses on the role of autophagy in neurodegenerative disease. He has found that Drp1, a protein which regulates mitochondrial division, is regulated by the autophagy. This is a mechanism that the cell activates under stress and starvation. In addition, the research shows important mitochondrial changes can occur after neurons are exposed to the antiretroviral drug Efavirenz. Purnell has co-authored several publications in the field of neurodegeneration and cancer and has received funding for a number of research projects including the Bukey and Regents Tuition Fellowships.

"The students who are honored with Presidential Graduate Fellows are among the University of Nebraska's best and brightest," Dr. Linder said. "We are very fortunate to enjoy a level of private support that allows us to recognize these scholars and give them an opportunity to devote themselves fully to their academic pursuits."


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Chi Ha
August 16, 2014 at 3:40 AM

Yah!! Congrats to my brother!!

Alicia Schiller
August 13, 2014 at 8:09 AM

Congratulations, Duy! Well deserved!