BLACKSBURG, Va., April 1, 2008 - Two graduate research assistants at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech have received outstanding student awards from the Virginia Tech Graduate School. LaChelle Waller, a student in Virginia Tech's Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology (GBCB) Ph.D. program from Chester, Va., was recently named Graduate Woman of the Year at Virginia Tech. GBCB student Konstantinos Krampis, from Arta, Greece, was recognized as the university's Outstanding Interdisciplinary Program Student.

Awards Ceremony
Left to right: LaChelle Waller, Dr. Karen P. DePauw, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate School at Virginia Tech, Konstantinos Krampis at the awards ceremony.

 

The Graduate Woman of the Year award recognizes involvement in professional organizations and campus activities, contributions to new knowledge through teaching, research, and scholarship, contributions to the graduate community at Virginia Tech, and commitment to diversity. The Outstanding Interdisciplinary Program Student award honors a student that is enrolled in a Virginia Tech interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree program and demonstrates an academic contribution at the graduate level across a minimum of two academic colleges, engages in academic efforts that expand and promote the concept of interdisciplinary studies, and demonstrates originality, clarity, and effectiveness in the presentation of interdisciplinary ideas in teaching, research, or service.

Waller, who received a bachelor's degree in biology from Chowan University in 2001, works with the Tyler research group at VBI on a project designed to identify the interactions among plant and pathogen genes that determine quantitative disease resistance in soybean. The group uses microarray analysis to determine the transcriptional profiles of Phytophthora sojae, which causes stem and root rot disease in soybean plants, prior to and during infection. The team is also determining the transcriptional profiles of soybean cultivars that have different levels of quantitative disease resistance against the pathogen. Waller has also been involved in several outreach activities at VBI, including the institute's annual High School Day program. She currently serves as vice president of Virginia Tech's GBCB student organization and is a graduate student representative for Hokies United, a student-driven volunteer effort organized to respond to local, national, and international tragedies that may impact Virginia Tech students and the community.

Krampis received a bachelor's degree in molecular biology from the University of Athens, Greece, in 2003. Krampis works with faculty from four interdisciplinary research groups at Virginia Tech and Ohio State University, including Tyler and Virginia Tech Professor Saghai Maroof from the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. The goal of the collaborative project is to develop a better understanding of the mechanisms used by the pathogen P. sojae to infect and cause disease in its plant host. As part of his Ph.D. dissertation work, Krampis developed a computer software application to discover new genetic markers that will aid in the study of soybean disease resistance. The use of this application for genetic marker discovery identifies hundreds more markers than could be discovered by conventional laboratory techniques. Krampis' work helped the groups uncover valuable information that can also be used by researchers working to improve the disease resistance of this economically important crop.

"Both Ms. Waller and Mr. Krampis represent outstanding examples of the transdisciplinary spirit fostered by the GBCB program and by VBI," said VBI Professor Brett Tyler. Bruno Sobral, Executive and Scientific Director of VBI, remarked: "I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate LaChelle and Konstantinos on what are first-rate achievements in their research endeavors. They both have made immeasurable contributions to the sense of community here at Virginia Tech."

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Published by Susan Bland, April 01, 2008