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Graduate school honors outstanding students with PhD Achievement Awards

2012 USC Ph.D. Achievement Award recipients
Sally Pratt, far left, vice provost for graduate programs, recognizes the 2012 USC Ph.D. Achievement Award recipients and honorable mentions. From left, Pratt, Reza Kalhor, Suresh Nallareddy, Daisy Mak, Kelly Young-Wolff, Rowan Martindale, Nicholas Scurich and assistant dean Meredith Drake Reitan (Photo/Steve Cohn)

Five students from the USC Graduate School received the PhD Achievement Award this month in recognition of their outstanding academic profiles. New this year, the award highlights the most exceptional PhD candidates of the academic year.

Selected by a committee of distinguished USC faculty members, the award recipients represent a breadth of disciplines, with fields ranging from business to cinematic arts to geological sciences.

Each awardee received a monetary prize and the students’ faculty mentors also were recognized with a mentoring award.

“This award is not only a huge honor, but it also opens many doors,” said Rowan Martindale, a College Doctoral Fellow and PhD Achievement Award recipient. “With the job market for tenure-track professors being so competitive, being a recipient of this prestigious award will make me much more likely to get interviews, have my grants funded and hopefully get a tenure-track job at a top university.”

Martindale has made a name for herself beyond this award. Earning her PhD in geological sciences this month from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Martindale is an expert on Triassic reef paleoecology. She has authored six peer-reviewed articles, and has presented more than a dozen posters and oral presentations at national and international conferences, receiving “Best Oral Presentation” at the 2011 Southern California Geobiology Symposium. She also earned the USC Dornsife Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for two consecutive semesters. Martindale has received offers for two postdoctoral positions, one with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the other with Harvard University.

Suresh Nallareddy, another College Doctoral Fellow and PhD Achievement Award recipient, worked his way from a small village in Southern India with few educational opportunities to the USC Marshall School of Business. At USC Marshall, Nallareddy received the Mary Pickford Foundation Doctoral Teaching Award and has earned six job offers from international universities for his innovative research on accounting’s market anomaly of post-earnings-announcement drift. He will join Columbia University as an assistant professor in the Accounting Division this summer.

In addition to excellence in research, another important characteristic of the honorees is the scope of their interests.

“One of my favorite aspects of USC is the university’s commitment to bridging the divide between theory and practice, between academia and the broader world,” said awardee Eric Hoyt, a Provost Fellow. “This award … tells me that the university considers my work as living up to these important goals.”

Hoyt brings the unique, melded perspective of industry practice and academic research to the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Critical Studies doctoral program. Through his research, he has had a tangible effect on the entertainment industry, serving as digitization coordinator for the Media History Digital Library, a project that received the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association’s 2012 Award for “Best Electronic Reference Site.” He also is developing Lantern, a second data sharing and analysis tool, to bring his vision for a collaborative and dynamic field of film and media studies closer to fruition. Hoyt will join the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a tenure-track assistant professor of communications arts this fall.

For honoree Nicholas Scurich, the PhD Achievement Award is the capstone of an exemplary career at USC. Beginning at USC as an undergraduate, Scurich completed his doctorate in psychology this month at USC Dornsife.

“The faculty and resources of USC have furnished [me] with unparalleled experiences, opportunities and simply the best possible education,” Scurich said.

With his eye on the goal of creating a coherent model of legal decision-making through the testing of behavioral assumptions, Scurich has published 11 peer-reviewed articles and is the primary author of eight. His work has earned him a Mental Health Law Fellowship with the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at the USC Gould School of Law, and a position as an assistant professor of psychology and law at the University of California, Irvine, beginning in the fall.

Elizabeth Zuniga received the award for her accomplishments in neuroscience. The daughter of an immigrant family from Mexico, Zuniga grew up in the farming communities of the San Joaquin Valley. She delved into developmental neuroscience research during her undergraduate career at the University of California, Berkeley, earning a Biology Fellows Grant from the university. As a PhD candidate at USC, Zuniga has focused her research on signaling pathways involved in craniofacial development. She has earned numerous awards for her research in cell and neurobiology, including “Best Poster” at multiple conferences and an NIH NRSA F31 Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Zuniga also was honored as the 2011-12 Graduate Student of the Year by the USC Neuroscience Program. She will join the laboratory of S. Larry Zipursky at UCLA as a postdoctoral fellow.

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Graduate school honors outstanding students with PhD Achievement Awards

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