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Cunningham fellows announced

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 30 - May 2, 1996

Seven students have received Virginia Tech's highly competitive Cunningham Fellowship, which recognizes the students' outstanding credentials and potential as doctoral degree candidates.

Recipients are Susan D. Day in forestry; Earl Hager in wood science and forest products; Matthew Bumgardner in wood science and forest products; Jean Miller in science and technology studies; Carmen Sears in science and technology studies; Traci Hess in accounting; and Bettina Deavours in biology.

After earning her undergraduate degree in philosophy at Yale in 1985, Day worked in Chicago, then decided to continue her education, and earned a master's degree in urban horticulture from Cornell in 1993.

Her master's degree research was on the growth of shade trees in compacted soil. She enrolled as a Ph.D. student in forestry at Virginia Tech last fall.

Day has decided to do research on the interactions between tree roots and soils. She earned a perfect grade-point average her first semester while also working as a research associate in consumer horticulture. Day coordinated the development of a state volunteer program in urban and community tree stewardship and wrote Extension publications that promoted home landscaping practices that protect water quality. She received a number of research grants for her work.

Hager and Bumgardner are both in the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products.

Hager was highly recommended by his former academic institutions and also brings high qualifications from past work, which include being a linguist and intelligence analyst in the Far East, said Geza Ifju, department head at Virginia Tech.

Hager's undergraduate degree is in psychology from Harding University. He has master's degrees in business administration and in forest management from West Virginia University. He was a graduate assistant in forestry there, and was a strategic management consultant with the Small Business Institute at that university. He was also a strategic management planning facilitator for the West Virginia Army National Guard.

Hager plans to combine his understanding of social and cultural systems and of business and economics and enhance his expertise in forest management and forest products through his Ph.D. studies.

A master's graduate of Ohio State University now seeking his Ph.D., Bumgardner was recommended for the fellowship because "he intuitively understands how to frame a research problem and then execute that design via literature review and synthesizing a model and hypothesis," says Ifju.

He earned a dual master's degree in natural resources and public policy at Ohio State, where his research project involved technology diffusion and adoption in the dimension and millwork industries of surrounding states.

Bumgardner says he wants to focus on forest products marketing because, "it is important that wood industries make the public aware of the environmental benefits of using wood as opposed to other raw materials. The movement towards `green certification' has profound marketing implications that need research attention." His professional goal is to work in Extension with the forest-products industry.

Miller, who will complete her master's degree in STS this spring, earned her bachelor's in history from the College of Charleston. Her master's concentration was history and philosophy of science. As a Ph.D. student, she plans to do her research on the application of statistical and quasi-experimental tools in an historical science, specifically as these techniques are used in geology to learn about mass extinctions.

At Virginia Tech, she has been a graduate teaching assistant in STS and in philosophy, and active in STS programs.

Sears will also complete her master's in STS this spring. She earned her bachelor of science degree in computer science from Purdue University in 1988 and has been an engineering associate with GTE Communications Corp. and manager of software testing, integration, and trouble-shooting for Teloquent Communications Corp. As a master's student, Sears explored the relationship between the technical and social dimensions of the "Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV)."

In her doctoral studies, Sears plans to extend her master's work from the perspective of the BEV planners to the perspectives of members of the community "to examine the electronic village from both social and technical realms. This work will provide advice for other towns and universities on how to make choices regarding the National Information Infrastructure and the wiring of their own locations." Sears' long-term goals are to work in telecommunications policy or human factors issues in software development.

Hess will receive her master's degree in accounting information systems from Virginia Tech this spring. She is a CPA and was senior vice president at Valley Bank in Roanoke before returning to school.

After earning her bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of Virginia in 1988, Hess worked as an auditor and became an associate at Ernst & Young's Norfolk office. She specialized in serving clients of the financial services industry and assisted in development of a unique performance measurement system for a large banking organization.

Her master's research was to see if use of computerized information systems can be translated into the "bottom line." She will do her doctoral research on use of information visualization, and will do course work in psychology, engineering science and mechanics, computer science, and industrial and systems engineering, as well as accounting. Hess' goal is to teach accounting at the college level.

Deavours has worked in the biology laboratories since having earned her bachelor of science degree in biology here last spring. She will now pursue a Ph.D. in biological sciences and do research in cell biology, specifically studying microtubule motor proteins.

She says studying for the Ph.D. will provide her with the skills and knowledge necessary to try to answer questions. "Our knowledge of microtubule motor proteins is on the threshold of real progress, and I would like to help make that happen."

The Cunningham Fellowship consists of an annual stipend of $17,440 or more that includes an assistantship of at least $14,940 plus a fellowship stipend of $2,500 for educational expenses. In addition, the fellowship provides a tuition scholarship of approximately $9,000 for 12 months.

The fellowship is a three-year award for doctoral study and will automatically be renewed for years two and three based upon full-time enrollment and residence in Blacksburg, maintaining a 3.0/4.0 grade point average, and progressing toward a doctoral degree.