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Members of several CASE departments were recently recognized for their research, mentorship, and presentations at the Graduate Student Appreciation Awards Ceremony. Congratulations to the awardees:

Biological Sciences

Dr. Suzanne Koptur was recognized for outstanding mentorship. She is a botanist and the director of Quantifying Biology in the Classroom.


James Stroud is a Ph.D candidate in the Feeley Lab. He was recognized as lead author on an outstanding STEM paper, entitled “Ecological Opportunity and Adaptive Radiation”, which was published in the prestigious journal Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. At the ceremony, Dr. Andres Gil, FIU’s Vice President for Research had this to say about James’ manuscript: “Mr. Stroud’s authorship in this paper is nothing short of extraordinary. This paper, which interprets the concept of ‘Ecological Opportunity’ and its role in speciation in clear framework, will stimulate more interest in this research area.”


Awards for excellent presentations were given to: Elizabeth Whitman (1st Place, Heithaus Lab), Ben Wilson (Second Place, Wetland Ecosystems Lab), and Joshua Raji (Third Place, Lab of Mosquito Genetics and Behavior).

Chemistry & Biochemistry

Haixiang Yu is a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Xiao’s Lab. He was recognized for publishing an outstanding STEM paper, entitled “A cooperative-binding split aptamer assay for rapid, specific and ultra-sensitive fluorescence detection of cocaine in saliva”. Published in Chemical Science, Haixiang’s paper advances the field of applied forensic chemistry.



Laurel A. Nakanishi won the award for graduate student engagement. She is the creator of the Sun Room, a program going into Liberty City schools to teach creative writing to third- and fourth-graders. This room is where poetry becomes therapy. Laurel received her MFA in creative non-fiction.




Bethany Reeb-Sutherland was recognized for outstanding mentorship. She is the director of the Brain and Behavioral Development Laboratory.