Two Oklahoma State University students have been awarded the 2018 Otto S. Cox Graduate Fellowship for Genetics Research. The competitive fellowship supports OSU graduate students who have shown proven records of genetic inquiry from any discipline or interdisciplinary program.
The fellowships are offered through the OSU Division of the Vice President for Research.
“As recently as 10 years ago, cutting-edge genetic and genomic technologies were prohibitively expensive, but today they are more accessible than ever and can be used with a wide variety of plant and animal species,” said Vice President for Research Dr. Kenneth Sewell. “The Cox Fellowship provides our students with the ability to apply these cutting-edge genetic and genomic tools to nearly any organism or question they are interested in pursuing.”
This year’s recipients:
- Nikki Clauss, a doctoral student in experimental psychology from Phoenix.
- Michelle King, a doctoral candidate in microbiology and molecular genetics from Choctaw, Oklahoma.
Clauss studies the biological stress response and how it manifests as behavior. She focuses on how eating disorders contribute to obesity through understanding biological influences on behavior. Clauss uses epigenetics, the study of changes in gene expression.
“It led me to look at the epigenetic mechanisms of connections between behavior and biology,” she said. “I’m interested in understanding how stress is related to obesity.”
King works on a team researching the antibiotic-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an aggressive pathogen responsible for thousands of deaths each year, most commonly through hospital-acquired infections. The investigation is examining calcium signaling in cells and its effect on the virulence of Pseudomonas.
“This is pioneering work because we’re one of the first labs to describe calcium signaling in bacteria and how it regulates virulence,” King said. “Genetics research is difficult and it can be frustrating, so it’s nice to be recognized by the university for the quality of your work.”
The Cox Fellowship provides financial support with a $1,000 stipend. It also gives recipients the boost of receiving recognition for pursuing challenging work in a rapidly evolving and critical area of research.
“This will provide opportunities for me as a psychologist to apply for jobs that are influenced by microbiology and genetics,” Clauss said.
The fellowship is made possible by a gift from Otto S. Cox, a rancher from Lenapah, Oklahoma, and a 1927 graduate of Oklahoma A&M College (now OSU).