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Graduate students talk about their research

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Brandi Walker

Rachel LaMantia, a graduate student in the College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture, poses for a picture just after she was announced the winner of the Grad Slam on Monday. LaMantia was awarded a $3,000 prize.

Six UA graduate students competed for a chance to win up to $3,000 in prize money at the Grad Slam Final Round on Monday.

Each finalist gave a three-minute presentation about a project related to their own research and discoveries.

“The talks are short TED Talk-style presentations featuring some of the UA’s most effective graduate student presenters,” said David Bradshaw, program coordinator for the UA Graduate Center, in an email.

Rachel LaMantia, a graduate student in the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, won first place and was awarded a $3,000 prize. Her presentation detailed her research about an affordable, sustainable and energy efficient alternative to the substandard housing within the Hopi Reservation.

“As an undergraduate student, I began to study building efficiency and strategies used to design in energy-efficient ways,” LaMantia said. “I wanted to see what the outcome would be if I applied specific strategies to a Hopi house. I hope to expand on this study and take it a step further with my graduate research.”

LaMantia said she plans to put the prize money toward continuing her research in graduate school and applying these strategies to a traditional Hopi house to determine if the results from her undergraduate research were correct, in addition to having a real-life model instead of a 3-D model.

Emily Mackelprang, a clinical psychology graduate student, won second place and was awarded a $2,000 prize. Her presentation explained her studies about female sexual offenders.

“I wanted to see whether gender and attractiveness affected people’s attitudes toward sexual perpetration and judgments about what kind of punishment perpetrators should receive,” Mackelprang said. “I found that female sexual offenders were viewed more leniently than male sexual offenders, and that attractive female offenders were viewed especially leniently, while attractiveness didn’t make any difference in how male offenders were judged.”

Mackelprang said she plans to use the prize money to help her and her family move to Washington, where she was accepted for an internship at Western State Hospital as part of completing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Matthew Bronnimann, an immunobiology graduate student, and Nina Patrick, a pharmaceutical sciences graduate student, tied for third place and were each awarded a $1,000 prize.

Bronnimann presented his research about human papillomavirus, or HPV, which he said causes 99 percent of all cervical cancers worldwide. Bronnimann specifically studies how the virus penetrates the membranes of cells so that it can infect them.

Patrick presented a summary of five years of her work with valproic acid, a therapy for epilepsy patients. She said her research focuses on identifying the cause of rapid weight gain, a side effect of valproic acid, to make it a better treatment.

The $3,000, $2,000, and one of the $1,000 awards were provided by the UA Office of Research and Discovery and the University Libraries. Due to the unexpected tie, the UA Graduate College matched the $1,000 third place award for the second third-place winner.

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Follow Brandi Walker on Twitter.

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