SPHHS students Lowe, Wu, and Kolla among CRF student awardees

From left: Sarah Lowe, Haotian Wu, and Durga Kolla

May 5, 2017

The Center for Research on Families has announced the recipients of its 2017 Student Research Grants and Awards. Three students from the School of Public Health and Health Sciences are among the ten students receiving awards.

Sarah Lowe, winner of a $10,000 pre-dissertation fellowship, is a doctoral student in Community Health Education. Under the mentorship of Associate Professor Aline Gubrium, her research focuses on psychosocial determinants of mental health and resilience among refugee and immigrant populations through narrative, digital, and visual research methods. Her current project is a mixed-methods, community-based digital storytelling initiative in conjunction with the Bhutanese Society of Western Massachusetts titled, “Home, Health, and Solidarity: Digital Storytelling for Refugee Resilience.” Sarah also works as a Digital Strategist for Define American, a non-profit media organization that uses the power of story to shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.

Haotian Wu, winner of a $500 CRF dissertation award, is a doctoral student in Environmental Health Sciences. Together with his advisor, Assistant Professor Richard Pilsner, Haotian examines the influence of phthalates, a ubiquitous environmental contaminant, on reproduction using participants from the Baystate IVF clinic. Specifically, their research will allow them to examine the role of sperm DNA methylation as a mechanism by which paternal phthalate exposure influences early life development (e.g. pre-implantation embryo development) and reproductive success (e.g. odds of live birth). In addition, he will also examine the relative contribution of both maternal and paternal environments to early embryonic development and overall IVF success. Such characterization of the influence of phthalates on reproductive health contributes to the understanding of the susceptibility of early life development to environmental factors. 

Durga Kolla, recipient of a $500 thesis Capstone award, is a Public Health and Psychology (Neuroscience) double major with a minor in Biology. She is working under the mentorship of Dr. Laura Vandenberg in the Environmental Health Sciences. Durga's honors thesis characterized the effects of two common xenoestrogens, Bisphenol S and Ethinyl estradiol, on the female mouse mammary glands at prepubertal and pubertal stages of development. Her thesis shows that both xenoestrogen treatments altered mammary gland morphology and the expression of proliferative and hormonal markers. In addition to working in the Vandenberg Lab, Durga is a 4+1 student, and will be pursuing her Masters in Environmental Health Sciences at UMass next year. She is investigating the effects of xenoestrogens on pubertal timing and altered hormonal status in the Vandenberg Lab for her Master's Thesis. 

The CRF is committed to supporting students engaged in family research. They awarded a total of over $26,000 to ten students in six categories for 2017-2018. 

Read the full list of student award winners at the CRF website.