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Jayhawks earn honors at 2021 Capitol Graduate Research Summit

Friday, February 26, 2021

LAWRENCE – The annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit features groundbreaking research every year from Kansas state universities. This year Ankit Verma and Nadia Alissa stood out among the University of Kansas graduate students, as each claimed the top spot in their respective divisions. Verma received the distinction as the top presenter from KU, while Alissa was the top presenter from the KU Medical Center in the 18th annual summit.

Eight KU graduate students from the Lawrence campus and five graduate students from the KU Medical Center presented their research virtually from Feb. 18 to Feb. 24.

Verma, a doctoral student in chemical & petroleum engineering, presented “A Sustainable Process for Recycling of Lithium-Ion Batteries.” Alissa, a doctoral student in cancer biology, won for her research “The Chemokine C-C Motif Ligand 2 (CCL2) Plays an Important Role in Skeletal Muscle Wasting Associated with Breast Cancer.”

Kelsey Fortin finished as the KU runner-up, while Stef Green earned an honorable mention designation. Verma, Alissa and Fortin will each receive a $500 award for their presentations.

“Ankit’s research is transformative because it devises methods for recycling these precious metals, decreasing the need for environmentally harmful mining practices and maintaining a source of these metals for technological advances in the U.S.,” said Jennifer Roberts, vice provost for graduate studies.

The research could be a boost to industries with growing market segments, such as electric vehicles.

“My research focuses on developing a green, economical and sustainable process for the recycling of critical metals like lithium and cobalt from spent lithium-ion batteries,” Verma said. “We utilize oxalate chemistry to perform the metal recovery and separations and have also emphasized on zero waste production in the entire process. Recycling of lithium-ion batteries is critical for stabilizing the lithium and cobalt economy and making lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles affordable.”

Where Verma’s work had implications for the economy and the environment, Alissa’s work focused on improving the human condition.

“Up to 40% of breast cancer patients suffer from a life-threatening condition called skeletal muscle wasting,” Alissa said. “SMW is characterized by weakness, fatigue and the inability of patients to tolerate anti-cancer drugs. I study the role of chemokines in SMW during breast cancer progression and treatment. Our research aims to help reduce SMW, allowing patients to stay on their current therapies longer, thereby improving quality of life during treatment and increasing survival of our patients.”

Fortin, a graduate student in health, sport management & exercise science, placed as the KU runner-up for her research “Hunger and Health: Understanding the Acceptability and Approach of a Health Coaching Intervention in the Food Pantry.”

“Kelsey’s research is important because she is finding innovative ways to increase wellness resources for those who are in the most need of food and support in creating healthy lifestyles,” Roberts said.

Green, a KU master’s student in chemical & petroleum engineering, earned an honorable mention designation in the BioKansas competition category for his research, “A Simple Technology for Making Value-Added Products from Corn Lignin.”

KU students joined graduate students from Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University and Wichita State University at the Capitol Graduate Research Summit. A look at all the KU participants in the event is available online.

Viewing and judging of the summit occurred virtually for the first time in its 18-year history due to the ongoing pandemic.

Students presented their research in the form of a three-minute video that summarized their work and described the potential influence of their findings on Kansans. In the past, the presentations have taken place at the Capitol in Topeka.


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