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Graduate Students Win Top Dissertation, Master’s Thesis Awards

Graduate Students Win Top Dissertation, Master’s Thesis Awards

Two College of Natural Sciences graduate students have earned awards from the University of Texas at Austin's Graduate School as part of the annual professional and student awards, including the top campus honor a doctoral student can receive for research.

Erick Da Silva Motta, who recently received his Ph.D. in plant biology, earned the Michael H. Granof Award, the university's top dissertation award.

Da Silva Motta's research focuses on the impact of glyphosate, a component in common weed-killers, and the effect it has on the gut microbiomes of honey bees. He was the lead author on a paper that found that glyphosate had negatives impacts on the health of honey bees in outdoor hives and that those exposed to glyphosate were more likely to die from opportunistic pathogens. The paper was published in September 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the research received international media attention.

His dissertation, "The Effects of Agrochemicals on the Gut Microbiota of Honey Bees," expanded on that research, examining what amounts of glyphosate exposure caused microbiome damage in bees. He successfully defended his dissertation in July 2019. Another paper based on this research is currently under peer review.

"I am extremely proud and lucky to have been Erick's advisor," said Nancy Moran, a professor of integrative biology, in her nomination letter. "I believe that his dissertation is truly exceptional both in its scientific quality and in its impact on science and, potentially, on issues affecting the public."

Boyuan Liu, a graduate student studying astronomy, earned an Outstanding Masters Thesis or Report award for his work entitled, "Effect of Lithium Hydride on the Cooling of Primordial Gas." Liu, a member of Volker Bromm's research group, studies the formation and evolution of the first generation of stars and galaxies in the Universe as a theorist. He uses semi-analytical calculations and numerical simulations to predict the properties of the first stars and galaxies, especially their observational signature, in the context of cosmic structure formation, exploring questions of fundamental physics, such as the nature of dark matter.

The Outstanding Dissertation and Outstanding Master's Thesis Awards were established in 1979 and 2003 respectively to recognize exceptional work and to encourage the highest levels of scholarship, research and writing at UT Austin. Underwritten by the University Co-op, the awards recognize excellence in graduate student achievement.

This is the second year in a row that a CNS student has earned the top honor of the Granof Award.

Candidates for the awards are nominated by individuals across campus, and winners are determined by selection committees composed of faculty and staff members and students.

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Tuesday, 07 February 2023

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