Four Kansas State Doctorate Students Receive Sarachek Awards

MANHATTAN — Four Kansas State University doctoral candidates are being rewarded with Sarachek awards for their exceptional research accomplishments. ksu seal

Kai Yuan, doctoral candidate in animal sciences and industry, China, is receiving the $17,000 Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship in Molecular Biology. Receiving $1,000 Sarachek scientific travel awards are Jessica Rupp, doctoral candidate in plant pathology, Pittsburg; Sara Duhachek Muggy, doctoral candidate in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, Lincoln, Neb.; and Damien Downes, doctoral candidate in genetics, Australia.

Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek established the fellowship and travel awards to recognize exceptional achievements in scholastics and research by resident graduate students enrolled in a doctoral program at Kansas State University. An interdisciplinary faculty selection committee determines the fellowship and award recipients. The awards program is offered through the university’sGraduate School.

Yuan’s research focuses on investigating the interactions between inflammation and metabolism, and developing strategies to improve immune function, metabolism and health of dairy cows. This research has advanced the understanding of dairy cow nutritional physiology and immunology, and has contributed to improving the health and production of dairy cows. Barry Bradford, associate professor of animal sciences and industry, is Yuan’s major professor.

Yuan received his bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine from Yangzhou University and his master’s degree in dairy science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He plans to complete his doctorate in May.

He will use the fellowship to relocate to Michigan to begin postdoctoral research at the University of Michigan Medical School. His research will study the molecular links between obesity and diabetes with the goal of developing drugs that could prevent and mitigate metabolic disorders. In addition, Yuan will attend the 2014 American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting and the 2014 American Dairy Science Scientific Sessions. He also will use the fellowship to enhance his molecular biology skills at the Molecular Biology Summer Workshop at Smith College.

Rupp plans to use her Sarachek Travel Award to attend the 34th annual meeting of the American Society for Virology in Canada where she hopes to present her research. Rupp’s research focuses on reducing annual wheat loss due to the wheat streak mosaic virus and Triticum mosaic virus, where there is currently little resistance available. Her major professor is Harold Trick, professor of plant pathology.

Rupp received her bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology from Pittsburg State University.

Duhachek Muggy plans to use the Sarachek Travel Award to attend an American Association of Cancer Research conference and the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Her research focuses on understanding metastasis and drug resistance to develop more targeted and effective therapies for breast cancer. The objectives of her research are to improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients by reducing or eliminating negative side effects from therapy and to improve patient prognosis and survival. Her major professor is Anna Zolkiewska, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics.

Duhachek Muggy received bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, biochemistry and biology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Downes plans to use his Sarachek Travel Award to attend the 2014 Mycological Society of America annual meeting in Michigan where he will be a guest speaker. His research focuses on DNA-binding proteins that are involved in regulating genes that help understand and combat the ways pathogens infect their hosts and cause disease. Downes’ major professor is Richard B. Todd, assistant professor of plant pathology.

Downes received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Melbourne in genetics.

Alvin Sarachek received his doctorate in genetics from K-State in 1957. He and his wife, RosaLee Sarachek, created the fellowship and travel awards because he said he values the university’s tradition of offering a broad array of quality programs in the life sciences, many with outstanding national reputations. The Saracheks wanted to contribute to that tradition of excellence by recognizing students who have demonstrated exceptional research accomplishments involving molecular approaches to biological problems.

More information on the Sarachek awards is available at Written by Lauren Meehan from