Three Virginia Tech Graduate School alumni from the class of 2009 recently won awards and/or nominations for their master's thesis research.

Two students, Karen Drahos and Ge Zhang, received the William Preston Society Gold Watch Thesis Award during the society’s annual meeting at Virginia Tech on Friday, Nov. 20. These two and a third, William Story, were selected among numerous Virginia Tech students as nominees for the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools (CSGS) Master’s Thesis Awards for outstanding research, and the innovative application of technology categories.

“There were more nominees in 2009 than in recent years, so the competition was rigorous,” says Janet Rankin, associate dean of the graduate school, and professor in the department of human nutrition, foods, and exercise. Rankin facilitated the review committee that chose this year’s winners. “This award-winning research is a reflection of many good things at Virginia Tech, especially the high quality mentoring that takes place between faculty and students,” she said.

Drahos won for her thesis titled, “Sulfatides Mediate Disabled-2 Membrane Localization and Stability During Platelet Aggregation.” Drahos, of Roanoke, Va., completed her Master of Science degree in biological sciences from the College of Science. Her research is published in the PloS ONE Biology Journal. Carla V. Finkielstein, assistant professor of biological sciences, chaired her thesis committee.

“The Preston Award is confirmation that the research to which we devote ourselves truly does represent hope to our community and our society,” says Drahos.

Zhang won for her thesis titled, “Incorporating Food Away from Home into the Thrifty Food Plan.” Zhang, of the Shandong Province in China, received a Master of Science degree in health economics in the department of agriculture and applied economics from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She and Wen You, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics, published a paper in the Journal of Nutrition based on Zhang’s research. Also, You chaired her master’s thesis committee. Zhang is continuing her studies as a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech.

“I am honored and excited that our work and our discipline of health economics, a new study area, has been acknowledged,” said Zhang.

Story received a CSGS nomination for his thesis titled, “Application of Lyapunov Exponents to Strange Attractors and Intact and Damaged Ship Stability”. Story, originally from Princeton, W.Va., received a Master of Science degree in ocean engineering from the College of Engineering’s Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. Leigh S. McCue, assistant professor of aerospace and ocean engineering chaired Story’s thesis committee.

“We are very grateful to the William Preston Society, as well as the CSGS, for recognizing and honoring graduate students and the quality research they perform each day on this campus,” said Karen P. DePauw, vice president and dean of graduate education.

The William Preston Society is comprised of former members of the Board of Visitors, the current president of Virginia Tech, as well as past presidents. Thesis awards are given to graduate students with a thesis that presents the best original research with potential to benefit all people. The Preston awards rotate through the broad spectrum of disciplines offered by the Virginia Tech Graduate School and its colleges and departments. The 2009-10 awards targeted the life sciences and social science, business and education.

Preston thesis award winners are selected at the beginning of each fall semester by a review of faculty and staff. Eligibility requirements state that nominees must complete their research the academic year before the nomination. Secured theses are not considered for the award.

The CSGS is an organization of more than 200 graduate schools in the southern region of the United States. It is dedicated to the advancement of graduate education and academic research. CSGS is affiliated with the Council of Graduate Schools headquartered in Washington, D.C.

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