Earlier this year, three University of Maine students — Melissa Jankowski, Elisabeth Kilroy and Anne “Ani” St. Amand — were awarded National Science Graduate Research Fellowships for their demonstrated potential for significant achievement in STEM fields.
UMaine now has seven students who are or recently have been NSF Graduate Research Fellows.
The fellowships are highly competitive, three-year awards to promote innovation and transformative scientific breakthroughs that will have a broad scientific impact at the state, national and international levels. Some of the most notable researchers in the United States began their careers as NSF graduate research fellows.
Jankowski, of Cassville, Missouri, is pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology (developmental-clinical track). She expects to earn her doctorate in 2021.
Her research focuses on peer relationships, and their connection to risk and resilience in adolescence. Specifically, Jankowski investigates the interpersonal mechanisms of risk for, and influence of, contagious suicide and self-harm behaviors in adolescents.
After her mother died of cancer, Jankowski lived with friends during her last two years of high school. She became interested in how particular health-risk behaviors emerged within the social context of families and other peer relationships.
Jankowski studied psychology to formally explore risk and resilience in interpersonal contexts. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Missouri.
Jankowski plans to be a clinical psychology faculty member at a research institution.
Kilroy, from Brewer, Maine and Charleston, South Carolina, is pursuing a doctorate in biomedical science. She expects to obtain her Ph.D. in 2020.
Kilroy’s research focuses on developing effective therapies for muscular dystrophy — a neuromuscular disease characterized by a loss in muscle mass that results in progressive muscle weakness.
She’s revisiting the premise of whether strength training is beneficial or detrimental to individuals with the disease, using the zebrafish model for muscular dystrophy.
For people with muscular dystrophy, a protein needed to build and maintain healthy muscle is missing or doesn’t function properly, which results in the muscle’s inability to contract properly. Muscles also tire more easily and individual muscle fibers atrophy.
Kilroy’s father and brother are battling a yet-to-be identified type of muscular dystrophy and medical professionals don’t know what’s causing their muscles to waste.
Kilroy plans to be a university professor.
St. Amand, of Deer Isle, Maine, is pursuing a Quaternary and climate sciences master’s degree, and an interdisciplinary doctorate. She expects to earn her doctorate in 2021.
St. Amand explores intersections between climate change and human behavior over the last 12,000 years. She uses geoarchaeological methods, spatial analysis and geophysical modeling to understand how past climates and environments have impacted human settlements, infrastructure and resource acquisition.
She also uses remote sensing to create land cover classification models to identify new archaeological sites. Doing this, she says, expands the archaeological record and provides new proxy evidence to enhance and refine climate reconstructions.
St. Amand earned a bachelor’s degree in geography/anthropology from the University of Southern Maine.
Her career goals include conducting research that expands knowledge of dynamic Earth systems. She also seeks to increase communities’ capacities to adapt to rapidly changing climates.