Commencement Award Winners

    The Guy Stevenson Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies 

    May 2024

    Lauren Girouard-Hallam

    Ph.D. Experimental Psychology

    Mentor: Professor Judith Danovitch


    The Guy Stevenson Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies honors a former dean of the Graduate School and is presented to an outstanding doctoral degree recipient who has demonstrated excellence in both scholarship and leadership within the discipline and has made significant contributions to teaching and/or service. Lauren Girouard-Hallam is the recipient of this year’s Stevenson award and, as such, serves as the Graduate School’s outstanding student, carries our banner for the Hooding and Commencement ceremonies, and delivers the student speech for the Hooding ceremony.

    Lauren Girouard-Hallam is graduating with her PhD in Experimental Psychology.  Under the mentorship of Dr. Judith Danovitch, she studies how 4- to 12-year-old children use technology, like internet searches and smart speakers, to learn about the world around them.  She earned a Master of Science in Experimental Psychology from the University of Louisville in 2021.  Before coming to U of L, she earned a Master of Arts in Drama Therapy from New York University and both a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

    Lauren’s work has been published in major journals in her field, including Developmental Psychology and Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Lauren has given talks about her work at conferences for the Cognitive Development Society and Cognitive Science Society.  Lauren’s dissertation project received the SECC Dissertation Award from the Society for Research in Child Development and funding from the Association for Psychological Science.

    Lauren has served as a Teaching Assistant for the graduate statistics course sequence in Psychology where she played an instrumental role in re-envisioning the course to include open access and diversity centered lab materials, work for which she and her colleague received a Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science commendation.  She is a teaching assistant at the University of Michigan for the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research’s summer program in advanced statistics and she currently serves as the chair of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s graduate student group.

    Lauren has mentored numerous undergraduate students, including supervising a summer research project that resulted in undergraduate student authorship for a journal publication, as well as students with talks and posters presented at the Meeting of the Minds and the Society for Research in Child Development.  In her role as the chair of the American Psychological Association’s Science Student Council, Lauren co-led mentorship and networking events that have reached thousands of undergraduate students across the country.

    Lauren also actively contributes to science communication initiatives and currently serves as the Editor in Chief of ComSciConversations and is a serial author for CogBites, blogs dedicated to bringing science to the general public.  She brings her science to school children through the programs Letters to a Pre-Scientist and Skype a Scientist, and Lauren is also a co-founder of the R-Ladies Louisville Chapter which promotes inclusion of gender minoritized individuals in data science.  She is currently the new outreach coordinator for the Cognitive Science Society.

    After graduation, Lauren will begin her role as a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Michigan.  She plans to launch an interdisciplinary study on children’s ability to recognize errors made by generative artificial intelligence chatbots like ChatGPT under the guidance of her mentorship team.

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    The John Richard Binford Memorial Award

    May 2024

    Amanda Brady

    Ph.D. Microbiology and Immunology

    Mentor: Professor Matthew Lawrenz


    Amanda Brady is the recipient of the John Richard Binford Memorial Award, which honors a former chairman of the Department of Psychology.  This award recognizes a doctoral degree recipient who excels in scholarship and has contributed to other areas within the discipline such as leadership, teaching, or service.

    Amanda has always been devoted to her education.  In high school, she attended a technical college course on Forensic Science.  Using what she learned in the course, she went on to develop two capstone projects in her undergraduate studies at the University of Northern Colorado.  One capstone led to a publication and an award from the University of Northern Colorado.  While she was still an undergraduate student, she also worked full-time at a pathology lab as a cytology assistant, where she discovered a passion for studying infectious diseases.  These experiences led to her joining the lab of Dr. Mathew Lawrenz in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Louisville.

    As a graduate student, Amanda investigated how the bacteria that causes the disease known as plague, Yersinia pestis, alters the host immune response to promote the progression of disease.  Her research has expanded our knowledge on the host-pathogen interactions during plague and how our host innate immune system responds to infection.  Her research was recognized with an NIH T32 fellowship, an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Future Leaders Mentoring Fellowship (FLMF), and a Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship.  Her Ph.D. dissertation work contributed to five published manuscripts, and she was invited to give oral presentations on her research at multiple prestigious scientific conferences.

    Amanda also has a passion for diversity and inclusion and was extensively involved in mentoring and leadership in community outreach programs during her graduate career.  As a T32 fellow, she organized the 2022 Inflammation and Pathogenesis T32 Colloquium, which highlighted the ongoing innovative immunology research at UofL.  She has mentored multiple trainees in microbiology, including two high school students who were fellows of the Louisville Science Pathway (LSP) program, a competitive high school summer research program designed to expose high school students to research and future career opportunities in the STEM fields.  In addition to her LSP activities, Amanda mentored other local high school students from underrepresented backgrounds with science fair projects for the Louisville Regional Science & Engineering Fair.  Amanda was also a mentor for the University of Louisville’s BIOMED-PREP program, providing guidance and support for underrepresented post-baccalaureate students to successfully transition into PhD programs.

    Amanda was the second President for the UofL Chapter of the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), the only active chapter in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. SACNAS is a national organization that provides opportunities to aid Chicano/Hispanic and Native American students to obtain advanced degrees, careers, and equality in STEM fields.  Amanda was also the second student to become a voting member of the UofL Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), helping to ensure that research at the university was done safely.

    Upon graduation, Amanda will continue her training as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus studying bacterial infections in diabetic patients.  She also plans to continue to support diversity and inclusion by taking her experiences from UofL to start the first chapter of SACNAS at the University of Colorado.

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    The John M. Houchens Prize for Outstanding Dissertation

    May 2024

    Melissa Eggen

    Ph.D. Public Health Sciences

    Mentor: Professor Seyed Karimi


    Melissa Eggen is the winner of the John M. Houchens Prize, which honors a former registrar of the university and is awarded to the doctoral student who presents the most meritorious dissertation for the current commencement.

    Melissa Eggen has an MPH in Maternal and Child Health from the University of Illinois in Chicago and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Kentucky.  She has over 15 years of experience working in community-based and state-wide non-profit organizations and has a special interest in conducting research at the local level to inform policy and practice.  In particular, her research is centered on better understanding reproductive and maternal healthcare outcomes and patient experience using quantitative and mixed-methods approaches.

    Titled Factors Associated with Prenatal Care Timing: An Exploratory Study, Melissa’s dissertation, explores multi-level barriers and facilitators associated with the timing of pregnant women seeking prenatal care in the United States and in Kentucky, using the Socioecological Model as the guiding framework.  Her mentor provides the following description of the dissertation and emphasizes the significance of its contribution to the field:

    As part of her dissertation, Melissa used data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, collected and compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to examine factors associated with prenatal care timing among women in Kentucky.  This research is a unique and significant contribution to state-wide efforts to improve maternal health across the Commonwealth, as Kentucky has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.  According to the latest numbers published by the CDC, 38.4 out of 100,000 live births in Kentucky led to maternal death during the 2018-2021 period. This rate is only slightly lower than the rate in a few states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, but higher than all other states.  Moreover, maternal mortality is significantly higher among racial minorities, especially among the non-Hispanic Black population, both nationally and in Kentucky.  Melissa’s research targets one of the major root causes of maternal mortality and morbidity in Kentucky and inequities in maternal mortality: the adequacy and timing of prenatal care.  She methodically investigated each potential factor contributing to the adverse outcomes and identified access to health insurance, household income, maternal education, and pregnancy wantedness as the major contributing factors to using prenatal care in Kentucky.  The findings under this aim of her dissertation are currently under review at a top maternal and child health journal.

    Strikingly, maternal mortality has been increasing in recent years.  One of the less understood factors in the increase is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Through another aim of her thesis, Melissa is one of the first in the country and the first in Kentucky to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal mortality.  In this innovative study, she uses a creative method to distinguish the effect of the pandemic from underlying institutional and socioeconomic factors. The quality of Melissa’s dissertation research and her experience, deep knowledge, and expertise in the field of maternal and child health have allowed her to shoulder major related efforts in addition to her dissertation.  As a prime example, she is currently the PI on a State University Partnership grant assessing systems and policies to address maternal health in Kentucky.

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    The Alice Eaves Barns Award Outstanding Achievement in Master’s Program

    May 2024

    Sam Weiner

    M.A. Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

    Mentor: Assistant Professor Cara Snyder


    The Alice Eaves Barns Award is named in honor of a Graduate School staff member’s many years of outstanding service as a staff member of the Graduate School. 

    This award recognizes a student who has displayed tenacity in the face of adversity while attaining excellence in both the classroom and outside endeavors and is given in recognition of outstanding achievement in a master’s program.  Sam Weiner is this year’s recipient of the Barns award.

    Sam Weiner is a master’s student in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Louisville.  She is a Graduate Teaching Assistant who teaches WGST 201, Women in American Culture, to undergraduate students.  Before coming to the University of Louisville, Sam attended the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies.  While at the University of Illinois, she was very active in LGBT student groups and engaged in campus advocacy for LGBT students. Sam also served as a private tutor for a middle school student, as a camp counselor, and as an inclusion companion for children with special needs.  After completing her undergraduate degree, she attended law school, graduating from DePaul University College of Law in May of 2022.  While in law school, she focused on international and human rights law with a particular focus on LGBT law.  She also wrote for the DePaul Journal of Sports Law on the relationship between antitrust policies and NIL deals for collegiate athletes. Moreover, Sam was part of the LGBT club that raised awareness about legal issues, such as asylum and adoption, pertaining to the LGBT community.

    During the summer between her first and second years in the master’s program, Sam was in a road accident that left her severely injured.  Her nominator writes that despite being bedridden and confined to a wheelchair, Sam was determined to continue her studies and her duties as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.  Sam adapted her face-to-face teaching plan to an online modality.  After undergoing surgery at the start of the fall semester, Sam continued to excel both in her own coursework and in her teaching.  Students in her fall online course named her a student champion, “expressing,” according to her nominator, “their gratitude for the level of attention and care she provides them, noting how she helped them improve their skills, as well as helping them navigate problems in their own lives.”

    After graduation, Sam plans on entering a Master of Education program to become a high school social studies teacher.  

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    The Virginia “Jenny” Madden Award for Graduate Student Leadership and Service

    This was not awarded for spring 2024.

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