Teaching & Learning

College of Science Graduate Scholars Among USU GRCO Recipients

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto |

Five graduate students in USU's College of Science are recipients of the university’s fall 2020 Graduate Research and Creative Opportunities Grant, which supports recipients’ individual projects.

Five Utah State University College of Science graduate students are among 12 recipients of the USU School of Graduate Studies’ and the Office of Research’s  most recent cycle of Graduate Research and Creative Opportunities (GRCO) grants. 

College of Science recipients are Alex DiMonte, Haixuan Guo, Mallory Hagadorn, Michael Schultz and Ruidan Shen.

“We congratulate these students, who were selected from a competitive field of applicants,” says Sean Johnson, associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Science. “Our scholars are pursuing impressive projects representing a diverse range of disciplines.”

GRCO grants provide a $1,000 grant to support original research, scholarship or creative work by USU graduate students with the guidance of a faculty member. Proposals include requests for funds to cover the costs of equipment, supplies and project-related travel.

DiMonte is pursuing a master’s degree in geology in the Department of Geosciences. With faculty mentor Alexis Ault, she is investigating fault surfaces coated with hematite, a reddish-black mineral consisting of ferric oxide, in southern California’s Mecca Hills mountain range.

“We’re looking at hematite that may have slipped slowly in the past without producing earthquakes and heat,” DiMonte says. “To test this hypothesis, I’m using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to look at the textures of fault rocks that were brought up to the surface from depth and (U-Th)/He thermochronology to date the timing of hematite mineralization and fault activity. Determining the processes that formed these rocks in the past aids understanding of ongoing processes that occur at depth within similar faults.”

Guo, a master’s student in data science in the Department of Computer Science, is conducting research on anomaly detection on system logs. With faculty mentor Shuhan Yuan, she proposes to adopt a state-of-the-art learning technique called “Transformer,” to identify the underlying pattern of log sequences that differ from normal behaviors.

“By comparing the performance of our model against RNN-based models, deeplog and loganomaly, we expect that Transformer for log anomaly detection will help domain users identify abnormal events in logs within a shorter time without decreasing the prediction accuracy,” Guo says.

Hagadorn is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Department of Biology. Her research emphasis is on brood care in bees.

“My dissertation asks, ‘How does sociality influence neuroplasticity and drive patterns in brain investment?’” says Hagadorn, who conducts research with faculty mentor Karen Kapheim. “Currently, I’m working to characterize the bees’ ‘maternal brain’—a brain primed for taking care of offspring—by tracking structure-specific volumetric changes and neuromolecular circuitry associated with brood care behaviors in bumble bees.”

She says her GRCO funding will facilitate an experiment that aims to localize and quantify neurotransmitter-expressing neurons in the brains of queen and worker bumble bees that have taken care of brood and compare them with those that have not.

A doctoral student in mathematics, Schultz conducts research with faculty mentor Andreas Malmendier in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

“Through this GRCO grant, I will be studying how the differential equations that govern crucial geometric information about K3 surfaces and Calabi-Yau threefolds can produce important arithmetic, topological, and physical information about the quantum field theories obtained by compactifying Type IIB string theory backgrounds on these spaces,” he says. “The main objective is elucidating the relationship between a differential geometric structure associated with these equations and arithmetic data that yields subtle quantum effects on the aforementioned field theories.”

Schultz adds he will implement previously known methodologies to produce novel families of Calabi-Yau threefolds that will have significance in string theory and mirror symmetry.

A doctoral student in biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Shen pursues research with faculty mentor Alvan Hengge. Her research focuses on molecular details of catalysis, especially of enzymatic reactions.

“My proposal for the GRCO funding is ‘Broadening the perspective on mobile loop dynamics regulating catalysis from the protein tyrosine phosphatase family,’” Shen says. 

Initiated in 2016, GRCO grants support independent student projects that advance scholars’ professional development and contribute to the scientific community.


Mary-Ann Muffoletto
Public Relations Specialist
College of Science


Sean Johnson
Associate Dean
Graduate Studies


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