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University announces New Self Graduate Fellows

Monday, October 28, 2013

LAWRENCE — Six doctoral students have been selected to receive the University of Kansas prestigious Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship as they begin the 2013-2014 academic year. The 30 current Self Graduate Fellows are among 146 students who have benefited from the fellowship since it was established.

Self Graduate Fellowships are four-year awards to new or first-year doctoral students who demonstrate leadership, initiation and a passion for achievement. The fellowship covers full tuition and fees, provides a $29,500 annual payment to new fellows, and includes a unique development program. The Fellow Development Program provides general education and training in communication, management and leadership to assist Self Graduate Fellows in preparation for future leadership roles, complementing the specialized education and training provided in doctoral programs. 

The fellowship’s mission is to identify and recruit exceptional doctoral students who demonstrate the promise to make significant contributions to their fields of study and society as a whole.

Madison "Al" and Lila Self of Hinsdale, Ill., launched and permanently endowed the Self Graduate Fellowship in 1989, motivated by their strong belief in the vital importance of developing leadership for tomorrow. Madison Self, who died in January of 2013, was a 1943 KU graduate in chemical engineering. Lila Self is a native of Eudora and attended KU with the class of 1943.

The new Self Graduate Fellows are:

Theodore “Ted” D. Harris, ecology and evolutionary biology, has been tied to water his whole life. Early on, it was through elite-level competitive swimming and sailing. Now, he is connected through research related to pollution of freshwater – a topic about which he is passionate. The reason: “Life as we know it depends on access to clean freshwater.” Harris first explored the interconnectedness of water and life as an undergraduate. He earned a Bachelor of Science in fisheries and wildlife as well as a Bachelor of Science in forestry and a minor in biology, 2009, from the University of Missouri-Columbia. During that time he was a U.S. National, U.S. Open and U.S. Olympic Trial qualifier in swimming. He also received Big 12 Conference Academic First-Team honors. As he pursued a master’s degree in natural resources, 2012, from the University of Idaho-Moscow, Harris pursued his research on a global scale. He focused on potential management strategies designed to reduce the occurrence of toxic blooms of cyanobacteria, which result from human-induced nutrient pollution of surface waters. He worked with 10 researchers and data from 2,073 lakes around the world to see if the results of his research could be applied to aquatic systems worldwide. His research will ultimately help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers make progress toward recovering Willow Creek Reservoir in Oregon from toxic algae blooms. Harris worked as a GTA and GRA at the University of Idaho, and most recently worked as a hydrologic technician for the Geological Survey in Lawrence. Harris intends to devote his professional career to conducting research that identifies issues that cause degradation of freshwater resources. Through hard data and hard work, he wants to help develop policies aimed at improving the stewardship, management and protection of surface water.

Harris is the son of Cheryl Muich and Howard Harris, Greenville, Ill. He is a graduate of Greenville High School.


Brittany N. Krutty, developed an early interest in physics.

“The Universe turned out to be altogether more beautiful and complex than I had imagined. Of course I chose to major in physics,” she said.

As an undergraduate at KU, Krutty worked with the nuclear physics research group. During two summer and winter breaks Krutty was able to work at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research Center in Geneva. She also spent time at the Large Hadron Collider tunnel working on hardware and electronics. As a result of her work at CERN, Krutty was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater scholarship in 2012. Krutty has also been involved in numerous community projects, including serving one year as president of KU Habitat for Humanity and president and secretary of KU WeTeach. She has served as a student ambassador for the KU Honors Program, been involved in the KU wakeboard club and been an active participant in intramural sports. Krutty received numerous awards as an undergraduate, including the J. Michael Young Opportunity Award, Undergraduate Research Award, Watkins-Berger Scholars Award and the Robert J. Dole Public Service Scholarship. Krutty wants to focus on astronomy in her doctoral studies, and she hopes to eventually apply her knowledge to a government laboratory and “inspire awe in people by introducing them to the marvels of science, technology, engineering and math.”

Krutty is the daughter of Katherine and Daniel Krutty, Olathe. She is a graduate of Olathe Northwest High School.

Michelle McWilliams, molecular and integrative physiology at the KU Medical Center, has taken advantage of life’s classrooms to shape her future. College, volunteer work, internships and a stint in industry helped shape her desire to work in drug development. McWilliams worked in her hometown of Reno, Nev., for several years in behavioral and occupational therapy. Her patients were individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who suffered from chronic medical conditions. She learned that often there were few, if any, effective medical therapies for these patients. Their “diseases and conditions are largely overlooked because they are considered benign conditions.” She saw treatments that “are inadequate yet widely accepted as good enough.” Those experiences motivated her to continue her pursuit of a career in biomedical sciences. Two years at Santa Cruz Biotechnology in Paso Robles, Calif., gave her research experience in an industrial setting prior to joining the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences at KU Medical Center in 2012. McWilliams received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of San Diego in 2008. She received awards and scholarships, including the SBC Foundation Scholarship, the USD Trustee Scholarship, the College Board AP Scholar Award and the Pagini Memorial Scholarship. Her work at KUMC is focused on small molecule drug development to treat uterine fibroids, a chronic health condition that affects almost 25 percent of all women, and yet receives little attention from companies and policymakers. McWilliams hopes to make a difference for people suffering from chronic and neglected conditions through her work in biomedical drug development.

McWilliams is the daughter of Carol Ann Everling, Houston, and Thomas Everling, Reno, Nev. She is a graduate of Bishop Manogue Catholic High School, Reno.


Andrea L. Nuckolls, neurosciences, KU Medical Center, studied biology and psychology, worked as a nanny and volunteered at a psychiatric center when her end goal became clear to her. An ardent observer of personality and behavior, she realized she wanted to be a neuroscientist. She could then learn about the evolution of the human brain and how it usually enables normal cognitive processes. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Rockhurst University, 2011, in Kansas City, Nuckolls added courses in biology and chemistry. She worked at the KU Alzheimer and Memory Program and interned with the American Journal of Bioethics and the Joshua Center for Neurological Disorders. As she realized she was on the right path, she received a number of awards, including the Distinguished Scholar Award and the Ignatius of Loyola Award. Nuckolls’ goal is to conduct research in brain-behavior relationships that will provide insight into what causes devastating brain disease, and to investigate the efficacy of various treatments and preventive measures. In her words, “The process of aging is inevitable, and many of us have a great chance of developing a neurodegenerative disease. It is imperative that we understand the science behind these processes more completely.”

Nuckolls is the daughter of Tammy Nuckolls of Lee’s Summit, Mo., and Craig Nuckolls of Rome, Ga. She is a graduate of Lee’s Summit North High School.


Joseph M. Siegel, chemistry, intends to finish a doctoral degree in chemistry at KU so that he can become a leader in analytical chemistry research.

As Siegel says, “Through research, chemists continue to astound the world with the creation of new technology and techniques.”

Siegel began his graduate work at KU after working for Monsanto in Creve Coeur, Mo., where he provided analytical support for the chemistry research and development division and assisted with metal corrosion research. Siegel received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, 2011, from Truman State University. While an undergraduate at TSU, Siegel discovered – and enjoyed – research. That led to a summer of undergraduate research at Michigan State University, where he worked in a lab studying bloodstream complication during disease onset using microfluidic technology. At TSU Siegel was awarded the Presidential Leadership Scholarship, was the assistant manager of Bulldog Biodiesel, served as a teaching assistant and was president of the chemistry honor fraternity. During his first year at KU Siegel was awarded the Carl and Catherine Chaffee Scholarship, the Bailey Memorial Scholarship and has served as treasurer of the chemistry graduate student organization.

Siegel is the son of John and Tracy Siegel, St. Louis. He is a graduate of Parkway South High School.


Michael T. Stees, electrical engineering and computer science, likes the idea of using programs to solve interesting problems. In Stees’ area of computer science, that means using functional programming to find solutions to interesting and complex situations. His interest in problem solving extends to the human side as well. As an undergraduate at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill., Stees worked as a head resident for a residence hall. He helped students and staff members adjust and also thrive. Stees also served as an orientation leader, vice president of the computer science club and a lab assistant while at Monmouth. The university awarded him the Robert Minteer ’66 Prize – awarded to a student in physics, math or chemistry who maximizes potential and exemplifies Monmouth College’s values. Stees was also able to participate in an NSF-funded REU program in the summer of 2012 at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. Stees received his Bachelor of Arts in computer science from Monmouth College in 2013. In the future he hopes to work in the private sector where he can “challenge the design of current products and the thinking behind future products by bridging the gap between theoretical and applied computing.”

Stees is the son of Betty Pechin of Plainfield, Ill., and Guy Stees of Durango, Colo. He is a graduate of Plainfield High School Central Campus in Plainfield.

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