Lisa Blue

Ph.D. Student

By Brian Connors Manke

Don’t be fooled by her last name. The most important color to chemistry graduate student, Lisa Blue, is definitely green. 

When Blue was starting college at Missouri State as a pre-med student, she stayed for a summer session to get a chemistry course out of the way. Get it done and over with – like ripping off a Band-Aid. 

Simple enough – but then came the unexpected. For the first time in college she was thoroughly challenged. She had to truly work at chemistry, and for a student with the drive and inquisitiveness that Blue possesses that was enough to get her hooked. 

A master’s at Missouri State followed, as did a stint working at the Blackmon Water Treatment Plant in Springfield, Mo. – a job that impressed upon her the issue of clean water. “I was fascinated with this interaction between

Nadina Olmedo

Ph.D. Student

by Saraya Brewer
photos by Richie Wireman

Gothic-and fantastic-themed films and literature have, in recent years, increasingly gained credibility with the masses, particularly with the popularity of “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter” and – perhaps on a smaller scale – Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan's Labyrinth.” With the massive artistic and literary (not to mention financial) successes of these films and novels, the genres have also been gaining widespread notoriety in the academic world, despite having been traditionally cast aside as being a genre that is not intellectual, significant or of good taste.

University of Kentucky Hispanic Studies Ph.D. candidate Nadina Olmedo hopes that representations of the genre as cliche, sensational or not-intellectualized are obsolete. With her dissertation, Olmedo

Oluwaseye “Mary” Awoniyi Cadet Spotlight

by Robin Roenker

Oluwaseye “Mary” Awoniyi has always known she wanted to be a soldier and a lawyer. Since the age of 12, she’s had her sights set on joining the prestigious ranks of the Army’s elite JAG Corps.

With scholarship support from UK’s Army ROTC program, Awoniyi, 22, is about to begin her second year of law school at UK, forging a direct path toward her dream.

“I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I’m exactly where I want to be,” said Awoniyi, a native of Nigeria who moved with her family to the United States when she was six.

Awoniyi is the first-ever law school Army ROTC cadet at UK. She joked that she’s the program’s “test run.”

Sometimes, there are challenges to being a trailblazer: her law school finals don’t always coincide with the finals of the rest of the


by Robin Roenker
photos by Mark Cornelison

The transistor is perhaps the most prolific and highly successful example of electronic material in action. It’s the fundamental building block of today’s electronic devices—from cell phones to iPods to personal computers.

Some have called the transistor the greatest invention of the 20th century. Its development and perfection over the last 60 years has largely been a result of the research and development work of condensed matter physicists—scientists who study the fundamental properties of solids and liquids. Their work to create and study new electronic and magnetic materials has yielded “the largest number of practical applications” of any subfield of physics, according to physics professor Gang Cao, who joined UK’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2002.

Cao also points out that it is widely



Jason Cummins is - the 1993 alum returns to head the UK Army ROTC program.

by Rebekah Tilley
photos by Shaun Ring

Jason Cummins’ employer gave him a three-year, full-tuition college scholarship, sent him to flight school, paid him to attend one of the most prestigious MBA programs in the country, and asked him to teach economics at West Point. In May, the UK Class of 1993 alum returned to take up the leadership of the UK Army ROTC program; the same program from which he himself graduated 16 years ago.

Cummins’ office walls in Barker Hall display a scrapbook of his Army career: the tail rotor blade from an Apache helicopter, the flag of the 101st Airborne, his MBA diploma from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, a cavalry sabre, and unit pictures from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, Cummins also

Matthew DeMichele

Ph.D. Student

by Brianna Bodine

“Few people think about how expensive it is to incarcerate someone,” Department of Sociology Ph.D. student Matthew DeMichele asserted.

“However, with many states facing budget shortfalls, policy makers and the public are beginning to think seriously about the financial strain high incarceration rates place on our economy and other social programs.”

To incarcerate one person in Kentucky costs approximately $25,000 per year, compared to $45,000 in California and $13,000 in Louisiana, and the 2005 national average is $23,876. With more than 2.3 million adults currently in jails and prisons, the financial burden on state governments alone exceeds $50 billion, according to the Pew Center on the States. This expenditure

Janet Neiswennder

Janet Neisewander spends a lot of her time with rodents and cocaine.

As strange as that may sound, the research the Arizona State University professor is doing with those two things may someday help people struggling with addiction.

Neisewander, who earned her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Kentucky in 1988, became interested in how the brain is connected to behavior early on in her academic career.

As a freshman at Rockford College in Rockford, Ill. Neisewander became passionate about the human brain.

“I was fascinated by the way the brain is involved in behavior and how brain dysfunctions result in dysfunctional behavior,” she said.

As she was finishing her bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology, Neisewander looked for graduate programs that would allow her to continue her studies.

“I wanted a good graduate training program

Taki Petrou

Growing up in Athens, Greece, Panayotis “Taki” Petrou knew he wanted to study in the United States when he was older.

Three of his uncles lived in America and his older sister had already left Greece for school in Chicago.

“I was finishing high school and thinking about college, and it had always been my dream to go to the U.S.,” Petrou said.

As far as choosing the University of Kentucky as his American destination, Petrou took a pretty simple approach. “Kentucky had similar latitude as Greece so I figured that the weather would be similar,” he said, laughing.

In researching UK, Petrou also found a school with reasonable tuition in an area of the country with an affordable cost of living, he said.

“I also liked that it was a big school,” he said. “It had a lot to offer.”

While Petrou felt comfortable with his choice in schools, he didn’t



by Rebekah Tilley
photos by Lee Thomas

With the election of President Barack Obama, who ran on a campaign platform promising to develop and deploy five coal-fired plants with clean carbon capture – clean coal technology has taken center stage. And in the Appalachian region, the “land where coal is king,” the potential impact goes well beyond the “simple” questions of a greener earth. 

“Central Appalachia is deeply invested in coal and it’s deeply polarized over questions of jobs versus environment. How to sort out those questions cause real problems, especially in those areas of Appalachia that will have to live with the consequences,” said Dwight Billings, UK Professor of Sociology. “Coal has figured so centrally in the life of this particular part of Kentucky and West Virginia – in terms of


One-on-one teaching assistance is hard to come by in math and science courses, where many students struggle to understand balancing equations, solving for variables, and applying formulas. To address the problem, Benny G. Johnson, Sr., and Dale Holder joined forces, merging chemistry, computer programming and teaching philosophy to create Quantum Tutors, the first artificial intelligence tutoring program for the sciences.

“We thought it would be beneficial to explore developing


1) How long does it take to get to work on average for Lexington residents as compared to the rest of Kentucky?

2) How densely populated in Lexington compared to the rest of the state?

3) What is the percentage of female-owned businesses in Kentucky compared to the rest of the country?

These are the types of questions that the 


by Robin Roenker
photos by Lee Thomas

Sometimes what a speaker means to emphasize and what a listener hears are two very different things. Subtle cues—like a rise in pitch—can be missed. That’s especially true when either the speaker or listener is using a language other than his or her native one.

Those language miscues are what most intrigue new UK professor Mingzhen Bao.

In just her first semester at UK on a joint appointment with the Linguistics Program and the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, where she teaches Chinese, Bao is poised to begin cutting-edge research on production and perceptions of speech prosody in Chinese.

By next semester, Bao will have her new phonetics lab at UK up and running, ready to perform experiments to analyze how American


by Jason Lee Miller
photos by Mark Cornelison

Academic roads can lead to some interesting places. Rusty Barrett, an expert in sociolinguistics and professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Arts and Sciences, perhaps never dreamed when he began studying Russian and Soviet culture in the 1980s that he would one day wander covered in mud through the Guatemalan wilderness in search of a Maya village.

He probably couldn’t have fathomed that he would rent an adobe house for six dollars per month, that he would knock out the village’s power every time he took a shower, that he would find "Kentucky" brand basketballs sold at the local market. 

Along an earlier road far from Guatemala, Barrett worked for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where he


Patrick Sgueglia Undergraduate Student

Wherever he may Rome: Student embraces Italian heritage By Laura Sutton International Studies senior Patrick Sgueglia (pronounced Skwail-ya) has a way with Italian words. He can take a common one like spaghetti and pronounce it in such a way that the listener’s mind is immediately transported to a gondola or an outdoor café near the Pantheon. Sgueglia’s talent for speaking Italian is not surprising – his father’s side of the family is from Caserta, a provincial capital near Naples in southern Italy, and he claims dual citizenship. Growing up, he visited his Italian cousins frequently, thanks to his father, James (Biology, ‘80), an airline pilot. But he also has Kentucky roots. His mother, Michelle (HES, ‘80), is a Lexington native, and his parents met as students at UK. Sgueglia arrived at UK in 2005 as a Legacy Scholar with an

Sallie Powell

Ph.D. Student

Crossing Lines: Girls’ High School Basketball, Gender, and Race in Kentucky

by Andrew Battista
photos by Mark Cornelison

Sallie Powell knows how painful it is to have a passion and a dream denied. Powell is one of many women who grew up in Kentucky during the early 1970s and never enjoyed the experience of playing basketball.

“The equivalent of two generations of women in Kentucky did not get the chance to participate in high school basketball,” said Powell. “I see that as an injustice.”

It is not hyperbole to say that Powell’s identity as a woman and a Kentuckian is molded by her love for basketball and the athleticism that runs deep in her family. Although gender discrimination kept Powell from pursuing her high school basketball dreams, she did eventually compete at the collegiate

Jeff Keith

Ph.D. Student

by Saraya Brewer

“Whenever history surprises me, I follow it.”

For University of Kentucky history Ph.D. student Jeffrey A. Keith, this statement has meant following history in a number of different directions, including Appalachian Studies, race relations in the American South, and –– his current dissertation work –– the cultural transformation of Saigon as a result of the Vietnam War.

Where Keith’s academic interests have traveled across the world, his academic career has boomeranged across the country: he has studied at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.; Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.; University of Wisconsin in Madison; and finally, at the University of Kentucky, where he has spent the last six years studying Southern history, as well as various facets of United States foreign

Josh Roberts Ph.D. Student

by Robin Roenker

Josh Roberts didn’t always aspire to become a mathematician. "I took the time to find out what I really wanted to do," Roberts said. Between finishing high school and beginning college he was employed in jobs as varied as census taker to marina attendant. Roberts finally settled on sign language and enjoyed a seven-year career as a sign language interpreter before returning to college to receive his undergraduate math degree.

In college he initially planned to major in philosophy. But after taking his first college calculus class as a freshman, he was hooked.

“There’s a beauty and aesthetic quality to math that people tend to miss,” said Roberts, now in his fifth year in UK’s mathematics PhD program.

Roberts, a native of Wise County, Virginia, and graduate of the University of

Wes Stoner

Ph.D. Student

by Jessica Fisher

For many of us, when we think of an anthropologist we envision a lovesick hero retrieving artifacts from pillagers while simultaneously running from federal agents, all the while dodging villains in exotic places, and of course the inevitable tumble into a deadly snake pit. Though we may have Spielberg to thank for such stereotypes and the inclusion of anthropology into mainstream (however misleading Indiana Jones is as an archeologist), what he always leaves out is the immeasurable amount of hours anthropologists spend studying, teaching and in many cases trying to secure money for their research.

Perhaps, the latter is less romantic than Hollywood’s spin, but for Wes Stoner, an Anthropology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky, it has been those grueling hours spent behind a computer that enabled his

Tamika Zapolski

Ph.D. Student

by Saraya Brewer
photos by Tim Collins

When Tamika Zapolski was searching for a doctoral program, University of Kentucky clinical psychology professor Gregory Smith was one of her first interviews. “I had several interviews after that, but I didn’t care about any of them,” she said. “I knew I wanted to study with Dr. Smith.”

When Zapolski arrived at UK in 2005, she was able to put her undergraduate career to use immediately. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in black studies & human development and family studies from University of Missouri-Columbia, she was particularly interested in how cultural factors play into the development of eating disorders – as she put it, “what factors were more important for beauty to women and how that then led to dysfunction.”

For example, she explained,


Kevin Harrelson discovered the works of 17th century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and early-19th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel while an undergraduate philosophy major at Villanova University. 

Their writing—and their questions—captivated him. His readings of Hegel led to an interest in German Idealism in general, and led him to pursue his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Kentucky. 

“There were a lot of people at UK studying German Idealism, and it was a good place to pursue that,” said Harrelson, who completed his Ph.D. at UK in 2004.

Harrelson is now in his first year as visiting assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ball State University. 

His first book, “


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