Graduate students recognized for academic excellence and research achievements

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
April 10, 2024

Two graduate students, Shabnam Etemadi and Ann Song, have each received the Yvonne Danielsen Endowed Graduate Award from the UCR Graduate Division for academic excellence and research achievements. The award offers a stipend of $10,000 and fees/tuition for one academic quarter.

Both students work on research projects with Prue Talbot, a professor of the graduate division in the Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology.

The award allows Etemadi to continue her research to test whether menthol in electronic cigarettes, or ECs, adversely affects human embryonic development by activating “transient-receptor-potential” (TRP) channels — a group of ion channels located mostly on the plasma membrane of numerous animal cell types. 

From L to R: Prue Talbot, Shabnam Etemadi, and Ann Song.

“Exposure of pregnant women to ECs may influence human prenatal development,” Etemadi said. “It is unknown to what extent individual constituents of EC products, such as flavor chemicals, influence human embryos in pregnant women who vape. Flavor chemicals raise particular concern because they are found in some ECs at high concentrations and can activate TRP channels in cells.”

Etemadi plans to graduate next summer with a doctoral degree in bioengineering.

The award supports Song’s ongoing research investigating the infectability of human embryos by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in pregnant women who have COVID-19.

“Mother-to-fetus transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus is understudied and can possibly lead to developmental defects,” Song said.

Song is also the recipient of an Academic Merit Fellowship from the Graduate Division for Spring 2024 and will receive an additional stipend of $10,000. The award also includes payment of fees during the Spring quarter.

Song expects to graduate next spring with a doctoral degree in cell, molecular, and developmental biology.

Born in Canada in 1925, Yvonne Danielsen settled in Hemet, California, in 1951. She left a generous bequest fund, established in 2005, to benefit UCR students in science.