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Biology graduate wins outstanding master's thesis award

November 9, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Tracy DiMezzo, who graduated from the University of Illinois at Springfield last spring with a master of science degree in Biology, has won the Outstanding Master's Thesis award for the 2003-04 academic year. Her thesis, titled “Uptake Analysis of Fluorescently-Labeled Hydrophobic Organic Phosphate Substrates by Aquatic Hydrophobic Bacteria,” was chosen from among 10 nominated by graduate departments at UIS.

Michael Lemke, associate professor of Biology at UIS, served as DiMezzo’s adviser and called her accomplishments “an impressive piece of research.”

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“Last year, Tracy obtained funding from Sigma Xi Scientific Research Organization for her work,” Lemke said. “This is more than a monetary award – it is a distinction of quality. When Tracy presented her results at the 2004 General Meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in New Orleans last spring, her work was well received and the general response was ‘When will this be published?’” 

Lemke explained that DiMezzo’s research topic was built on characteristics of microbial communities seldom investigated by researchers, not because the research is trivial, but because in ecology, many questions about nutrients that are pursued by investigators are based on dissolved, polar molecules (dissolved nutrients). “Tracy’s work focused on non-polar compounds found in membranes of every cell of every organism and how they may present a steady source of phosphate as a nutrient, how they may represent a novel uptake and utilization nutrient pathway, and how some bacteria may have adaptations to better take advantage of this resource,” he said. 

“Her work could significantly contribute to our understanding of aquatic microbial ecology and may also result in advancing techniques that apply fluorochromically-labeled substrates in bacterial metabolism,” Lemke said, adding that after graduation, DiMezzo was immediately employed by a research lab in Maryland.

A Special Merit award was given to Kelley Boston, who received a master of arts degree in History last spring. Her thesis, titled “A Phalanx Disintegrated: Socialism in Sangamon County, Illinois, 1844-1848,” concerned a Fourierist community that was established in Loami, its residents, their occupations, landholdings, and interrelationships, as well as the lawsuit that resulted when the community disintegrated in 1848. Fourierism was a 19th century social reform system that proposed organizing society into small, self-sustaining communal groups. Boston’s adviser, Deborah McGregor, associate professor of History and Women’s Studies, called her thesis a “very interesting look at an unexpected chapter in our local history.”

Harry Berman, associate vice chancellor for graduate education and research, said the UIS Research Board was impressed by the high quality of each of the 10 reports. “Determining which among them should be singled out for special recognition was a challenging task,” he said.

Other graduates whose theses were nominated, their programs and faculty advisers, were Carmen Allen, Management Information Systems (assistant professor James Hall; Richard Capriola, Human Services (assistant professor Carol Rankin); Karen Kunz, Political Studies  (professor Robert Sipe); Deb Larsen, Individual Option (Larry Hughes, SIU School of Medicine); Scott Riddle, Educational Leadership (assistant professor Scott Day); Michael Stults, Computer Science (assistant professor Jingyu Zhang); Joanna Tweedy, English (associate professor Nancy Perkins); and Jill Wright, Human Development Counseling (associate professor Bill Abler).

All 10 students will be honored at a reception to be held early in the spring semester.

Research Board members are Berman, who serves as chair, and UIS faculty members Laura Dorman, Keenan Dungey, Hilary Frost-Kumpf, Martin Martsch, and Amir Parssian, as well as emeritus faculty Robert Crowley.

    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.
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