Success Stories

Jenny Phan Receives NRSA Grant for Dissertation Research


Jenny Phan was awarded the F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health. Jenny is a doctoral candidate in Human Development and Family Studies. Her NRSA-funded dissertation research focuses on puberty and autism. Her current training focuses on a window of human development - puberty. Jenny bridges her previous research work examining the interplay of biomarkers and behavioral outcomes with neurotypical and autistic adolescents. In her future postoc work, Jenny will examine trajectories of health outcomes in the autism population and their families to identify buffers and strategies and to mitigate caregiver burnout. Jenny's inspiration for this research comes from her children and from parents caring for autistic adolescents who need fact-based information.

Acknowledging the mentorship from her professors, Jenny is also grateful for the assistance she received from CCE: "With the help of Hardeep, an interdisciplinary writing consultant at the CCE, who was also a Predoctoral Fellow with NIH, I felt more at ease taking on a huge writing goal such as a national competitive fellowship grant. I met with Hardeep to go over my training plan and research strategies, specifically targeting language use, organization of content, and flow of information. With a first-hand experience as an awardee herself, Hardeep helped me understand and follow the grant application guidelines as well. I also want to credit the CCE for the years of experience I gained as a writing consultant because the continued education I have received from the Center really strengthened my writing abilities ."


Collin Powell Receives 2019-2020 Fulbright Award


Collin Powell was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for the 2019 to 2020 academic year and is ISU’s first Fulbright student winner since 2014. Collin, who is currently studying in the Master’s program in Interior Design, will be heading to Vienna, Austria for his Fulbright stint to take classes, teach English, and conduct research on how the Viennese public housing system effectively serves a diverse population that includes recent migrants. With the help of Anne Grevstad-Nordbrock (Fulbright-Student advisor), Laura Good (Assistant Director for National Awards), and writing consultants like Mitch Stephenson in the Center for Communication Excellence (CCE), Collin was able to craft a compelling application.

Collin notes: “Working with the CCE on the application process has been a dream. I hadn't seriously considered applying for a Fulbright until Laura Good convinced me otherwise and sent me directly to the CCE to meet with Mitch. The consultants at the CCE are experts at helping you take your raw ideas and filter them into a cohesive and cogent response that strengthens your goals and makes your application shine. In fact, working with the writing advisors has shifted my perspective on graduate school and helped me to hone my research interests, giving me better direction in both my academic and personal life. The CCE is a fantastic resource and their encouragement and support have helped me stay committed throughout this journey.


Min Zhang Offered Data Scientist Intern Position at Google


Min Zhang, a Ph.D. student majoring in Statistics, received an offer from Google to be a Data Scientist intern in the summer of 2019. This position requires a solid background in quantitative methods, strong skills in statistical modeling, and demonstrated intellectual merit. Min’s role at Google will involve working with large, complex geographical data sets to solve non-routine analysis problems by applying advanced analytical methods. The first screening round for applications is incredibly competitive, so Min deeply appreciates the generous help with her application materials provided by Mitch Stephenson, a CCE writing consultant, and Karin, the Graduate Career Services coordinator.

Min remarks: “I was quite unsure about my internship application for the position of Data Scientist, and this offer from Google was in fact beyond my expectation. Mitch and Karin provided generous help with my application materials, including the curriculum vitae and cover letter. They gave me some professional suggestions that were quite useful for my preparation this time, and will also be useful for my future career. My consulting experience proved that they are excellent at digging out a candidate’s potential to match the employers’ needs. The CCE is definitely a great resource for job/intern hunters, because shining your selling points to others is, to some degree, an art of language, and the CCE is really good at this.


Majd Abdulghani Named Rhodes Scholar


Iowa State University alumna Majd Abdulghani, a student in the Genetics and Genomics M.S. program, was named the recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, becoming the first ever Rhodes scholar from Saudi Arabia and the first Iowa State Rhodes scholar since 1995. While a student at ISU, Majd applied for the Rhodes Scholarship, a prestigious scholarship for individuals who are eager to enact and show enormous potential to affect positive change in the world. Rhodes scholars receive a fully funded education at Oxford University for two to three years in the field of their choosing. Majd completed her Rhodes Scholarship application with the help and encouragement of the ISU Honor's program staff, namely Laura Good and Dr. Svitlana Zbarska, and the Center for Communication Excellence (CCE), especially writing consultant Mitch. Majd remarks:

Majd remarks: “I barely dared to dream of even making it to the finalist stage, but here we are! Without Mitch's help, I doubt that I would have reached this stage as smoothly as I did. Mitch is a superb person to work with: easy to talk to, encouraging, and has a really good grasp of what scholarships like the Rhodes are asking for. Beyond helping me make my writing and my application stand out, he helped me better understand and articulate myself and my goals. These things have not only been beneficial for scholarship applications, but benefited my professional skills in general. Thank you to everyone in the CCE! You guys are awesome!


Taichi Yamashita's Journal Article Accepted for Publication


Taichi Yamashita, a doctoral student majoring in Applied Linguistics and Technology in the Department of English at Iowa State. Taichi published a manuscript in a prominent disciplinary journal, Computer Assisted Language Learning, which disseminates research about the use of computers in language learning, teaching, and testing. Taichi’s paper contributes to the field by reporting on the comparative effects of different feedback on the development of a second language. In the process of revising the manuscript, he gained considerable support from Liberato, our English Writing Consultant.

Liberato provided me with comprehensive feedback on my paper. In particular, the consultations helped me to clarify my thoughts and organize research procedures/findings in a more digestible way for readers. What I liked about the consultations is that the consultant was not directive at all. Rather, he was very dialogic, and we deliberated things together. I believe that the CCE is a great resource for graduate students who are struggling with any stage of working on academic papers.


Elizabeth Lee Awarded Brown Fellowship Award


Elizabeth Lee is a Ph.D. student in the Applied Linguistics and Technology program at Iowa State University (ISU). She awarded the 2018-2019 Brown FellowshipAward, an award granted to deserving recipients aiming to enhance their research in their disciplinary area. With the funding, Elizabeth will devote much of her time to evaluating a diagnostic reading test given to non-native English speakers at ISU. Her project addresses a substantial missed opportunity in ESL reading assessment and pedagogy. Her research will reinforce the strength of using mixed methods to evaluate the validity of local language assessments and will also set an example for conducting systemic functional linguistic analysis in the realm of language assessment and evaluation.

Elizabeth extends a huge thanks to the CCE, and especially CCE writing consultant Mitch Stephenson, for helping her create a compelling fellowship application.


Hardeep Obhi Awarded Prestigious NIH Grant


Hardeep Obhi is a doctoral student majoring in Gerontology and an Interdisciplinary Writing Consultant for the Center for Communication Excellence. She was awarded a prestigious F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowshipfrom the National Institute of Aging in the National Institutes of Health. In her proposal, titled Biopsychosocial Reserves and Dementia: Identifying Life-span Protective Factors, she plans to utilize longitudinal data and interdisciplinary techniques to assess life-span protective factors against cognitive decline and dementia. Hardeep will augment training available to her at Iowa State University with support from this grant by partaking in rotations with mentors across the U.S., learning about the epidemiology of dementia, understanding biological underpinnings of cognitive dysfunction, and refining her analytical prowess. Results of her project will contribute to the understanding of life-span biopsychosocial reserves to promote cognitive health in later life as well as having implications for developing interventions and preventions for cognitive decline. We extend a big congratulations to Hardeep in this incredible achievement.


Liberato Silva dos Santos Selected for the ETS Summer Pre-Doctoral Research Experience Program


Liberato Silva dos Santos is a PhD student in the Applied Linguistics and Technology program at Iowa State University (ISU) and works as an English Writing Consultant in ISU’s Center for Communication Excellence. Liberato was selected for an eight-week Summer Pre-Doctoral Research Experience program at Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, NJ taking place in the summer of 2018. As an ETS SPRE intern, Liberato will assist ETS researchers who work on the National Assessment of Educational Progress program by addressing a key subject or technical need within NAEP or K12. He will assist his research mentor with investigating a business research issue specific to the project and will produce beginning plans for an innovative business-driven project. Liberato will also present his work in a public forum at ETS and gain exposure to research and working within a testing and assessment organization.

My current research and future dissertation is on language assessment and testing, so I could not be happier having the opportunity to be a research intern at ETS. I credit part of my success to the high quality, straightforward, "eagle-eye" input and feedback I received from fellow CCE writing consultants in a series of on-site and online consultations I attended. The combined feedback I received from consultants Angelica, Mitch, Angie, and Idée made my job application materials go from OK to excellent. My thanks also go to Sarah Huffman and Elena Cotos for providing such quality training to all CCE writing consultants and for bringing together such a diverse group, coming from different departments and fields of expertise. I believe this diversity was also crucial in enhancing my job application materials. So, this is a big thank you to all of you GPMs and supervisors at the CCE who helped me get here.”


Mohamed Elkashef Announced Recipient of 2018 Karas Award


Mohamed Elkashef, a recent PhD graduate from the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University (ISU), was awarded the ISU Graduate College's 2018 Karas Award, an award recognizing an outstanding dissertation that provides an original and unusually significant contribution. Elkashef was also awarded an honorable mention for the Zaffarano Award, which acknowledges superior performance in publishable research. Mohamed is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis. Elkashef shares his experience working with our writing consultants and how it helped him throughout his studies.

The ability to disseminate my research findings was crucial to my success. For many graduate students, writing up their research is a daunting task that can be more challenging than conducting the actual research. I had the chance to work with Sarah and Monica, CCE writing consultants, who provided me with invaluable feedback on my writing. They also guided me to a number of online resources available through the CCE thatproved very helpful to me. Working with the CCE allowed me to produce well-written manuscripts that required little editorial assistance from my faculty advisor and co-authors and progressed quickly through the publication process. As a graduate student, I had an excellent publication record, which earned me two Research Excellence Awards from the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Graduate College at ISU. Upon graduation, I received the Karas Award and an honorable mention on the Zaffarano Award. I owe this success to the many resources and facilities available to me at ISU, and the CCE was one of the greatest resources that majorly contributed to my success.


Reetam Das Awarded NSF Teaching Fellowship


Reetam Das is master’s student in the Mechanical Engineering department. Reetam was awarded a fellowship by the Trinect program, a program run by ISU in partnership with Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Trinect program aims to support 3rd to 5th grade elementary school teachers and student teachers to inspire K-12 students to take up a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As a Trinect fellow, Reetam will act as a resident engineer in a triad with a student teacher in training and a cooperating teacher to help with planning and supporting enhanced learning of math and science and to act as a role model in the field. In the process of applying for this fellowship, Reetam worked with Jenny, our Interdisciplinary Writing Consultant, to build his application essay.

Reetam says: “Jenny assisted me to structure the essay in a manner that helped me convey my thoughts in a more impactful and concise manner. Her input helped me improve the quality of my work drastically, and that helped me immensely to secure this fellowship. In my opinion, the CCE is a very valuable resource available to the students of ISU and I look forward to working with the writing consultants in the future as well.”