SUNY Chancellor King Announces Annual Student Awards for Graduate Research Tackling Pressing Societal Issues Including Artificial Intelligence

May 9, 2024

27 Distinguished Doctoral Students Honored with Awards of $5,000 in Flexible Research Funds

SUNY GREAT Awardees Nationally Recognized for their High-Impact Research 

Awardees' Photos and Research Bios are Available Here

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor John B. King, Jr. today recognized 27 of SUNY’s outstanding researchers for their contributions to enhancing lives and solving society’s most pressing issues with the annual SUNY Graduate Research Empowering and Accelerating Talent (GREAT) awards. In addition to being selected for the 2024 GREAT award, each winner will receive $5,000 in flexible funding for research expenses, professional development, and stipend supplements. They have also been honored by National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

These 27 award-winning researchers are investigating topics such as how stars explode, and how AI can be used to promote scientific discovery; inventing self-cleaning solar panels and environmentally friendly batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid; as well as developing therapies to attack deadly brain tumors in children and defend organs from attack by patients’ own immune systems.

"Undertaking groundbreaking research requires long hours of dedication and patience to discover or innovate something that will bring about positive changes to people's lives. At SUNY, we are continuously making efforts to double down on our research," said SUNY Chancellor King. "From Artificial Intelligence to self-cleaning solar panels, and a better understanding about the aging process to help people grow older with a better quality of life, all are being done right here in New York State. I congratulate each of the 27 awardees for their dedication to improving the human condition."

SUNY Board Trustee Courtney Burke said, "As SUNY works to double research efforts across the system, this year's GREAT Awards winners serve as inspirational examples of that crucial part of our mission: seeking and finding solutions to our greatest quandaries. Whether it's in the growing field of artificial intelligence or in the fight against climate change, research is thriving at SUNY. On behalf of my colleagues on the Board of Trustees, we are grateful to each recipient for their unwavering dedication, and we congratulate them on this prestigious honor."

University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez said, "I am so proud of the three University at Albany graduate students who have been selected to receive the 2024 GREAT award. These researchers are breaking new ground in their fields, and they represent the future of research and scientific inquiry. These SUNY GREAT awards will go a long way toward supporting their professional development and academic ambitions."

Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger said, "The SUNY GREAT awards program is a terrific way to recognize and support the hard work, talent and passion of our most accomplished graduate students. These students are doing outstanding and meaningful research that is making a difference in our world. A GREAT award is a significant achievement and will boost these students on their journey toward a terminal degree or a career where they can further innovate positive solutions."

University at Buffalo Vice President for Research and Economic Development Venu Govindaraju said, "Congratulations to the exceptional SUNY GREAT awardees! Their groundbreaking research exemplifies SUNY's commitment to innovation and excellence. From unraveling the cosmos to harnessing AI, they inspire us all. We're proud to support their continued pursuit of knowledge and discovery."

SUNY ESF President Joanie Mahoney said, "Graduate students are an integral part of the ESF community, and their research adds immense value to ESF. We are exceptionally proud of Christian and Leah and extend our gratitude to Chancellor King and SUNY system for recognizing the role their work plays in helping to improve our world."

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis said, "As a flagship public research institution focused on innovating with purpose, Stony Brook is pleased to see our student scholars recognized for their research excellence, impact and promise as they examine society’s biggest challenges. Stony Brook congratulates each of the 2024 SUNY GREAT award honorees and is grateful to Chancellor King for his ongoing, visionary support of student research and innovation."

Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan said, "Congratulations to these SUNY students and to SUNY for bestowing such recognition on these outstanding young scientists. Research plays a major focus in Upstate’s mission to improve the health of our communities. Nicholas and Victoria and the other students honored today prove that the future of scientific discovery is bright."

This year, 41% of the SUNY GREAT awards go to native New Yorkers, who are enrolled at a greater variety of SUNY institutions than ever: Stony Brook University, the University at Buffalo, the University at Albany, Binghamton University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Although nationally, women tend to be underrepresented in STEM fields, two thirds of the awardees this year are women, a trend that has risen steadily in the past four years. About 15% identify with groups who are ethnically or racially under-represented in science and academia. As undergraduates, nearly one in five were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree, and over 65% of them worked their way through college. Many of these rising stars are home-grown; seven were undergraduates at a SUNY comprehensive or R1 university center before enrolling in their SUNY doctoral programs.

University at Albany 
  • Dylan Ehrbar, Biological Sciences and Biology 
  • Nathan F. Gillespie, Cognitive Psychology
  • Alex Lemus, Biological Sciences
Binghamton University 
  • Janelle Baetiong Talavera, Biological Sciences
University at Buffalo 
  • Kaelyn Burns, Epidemiology and Environmental Health
  • Adam DeHollander, Industrial and Systems Engineering: Operations Research
  • Beryl Guterman, Microbiology and Immunology 
  • Achamaporn Punnantinont, Oral Biology
  • Tyler Rolland, Physiology and Biophysics 
  • Shaunna Simmons, Microbiology and Immunology
  • Theresa Wrynnm, Oral Biology
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry 
  • Christian L. Bright, Environmental Science
  • Leah Davis Rubin, Environmental Biology 
Stony Brook University 
  • Sarah Barkley, Clinical Psychology
  • Xiao Han, Microbiology and Immunology 
  • Eunice Kim, Pharmacology
  • Connor Lawhead, Clinical Psychology
  • Steven M. Lewis, Genetics, Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)
  • Marie Francoise Millares, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Ava Nederlander, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Jennifer Jiyoun Park, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology
  • Melissa Rasmussen, Physics and Astronomy
  • James St. John, Materials Science
  • Courtney Tello, Cellular Biology and Biochemistry Department
  • Lucia Yang, Genetics, Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) 
Upstate Medical Sciences University 
  • Nicholas Brennan, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Victoria Zoccoli-Rodriguez, Microbiology and Immunology

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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