From basic lab research to applied field studies, postdoctoral fellows contribute to the breadth and diversity of UNL’s research enterprise.
Christopher Chizinski and Alan Veliz-Cuba, winners of the 2012 Outstanding Postdoc Awards given by UNL’s Office of Postdoctoral Studies, exemplify these contributions.
Better management of Nebraska fisheries is Chizinski’s goal for the Nebraska Angler Survey project. The Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit at UNL and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission collaborate on the annual survey of up to 15,000 anglers, which shows the impact of recreational fishing on Nebraska lakes and reservoirs. Chizinski works with state biologists to improve survey methodology, including more accurate ways to track when and where people fish. A $3.1 million grant from the commission supports this work.
The survey’s findings also inform Chizinski’s research on how predators – in this case, anglers – affect life-history traits of fish, such as reproductive age and offspring size.
Since 2010, Chizinski has co-authored 17 peer-reviewed articles and is a key contributor to research led by his mentor, fisheries ecologist Kevin Pope, assistant unit leader. Chizinski also has held Postdoc Advisory Council leadership positions.
Mathematical modeling enables Veliz-Cuba to unravel the complexities of biological networks. He found that Boolean networks can be used to predict how individual genes behave depending on the circumstances being tested. By assigning mathematical values to cell proteins, Veliz-Cuba can detect patterns in how proteins interact. This could give biologists valuable information about how a single gene change affects an entire biological network.
Mentors Carina Curto and Vladimir Itskov, assistant professors of mathematics, have used Veliz-Cuba’s modeling expertise in new mathematical neuroscience projects.
While at UNL, Veliz-Cuba authored or co-authored 10 publications and was faculty adviser for the Nebraska Research Experience for Undergraduates in Applied Mathematics, a summer workshop funded by the National Science Foundation. He’s now at the University of Houston.
“Chris and Alan exemplify what it means to be researchers, teachers and scholars,” said Richard Lombardo, director of the postdoctoral studies office, a resource for professional and career development and support for postdocs and faculty. “Not only are they highly productive, innovative researchers, they are outstanding mentors to our students.”