Postdoctoral researchers create opportunities for growth at Kennesaw State
KENNESAW, Ga. (May 21, 2021) — Kennesaw State University is building its research muscle through the addition of postdoctoral researchers — non-faculty staff who work to advance the institution’s scientific investigation in a wide range of disciplines.
Since 2020, Kennesaw State has added 10 postdoctoral researchers across five colleges, including several postdoctoral researchers who are the first for the departments and colleges they serve. It’s a natural part of KSU’s growth as a research university, according to Bill Diong, associate vice president for research.
These researchers play a significant role in Kennesaw State’s overall research strategy. They carry out research projects, contribute to research papers and grant proposals, and are vital in facilitating research lab work for undergraduate and graduate students, Diong explained. Postdoctoral work is a common step for aspiring researchers to continue their training, while also gaining the necessary research experience for thriving in their future academic or industry careers.
“While KSU continues to pursue additional Ph.D. programs to aid its quest to become one of the best R2 institutions in the country, postdoctoral researchers play an extremely valuable role in supporting our students, too,” said Diong. “In addition to research, they mentor undergraduate and graduate research students and teach classes which afford opportunities for bringing inspirational, state-of-the-art ideas into our classrooms.”
Discovering new chemical compounds
Janet Arras is the first full-time postdoctoral research scientist to work in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the University’s College of Science and Mathematics. With expertise in synthetic inorganic chemistry, crystallography and computational chemistry, she works in the laboratory of Michael Stollenz, assistant professor of organometallic and inorganic chemistry.
A native of Germany, Arras earned a doctorate in inorganic synthesis and coordination chemistry with a focus on main group elements and late transition metal complexes.
In the two years Arras has spent at KSU, she has already made significant discoveries of new compounds in her research that have the potential to lead to a new generation of OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) materials for applications in flat screens and other electronic devices. Stollenz said he is amazed at her skill when obtaining experimental results, which are supported by her sophisticated computational studies.
“Her discovery is something which requires synthetic skills on a very high level, as the compounds are extremely sensitive to moisture, air, and light,” he said. “To handle such compounds is not possible for an undergraduate, or even graduate student.” Since coming to Kennesaw State, Arras has published two peer-reviewed journal articles as a co-author in the Stollenz group, with three additional manuscripts in progress.
Working to help children walk better
Leila Rahnama knew she wanted to help people as a physical therapy clinician after watching her mother rehabilitate disabled patients as a physical therapist in Iran. Today, after earning a doctorate from the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Rahnama is a postdoctoral researcher in Kennesaw State’s Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management. She is working with Mark Geil, professor of exercise science and department chair in the Wellstar College of Health and Human Services, as they try to create solutions for children who suffer from Idiopathic Toe Walking (ITW) and gait abnormalities, conditions they believe to be related to sensory processing issues.
As a part of her postdoctoral research, Rahnama has conducted large-scale data collection and analysis, written her first National Institutes of Health grant proposal, co-written two peer-reviewed journal articles with four other papers undergoing review, and prepared posters and video presentations. Rahnama recently received an award from the National Postdoctoral Association and accepted an invitation to present as a speaker at the World Physiotherapy Congress 2021.
Rahnama said she believes her experiences observing Geil and mentoring KSU students will help her become an effective leader and researcher. “I’m very passionate about finding the clinical benefits of research and using those findings to improve the health of people across the globe,” she said.
Exploring health disparities
Tyler Collette is the first postdoctoral researcher in the Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He works alongside Evelina Sterling, director of research development and strategic initiatives in the Office of Research and associate professor of sociology. Collette, who earned a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Texas, is writing grant proposals, collecting and analyzing data, and providing assistance to other KSU researchers with their qualitative and statistical analysis needs.
One of the grants Collette is working on focuses on designing and testing a peer-led, self-management program that will help low-income Black men manage chronic health conditions and live a healthier life. Collette said that he and Sterling are identifying health disparities within this demographic as they aim to create a “culturally informed program that will help individuals working with chronic illnesses.”
Although most of his work is behind-the-scenes, Collette happily dubs himself “the nerd behind the computer” and says that Kennesaw State’s many resources and friendly staff make the entire process an enjoyable one. Ultimately, Collette says that he would like to develop a “multi-disciplinary, highly collaborative group of people that is focused on building on human strengths.” He said he is certain that this team will develop interventions that can help people to persevere during tough times.
– By Jacob Segura, Dorothy Corbett and Jhordan John
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.