Outstanding students and faculty honored during Virginia Tech Graduate Education Week

At the Virginia Tech Graduate School's annual awards dinner held during Graduate Education Week, two veterinary college students and a faculty member were among those receiving recognition for outstanding service, teaching, research, academic performance, and mentoring. The award winners were also recognized during the Graduate School Commencement Ceremony.

Doctoral and master's degree students were nominated for the awards by their colleges, while faculty mentors were nominated by graduate students and faculty across the university.

Kristin Eden and Irving Coy Allen
The veterinary college's Outstanding Doctoral Student Kristin Eden with Irving Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Outstanding Doctoral Degree Student

Kristin Eden (biochemistry ’06, DVM ’10, Ph.D. ’18)

A veterinary pathologist whose research focuses on translational inflammation and cancer biology, Kristin Eden is an assistant professor in the Department of Basic Science Education at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) in Roanoke. For 10 weeks out of the year, she also serves as an attending pathologist at the veterinary college.

At VTCSOM, Eden is continuing her research on inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer, the focus of her doctoral work in the laboratory of Irving Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the veterinary college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

A Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, Eden was the first author or co-author on 11 publications as a graduate student and frequently delivered podium talks and posters at local, regional, national, and international symposia.

Eden "has a passion for pathology, mentorship, and education that will continue to benefit the students at both VTCSOM and the veterinary college," said Allen. "I look forward to seeing what the future brings and watching her succeed in her new endeavors."

The veterinary college's Outstanding Master's Degree Student Sarah Khatibzadeh

Outstanding Master's Degree Student

Sarah Khatibzadeh

Veterinarian Sarah Khatibzadeh, who earned her DVM from Cornell University, completed an M.S. in the Department of Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences and a large animal surgery residency at the veterinary college.

During a demanding clinical residency that required her to be on call for emergencies 50 percent of the time, Khatibzadeh provided some 39 weeks of daytime clinic coverage, participated in various rounds and journal clubs, and cycled through the residency’s requisite specialty service rotations.

The primary investigator on two research projects, Khatibzadeh played an integral role in writing several grant proposals for a clinical research project investigating the use of serum amyloid A levels for the diagnosis of septic arthritis in the horse.

Khatibzadeh "made a substantial contribution to the teaching environment in the hospital, has completed a complex research project proficiently, and will go on to make a lasting impact within the American College of Veterinary Surgeons," said Linda Dahlgren, associate professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

The Luo Lab (from left): Leila Abdelhamid, Xavier Cabana Puig, Xin Luo, Jiangdi Mao, and Brianna Swartwout

Outstanding Faculty Mentor

Xin Luo

Graduate students both thrive and excel academically under the mentorship of Xin Luo, an associate professor of immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. The Luo Lab researches the role of gut microbiome on the development of autoimmunity.

Not only has Dr. Luo molded "green" graduate students into full-fledged scientists, she has successfully guided students facing adversity and unanticipated impediments in either their personal or academic life. Though immeasurable, this support has had a tremendous impact on the future careers of her graduate students.

Multiple students under Dr. Luo's mentorship have been first authors of publications appearing in high-impact journals and have presented their research at national professional meetings. In addition, her graduate students continue to be sought-after as research scientists by many prominent institutions.

"I think I was nominated for always being supportive of my students, especially during the downtimes when experiments are not working," said Luo. "I would like to say that I am lucky that all of my students are highly motivated, which makes the mentoring a lot easier."

Graduate Student Association Research Symposium award winners

James Budnick received a silver award for his oral presentation. His mentor is Clay Caswell, assistant professor of bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Catherine Cowan received a gold award for her oral presentation. Her mentor is S. Ansar Ahmed, professor of immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Michael Edwards received a bronze award for his oral presentation. His mentor is S. Ansar Ahmed, professor of immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Alissa Hendricks received a gold award for her oral presentation. Her mentor is Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Holly Morrison received a silver award for her short presentation. Her mentor is Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Induction into the Virginia Tech Academy for Graduate Teaching Assistant Excellence

Hannah Leventhal, a resident in large animal internal medicine in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and an M.S. candidate in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program, was inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy for Graduate Teaching Assistant Excellence on March 26.