Wayne State University Graduate School hosts competition to recognize excellence at the master's level

The Wayne State University Graduate School sponsored an internal competition to choose nominees for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS)/ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards that recognize excellence in scholarship and research at the master’s level. 

The winners received a $500 award from WSU and were submitted as the university's nominees for the national competition.

Congratulations to the 2024 WSU winners!

Award category for life sciences

Despina TsitlakidouDespina Tsitlakidou
Thesis: ‘The sweet smell of mystery: the scent glands of oncopeltus fasciatus.’ 
Biological sciences

Insects are the most diverse group of animals on the planet, and an important contribution to their evolutionary success is their ability to adapt to different environments and defend against predation. The model organism Tsitlakidou studied, Oncopeltus fasciatus, has specialized exocrine glands called scent glands that secrete an oily liquid, which act as a chemical deterrent against predators. The aim of her thesis was to gain insight into the genetic regulatory networks leading to the development of these specialized glands. 

In Drosophila, it was discovered that tracheal development genes were found in endocrine glands. Complementary studies done in Oncopeltus confirmed these findings and additionally documented that these tracheal genes are also localized in the scent glands. Tsitlakidou’s research studied the genetic mechanisms leading to the development of oenocytes, the scent gland precursors, through functional testing (RNAi) and in situ hybridization. These studies demonstrate that the tracheal, endocrine, and specialized exocrine systems in insects have a similar genetic regulatory network and therefore, a common primordia.

“I was pleasantly surprised to be nominated for this award, and appreciate this acknowledgement of my work,” Tsitlakidou said. “This would not have been possible without the previous student, Dr. Lisa Hanna, who's work on the Oncopeltus tracheal system lay the foundation for my project.”

Award category for arts/humanities 

Keaton Soto-OlsonKeaton Soto-Olsen
Thesis: ‘The house Detroit built: house music in techno city.’ 

Soto-Olson’s research centers around the history of the early house music scene in Detroit, genre distinctions between house and techno, DJ performance practice, and the interplay between the two genres. Detroit is known in electronic music circles as Techno City, but the history of electronic music in Detroit encompasses much more. Soto-Olson gained a more holistic perspective about the subject though interviews with DJs and experts of the music industry in Detroit. His interview with the ‘Godmother of House,’ DJ Stacey ‘Hotwaxx’ Hale, was particularly valuable in providing a firsthand account of the development of the house scene in the city. 

“It is great to be recognized for my academic work with this nomination,” Soto-Olson said. “Not only does it affirm my personal efforts, the nomination is also a testament to the guidance of my advisor, Dr. Joshua Duchan, the support of the music department, and the overall education I received during my studies at Wayne State.” 

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