Five Binghamton University students are among the recipients of the new SUNY Graduate Research Empowering and Accelerating Talent (GREAT) award, which grants $5,000 in funding to selected graduate researchers in science-related fields.

These five students are among 22 recipients across the SUNY system. All 22 students have previously received fellowships from various organizations, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The five BU student recipients — Siara Rouzer, a sixth-year Ph.D. student studying behavioral neuroscience, Andrew Vore, a sixth-year Ph.D. student studying behavioral neuroscience, Michael Shaw, a second-year Ph.D. student studying clinical psychology, Lamar Thomas, a third-year Ph.D. student studying biological science, and Bernard Stevenson, a third-year Ph.D. student studying chemistry — are from a variety of departments. Their research focuses on topics ranging from the long-term effects of substance abuse to prenatal alcohol exposure.

BU President Harvey Stenger spoke to how the grants reflect on the University.

“These GREAT awards will help our graduate students to conduct research with real impact in critical areas facing our nation today,” Stenger said. “That five of the 22 awards are going to [BU] students is a testament to the strength of research being conducted at our University. I thank SUNY for giving our students this opportunity and look forward to what our researchers can do.”

Vore, who is studying the long-term consequences of adolescent binge drinking, credited his achievements to the learning environment at BU.

“The time that I have spent in [BU] has been defined by the superb mentorship of my mentor [Terrence Deak, professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience area coordinator,] and the support of my fellow students and faculty as a whole,” Vore wrote in an email. “Any success I achieve I consider to be a reflection of the fantastic learning environment that has been cultivated here and that I have benefited from, and it is always nice to receive affirmation that the work the lab is doing is being recognized as valuable and [to] be able to bring good news to the lab!”

Vore said he hopes his research lessens the stigma associated with mental illness and substance dependence.

“These disorders are increasingly relevant in today’s society, and I hope that whatever small contributions we make promotes that these are biologically rooted disorders and lessens the stigma often facing individuals struggling with such issues,” Vore wrote. “Hopefully all of the work in this field encourages more individuals to seek help, promotes acceptance and understanding and ultimately contributes to more effective treatment options to help with this growing crisis.”

Shaw’s research focuses on cognitive flexibility, the ability to switch one’s thinking between multiple concepts, and how that can be used in the treatment of maladaptive behaviors, such as cigarette-smoking. Shaw said he hopes his research will aid in the development of clinical interventions for pathologies.

“I want others to gain an appreciation of the power of our mental and psychological processes, to understand that the way we think affects our bodies in profound ways,” Shaw wrote.

Rouzer, who is studying the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure, aims to dispel the myths around alcohol consumption in pregnancy.

“I hope my research will help challenge the notion of ‘safe’ alcohol consumption during pregnancy and promote complete abstinence to ensure optimal health outcomes for developing children,” Rouzer wrote.

Rouzer said she believes the GREAT grant will have a positive impact in the future.

“I didn’t learn about the SUNY GREAT award until I was emailed this past January to fill out an eligibility form for the award,” Rouzer wrote. “I later learned that we are among the first cohort of winners of this award, and I’m certain moving forward this will be a wonderful motivator for SUNY students to apply for external funding for their research.”

Thomas, who is studying women’s health and reproduction, aims to characterize the gene that influences the colonization of a bacteria known as GBS, which can be harmful to newborns if transmitted during labor. Thomas said she hopes that her research will show others that anything is possible.

“I hope people will realize that nothing is unreachable,” Thomas wrote. “Be perseverant and determined in attaining your goals!”