2014-2015 Outstanding Thesis Award Winners

Daniel Gray

Daniel Gray

Daniel Gray, M.A. in Education: Holistic and Integrative Education

As a teacher at Idyllwild Arts Academy, Daniel Gray is accustomed to taking a unique approach to education. Nestled in California’s San Jacinto Mountains, the Arts Academy is an innovative residential high school that teaches creative writing, dance, theater, film, and visual arts to students from around the world. However, no matter the talent, Daniel notes that a life in the arts is not an easy path; many young artists face immense challenges in pursuit of their careers. In order to equip his students with the tools to meet the challenges ahead, Daniel focused his energy on developing a curriculum that addresses personal growth, balanced living, and coping skills. The result is documented in his project, The Creative Warrior, A Holistic Approach to Health and Longevity. His innovative work has helped propel his career forward and earned him the Outstanding Project Award for 2015-2016.

Daniel’s new curriculum addresses the demands of being an artist. Reflecting on the lives of the many great artists whose brilliant careers were cut short due to an inability to cope with the weight of their unique professions, Daniel decided to create a curriculum for budding artists that would address the need for more effective coping and life skills.

He describes it as “a holistic approach to health and longevity. It encompasses the mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and environmental aspects of successful living.” The course units explore personal goals, values, community leadership, connection to the environment, and techniques for stress management, relaxation, and healthy living. The curriculum was evaluated by experts in these fields.

Daniel’s original intention was to teach the course himself. However, the moment he had his diploma in hand, he was offered a promotion to an administrative position. “I literally had just picked up my diploma at the post office and had it in my backpack when the school administrator offered me a position as Director of Student Life,” he commented. Now Daniel plans to use his new administrative position to apply his curriculum on a broader scale through school-wide activities. His curriculum will positively impact the lives of a new generation of artists.



Alicia Davis, M.S. in Biology

Alicia Davis was awarded the 2015-2016 Outstanding Thesis Award for her exceptional thesis, Characterization of Influenza Nucleoprotein Body Domain as Antiviral Target. Her research examined antiviral targets for influenza and could potentially lead to new, more effective flu vaccines. The Influenza A virus is ever changing, so vaccinations developed to combat one strain may not be effective when a new strain emerges. As Alicia explains in her thesis, the influenza A virus contains eight genome segments that reconfigure to form new subtypes of the flu, causing new outbreaks and sometimes leading to influenza pandemics.

Alicia’s research focused on conserved domains of the viral nucleoprotein (NP), a more stable antiviral target less likely to mutate than other influenza proteins. Her work involved altering an NP protein and mimicking replication of the virus, resulting in changes in amino acids. Her research supports further investigation into the development of antiviral drugs that target this NP body domain.

The quality and significance of Alicia’s work is well recognized: She has been published in the peer reviewed journal, Virology, and is the recipient of two prestigious research awards, the Southern California American Society for Microbiology MS Student Research Award, and the CSUPERB Don Eden Graduate Student Research Award.

Alicia is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at the City of Hope in southern California. After receiving her degree, she plans to complete a postdoctoral fellowship, then pursue a career in academia. Her contributions to her field will help lead to more effective antiviral medications and improve the lives of many.

The Office of Graduate Studies offers a hearty congratulations to Daniel and Alicia. We wish them the best in their careers!