UI engineering student takes campus, state, and regional honors
Thursday, April 11, 2013

It’s National Student Employment Week, and this year nine University of Iowa undergraduates demonstrate how students keep a university working.

Andrew Michalski is the university’s 2013 Student Employee of the Year, as well as the state of Iowa winner and the regional honoree selected by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators. Arlene Freudenberg receives a certificate of distinction from the UI, while certificates of appreciation go to Griffin Idleman, Elizabeth Jasper, Peter “Will” Johnson, Shuhui Lin, Ryan Lutter, Onalee Yousey, and Zihan Zhu.

“Each year, more than 8,000 students hold part-time and work-study positions across campus,” says Cindy Seyfer, senior associate director for the Office of Student Financial Aid. “They make remarkable contributions to the university, and often find that working part time serves their academic and career goals, too.”

Seyfer says Michalski is the UI’s first regional winner since 2000. He and his fellow awardees were honored at an April 10 reception hosted by UI President Sally Mason.

Read on to meet each of this year’s UI honorees.

Andrew Michalski, Department of Internal Medicine

Michalski’s work as a student research assistant is helping investigators understand cystic fibrosis and eventually develop new treatments for the inherited lung disease.

“Andrew has taken ownership of portions of projects that include development of stereological methods to assess alveolar surface area in pig models of cystic fibrosis,” says David Stoltz, assistant professor of internal medicine who nominated Michalski for the honor. “He was the first in our lab to successfully measure airway resistance in cystic fibrosis and control pigs.”

The Menomonee Falls, Wis., native is a second author on one forthcoming scientific paper and will be co-author on two additional manuscripts. His work also provided preliminary data for a grant that will help the lab continue its work.

The project requires unusual hours, short notice, and consistent performance under stressful conditions. Michalski’s colleagues praise his willingness to take on late-night and early-morning monitoring duties to help out the project, and say his generosity, professionalism, strong research, and can-do attitude keep everyone motivated.

Arlene Freudenberg, UI Health Care Marketing and Communications

As an intern, Freudenberg’s work focuses on social media projects that support the UI Children’s Hospital, helping her office integrate social media with established communication channels.

“Thanks to Arlene, we’ve improved the Children’s Hospital’s presence on YouTube and Twitter, and officially launched a Children’s Hospital Facebook page,” says Cheryl Hodgson, a marketing specialist who nominated the Cedar Falls, Iowa, native for recognition.

Freudenberg’s work is yielding results. Facebook “likes” for the Children’s Hospital page have gone from about 600 to more than 14,000 in just six months. Tweets have tripled, while YouTube views have increased by more than half.

Griffin Idleman, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

A student technician for the college’s IT unit and the Rapid Prototype Facility, Idleman provides front-line tech support for software, hardware, and more, including two 3D printers.

Andrew Evans, IT support consultant at the School of Art and Art History, nominated the Granger, Iowa, native, citing Idleman’s reliability and capacity to inspire trust among faculty and staff.

Last fall, Idleman introduced new ways of managing correspondence and work logs, saving time and creating a clear record of communications. He’s also developed two Java applications that import variables to provide accurate cost estimates.

Elizabeth A. Jasper, Department of Biology

An Independence, Iowa, native, Jasper serves as a laboratory assistant with a group that supports most of the departments teaching labs, including seven different courses and six classrooms.

Nominator Olga Miakotina, an instructional services specialist, highlighted Jasper’s work on new lab exercises and student activities that have enhanced the Human Biology course, turning a classical lab into an interactive classroom. Thanks to her work, students take the lead in searching out and presenting background information, as well as performing and interpreting independent experiments.

“With all the time pressure of her role, Elizabeth has worked with fellow lab assistants to ensure all tasks are completed on time, every time,” Miakotina says.

Peter “Will” Johnson, UI Health Care Marketing and Communications

Johnson has become his department’s resident expert with online market research tools, and also has stepped in to help film a web video for the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Eagan, Minn., native earns praise for his written communication skills. Dan Fischer, the marketing specialist who nominated Johnson, notes that Johnson has become lead writer for multiple projects, including UI Health Care’s Iowa State Fair booth.

Johnson helped create a healthy living website and developed a backdrop wall for the fair, researching 100 tips for health that became a blog and a mobile download. His work sent him to a national conference.

Shuhui Lin, International Student and Scholar Services

Lin is a peer assistant with the Life in Iowa program in International Student and Scholars Services in UI International Programs. the Life in Iowa program orients new international students. The job includes running events, creating promotional materials, and developing strategies to boost participation.

Nominators Robert Gutwein and Michael Bortscheller, both educational support services specialists, credit Lin’s work for more than doubling attendance as events. Her creativity, initiative, and confidence help international students feel welcome.

Lin is originally from Guangzhou, China.

Ryan Lutter, University Housing and Dining

Lutter hasn’t missed a single shift in three semesters as a lead dining associate, consistently performing above and beyond the expectations of his job, says Julie Hamel, catering, dining, and event services coordinator for the Burge Market Place.

During last fall’s finals week, Lutter organized lead dining associate coverage to ensure adequate coverage while preserving students’ study and test time. His initiative and interest in learning every student position has made him a valuable trainer and an influence on the unit’s training plans.

Colleagues say the Wonder Lake, Ill., native is also the most rapidly promoted student employee in his department.

Onalee Yousey, UI Honors Program

As liaison to the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (ICFRC), Yousey worked with professional staff to complete hundreds of Honors Commendation Certificates. Peers look to her as a mentor and role model, says LaShelle Christensen, activities director for the program.

A native of North Branch, Minn., Yousey has worked closely with faculty and city representatives to bring international speakers to Iowa City. She provides the lone student voice on the ICFRC board.

The role has let her meet diplomats, international medical professionals, writers and others.

Zihan Zhu, Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

A research assistant nominated by Kevin Campbell, professor of physiology and biophysics, Zhu has learned techniques for cell culture, gel electrophoresis, Western blotting, and other skills that make her an asset to the lab.

The Zhejiang, China, native joined a postdoctoral fellow in showing that amino acid residues Thr-317 and -319 of the a-dystroglycan protein are responsible for its ligand binding activity, a discovery that may help guide therapies for muscular dystrophy.

Zhu’s work also was crucial to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where she’s listed as a co-author.