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College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recognizes outstanding graduate students


BLACKSBURG, Va., May 3, 2010 – Virginia Tech has named S. Wyatt Chocklett the Outstanding Master's Student and Shawn Rosenquist the Outstanding Doctoral Student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for the 2009-10 academic year.

S. Wyatt Chocklett of Mauldin, S.C., graduated with a master’s degree from the Department of Biochemistry in December 2009. Chocklett focused his research on a novel enzyme from Aspergillus fumigatus, a fungus known to cause disease in immuno-compromised individuals. The enzyme contributes to the biosynthesis of iron-chelating compounds called siderophores, which factor into the virulence of A. fumigatus and, therefore, may be a drug target.

Only five months after joining the Department of Biochemistry, Chocklett participated in the second International Interdisciplinary Conference on Vitamins, Coenzymes, and Biofactors in Athens, Ga. His exemplary research permitted him to take part in six other local, regional, and national conferences, including the 238th American Chemical Society National Meeting in Washington, D.C. In addition to receiving the James F. Eheart Travel Award and a travel award from the Graduate Student Assembly, Chocklett earned the Alice M. Bruner Award for the best presentation in the chemistry section of the 87th Virginia Academy of Science meeting.

Under the supervision of Pablo Sobrado, assistant professor of biochemistry, Chocklett has a paper under review in the journal Biochemistry and another manuscript in progress. During his time at Virginia Tech, Chocklett mentored undergraduate students in the Department of Biochemistry and a high school student conducting research at the university as part of an outreach service. He was also a teaching assistant for the undergraduate course Biochemistry for Biotechnology and the Life Sciences.

In 2007, Chocklett received bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry with honors from Newberry College in South Carolina. A year later, the Newberry College Alumni Association awarded him the Phillip T. Kelly Jr. Outstanding Young Alumnus Award.

Shawn Rosenquist of Kernersville, N.C., a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, will complete his Ph.D. in May. He has worked with David Vaughan, professor of biological systems engineering, and W. Cully Hession, associate professor of biological systems engineering, to research the development of urban wetland filters for managing phosphorus in stormwater. Designed to overcome the limitations of natural treatment strategies on high land-value areas and provide an easy, low-cost best management practice to reduce phosphorus, urban wetland filters minimize the required size of natural treatment strategies and maintain removal capacity through a periodic rejuvenation process that also enables harvest of phosphorus for other uses.

Rosenquist has published an article in the Journal of Ecological Engineering and is in the process of completing two additional journal articles. He has also made six presentations on his research at national and international conferences and served as a teaching assistant for several classes in the department.

In addition to his research endeavors, Rosenquist has been involved in a number of service opportunities at Virginia Tech. He was a graduate student mentor to biological systems engineering seniors in the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. He has also worked with the Town of Christiansburg and Montgomery County on cleanup of local streams and stormwater structures. He has traveled to Guatemala to provide technical assistance to alleviate upland erosion problems and to the Dominican Republic to help establish an ultraviolet water treatment system at the Veron Rural Clinic, a Virginia Tech project in Punta Cana.

Rosenquist completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University in 2004. During his four years as an undergraduate, he helped build houses in five states with the North Carolina State Habitat for Humanity organization.