Tracy Hammer Graduate Student Award for Professional Development

Nominate an alumnus or faculty member

The Tracy A. Hammer Graduate Student Award for Professional Development is presented to an outstanding graduate student in support of their professional development. Nominees must be pursuing a degree in the College of Natural Science

Faculty and students may submit a nomination.

The award is presented at the annual alumni awards held in conjunction with Classes Without Quizzes.

The award was renamed in 1996 to memorialize 1995 co-recipient Tracy Anne Hammer. A native of New York, Hammer was the first dual degree candidate to pursue a doctoral degree in animal genetics through the Department of Microbiology and Veterinary Medicine. Her research centered on canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Hammer died in a plane crash shortly before graduation and her degree was awarded posthumously.

The Tracy A. Hammer award recipients receive a one-time stipend of $750 funded by the NatSci AA Endowed Scholarship Fund. Your gift to this fund will enable the College of Natural Science to grow the scholarship amount granted to future award winners.

Questions? Please contact Sara Ford via email or (517) 884-0290.

2017 Tracy A. Hammer Graduate Student Award

Connie Rojas
Integrative Biology and Ecology

Connie Rojas is a promising and diligent graduate student who is working toward a dual Ph.D.—in integrative biology; and ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior. She has enormous potential to develop into a first-rate scientist, and is highly motivated to do outstanding research and service.

A first-generation and low-income Mexican-American, Rojas has faced many barriers to her success. However, she has thrived due to her relentless determination, grit, and perseverance. Here at MSU, she has been the recipient of prestigious awards like the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship and MSU University Distinguished Fellowship. Most recently, she was awarded the Council of Graduate Students Disciplinary Leadership Award and a research grant from MSU’s BEACON Center.

For her research, Rojas uses field behavioral data, next generation sequencing technologies and computation tools to study the stability, structure, and functional contributions of the gut microbiome of wild spotted hyenas. She has presented her work at the conferences of the Animal Behavior Society and the Society for the Advancement of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American Students in Science (SACNAS).

Rojas is proving to not only be a top STEM researcher, but also an exemplary leader with a deep commitment to the community. Most of her leadership is focused on improving the welfare of underrepresented students and increasing their participation in STEM. She is president of the MSU chapter of SACNAS, and treasurer of the Michigan Indigena/Chicanx Community Alliance. She is also involved in her program’s graduate student organization and is helping organize their upcoming research symposium.

Rojas will use this award to fund her travel to the field in Kenya this upcoming academic year.

Past Recipients

  • 1993 – Philip Schultz, Chemistry
  • 1994 – Nancy S. Barta, Chemistry
  • 1995 – Jose de Ondarza, Physiology and Tracy A. Hammer, Microbiology and Veterinary Medicine
  • 1996 – Eleny-Nicoleta Ionel, Mathematics and Tedi Draghici, Mathematics
  • 1997 – Matthew Gardner, Chemistry and Vaughn Wagner, Zoology
  • 1998 – Mark A. Waner, Chemistry
  • 1999 – Thomas A. Cullen, Chemistry
  • 2000 – Micah Stowe, Chemistry
  • 2002 – Shannon Haymond, Chemistry and Shibani Mukherjee, Microbiology & Molecular Genetics
  • 2003 – Emil Bozin, Physics & Astronomy
  • 2004 – Anne Fischer, Chemistry
  • 2005 – Melissa Meaney, Chemistry
  • 2006 – Ellen Wilch, Genetics Program
  • 2007 – Rashad Simmons, Chemistry
  • 2008 – Ed Kabara, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Jaime Kopper, Cell & Molecular Biology Program
  • 2009 – Kimberly Cervello, Science and Mathematics Education and David Duriancik, Food Science & Human Nutrition
  • 2010 – Samuel Pappas, Physiology and Sarah Heim, Physics & Astronomy
  • 2011 – Tomomi Suwa, Plant Biology
  • 2012 – Arvind Jaganathan, Chemistry
  • 2013 – Alexandria Theakston Musselman, Program in Mathematics Education and Emily Weigel, Zoology
  • 2014 - Kumar Ashtekar, Chemistry
  • 2015 - Jie Li, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Elizabeth Schultheis, Plant Biology
  • 2016 - Paula Gajewski, Genetics Program and Patricia Jaimes Department of Geological Sciences