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University of Iowa News Release

April 12, 2006

UI Names Iowa Student Employees Of Year

A University of Iowa student who works as a UI Television (UITV) student video producer has been named the UI and state of Iowa Student Employee of the Year for 2005-2006.

Jeffrey J. Backerman of Spirit Lake, Iowa was selected from among 47 of the 11,000 UI student employees nominated by their supervisors for special recognition. The National Student Employment Association sponsors the National Student Employee of the Year competition annually and winners are announced in conjunction with the National Student Employment Week, which this year runs April 9-15. Students are selected based on the following criteria: reliability, quality of work, initiative, professionalism and uniqueness of contribution.

Other student employees also were recognized for their work. Holly Berg, a student assistant from Monmouth, Ill., who works in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Geoscience Paleontology Repository, was given a certificate of distinction. And certificates of appreciation were awarded to Sarasota, Fla., native Diana Gaines, an undergraduate student researcher and lab assistant in the Davidson Laboratory in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine; Alta Vista, Iowa, native Daniel Ries, who is head monitor of the Seashore Hall Instructional Technology Cluster (ITC); Derby, Iowa native Dianna Secrest, a student research assistant in the Carver College of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry; and Davenport, Iowa native Angela Viaene, an undergraduate research assistant in the Exercise Science Laboratory directed by Associate Professor Warren Darling.

"The university wishes to thank all student employees for their dedication to the job and their contributions to the university's goals," said Cindy Seyfer, associate director of Student Financial Aid at the UI. "It is quite an honor that this year's campus winner was also selected as the State of Iowa winner in review with nominees from across the state."

Michael McBride of the Video Services division of UI Information Technology Services nominated Backerman, who McBride said leads UITV's team of highly talented and motivated students. As a video producer, he said, Backerman is involved in nearly every aspect of workflow: planning and writing scripts for video shoots, taking gear into the field, shooting the video and converting it to digital, editing the video and programs, and exporting and encoding the final product for broadcast on UITV.

UITV, the UI's cable television channel, is unique in that students produce nearly all of the locally produced video programs.

"Jeff works on the highest profile events with visitors and faculty and represents the university in a highly professional manner," McBride said. "He operates thousands of dollars in professional broadcast television and IT equipment on his own without supervision. He has complete access to all the ITS video systems in Lindquist Master Control and operates at a technical level that matches many on the professional staff."

McBride said one highlight of the 2005 UITV season was a two-hour program by the Johnson County Landmark Jazz Band that Backerman recorded at Clapp Recital Hall.

"To accomplish this, Jeff supervised four cameras and a crew of eight and spent over four weeks editing," McBride said. "He regularly produces the radio-on-TV series, 'Talk of Iowa, Live from the Java House," and has recorded a variety of guest speakers, including actor Tom Arnold, civil rights leader Julian Bond, human rights activist the Rev. Roy Bourgeois and Herb Allison, chair of TIAA-CREF."

Although not all of the events Backerman must cover for UITV are exciting, McBride said he approaches each project with a positive attitude and good humor.

Berg was nominated in part for her work assisting with a National Science Foundation-funded project to reorganize the entire fossil collection in the Geoscience Paleontology Repository. The collection -- with more than 1 million fossils -- is the fifth largest university fossil collection in the United States.

To accomplish this task, Berg created an archive after teaching herself how archives are organized and used. Such archives are a valuable tool for visiting researchers. Berg also worked on database projects and trained other undergraduate students to continue her work.

"Holly takes initiative with these database projects and problem-solves the glitches," according to her nominators. "Her creativity and enthusiasm for the job and the field of geoscience was evident in her organization of the department's Halloween Open House. This past October, nearly 200 children and parents visited during the two-hour event."

Gaines has recently been involved in projects studying gene therapy approaches using RNA interference for Spinal Cerebellar Ataxia 1 and Huntington's Disease. Because of the key role she played in a study on the neurodegenerative disease Batten disease, Gaines has been named an author on the published results.

"Diana excels not only as a researcher but also as trainer and mentor, having created a handbook for new employees," her nominators said.

Faculty, staff, other ITC monitors and students who seek assistance at the ITC all rave about Ries' work ethic and customer service, according to his nominators.

"While some lab monitors might say, 'I don't know that program,' Dan will always go the extra mile to help," they said. "In addition to helping students, Dan also assists his supervisor by establishing the student coverage schedule, helping new employees learn the job and coordinating the replacement of failed equipment. During a recent renovation of the space from a traditional lab to a more pedagogically friendly classroom environment, Dan suggested an excellent floor plan, provided a tentative budget for additional furniture and coordinated much of the project with various electricians, carpenters and networking people, allowing his direct supervisor time for other projects."

Although Secrest was originally hired to help with the recruitment of subjects for research purposes, her desire to learn led her to involvement with the preparation of DNA from blood and cultured cells and the growth of lymphoblast cell lines.

"Dianna's creativity and innovation in tissue culture care has led to a change in lab procedures that resulted in increased cell survival," her nominators said. "This protocol has now been accepted as the lab standard."

The research project Viaene was most recently involved with -- a project funded by the National Institutes of Health -- focuses on the effects of stroke on upper limb movement control and rehabilitation of stroke-induced hemiparesis.

Said her nominators, "Angela has moved beyond the realm of most student employees through her involvement in the development of three posters for international scientific conferences. She was one of the authors on two of the posters presented at the conference. Angela is also assisting with the writing of portions of manuscripts for submission for publication in high quality refereed scientific journals. She will be a major contributing author on two manuscripts being prepared for submission for publication."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen J. Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,