Outstanding graduates

Each year the department recognizes two outstanding students: one graduate student and one graduating senior. The 2012-2013 award winners are as follows:

Outstanding graduate, Justine Pinskey

Justine Pinskey




Justine’s thesis, “Effects of 1 alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (Vitamin D3) on cultured Glioblastoma Multiforme Cells,” examined how the inhibition of the sonic hedgehog signaling pathway, a pathway essential to brain tumor stem cells, by vitamin D3 may affect cell growth and renewal. Brain tumor stem cells have been shown to play a unique role in tumors; they stimulate tumor growth and development and at the same time are resistant to chemo- and radiation-therapy. Her work provided insight into a possible mechanism to target the brain tumor stem cells using a safe, natural inhibitor (vitamin D3) that slowed brain tumor stem cell growth and induced apoptosis in these cells. Justine was active on campus with a number of organizations, presented her work at several national conferences, produced the outstanding Graduate Student Poster at the NMU Celebration of Student Research and received several thousand dollars in awards to support her work. Currently Justine is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.


Outstanding graduating senior, Ricki ​Oldenkamp

Ricki Oldenkamp






Ricki is a native of Newago, Michigan. Her experience as a researcher had already begun by the time she arrived at NMU; she won the 2011 Best Presentation award at NMU’s annual Celebration of Student Research when she spoke about studies she conducted at Grand Rapids Community College on the defense of bracken fern by ants. Since then, her passion for research has motivated her to pursue a number of research experiences at Northern and elsewhere, including two stints at Duke University, where she studied social cognition in lemurs and cognitive performance in dogs, and a summer spent tracking the behavioral interactions of wild mother-infant orangutan pairs in the jungles of Indonesia. Presently she is conducting a study involving the endocrine regulation of obesity in a collaboration between Erich Ottem’s laboratory at NMU and physicians from the Bariatric & Metabolic Institute at Marquette General Hospital. Aside from her stellar academic record and impressive research experience, she is active in the Tri-Beta and Psi Chi honors societies and is a McNair Scholar. Future plans for Ricki include a career as a research scientist in animal cognition.