Summer Research Scholars at Neyland Stadium for the 2018 Welcome Lunch.
This week, undergraduates from 44 national and international institutes gathered in the Lauricella Room at Neyland Stadium to kick off their residence as Summer Research Scholars. Over 160 students from 23 different states and three countries make up the diverse class of summer researchers, an increase from 2017’s 142 participants.
Attendees had the opportunity to meet their peers in the summer research community, sign up for professional and social events planned for the summer, and take a tour of Neyland Stadium.
Marisa Moazen, executive director of undergraduate research and outreach, measuring the tallest card towers built during the welcome lunch.
“Students are selected through a competitive process across multiple programs and disciplines, from engineering to music theory and everything in between, ” remarked Marisa Moazen, executive director of undergraduate research and outreach.
The Summer Research Scholars program encourages students to develop research techniques within a certain discipline. This year, nine summer research programs were represented: Chemistry Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT), Microbiology REU, Research Experiences in Computational Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (RECSEM), National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), REACH (Summer Agricultural Research Experience), National Institute of Health Environmental Health Sciences Research Experience, Educational Advancement Program Summer Research Institute, and the Summer Undergraduate Research Internships through the Office of Undergraduate Research.
“The University of Tennessee is proud to open our campus during the summer to these highly talented students. As an R1 university, we have great faculty and access to great facilities for students to have an intensive research experience,” said Moazen.
Tickle College of Engineering students collaborated with students from the College of Communication and Information and the Haslam College of Business for a sixth-place finish in this year’s EcoCAR 3 competition.
The team finished first in braking, advanced driver assistance system demonstration, workmanship and appearance, acceleration (50–70 MPH), and earned the Best Value award. Visit the EcoCAR 3 team on Facebook.
Congratulations to Dr. Eirik Endeve, one of 2018’s winners of the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award.
Endeve has offered extensive support for undergraduate researchers in the form of research projects, presentations, and publications. Students praise his awareness of their own capabilities, his establishment of reasonable expectations to match those capabilities, and his guidance in helping them eventually exceed those capabilities. Brandon Barker explains how “he understands our abilities and never asks more of us than is possible given our limitations,” but “he still manages to push us enough that we are constantly growing as researchers.” Jesse Buffaloe adds that “He is prompt at answering questions and dealing with concerns, has provided a wealth of advice for developing quality research talks and poster presentations, and has set out reasonable expectations, while still ensuring that goals are met.”
While Endeve’s primary role is to lead laboratory research, he supports this role with his dedication as a teacher. As Jesse Buffaloe describes: “His ability to condense complex ideas has rivaled that of the best teaching professors I have had during my time here. Working with him has not only been intellectually enriching but also an enjoyable experience.”
Multiple students insist Endeve’s mentorship has been key in the decision to pursue astrophysics beyond the undergraduate level, as his support across the entirety of their undergraduate education has instilled knowledge, skill, and comfort with the research and presentation process.
Dr. Endeve is a joint faculty assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department and at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He received his PhD in astrophysics from the University of Oslo. His current work at ORNL engages in computational astrophysics.
Congratulations to Dr. Spencer Olmstead, one of 2018’s winners of the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award.
Olmstead treats his mentoring relationships according to their individual concerns and aspirations, recognizing the unique qualities of each student. Through this, he has developed a closely knit team with his graduate assistants and undergraduate researchers, one which gives students recognition and ownership of their accomplishments. Kayley Davis writes that Olmstead “ensures that any student he mentors is aware of the contribution of their work” and gives opportunities for authorship and presentation, while Kevin Treadway says, “One of my favorite things about Dr. Olmstead is the trust he placed in me.”
Olmstead’s mentorship has given students confidence and a greater recognition of their own place in the larger academic community, opening the way to the improvement of society through research. Treadway goes on to say, “This trust that was placed in me instilled me with a sense of confidence that helped me work on my own research to the best of my abilities. In the end, Dr. Olmstead has been an absolutely amazing mentor to me. He has trusted me, listened to me, instructed me, and led me to see the ways in which research is vital to the expansion of knowledge and betterment of society.”
Dr. Olmstead is an associate professor in child and family studies, and he is co-director of the Well-Being in Adolescents and Emerging Adults Laboratory. He received his PhD from Florida State University. His current research studies the sexual health and well-being of young adults, in particular young adult men’s sexual and reproductive health.
Congratulations to Dr. Gregory Stuart, one of 2018’s winners of the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award.
Students praise Stuart’s in-class instruction and vast body of knowledge, but they especially note the kindness and respect with which he treats his students. Meredith Denney writes that “He is personable and cheerful every time I interact with him. It’s hard to believe someone is that delightful over email. Multiple times when my confidence in my research has lacked, Dr. Stuart went above and beyond to boost my self esteem and encourage me to never give up. With every acceptance email, he would celebrate with me,” and others similarly note Stuart’s dedication to getting to know his students and helping them to succeed. As Dana Conzemius explains, “Dr. Stuart should be considered for the Faculty Research Mentor Award not only because of his diligence and affirmation to help students, but also for his ability to really engage with students to create a life plan.”
Beyond this, his work inside the classroom and beyond enable and support the undergraduate research process, serving as a skilled teacher and guide in professionalization. As Mikaela Trussell writes, “He has given me the opportunity to dive into research as an undergrad and is always an excellent resource for any questions I have about research or graduate school. He values all of his students and makes it known that he wants us all to reach our fullest research potential.”
Dr. Stuart is a professor in psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences. He received a PhD from Indiana University and serves on numerous academic councils and editorial boards. His current research focuses on etiology, prevention, and treatment of intimate partner violence, relationship distress, and addictions.
Congratulations to Dr. Jon Hathaway, one of 2018’s winners of the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award.
Multiple students credit Hathaway in particular for making the transition into civil and environmental engineering from other majors a less daunting process, even with no background experience in the subject area. For instance, Matthew Howard tells of how “as a sophomore, I switched majors . . . and Dr. Hathaway was assigned as my faculty mentor. To get my bearings in the department, I scheduled a meeting with him. By the time I left the meeting, he had offered me a research position and left a permanent impression on me,” and from there, how he grew from a student with no professional experience to a contributing member of a highly functioning research group, primarily due to Hathaway’s guidance and support: “Be it academic advising, career advice, or general life questions, Dr. Hathaway has been accessible as a mentor.”
Hathaway is also known for providing a wonderful model of being personally engaging and friendly without sacrificing professionalism. Hathaway’s research into environmental and community stewardship is clearly reflected in his leadership of undergraduate researchers. As Sierra Sims writes, “All the students under him respect him and all the students in his classes want to work with him.”
Dr. Hathaway is an assistant professor in the civil and environmental engineering department. He received his PhD from North Carolina State University, and has in the past worked in ecological design and consulting. His research studies sustainable urban water, green infrastructure, anthropogenic influences on the environment, and urban pollutant fate and transport.
Congratulations to Dr. Erin Darby, one of 2018’s winners of the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award.
Darby goes far beyond the typical expectations of a professor to seek out opportunities to benefit students’ growth and success. Moreover, the opportunities she finds for her students are noted for their concern for the students’ interests. Emily Liske describes Darby’s willingness to redesign an unavailable course as an independent study tailored to Liske’s personal research. As she writes, “She worked with me to hone my paper into one of a caliber I didn’t think I could produce, and she didn’t stop there. Dr. Darby encouraged me to submit my work for conferences and awards, and she even accompanied me to my presentation at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR), where she was my biggest cheerleader when I won the Undergraduate Research Award.” Similarly, Gayatri Nandwani tells of how, when initial research abroad plans fell through due to safety issues, Darby provided the chance to conduct research alongside her at the ‘Ayn Gharandal dig site in Jordan.
Darby’s contributions aren’t limited to such grand gestures though, as she consistently supports her students throughout their educations, on both a personal and professional level, providing emotional motivation as well as guidance in the presentation of work to scholarly audiences. As Nandwani says, “She has taught me life lessons that I would not have learned in a classroom and has showed me that there will be hurdles.”
Dr. Darby is an assistant professor in the religious studies department, and she co-directs the ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project in Jordan. She received her PhD from Duke University. She is an expert in the Hebrew Bible, ancient Near Eastern history, literature, and archaeology, and her research was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 2016.
Congratulations to Dr. Sunha Choi, one of 2018’s winners of the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award, her second year in a row receiving this recognition!
Choi motivates her students to engage in research, often providing the initial spark for those with no prior research experience. One student, Abbey Geater, describes how “undergraduate research, to me, always seemed like something out of the ordinary that was reserved for Haslam Scholars or students who entered the university knowing they wanted to be a researcher” until learning and being inspired by Choi’s guidance: “Through Dr. Choi’s mentorship, I have broadened my scope on what undergraduate research looks like and become confident in my own abilities to integrate research into practice. Often at field, I find myself collecting more data or looking up the latest research on issues that affect my clients because Dr. Choi has shown me that social workers are not just practitioners, but scholars as well.”
Other students similarly describe the confidence gained from her guidance. As Sarah Henson writes, “She has been very empowering and encouraging as she has guided me individually and helped me to focus, be realistic, and maintain excitement for my project.” Moreover, students praise her ability to explain complex programs and processes, such as Excel, SPSS, or IRB forms and project proposals.
Choi helps her students across all stages of academic work, exposing them to the nature of undergraduate research, supporting them throughout the research process, and offering guidance on how to present, share, and build on completed work. Her supportive mentorship, which goes beyond the classroom, has shaped the post-undergraduate goals of her students.
Dr. Choi is an assistant professor and Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar in the College of Social Work. She received her MSW and PhD from Washington University in St. Louis. Her research studies healthcare disparities amongst older, foreign-born individuals.