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Students Get Silver Medal in International Synthetic Biology Competition

The UT iGEM team after returning home from the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Giant Jamboree.

The UT iGEM team after returning home from the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Giant Jamboree.

A group of six UT students won a silver medal for their performance in the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Giant Jamboree, an international competition for students interested in synthetic biology.

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Rigney Named Rhodes Scholar

Grant Rigney

Grant Rigney

UT senior Grant Rigney, has been named a Rhodes Scholar—the eighth in university history—and will begin his graduate studies at Oxford University next fall.

Rigney, a student in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Normandy, Tennessee, is the editor-in-chief of Pursuit, UT’s journal of undergraduate research, and has conducted research at the UT Medical Center on toxicity of PET-CT imaging agents. While at Oxford, Rigney will pursue masters degrees in Global Health Science and Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation.

Each year, 32 scholars are selected from 16 districts across the United States. District 12 encompasses Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. Scholars receive tuition, fees, travel and a monthly stipend during their two years of post-baccalaureate study. Applicants are chosen on the criteria of academic excellence, character, leadership, and must “be conscious of inequities” in the world.

Rigney volunteers at a local homeless clinic and founded the Homeless Prevention University and Community Alliance at UT. He is also a licensed private pilot, a Certified Nurse’s Assistant, triathlete, and internationally recognized bluegrass musician on the fiddle and mandolin.

Read the full release and profiles of the winners at

Eight UT Students Recognized by Undergraduate Awards; Three Travel to Ireland

Three students traveled this week to Ireland, where their research was honored by the 2018 Undergraduate Awards, the largest international academic award program. From left to right: James Halliwell, Joseph Platt, and Siori Koerner.

Three students traveled this week to Ireland, where their research was honored by the 2018 Undergraduate Awards, the largest international academic award program. From left to right: James Halliwell, Joseph Platt, and Siori Koerner.

Eight UT students have been recognized for their research projects in the 2018 Undergraduate Awards, the largest international academic awards program, recognizing excellent research and original work across the sciences, humanities, business, and creative arts. The awards are sometimes called the “junior Nobel Prize.”

Sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research, three students traveled to Dublin, Ireland, this week for the organization’s Global Summit.

Siori Koerner received her bachelor’s degree in modern foreign languages and literatures in May 2018. She was recognized as Highly Commended in the literature category, meaning that her work was in the top 10 percent of the 448 literature submissions this year. Koerner’s project, “Schoolgirls, Future Wives, and Rockstar Lives: Reconciliation and Resistance in Shoujo Manga,” analyzes shoujo (girl-oriented) manga and draws from economic and anthropological theories regarding gender and resistance to examine its popularity with young girls and women.

James Halliwell and Joseph Platt, both seniors in the School of Architecture, received the Commended designation for their projects. Students at this level of distinction advanced to the second round of judging but did not receive an award.

Halliwell’s research-based design project, “Animus Installation,” features a modern design of Norris Dam, located on the Clinch River. In his design, Halliwell revisualizes Norris Dam as a “symbol of modernity and a hub for nature, culture, and energy systems.” Norris Dam was one of the first major projects of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the mid-1930s, bringing economic development to East Tennessee.

Platt’s project, “The Integrated Matrix,” explores the integration of new technology into hiking trails. Platt proposes that existing information kiosks placed along hiking trails, be transformed into location-tracking devices that transmit data to a central location.

While in Ireland, Koerner, Halliwell, and Platt presented their work to students from around the world as well as panels of international educators, activists, and researchers. They also had the opportunity to attend lectures, workshops, and debates and to collaborate with students from across cultures and disciplines.

This year, the Undergraduate Awards received 4,887 submissions from 46 different countries and 180 nationalities. UT students submitted a total of 19 projects. Five other students were named Commended but did not travel with the group:

  • Zane Russell, who received a bachelor’s degree in architecture
  • Andrianna Thompson, who received a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture
  • Ben Bergman, who received a bachelor’s degree in global studies and modern foreign languages and literatures
  • Abby Geater, who received a bachelor’s degree in social work
  • Victoria Clements, who received a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management and international business

“All of our undergraduate students have the opportunity to participate in research, and we encourage our students to submit the results of their research for domestic and international recognition,” said Marisa Moazen, UT’s executive director of undergraduate research and community engagement.

This year, 3,906 undergraduate students at UT participated in some kind of research or scholarly activity.

“We are proud of our students’ accomplishments, and the Undergraduate Awards provides an international forum for students to share and be recognized for their academic achievements,” Moazen said.

Students interested in submitting projects for consideration by the Undergraduate Awards may enter up to three research and creative projects on which they received an A or equivalent grade. The application process opens in January and closes at the end of May each year.

For more information on the Undergraduate Awards or undergraduate research at UT, contact Moazen at 869-974-8560 or


Erin Chapin (865-974-2187,

Amanda Johnson (865-974-6401,

166 Undergraduate Students Participate in Summer Research Scholars Program

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.



Raphael Rosalin (865-974-2152,

Victory Lap for EcoCAR 3

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.

Eirik Endeve named 1 of 3 Undergraduate Research Mentors of the Year for the College of Arts & Sciences

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.

Spencer Olmstead named Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year for the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

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.

Greg Stuart named 1 of 3 Undergraduate Research Mentors of the Year for the College of Arts & Sciences

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.

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