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Three Students Win Honors in International Research Competition

The Undergraduate Awards—often referred to as the “junior Nobel Prize”—has announced the winners of its 2017 program, and three UT students are ranked among the world’s best and brightest.

The Undergraduate Awards (UA) is the world’s largest international academic awards program, recognizing excellent research and original work across the sciences, humanities, business, and creative arts. The top 10 percent of students in their respective categories are honored as Highly Commended. Regional Winners are then chosen from each of the seven regions in the competition, and a final Global Winner is selected in each category.

UT’s winners were Alexandra Brito, a May 2017 graduate, who was named a Global Winner; Sierra Roark, also a May graduate, who was a Regional Winner; and senior Rachel Hunt, who was Highly Commended.

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You asked for it – Summer Research Abroad is now available!

So many students asked us about hosting a research abroad experience in the summer. We are happy to announce that program is finally here! Make plans now to join us in one of these eight countries next summer!!

UTK Summer International Research Opportunities Program

Choose from 8 countries to spend the summer conducting research. Open to every major, choose from Australia, Chile, China, England, Ireland, New Zealand, South Korea, or Spain. All research conducted in English unless otherwise noted.  A research-based internship provides you the opportunity to join an on-going research project for a short period of time, helping to clarify academic, career, and personal interests. You will step into existing projects at various stages of the research process and can engage a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods approach. Research-based placements are typically at universities abroad, but you could also be placed in the private business sector, as well as research centers. You should not expect to conduct your own research or advance personal research projects. Research placements are available in a wide array of fields depending on your interests and academic background. Whether you are studying STEM, the social sciences, communications and any other discipline, we will work with you to find a placement that fits your interests. Open to all majors with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Tracking Faculty Mentoring in Elements

As the University roles out its new faculty performance software, Elements, we would like to provide guidance on how to enter your undergraduate research mentoring activities.

Step 1. Log in at

Step 2. From the Home Screen, choose “+add” under Teaching Activities

Step 3. Select “student research (Student Supervision)” from the right side column

Step 4. Enter the requested information, including Student NetID. (The Student NetID allows us to track that specific student and can be found on the front half of the student’s campus email address.)

Handout with screen shots: Entering UGR into Elements

Alexandre and Varriano Receive Undergraduate Research Awards at Chancellor’s Honors Banquet

During the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet, Dr. Gladys Alexandre received the University’s top recognition for an undergraduate research mentor. Dr. Alexandre was named the Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year for her ongoing work to support undergraduate research at UT, including the research mentoring of 52 UT undergraduates and 6 non UT-undergraduates. She has a track record of co-authoring peer-reviewed publications with her students and supporting them in both on-campus and off-campus presentations, showings, performances, awards or scholarships related to research. Many of her students have gone on to graduate school and medical school.

Dr. Gladys Alexandre (pictured on the right) is a Professor and Associate Head in the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT). Her research focuses on the molecular events underlying sensing and signaling in bacteria. Alexandre completed two M. S. degrees, one in plant biology (1994) and one in microbial ecology (1995), before getting her Ph.D. in microbial ecology (1998) from the Universite Claude Bernard, Lyon (France). She worked as a postdoctoral research scientist under the advising of Igor B. Zhulin at Loma Linda University, School of Medicine (1998-2000) and then the Georgia Institute of Technology (2000-2001). She obtained her first academic position in the department of Biology at Georgia State University (2001) before moving to UTK in 2005. She was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2007 and to full professor in 2013. Since 2014, she is the PI and director for the NIH-funded program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER) which aims at increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups earning Ph.Ds in Biomedical and Behavioral sciences. Alexandre has published over 35 papers, has participated in several dozen conferences and has been invited as a speaker around the world. Alexandre’s research has been continuously supported from the National Science Foundation (NSF) since 2003, including with a prestigious CAREER award. Her research is currently supported by NSF and the Science Alliance (UTK/ORNL).

At the same event, Louis Varriano was named Undergraduate Researcher of the Year. Since 2013, Louis has conducted research at UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Christian Brothers University, and the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS) in L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. He has numerous presentation credits to his name as well as several authored publications. Louis was recognized for his leadership with the Society of Physics Students, the Undergraduate Research Students’ Association, and as Editor-in-Chief of Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research at UT. Louis received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention for Tennessee in 2016. Louis has also received UT’s highest honor, being named a Torchbearer.

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Louis is currently a senior in physics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has done extensive research on the mirror matter model of dark matter, with a particular focus on the phenomenological aspects of neutron-mirror neutron oscillations. His work developing a formalism to describe these oscillations in a gaseous environment has allowed him and other researchers to begin designing an experiment to search for these theorized oscillations. The experimental detection of each of these phenomena requires new physics which will ultimately affect every other theory in physics, from early cosmology to current high energy particle physics. The proposed neutron regeneration experiment will radically transform our understanding of the universe if evidence for mirror matter is found. Through his research, he has attended and presented at many conferences in the United States and abroad. In addition to his academic and research endeavors, he is also heavily involved in the undergraduate life of his department and of the university more broadly and has spent significant time trying to improve the research experience of undergraduates across the campus.

Recalling Her Own Experience, Nursing Student Wants to Help Kids Understand Asthma

Adaya Troyer

Amanda Troyer, center, with Associate Professor and Interim Associate Dean Sadie Hutson and Professor and Associate Dean Tami Wyatt.

Adaya Troyer, a senior in nursing at UT, was only two when she was diagnosed with asthma. Now, as an undergraduate researcher, she’s trying to help young children with asthma understand and manage their condition.

UT’s eighth-annual Research Week kicks off today and runs through Friday, April 21. UT faculty and student research that impacts everyday life will be highlighted through a variety of events, including a Rube Goldberg Challenge, the annual Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (EUReCA), a research photo contest, lectures, seminars and cultural events. A full list of which can be seen at

Troyer is just one of more than 1,400 UT undergraduates actively involved in research, an activity that embeds students in the learning process and enhances their preparation for graduate school or a career. Between 2015 and 2016 UT saw a 103 percent increase in the number of undergraduates involved in research and an 87 percent increase in the number of faculty serving as research mentors.

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Cinema Student Finds Way to ‘Make a Real Impact’

Carolyn Knight

Caroline Knight works with friend and mentor Chad McClarnon, who helped her produce “Still Sophie.”

Caroline Knight, a graduating senior in cinema studies, is an award-winning filmmaker whose latest project is now being shown at film festivals around the country.

Knight is among more than 1,400 UT undergraduates participating in research or creative activities that help them apply what they’re learning in the classroom and prepare them for graduate school or a future career. Between 2015 and 2016 UT more than doubled the number of undergraduates involved in research or creative achievement and saw an 87 percent increase in the number of faculty serving as mentors.

UT’s eighth-annual Research Week is now underway and a full list of activities is available online.

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Congratulations Louis Varriano!

We are so happy for Pursuit Editor and senior Louis Varriano, who has recently been named a 2017 Torchbearer, the most prestigious recognition that is given out to graduating seniors each year at the University of Tennessee. Read more about Louis and the 6 other seniors in the Tennessee Today article below. Thank you for all that you do for students at UT and for the Office of Undergraduate Research! Congratulations!

2017 Torchbearer Article



Summer Undergraduate Research Internship Recipients 2017

Congratulations to our 2017 Summer Research Internship Recipients! These students will work with UT Faculty Mentors to conduct research during the summer months. We look forward to seeing their work at Discovery Day in August! Read more about the program.

Student’s Name Academic Major Faculty Mentor
Emeri Allan Nursing Lizanne Elliott
Charles Barnes Biochem/Cellular/Molecular Bio Albrecht Vonarnim
Luke Blentlinger Geography Sally Horn
Ashlee Boles Microbiology Heidi Goodrich-Blair
Chandler Brown Ecology/Evolutionary Biology Joseph Williams
Alayna Cameron Biochem/Cellular/Molecular Bio Franc Barrera Olivares
Tiffany Cantrell History Lynn Sacco
Terrell Carter Biochem/Cellular/Molecular Bio Jennifer Schweitzer
Benjamin Chance Computer Science Yuri Kamyshkov
Jared Clements Chemical Engineering Cong Trinh
Emily Conner Management Jackie Jacobs
Malagon Daniel College Scholars Honors Matt Gray
Grant Dilliha Chemical and Biomolecular Engr Steven Ripp
Jeffrey Dixon Biomedical Engineering Steven Ripp
Codi Drake Civil Engineering Nicholas Wierschem
Mark Drake Music Andrew Sigler
Carter Earhart-Brown Computer Science Kwai Wong
Lydia Elise Ferguson Audiology/Speech Pathology Jillian McCarthy Maeder
Christopher Finotti Interdisciplinary Programs Kalynn Schulz
Aaron Free Psychology Gordon Burghardt
Nandwani Gayatri Classics Erin Darby
Nathaniel Graham Psychology Matthew Cooper
Gillian Harris Nursing Sadie Hutson
Anna Hendrix Biology Stephen Kania
Chavarria Janelle Nutrition Hollie Raynor
Abigail Jarratt Microbiology Erik Zinser
Young Jonathan Art Carolyn Staples
Lauren Jones Modern Foreign Lang/Literature Bernard Issa
Julie Edwards Psychology Patrick Grzanka
Rob Ledbetter Philosophy Kalynn Schulz
Jonathan McCammon Art Carolyn Staples
Rachael Miller Audiology/Speech Pathology Jillian McCarthy Maeder
Mary Mitchell Chemical and Biomolecular Engr Jeremiah Johnson
Andrea Nickels Audiology/Speech Pathology Jillian McCarthy Maeder
Ellen Nikbakht Theatre Casey Sams
Han Noh Biology Jennifer Schweitzer
Kyle Noordhoek Physics Liu Jun
Megan Pitz Engineering, Interdepartmental Xiaopeng Zhao
Miguel Rodriguez Pre-Professional Programs Elena Shpak
John Sayegh Architecture R Dekay
Starla Smith Nursing Joel Anderson
Whitney Stone Nursing Sandy Mixer
Peyton Terry Biochem/Cellular/Molecular Bio Rachel McCord
Angel Torres Electrical Engr & Computer Sci Jayne Wu
Morgan Vantrease Nursing Deb Chyka
Anna Young Biomedical Engineering Steven Ripp
Sheev Zaver Chemistry Shawn Campagna


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