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SURGE Projects 2021

The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the following projects for the SURGE Program for Summer 2021.

To learn more about the SURGE Program including student pay and program expectations, visit the SURGE Program Information page

Interested students can apply to the project of their choice using the

SURGE Program student application form.

Applications must be submitted by February 12, 2021

***IMPORTANT NOTE; At this time we plan to run all programs in-person.  However, this could change at any time due to COVID -19 and campus protocols.  Every effort will be made to switch to a virtual format if necessary, but may not be possible for all projects, resulting in their cancellation.

Project Title:

Exploring Sustainable Urban to Rural Practices (E-SURP) Undergraduate Research

Project Dates: June 7 – July 30, 2021

Group Size: 6 students

Faculty:

Sharon Jean-Phillippe, Herbert College of Agriculture, Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries

Natalie Bumgarner, Herbert College of Agriculture, Plant Science

Project Description:

The number of minorities currently entering agriculture and natural resource career paths is insufficient to support increased representation in these disciplines. Opportunities to develop additional pathways for future professionals, scientists, and practitioners in schools of agriculture and natural resources will heavily depend upon making connections with non-traditional students. This project will focus on providing opportunities for mentoring and shadowing professionals in the fields of forestry (urban forestry) and plant science (horticulture production), by participating in applied research carried out using an agroforestry model.  In addition, students will be able to develop and facilitate community outreach activities with local residents. The proposed undergraduate research will help increase student’s awareness of agricultural sciences and natural resources -STEM disciplines by connecting students with field research experiences, providing opportunities for mentoring and shadowing and organizing summer programming activities.

Position Description:

Exploring Sustainable Urban to Rural Practices (E-SURP) undergraduate research experience is designed to introduce students to agriculture food production systems in both urban and rural settings. Research projects will be focused on different methods of food production and students will be engaged in sharing information about food production and agriculture with residents in the Knoxville area through a range of in-person, video and social media activities.

 

Tasks for student undergraduate research will include:

  • Engage and actively participate in agricultural and natural resource production site visits and orientation
  • Establish, manage, and maintain agroforestry food production trial plots at the KBGA and ETREC-OCU. All trials will be designed to provide information for small-scale food producers across a rural to urban gradient. Planned trials include small-scale production research in native fruit and nut tree plantings, herbal and medicinal plantings, and urban and rural vegetable plantings.
  • Harvest and evaluate plots to support data collection from these trials which will include written, photographic, and digital video records.
  • Assist in preparation and delivery of teaching and demonstration presentations on these trials for KBGA and UT AgResearch Extension field days and other programs.
  • Produce outreach materials for stakeholder education including but not limited to Extension fact sheets, blog posts, social media posts, and instructional or educational videos.

Project Dates: June 7 – July 30, 2021

Group Size: 8 students

Faculty:

Michelle Childs, Education, Health and Human Sciences, Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management

Christopher Sneed, UT Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences

Original Project Description:

This interdisciplinary project between disciplines of Retail and Family and Consumer Sciences offers turn-key research experiences for undergraduate students. This project aims to equip, train and evaluate students’ progress utilizing formative and empirical research necessary to develop and implement merchandising and marketing strategies for UT’s Big Orange Pantry. The Big Orange Pantry is UT’s first on-campus food pantry that aims to provide fresh and delicious food in a retail-like setting to students, faculty, and staff on campus. Students recruited from diverse disciplines across campus will collaborate with faculty and food pantry staff to implement this project. Utilizing a series of formative research opportunities including touring area food pantries, students working in groups (i.e., 2 groups of 4 students each) will create and execute activities aimed at facilitating access to UT’s Big Orange Pantry by students, faculty, and staff who are attending or employed by UT. Students will evaluate the effectiveness of their implemented techniques. Additionally, students’ learning outcomes will be evaluated by instructors, with the goals of possessing retail merchandising knowledge and research experience. This project presents a sustainable opportunity to be extended into the school year as a research intensive course and serves as a pilot for external funding.

 

Position Description:

As part of the SURGE Program through the Office of Undergraduate Research, we are seeking students interested in developing and implementing strategies to appeal to limited-resource families. Through this experiential learning project, students will be equipped and trained in both formative and empirical research methods as well as merchandising and marketing strategies for the Big Orange Pantry.   As part of this position, students will receive up to $4,000 (paid through financial aid and subject to an individual’s financial aid cap) for participating, student housing on campus (if needed), and a meal allowance of $75/week. Up to $3,000 will also be available for materials, supplies, and related travel.

Project Title:

Studying the Palisade at Coan Hall: Archaeological, Geophysical and Geomorphological Training and Analysis

Project Dates: June 7 – July 30, 2021

Group Size: 8 students

Faculty:

Barbara Heath, Arts and Sciences, Anthropology

Howard Cyr, McClung Museum

Project Description:

Students working on this project will use methods of historical archaeology, geomorphology and geophysics to understand the cultural and environmental effects of colonialism on a 17th-century landscape. Portions of an extensive 17th-century palisaded (fenced) enclosure associated with the Sekakawon, a Native American group, will be explored through geophysical prospection, soil coring, and limited archaeological excavations. The evidence collected will indicate the size and configuration of the palisade, indicate natural and cultural alterations to the landscape at the time of its use and abandonment, locate structures or activity areas within it, and explore its relationship to the historic plantation of Coan Hall, which has been the subject of previous excavations. The site is situated along a tributary of the Potomac River in Northumberland County, Virginia. Students will spend five weeks in the field learning about the project and collecting data. They will rotate between three teams—archaeological excavations, coring to collect geomorphological samples and conducting geophysical prospection. Students will return to campus for the final three weeks of the program to digitize data, process and interpret core samples and geophysical results, and to write a report on the summer’s work.

Position Description:

Position Description for Studying the Palisade at Coan Hall: Archaeological, Geophysical and Geomorphological Training and Analysis

The Office of Undergraduate Research is seeking eight students to participate in an eight-week research opportunity investigating an archaeological site in Heathsville, Virginia. Students will work in Virginia for a portion of the project (dates tbd), and then on campus in Knoxville at the McClung Museum and Strong Hall for the remainder of the project.  Time in Virginia will entail daily (Monday-Friday) work at a colonial-era archaeological site with some evening lectures and/or laboratory sessions. Participants will conduct archaeological excavation, terrestrial remote sensing /geophysical data collection and analysis, and sediment coring and analysis. Work in Knoxville will include laboratory analysis of sediment cores and geophysical results, and digitizing site maps and forms. Participants will work collaboratively to prepare a site report. Prior experience is not necessary, but students must be willing and able to engage in strenuous, outdoor physical labor, to follow instructions closely, and to be able to both work independently and as a member of a team. As part of this position, students will receive up to $4,000 (paid through financial aid and subject to an individual’s financial aid cap) for participating, student housing on campus (if needed), and a meal allowance of $75/week.

Special note:

Archaeological fieldwork is exciting but also can be physically challenging. Applicants should be in good health and have the ability to engage in eight-hour days doing physical labor. Participants should be comfortable lifting up to 30 lbs., pushing wheel barrows, shoveling, and kneeling, squatting, and standing for prolonged periods. We work outdoors in varying weather conditions ranging from 60 degrees and light drizzle to 100 degrees and full sun.

Project Title:

A camera-based system for noninvasive monitoring in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Group Size: 6 students

Project Dates: June 7 – July 30, 2021

Faculty:

Xiaopeng Zhao, Engineering,

Tami Wyatt, College of Nursing, College of Nursing

Project Description:

The objective of this project is to develop a wireless, noncontact monitoring system that measures multiple physiological parameters in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Compared to traditional sensors in a NICU, this monitoring system will not use any wires and adhesives, rendering it safer and more convenient. The monitoring system will aim to estimate two physiological signals: heart rate (HR) and respiratory rate (RR). The current practice of measuring HR involves collecting electrocardiogram (ECG) signals from adhesive electrodes placed on the torso of the neonate. Respiratory signals are collected in a similar matter to ECG monitoring. Undergraduate research assistants will be recruited to develop hardware and software for the system as well as conduct experiments to collect and analyze real patient data. This project will help undergraduate researchers learn multidisciplinary skills and foster teamwork and self-initiative.

Position Description:

The objective of this project is to develop a wireless, noncontact monitoring system that measures multiple physiological parameters in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Compared to traditional sensors in a NICU, this monitoring system will not use any wires and adhesives, rendering it safer and more convenient. The monitoring system will aim to estimate two physiological signals: heart rate (HR) and respiratory rate (RR). The current practice of measuring HR involves collecting electrocardiogram (ECG) signals from adhesive electrodes placed on the torso of the neonate. Respiratory signals are collected in a similar matter to ECG monitoring. Undergraduate research assistants will be recruited to develop hardware and software for the system as well as conduct experiments to collect and analyze real patient data. This project will help undergraduate researchers learn multidisciplinary skills and foster teamwork and self-initiative.

Project Title:

Maternal Behavior and adult neural plasticity

Project Dates: June 7 – July 30, 2021

Group Size: 8 students

Faculty:

Keerthi Krishnan, Arts and Sciences, Biochemistry and Cellular & Molecular Biology

Project Description:

All organisms respond and learn to deal with their surroundings throughout life. Brain plasticity is a process that is essential for this adaptation and learning. Cellular mechanisms underlying brain plasticity, specifically neural plasticity (changes in neurons, a major cell type essential for brain function), are still unknown. We approach this complex, fundamental neurobiological problem by studying a mouse model of a disorder called Rett Syndrome (RTT).

RTT is initially characterized by a short period of typical development, followed by expression of stereotypic sensory, motor and speech impairments. RTT is hypothesized to be the result of altered plasticity caused by abnormal experience-dependent changes to synapses (the communication sites between neurons). These plasticity mechanisms contribute to sensory processing deficits, which then result in further impairments. RTT is caused by mutations in the X-linked gene methyl CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2). However, the pathogenesis of this disorder is unclear. This problem is further compounded by the lack of existing paradigms to study stereotypies in adult female models for RTT. We use behaviors and cellular microscopy approaches to gain insights into how neural plasticity essential for appropriate behavior is affected in female mouse model of RTT.

Position Description:

The Krishnan lab works on understanding plasticity mechanisms in the mouse brain. We use behavioral experiments and fluorescent microscopy/image analysis as our main techniques for different projects in the lab. Students will learn and perform behavioral experiments and image analysis/quantification on monitors. You will work with a postdoctoral scientist or senior graduate student in day-to-day engagements in the lab.

We are looking for students who are reliable and consistent, have good observational skills, and exhibit enthusiasm for learning new concepts and techniques. Students who show exceptional engagement will be chosen to learn and perform behavioral experiments, implementation of computer programming codes, other histology techniques and genotyping.

Evaluation procedure

Participation and engagement in weekly lab meetings

Twice monthly summary and update meetings with Dr. Krishnan.

Goals for each week will be set in these meetings.

Project Title:

Characterization of Different Pulses as Sources of Food Ingredients for Agricultural and Food Sustainability

Project Dates: June 7 – July 30, 2021

Group Size: 8 students

Faculty:

Vermont Dia, Herbert College of Agriculture, Food Science

Project Description:

This Summer Undergraduate Research Group Experience project will recruit 8 freshman and sophomore UT students with diverse backgrounds to study the potential utilization of pulse (beans, lentils, chickpeas, pigeon peas) components in food product application. Increase utilization of alternative crops such as pulses can lead to sustainability and promotion of over-all human health associated with crop diversification and unique nutritional and chemical components of pulses. The students will isolate different components of pulses, analyze these components in terms of their chemical composition and physicochemical and functional properties for food application. In addition, the students will quantify components responsible for health-promoting properties of pulses and determine their biological activities. The project is open to all students regardless of majors and emphasis will be given to students from underrepresented groups. Students will learn different laboratory techniques, literature search and reading, poster preparation and oral presentation skills. It is expected that at the end of the 8-week research experience, students will obtain preliminary data that they can use for to continue working during the regular semester for credit for food product applications such as bread, cakes and pasta. Moreover, these will serve as data for external funding application of the PI to USDA.

Position Description:

The Department of Food Science thru the Office of Undergraduate Research is looking for up to 8 freshman and sophomore students to undertake a Summer Undergraduate Research Group Experience (SURGE) in the laboratory of Dr. Vermont P. Dia. The project will entail the isolation of novel food ingredients from different pulses. In addition, students will analyze different physicochemical, functional and biological properties of isolated novel ingredients. Students will be trained in different laboratory techniques, literature search, poster preparation and oral presentation skills. The project will run for 8 weeks from June 7 to July 30, 2021. All students are encouraged to apply regardless of major. The only qualification is the willingness to learn and curiosity about novel food ingredients for product application. At the end of the project, students are expected to have a poster to be presented during the Discovery Day in Fall 2021. Questions can be directed to Dr. Dia at vdia@utk.edu or at 865-974-7265.

 

The students will:

  1. isolate components of pulses;
  2. characterize pulse components in terms of their physicochemical and functional properties;
  3. determine the biological properties of pulse components and the level of different health-promoting compounds (polyphenols, flavonoids, tannins);
  4. develop laboratory skills and techniques in a food chemistry lab setting;
  5. develop writing and oral presentation skills;
  6. prepare a poster about the project for presentation during UT Discovery Day in Fall 2020

 

Benefits to students

As part of this position, students will receive up to $4,000 (paid through financial aid and subject to an individual’s financial aid cap) for participating, student housing on campus (if needed), and a meal allowance of $75/week.

 

Location

Food Chemistry and Bioactives Lab (Rm 307)

Food Science Bldg

2510 River Dr Knoxville TN 37996

 

Contact

Vermont P Dia, Ph D

Assistant Professor

vdia@utk.edu

865-974-7265