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Undergraduate Research Spotlight

Samantha Maness and Jackson Spurling.

Samantha Maness, left, and Jackson Spurling

Undergraduates funded by the CMP are actively engaged in research and expected to participate in events showcasing their research. The students perform research in labs, analyze data, perform calculations, and run models; unsurprisingly, the majority of the CMP funds are support for the students in the forms of stipends, hourly wages, and access to the state-of-the-art characterization equipment housed on the Cherokee campus.

For the majority of the students participating in research positions, their financial support was jointly shared between a faculty member and the CMP. Several of these students were recognized at the Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (EURēCA). This was the 25th EURēCA, an annual event showcasing research and creative activities across all disciplines by currently enrolled undergraduate students in collaboration with a faculty member. Due to the pandemic both in FY20 and FY21, the events associated with EURēCA were held virtually. The various disciplines recognize the top posters, and CMP-funded students were recognized in both College of Arts & Sciences natural sciences and Tickle College of Engineering categories. Recognized students from the disciplines were advanced as a group to compete for recognition from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (OURF). CMP-supported students Kelsey Uselton (chemical and biomolecular engineering and mentored by Senior Research Associate Gabriel Goenaga) was recognized with an OURF Bronze Award and Second Place in the TCE research category, and Kate Eikel (MSE and mentored by Professor Bin Hu) was recognized with an OURF Gold Award and first place in the TCE research category. Eikel graduated in May and started as an engineer at Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies, LLC.

Two students, Samantha Maness and Jackson Spurling receiving scholarship funds from the CMP graduated in May of 2021. In addition to the CMP scholarship, both Maness and Spurling participated in undergraduate research with Associate Professor Brett Compton, and Maness was recognized with a TCE Award of Merit at the 2021 EURēCA. This fall, Maness is heading to the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology to participate in research as a Fulbright Visiting Researcher and plans to start the PhD program at Northwestern University in the fall of 2022. Spurling plans to pursue his PhD in materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State University. He earned a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship in 2021 that includes a $34,000 annual stipend for three years, $12,000 toward tuition and fees, increased chances to take part in international research, and other benefits. Logan White, who also graduated in May 2021 and participated in undergraduate research partially supported by the CMP under the direction of Hu, applied for and was granted a Fulbright Visiting Researcher position and will be heading to the Czech Republic and Northwestern University in the fall of 2022. These CMP-supported undergraduates were also recognized at the 2021 Chancellor’s Honors Banquet as top collegiate scholars in the Tickle College of Engineering (Maness and White) and one of two undergraduate researchers of the year (Spurling).

These top performing undergraduate students that either join the workforce or continue their education at universities are the best ambassadors for the CMP, their home departments, and the University of Tennessee. This holds true for our supported graduate students that graduated over the last year and are now employed at a variety of locations, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y12, Los Alamos National Laboratory, BWX Technologies, Lam Corporation, and Corning.