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2020-2021 GATE Awards

Matthew Baucum

Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering

Matthew’s research combines healthcare operations and data analytics, and will investigate techniques for more efficient weaning of medical patients from ventilators. Matthew’s earlier academic work in quantitative psychology laid a foundation for a nuanced approach to the fusion of theory-driven classical operations research and modern advances in data science that will serve to guide his continuing research to improve chronic and critical healthcare.

Sarah Brawner

Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Sarah’s research investigates the role of environmental variation across a variety of climates. Her interest in the interconnected systems of the planet led her to focus on the ecological, genetic and genomic interactions among trees and soil microbiomes in the context of climate variations. For her dissertation she plans to study these interactions in the contrasting environments of sky islands and contiguous mountain ranges in the Southwestern U.S.

Kristen Butler

Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences

Kristen’s area of study is soil biogeochemistry; the study of the biological, geological, chemical, and physical characteristics that govern soil composition. Specifically, her research looks at the impact of manganese cycling on the carbon cycle and its greater impacts on global climate change.

Madeline Davis

Department of Biochemistry, Cellular, & Molecular Biology

Maddie’s work investigates the details of protein import into chloroplasts, a pathway that is critical for photosynthesis and chloroplast biogenesis. Understanding this process could shed light on the “gateway” through which proteins travel into chloroplasts, which are foundational components of nearly all ecosystems.

Liz Denison

Department of Microbiology

Liz’s work focuses on the microbial communities of peat bogs, specifically Sphagnum, and how microorganisms may influence larger ecosystem processes. Peatlands have been identified as one of the most valuable, and most vulnerable, ecosystems on the planet. She hopes her work will contribute to predictive models of how Sphagnum will be impacted by warming temperatures.

Rajesh Ghimire

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Rajesh’s research focuses on instrumentation development, data acquisition, and analysis of large data sets to better understand nuclear reactions. An understanding of nuclear reactions can lead to developing an understanding of nucleosynthetic processes in deep cosmos. Rajesh hopes to use this work to expand his expertise in experimental nuclear physics.

Adrien Green

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Adrien’s work centers on the development of secure quantum communications, or the introduction of the laws of quantum mechanics into encryption to develop more secure means of communication. He hopes his work will contribute to the innovation necessary to make such technology widely accessible to the greater public.

Viswanathan Gurumoorthy

Department of Genome Science & Technology

Viswanathan’s research investigates intrinsically disordered proteins, or IDPs. IDPs have been shown to play a causative role in diseases such as cancer. He hopes to continue to address the knowledge gap in the study of proteins and their potential impact in a variety of systems.

Mohammad Aminul Haque

Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Aminul has always been fascinated by technology and electrical engineering. Focusing on the area of nanotechnology, his work seeks to bridge the disciplines of physics and electrical engineering. He hopes his research on 3D printed polymer structures will lead to a career in industry-oriented research and nanoelectronics fabrication.

Michelle Lehmann

Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education

Michelle is a nontraditional student exploring ion-transport membranes for non-aqueous battery systems. After spending ten years working as a veterinary technician, she enrolled at the University of Tennessee to pursue an education in chemical engineering and is currently pursuing a degree in energy science and engineering. She hopes her research will yield significant impacts for battery technologies.

Samara Levine

Department of Nuclear Engineering

Samara left an industry career as a nuclear engineer to pursue research. Her work, which seeks to investigate radiation damage in reactor structures, has led to collaborations with ORNL and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers. Her continuing research may ensure safer conditions for the generation of clean energy by fission and fusion systems.

Francis Okejiri

Department of Chemistry

Francis’s research focuses on pollution from vehicle emissions, specifically carbon monoxide which is highly toxic to humans. Carbon monoxide has been linked to a number of respiratory illnesses and can be fatal to humans in relatively small doses. He hopes to develop crystalline materials that can transform carbon monoxide into the less toxic carbon dioxide.

Nick Oldham

Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology

Nick’s work focuses on the effect of urban landscapes on wetlands and their associated pollinators. Specifically, his research investigates fly populations critical to the plant communities found in eastern Tennessee wetlands. As a self-described bug lover, Nick hopes his work will support UT-ORNL collaborations as well as educate broader audiences on the importance of pollinators.

Sreya Paladugu

Department of Materials Science & Engineering

Sreya is investigating metal oxide catalysts under acid gas exposure through neutron and x-ray scattering. She hopes her work will contribute to materials discovery and design for energy applications, and create an opportunity for collaborations with industry partners.

Nitesh Shah

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

The critical nature of road access was made clear to Nitesh in the wake of a devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal. His work in transportation planning has led him to focus on sustainability, user behavior, and safety of shared micromobility; a potential solution to urban transportation issues like congestion and pollution.

Tyler Steiner

Department of Nuclear Engineering

A lifetime of natural curiosity brought Tyler to the field of nuclear engineering for space applications. Nuclear thermal propulsion has been chosen by NASA to send humans to Mars, but a testbed for simulating the specific conditions this mission will experience does not yet exist. Tyler’s research will contribute to the development of such a test bed in an ongoing UT-ORNL collaboration.

Huihui Sun

Department of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science

Huihui’s research focuses on soil environmental microbiology, specifically the role of viruses in soil. Viruses are known to play important roles in a given ecosystem, from carbon cycling to breaking down contaminants. Her work seeks to determine the effect of water in soil on the distribution of viral populations within that soil.

Xin Wen

Department of Physics & Astronomy

The study of turbulence has implications in an array of real-world scenarios, from transportation to medicine. Xin’s research seeks to effectively quantify and test turbulent flow through the use of liquid helium. He plans to engage in multiple collaboration on this work, including with ORNL, the Joint Institute for Computational Studies, and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

Matthew Whisenant

Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Biomedical Engineering

As renewable energy technology continues to develop, existing infrastructures may provide stumbling blocks making it difficult to implement these technologies. Matthew’s research centers on hydropower, utilizing machine learning to develop more efficient turbines. He hopes his work will contribute to future increases in renewable energy use.

Yi Yang

Department of Materials Science & Engineering

Stainless steel is a widely used material in pipes for oil refineries, power plants, and nuclear energy systems. Failed welds in these pipes can have dramatic consequences. Yi’s research investigates these welds and potential causes of their failures. She hopes to then generate a predictive model for industrial use in safety monitoring.