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Summer GRA Awardees Announced

Eighteen graduate students, selected from a pool of 47 applicants, will receive $3,600 stipends from UT’s Summer Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) Fund managed by UT’s Office of Research and Engagement.

“Despite the many challenges associated with COVID-19, exciting research continues at UT,” says Kimberly Eck, assistant vice chancellor of research development. “We’re pleased to support these worthy projects over the summer of 2020 at UT Knoxville and the UT Institute of Agriculture, which further strengthens the unification of the two campuses.”

The graduate student assistantships are listed below, along with their faculty advisors, department, and project title:

Josh Barrow, with Yuri Kamyshkov in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, “Quantum Monte Carlo Electromagnetic Cross Section Model and World Data X2 Comparisons within the GENIE Monte Carlo Event Generator.” This particle physics project, a complete Monte Carlo 𝑒-scattering event generator validation, is a vital component of the broader, maturing implementation program of new cross sections within GENIE at Fermilab and abroad.

Megan Baumgardner, with Kristy Allen in the Department of Psychology, “Capturing Parental Emotions and Behaviors in the Real World: Implications for the Intergenerational Transmission of Anxiety.” Uses ecological momentary assessment to gather real-time data on emotion and behavior in natural environments using cell phones, the first project to leverage this powerful methodology to assess the experiences of anxious parents as they interact with their children in day-to-day life.

Lauren Beasley, with Robin L. Hardin in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies, “Social Work Services and Competencies in Sport.” Explores if, and in what ways, social workers in sport are implementing performance enhancement interventions, involves a survey of the Alliance of Social Workers in Sport (ASWIS) listserv to assess which type of social work services and which type of performance enhancement services participants provide, as well their perceptions of these services.

Austin Boyd, with Louis Rocconi in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, “Developing Easy-to-use and Accessible Statistical Tools for Applied Researchers.” Involves the creation of two separate statistical tools for applied researchers to better understand and utilize effect size measures and social network analysis in their research.

Sarah-Jayne Brawner, with Jennifer Schweitzer in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, “Islands in the Sky: A Comparative Approach for Observing Impacts of Climate Change on Long-lived Tree Species.” Aims to identify the consequences of climate change on Populus angustifolia by utilizing sky islands, which are small, isolated mountains surrounded completely by desert.

Rochelle Davis, with Nancy Henry in the Department of English, “Horsepower: Horses in Victorian Literature and Culture.” Davis’ expertise in Art History will aid research related to Henry’s book project, which will expand her knowledge of Victorian art and contribute directly to her dissertation.

Alexandra Faidiga, with Susan Kalisz in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “Impacts of Climate Change on the Reproductive Dynamics of Understory Spring Wildflowers.” Explores the impact of phenological shifts on plant reproduction with an experiment simulating normal vs. early canopy closure in growth chambers and manipulating outcross pollen receipt for a common spring wildflower.

Jesse Harris, with Stephan M. Spanier in the Department of Psychics and Astronomy, “Machine-Learning Methods in Higgs Boson Decay Analyses.” The goal is to demonstrate improvement in the significance of the Higgs decay rate measurements in search for new physics signatures using an optimized machine-learning approach.

Marie Holzer, with Mary Lehman Held in the Department of Social Work, “Latino Community in Davidson County: Assessing Health and Psychosocial Needs.” This mixed-methods study aims to increase knowledge related to the health and psychosocial needs, service utilization patterns, and sources of resilience among Latino adults in Davidson County, TN. Holzer, a Spanish-speaking graduate student, has voluntarily assisted with other research projects with the Davidson County Latino community.

Kyra Martinez, with Michelle Brown in the Department of Sociology, “Digital Pedagogies Toward Justice.” Working in the area of criminal justice crisis and reform, this research will collect and analyze digital and pedagogical platforms, including online workshops and convergences, podcasts, webinars, and digital toolkits, and curricula to explore how civil society organizations work in communities to introduce and build transformative justice practices at a regional and national scale.

Julian William McDaniel, with Tamar Shirinian in the Department of Anthropology, “Struggling with Recovery: Psychic and Emotional Life in Houston After Harvey.” Investigates the toll on mental health caused in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey, through ethnographic research within the politically, racially, and economically marginalized communities of Manchester and the Greater Fifth Ward areas of Houston, TX

Nader Naghavi, with Eric Wade in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, “Advanced Data Methods for the Prediction and Classification of Parkinson’s Disease Symptomology Using Wearable Sensing.” Advances existing clinical interventions to improve quality of life, including tools that facilitate behavior monitoring in the home setting, by developing new, quantitative algorithms that use non-invasive, easily obtained motion data extracted from wearable sensors.

Michelle Odoi, with Denita Hadziabdic Guerry in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, “Hunger Solution in West Africa: Genetic Diversity and Spatial Distribution of Native Frafra Potato Plants.” Evaluates the genetic diversity within and among Frafra potato populations in Ghana and Burkina Faso; involves novel molecular laboratory skills, population genetic data analyses, and basic and molecular plant pathology approaches.

Casey Read, with Sarh E. Moorey in the Department of Animal Science, “Improving Cytoplasmic Maturation of the Oocyte In Vitro and the Effects on Early Embryo Development.” This research into assisted reproductive techniques seeks to identify factors that increase fertility in cattle via the ovulation of a developmentally competent oocyte from a physiologically optimal follicle.

Ming Shen, with Yingkui in the Department of Geography, “Li-Shen-Summer GRA 2020.” This study of the middle reach of Yarlung Zangbo River (YZR) on the southern Tibetan Plateau seeks to (1) determine suitable statistical models for long-term turbidity monitoring, (2) investigate the spatial and temporal patterns of turbidity change, and (3) identify the corresponding determinants of turbidity change.

Anna Sisk, with Judy Day in the Department of Mathematics, “Linking Immuno-Epidemiology Principles to Violence.” Uses an epidemiological framework to study violence by incorporating the individual (host) scale into the framework, and integrating approaches used in epidemiology and immunology to explore the framework’s utility for understanding the dynamics of violence.

Huihui Sun, with Jie Zhuang in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, “Retention and Distribution of Bacteria and Viruses in Micropores of Soil Aggregates.” Measures and analyzes how the soil pore system determines the retention, distribution, and even interactions of bacteria and viruses under varying solution chemical conditions. Two sets of experiments will be performed at ORNL.

David Willis, with Pamelia Ellyn Brott in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, “Brott and Willis: Vlogging as Reflective Practice in Professional Identity Development of School Counseling Interns.” Explores weekly vlogs of school counseling interns through the lens of interpretive phenomenological analysis; includes transcribing video recordings, setting up analysis tools, collaborating on triangulation of data, and contributing to the scholarly writing and presentation proposals.

The Summer GRA program awards faculty members who provide a plan for graduate students to supplement and enhance research support. Funding is based on the merits of the research/scholarship, feasibility of the project, past and potential productivity of the investigator(s), potential to increase publications and external funding, alignment with UT’s strategic goals and objectives, and research/scholarship priorities identified by colleges/departments.