Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award 2020

Congratulations to the 2020 recipients of the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Researcher Award!!

College of Architecture + Planning

Hakan Ashaboglu

Mentor: Prof. Trent Smith

School of Business

Jacqueline Mumford

Mentor: Prof. Robert Allen

Accounting & Political Science

"I discovered my passion for research through my work on my Honors thesis. I have learned so much about the accounting field, and plan to continue researching into my Master's program in accounting."
School for Cultural & Social Transformation

Christine Workman Martinez

Mentor: Prof. Wanda S. Pillow

School of Dentistry

Braden Fallon

Mentor: Prof. Melodie Weller

Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Chemistry

"My overall goal of performing undergraduate research and working with UROP was to allow me to develop the skills needed to succeed in graduate school. However, I found that my research experience influenced other areas as well. As I worked on projects in the lab, there were instances where I didn’t have a perfect understanding of the underlying scientific concepts and wanted to know more. As such, I took classes to fill those gaps in my understanding. My undergraduate research helped me to tailor my Biomedical Engineering degree to my interests. As I gained a better understanding of these concepts, I was also able to apply them in the lab, which many individuals don’t have the opportunity to experience. My research experience has prepared me for graduate school, providing me with the skills to succeed, and has granted me a more thorough education."
College of Education

Danielle Sheremeta

Mentor: Prof. Claire Son

Elementary Education and Spanish Minor

"I have been working in schools for a few years and found my passion there: working with young children. During that time, I started wondering about the teaching we were doing in Kindergarten and just how important it is to teach the very young students how to read. Doing research on early reading intervention has helped me as a teacher improve my methods so that my kiddos learn to the best of their abilities."
College of Engineering

Takara Truong

Mentor: Prof. Mark Minor

Mechanical Engineering

"My ultimate career goal is to become faculty at a top tier research university and to establish a research lab that will unite mechanical engineering and computer science for research in human robot interaction, learning, and manipulation."
College of Fine Arts

Alicia Ross

Mentor: Prof. Satu Hummasti

Modern Dance Major

"My goals are to become a professional performer and choreographer. My undergraduate research experience has given me the opportunity to put theory into practice by physically embodying what it means to be an artist."
College of Health

Nate Rose

Mentor: Prof. Adriana Coletta


"With the goal of one day becoming a physician, my undergraduate research experience has been extremely beneficial for my future preparation. While focusing on how exercise interventions improve cancer survivorship, my research experience has allowed me to develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, oral and written communication, and much more. These larger themes of scientific inquiry and curiosity will be valuable to a medical career in which the advancement of knowledge is conducted through many fields of natural and social science research. I have learned, experimented and formed new goals and desires through my experience in research that I am confident will continue to drive me through my future studies and career." 
Honors College

Ben Battistone

Mentor: Prof. Ginger Smoak

Philosophy of Science

"Ben Battistone is pursuing a degree in Philosophy of Science through the Honors College at the University of Utah in preparation for a career as a physician-scientist. Ben works as an undergraduate researcher in the McMahon Lab at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, developing novel pathway-based treatments for melanoma and gastrointestinal cancers. He is also passionate about bioethics and the philosophical implications of our improving scientific abilities. Ben is grateful to the Office of Undergraduate Research for supporting the intellectual growth of students and encouraging undergraduates to perform impactful and authentic research."
College of Humanities

Caitlin Silianoff

Mentor: Christopher Mead

English, Political Science, & International Studies with a minor in Chinese

"Research teaches us strategies for tackling problems that don’t have obvious solutions. Participating in undergraduate research in the humanities has allowed me to develop the capacity for thinking critically about complex issues and the ability to build and articulate my own arguments. These skills aren’t just useful in classrooms or while composing research papers—they lay the foundation for fulfilling careers and lives. In the future, I will use my research experience to attend graduate school in international politics before pursuing a career in foreign relations."
College of Law

Madeline Harker

Mentor: Prof. Amos Guiora

Health Promotion and Education

"I have always been interested in medicine, and this research experience has given me an opportunity to speak with survivors who have been through traumatic experiences. This has reinforced my interest in both medicine and trying to make a difference in people’s lives. It has taught me interview skills with people in difficult situations, and helped me develop empathy. This opportunity has fortified my desire to be an advocate for sexual assault survivors and help allow their voices to be heard."
School of Medicine

James Carrington

Mentor: Prof. Minna-Roh Johnson

Biology (B.A)

"I aim to become a physician-scientist who can integrate patient care, education, and research into my career. Active involvement in undergraduate research provided a foundation to stimulate my intellectual curiosity and identify my long term goals."
College of Mines & Earth Sciences

Christopher Rapp

Mentor: Prof. Gannet Hallar

Atmospheric Sciences & Mathematics

"I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in the Atmospheric Sciences upon graduating from the University of Utah and wish to study aerosol-cloud interactions and their impact on climate change. As an undergraduate researcher I have had the opportunity to work with research professors on complex projects, communicate my results at conferences with posters, and have gained a deeper passion for conducting research."
College of Nursing

Bruno Gonzales

Mentor: Prof. Michelle Litchman


One of my goals is to become a physician & help underserved communities. My research experience has helped me better understand the health impacts these communities have because of a lack of culturally aware providers and resources.
College of Pharmacy

Nam Nguyen

Mentor: Prof. Christopher Reilly

Biology HBS with a minor in Chemistry 

"My long-term goal is to become a physician-scientist and eventually have my own research program in bioscience. My undergraduate research experience has not only prepared me with rigorous scientific training to achieve these goals but has also connected me with many outstanding mentors in my field who continue to support me as I pursue my educational and professional goals."
College of Science

Connor Terry Weatherly

Mentors: Prof. Henry White & Prof. Shelley Minteer

Chemistry with a minor in Math

"My goal is to do fundamental research and teach as a Professor. I knew this was the path I wanted sometime after I started my undergraduate research, but I don’t remember the exact moment. It slowly became obvious to me and now I cannot see myself doing anything else. I began my research in a biology lab, and as much as I love biology the research didn’t captivate me. I switched to a second bio lab and had the same issue. The research was interesting but I wasn’t suited for the day to day work. Finally, I ended up working for Henry White, who does research in the field of electrochemistry and it was a perfect fit. I’ve been working in his laboratory coming on three years. The University of Utah has an abundance of undergraduate research opportunities with top tier scientists, which allowed me to explore actual research in different fields and discover what excited me the most. This was invaluable, and I doubt I would have the goal of becoming a professor if I wasn’t in a field I consistently feel excited and stimulated by, which is chemistry. When I began working in the White laboratory I wasn’t given a protocol or an exact experimental procedure and I wasn’t working on someone else’s project, I was given my own. Although I had free rein I had the expert guidance of Henry White and others in his group. I had no experience in the field and it was challenging to get going. However, initially being so far over my head helped me develop strong critical thinking and problem solving skills. My electrochemistry knowledge began to grow by reading through the literature and running experiments. Finally, after multiple set backs, I was able to make a new scientific discovery in a field a year before I knew nothing about. This showed me what it was really like to be a scientist: To struggle and be confused with no solution available, but eventually, by being careful, running the right controls, discussing results with others and designing new experiments, make a discovery. The scientific process has brought immense good to the world, but this process isn’t really learned in classes by reviewing past scientific knowledge, it’s learned through experimentation, by thinking hard about a problem, and ultimately by doing research. I was able to begin honing my scientific skills by working under some truly great scientists while doing undergraduate research and I think this is what will help me the most towards my goal of being a professor."
College of Social & Behavioral Science

Shaniah Morning Star Chee

Mentor: Prof. Brian Codding

Anthropology with a minor in Native American Studies

"If I had not gone up to introduce myself to Shane MacFarland during my first Anthropology class then I would not been able to be a part of the firewood research experience at all! I have enjoyed every moment of it from camping out, to harvesting firewood for locals, and meeting new scholars and associates within the Department of Anthropology. The experience I’ve had these past 2 years, almost 3, I have gained a level of confidence to go out of comfort zone, as well as take notice to the importance of harvesting wood on the Navajo Nation, my home. My goal is to continue to educate those who don't know the importance of harvesting wood is more than just for warmth, it has the ability to provide my people with shelter and for ceremonial purposes, and the process it takes to get it isn't an easy task. I had such a great time with my team, especially with Kate and Brian! They have helped me every step of the way, I would like to say ahehee' nitsxaago (thank you) for the experience."
College of Social Work

Héctor Robles

Mentor: Prof. Jason Castillo

Political Science with an emphasis in International Politics and a minor in Sociology

"I hope that my research informs legislators and scholars to take appropriate action to better serve underrepresented communities. The office of Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and their support has helped better understand and serve my community through research."