Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award 2021

Congratulations to the 2021 recipients of the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Researcher Award!!

College of Architecture + Planning

Joe Wassweiler

Year: Senior
Major: Multi-Disciplinary Design

"The opportunity to do undergraduate research for two full semesters allowed me to gain an in depth understanding of a topic that has always been of interest to me. As a graduating senior from the Multi-Disciplinary Design program, the opportunity to integrate design research into my design process was an invaluable experience. Design research is a critical step in the design process because, at the end of the day, it is the foundation from which an impactful project flourishes."

Mentor: Prof. Cord Bowen

School of Business
School for Cultural & Social Transformation

Cloe butler

Year: Junior
Major/Minor: Gender Studies / Health, Society & Policy

"My work with Dr. Antunes and UROP allows me to explore my passion for comprehensive sexuality education in a unique way that reaches communities who need it the most. Not only has this experience allowed me to get closer to my career goals, but it serves the immigrant and refugee community of Salt Lake. Learning how to address specific sexual and reproductive needs within a population has honed my social justice and advocacy skills and, more importantly, expanded knowledge among the kids I work with."

Mentor: Prof. Ana Carolina Antunes

“Cloe’s commitment to her research topic is astonishing. It has been a pleasure to work and learn alongside her”

School of Dentistry

Matthew Hesterman

Mentor: Prof. Melodie Weller

College of Education

Kayla kelsey

Year: Senior
Elementary Education

"My goal in my classroom is not only to focus on my students' academic learning but their social and emotional wellbeing as well through effective behavioral strategies."
Mentor: Prof. Sharlene Kiuhara
"Kayla is an outstanding undergraduate researcher committed to teaching and supporting classroom teachers with evidence-based practices. She conceptualized her project as a need to bridge the research-to-practice gap. Using a consultation model, Kayla worked with a kindergarten teacher to develop a classroom management plan based on positive behavioral support principles. The teacher was able to implement these practices effectively while increasing students’ engagement during instruction."
College of Engineering

Joseph Lyman

Mentor: Prof. Sriram Krishnamoorthy


College of Fine Arts

Ben Stanford

Year: Senior
Major: Theatre Studies

 "As a playwright, I base much of my work in topical issues, often requiring my plays to be based in significant amounts of relevant research. For example, I’ve written plays and musicals on the struggles of small businesses, the subtle dangers of overly-accessible pornography, the anxieties of high school success, and the value of underrepresented and untold stories. Other major research projects of mine have centered around indigenous theatre, Shakespeare’s works, and the epic theatre of Bertolt Brecht. Each research project I have completed has ultimately assisted me in getting my plays and musicals produced, made me a better critical thinker in both creative and academic capacities, and helped me get accepted to graduate school. As I prepare to meet my long-term goals of becoming an educator and impactful playwright, I am humbled at the undergraduate research opportunities I have had in the Department of Theatre. Second only to my trusting and vastly-talented research mentors, those opportunities have been a primary factor in creating an invaluable and fulfilling experience for me in my time at the University of Utah."


Mentors: Prof. Kimberly Jew & Prof. Tim Slover

"Ben Stanford possesses that rare combination of attributes that leads to success: seemingly endless creativity with diligence, inspiration with hard work, a strong individual voice with the eagerness to hear others, flexibility with the ability to meet a deadline. Be on notice, theatre world: Ben is coming." 

College of Health

Jacob Razzouk

Year: Senior
Major: Health and Kinesiology (Honors)

"Well first I would like to thank Dr. Jessica King for her kind mentorship and support throughout this experience. Dr. King truly goes above and beyond to help her students. You can easily tell Dr. King sincerely cares about everyone participating in her research. She is always going out of her way to teach us new, useful information, and her contagious personality makes each project engaging and exciting. She has also gone out of her way time and time again to help with my Honors Thesis, and I am so grateful for her continual support. She has been a tremendous source of encouragement and expertise and I feel incredibly fortunate to have learned so much from her throughout my time here at the U (and trust me, I still have a lot to learn!). Participating in undergraduate research with Dr. King has nurtured my interest to continue contributing to research advances. Conducting research has become a rewarding process for me—I love the satisfaction you feel when you start to see a project come together. It is truly very special when you get to work with a supportive team on a project everyone feels passionate about. My plan for the future is to matriculate into medical school."


Mentor: Prof. Jessie King

"Jacob is an outstanding undergraduate researcher and well-deserving of this award. Jacob’s idea to test e-cigarette warnings in Spanish and English is novel and has the potential to inform policy as well as reduce disparities. I’m incredibly impressed with how he led this project from start to submitting for publication while learning new skills and being a strong collaborator along the way. Throughout all his accomplishments, Jacob remains humble and eager to learn and develop as a researcher. I have no doubt he will continue to impress those he meets as he continues his academic and research journeys."


Honors College

Lydia Fries

Mentor: Prof. Matthew Sigman

College of Humanities
College of Law
School of Medicine

Selena Wirthlin

Mentor: Prof. Bryan Jones


"Selena took on a substantial project exploring the comparative anatomy of retinal neurons using an ultrastructural connectomics approach. This work pushes the boundaries of technology and neuroscience, and leads to understanding of not just how information is processed in retina, but also provides clarity on how these systems are altered in models of human disease."


College of Mines & Earth Sciences

jerry R. howard II

Year: Senior
Metallurgical Engineering

"My goal is to obtain my PhD and pursue a career as a materials science researcher. I hope to discover and innovate materials that will help advance sustainable technologies. My undergraduate research experience has been the most important part of my undergraduate education - I have accomplished things and learned skills that will be invaluable to me for my entire career.
Mentor: Prof. Krista Carlson
"I greatly enjoy working with Jerry. He is constantly stretching himself and dedicated to making any improvements needed for success. I would rate Jerry to be in the top 1% of the hundreds of students I have come across. In addition to his research activities, Jerry also participated in STEM outreach activities with K–12 students from under-privileged backgrounds. He has expressed that he enjoys the knowledge exchange with others from a wide range of backgrounds. Based on his performance thus far, I am convinced that Jerry will excel in his career goals and make a beneficial contribution to society."
College of Nursing

kylie bethards

Year: Junior
Major: Nursing

"My goal is to become a Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. My undergraduate research experience has taught me how to holistically approach both patient care and research in general. I have also had the incredible opportunity to learn from and collaborate with amazing individuals in the field of Nursing, the foremost being my mentor, Dr. Lauri Linder. Through my undergraduate research experience, I have developed as a student and future professional, and I look forward to continued development and learning throughout the rest of my career."


Mentor: Prof. Lauri Linder

"Kylie is a truly outstanding student who has demonstrated impressive initiative in completing her research remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her research included quantitative text analyses to understand adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients' perspectives of their priority symptoms and the heuristics they use in relation to their symptom experiences. The results of her research will help support a more patient-centric approach to symptom management for this vulnerable patient group."

College of Pharmacy

Blair Armstrong

Year: Senior
Major/Minor: Biomedical Engineering / Chemistry

"Undergraduate research has given me the opportunity to get involved in research going on my field of study in a hands-on manner. Working with Dr. Ghandehari has allowed me to bring my skills from the classroom to the laboratory and help me discover what topics of study I enjoy. Research is also an incredibly fulfilling way to practice your studies and learn how to be an independent student scientist and grow your skills. "



Mentor: Prof. Hamid Ghandehari

"Blair is inquisitive, organized and a hard worker. His research contribution for the design of bioresponsive polymers using recombinant techniques can ultimately save patients suffering from non-hodgkin's lymphoma."


College of Science

Sahar Kanishka

Year: Junior
Major: Biology and Business Administration 

"In the future, I plan on pursuing an MD/PhD and continuing my science adventure! Undergraduate research has been one of the most impactful experiences in my life - it's what made me realize that I always want to continue learning and asking new questions, for the rest of my life."


Mentor: Prof. James Gagnon

College of Social & Behavioral Science

Angela pham

Year: Junior
Major/Minor: Psychology and Gender Studies / Ethnic Studies

"My ultimate goal as a researcher is to incorporate social justice efforts in working towards increasing diversity within mental health to create more competent psychotherapy practices in ethnic and sexual minority populations. The majority of psychological research has historically been performed on white, college-aged males, resulting in disparities within the existing mental health treatments for marginalized communities. My goal is to change these practices and increase accessibility within these communities. Through my research at the University of Utah, I’ve been able to engage in a different process that includes community participation and relies on collaboration with these communities to work on solutions that matter to them. It has fostered my interest in community-based research and has allowed me the opportunity to explore research outside of the institutionalized lens that we have today."

Mentor: Prof. Anu Asnaani

"I count myself lucky to have worked with Angela over the past two years - her dedication, intellectual curiosity, and team spirit have been invaluable to my lab! It has been my absolute pleasure to mentor her, and this award is so richly deserved!"

College of Social Work

Kimberly Tobar

Year: Junior
Major: Social Work and Advanced Substance Use Disorder Certificate

"My goal for the future is to help people who are struggling with substance use issues. This undergraduate research opportunity has been very eye opening on how there is lack of education on substance use for bachelor of social work students. With this research, I hope it changes the way BSW students are taught so they can be provided with more substance use disorder information so that all social workers have an understanding and ability to help substance use clients."

Mentor: Prof. Jason Castillo