URECA Faculty Mentors

According to the Council on Undergraduate Research (https://www.cur.org/), one of the key characteristics of excellence in undergraduate research is faculty commitment.  The success of the Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity (URECA) grant program is dependent upon our faculty mentors who are highly committed to providing students with a hands-on research experience that includes instruction, guidance and direct modeling.  They support student learning in a manner that allows students to develop greater responsibility for his or her own work, develop and demonstrate valuable teamwork skills, and gain experience in critical inquiry. 

Below are some of our featured faculty mentors who continuously engage in mentored research through the URECA program.   

 Kevin Bicker photo

Kevin Bicker, Ph.D.
URECA Projects: Synthesis and evaluation of antifungal peptoid derivatives against Cryptococcus neoformans (Summer 2021); Synthesis and Characterization of the Therapeutic Potential of β-5 (Summer 2021); Synthesis and evaluation of antifungal peptoid derivatives against Cryptococcus neoformans (Fall 2020); Synthesis of Peptoid Coated Quantum Dots for Biomedical Applications (Summer 2020); Synthesis and MIC Testing of Antifungal Peptoids against Cryptococcus (Summer 2017); Characterizing the Therapeutic Potential of the Antifungal Peptoid AEC5 (Summer 2017); Synthesis and Screening of an Antimicrobial Oligomer Peptoid Combinatorial Library Against the Fungi Aspergillus, Candida, and Cryptococcus (Summer 2016); Synthesis and Screening of Antimicrobial Peptoid Combinatorial Libraries Against the Fungi Aspergillus, Candida, and Cryptococcus (Fall 2015)
Research Interests: Bioorganic chemistry, peptoids and peptides, solid-phase synthesis, assay development, drug development

 Jessica Gentry Carter

Jessica Gentry Carter, Ph.D.
URECA Projects: Environmental temperature effects on milk production and daily activity of dairy cattle with respect to different breeds (Summer 2021); Environmental temperature effects on milk production and daily activity of dairy cattle with respect to different breeds (Spring 2021); Genetic improvement of Angus cows through genomic testing and EPDs (Spring 2020); A bi-seasonal evaluation of the relationship between bedding bacterial levels and somatic cell counts of milk on cows housed in a compost bedded pack barn (Spring 2020); Evaluation of breed, milk production, and udder characteristics on somatic cell count and udder pathogens in lactating Holstein and Jersey cows. (Spring 2019); Effectiveness of Zinc Based Footbath Solutions over Industry Standard Copper Bath (Fall 2017)
Research Interests:
Beef cattle management, genetics and reproduction, dairy cow health and production, meat science factors that affect quality and tenderness



 Emily Farris photo

Emily Farris, Ph.D.
Center for Dyslexia
URECA Projects:
Child-level reading variables and gist-based memory: An interactive model (Fall 2021); Childhood Reading Experiences and Adult Reading Performance (Spring 2021); The Examination of Neural Connectivity with Resting-State EEG (Summer 2019)
Research Interests: Enhancing understanding of reading difficulties with the ultimate goal of improving ability to identify individuals with reading difficulties and develop treatment programs tailored to the individual’s needs. 



Scott Handy

Scott Handy, Ph.D.
URECA Projects:
Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry in Deep Eutectic Solvents (Summer 2021); Investigation of Pi-extended Aurones (Spring 2021); Further Exploration of Aurone System in Mercury Sensing (Fall 2020); Fluorescent Labels Based on the Aurone Scaffold: A Group Project (Team Project, Summer 2020); Dyeing with Deep Eutectic Solvents (Summer 2020); Exploration of Aurone System in Mercury Sensing (Summer 2020); Synthesis of Amino Aurones: An Exploration into Nitrogenous Functional Groups and Organometallic Catalysts (Fall 2019); Exploration of Aza-aurone, Thioaurone and Triazole Systems for Florescence in Bio-imaging (Fall 2019); Aside Aurones and Click Chemistry (Spring 2019); *N-Substituted Azaaurones: Synthesis, Photochemistry, and Biological Applications (Spring 2019); Dyeing to Know: A Natural Approach to Dyeing (Fall 2018) 
Research Interests: Organic Synthesis. Within this broad area, Dr. Handy has two areas under active investigation: deep eutectic solvents and the exploration of aurones as biologically active natural products and fluorophores.

Samuel Haruna

Samuel Haruna, Ph.D.
URECA Projects:
Influence of Land Management Practices and Population Density on Soil Hydraulic and Thermal Properties (Fall 2021); Defining Landscape Effects on the Spatial Variability of Hydraulic and Thermal Properties (Summer 2020); Effects of Aerated Irrigation Through Subsurface Drip Irrigation on Soil Thermal and Physical Properties (Team Project, Spring 2020); Effects of Landscape Position on Soil Hydraulic and Thermal Properties (Spring 2020)
Research Interests: Soil and Water Conservation; Soil Management Practices; Cover Crops; Soil Thermal Properties; Vadoze Zone Hydrology.

 Ryan Seth Jones

Ryan Seth Jones, Ph.D.
Educational Leadership
URECA Projects:
The Impact of 3D Biology Lessons Within the Classroom (Spring 2019); Developing Procedures for Capturing Video and Audio of Small Group Interactions in Large Classroom Data Collection (Spring 2019); The effects of 3D biology lessons on student learning (Fall 2018)
Research Interests: Methods of supporting students to use mathematics and science to construct and revise knowledge, measuring the extent to which whole class discussions in middle grades classrooms support students, creating innovative technologies for teachers and students in middle grades math classes, developing new tools for assessing nuanced ways of thinking in middle grades students, and developing frameworks and curricular approaches for interdisciplinary STEM learning environments organized around data modeling practices.

Rebekka King

Rebekka King, Ph.D.
Philosophy and Religious Studies
URECA Projects:
(dis)Connected: A Series of Interviews on Society and Spirituality in the Modern World (Fall 2021); Non-Christian and Immigrant Christian Communities and the Programs Available to their Youth in Middle Tennessee (Spring 2019)
Research Interests:
Global Christianity, North American religions, anthropology of religion, secularism, Bible and its reception, method and theory in the study of religion, ethnographic field methods, religion and the public sphere, teaching for civic engagement

 David Nelson photo

David E. Nelson, Ph.D.
URECA Projects:
Determining the effect of Cryptococcus neoformans infection on the phosphorylation and subcellular localization of CITED1 in macrophages (Fall 2021); Investigating the role of phospho-polyubiquitin in the recruitment of Parkin at the mitochondria (Fall 2020); Examining the Role of Parkin as a Regulator of Gene Expression During Periods of Induced Mitochondrial Depolarization Using BAM15 (Spring 2020); Fluorescent Taggine of Genomic Parkin in Human Osteosarcoma Cells Using CRI (Spring 2019); Examining the Effects of Inflammation on Parkin-Dependent Mitochondrial Quality Control in Parkinson’s Disease Using Cell Line Models of Neurons and Microglia (Spring 2019); Investigating the effects of glucoseconcentration on macrophage polarization using a tissue culture model of type II diabetes mellitus (Summer 2018); The Effect of Intracellular C. Neoformans on Expression of lrf4 (Fall 2017); Compare the effects of lipopolysaccharide and inerferon gamma on the expression (Fall 2017); Measurement of M2-Associated Protein Markers in Macrophages Infected with the Facultative Intracellular Pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans (Summer 2017); Effect of Cryptococcus neoformans on Macrophage Activation State (Fall 2016); Investigation of "memory"-like properties within the PINK1: Parkin Mitophagy Pathway (Fall 2016); Determining the Effects of Different Capsular GXM Species, Shed by the Pathogenic Yeast Cryptococcus neoformans, on Macrophage NF-κB Signaling and Proinflammatory Gene Expression (Summer 2016); Effect of Cryptococcus neoformans Capsular Polysaccharide on Production of TNFα and iNOS in Macrophages (Fall 2015)
Research Interests: Cell biology, cell signaling, mitochondria, mitophagy, host:pathogen interactions

 Joshua Phillips

Joshua Phillips, Ph.D.
Computer Science
URECA Projects:
High Performing Scientific Computing as a Service in the Cloud (Fall 2020); Dynamic Threshold for the Partially-Observable and Non-Observable Working Memory Toolkit (Fall 2019); N-Task Learning on Partially-Observable Image (Fall 2019); Automatic Feature Association and Dynamic Threshold for the Combined Observable and Non-observable Task Switching Model (Summer 2019); Enabling Multi-Task Learning in Partially- and Non-observable Environments with Keras (Summer 2019); Combining Models for Observable and Non-Observable Task Switching to Achieve Working Memory for Autonomous Systems (Spring 2019); Unitization and Catastrophic Interference in Reinforcement Learning (Spring 2019); Dimensional Attention Learning for Working Memory (Spring 2019); Unitization Applied to deep reinforcement learning (Fall 2018); Application of N-Task learning on Traditional Computer Vision Problems (Spring 2018); Dimensional Attention Learning for Working Memory (Fall 2017); Holographic Reduced Representation for Working Memory Concept, Automating Action Learning (Fall 2016); Calibration of the Holographic Working Memory Toolkit Using the Delayed Saccade Task (Fall 2016); Holographic Reduced Representations for Working Memory Concept Encoding (Spring 2016); Spectrum Analysis of HIV Clades (Fall 2015)
Research Interests: Molecular modeling and simulation, computational models of working memory, machine learning and neural networks

 William Robertson photo Bill Robertson, Ph.D.
Physics & Astronomy
URECA Projects:
Electrical Analog of a Ring Resonator Structures and an Acoustic Demultiplexe (Fall 2021); Creating Acoustic Diode in Waveguides: Simulation and Experiment (Summer 2021); Acoustic Demultiplexing in Waveguide (Fall 2020); Constructing a novel experimental apparatus for use with acoustics research (Fall 2018); Modeling, Simulating, and Testing an Acoustic Lens (Summer 2018); Testing applications of the Photonic Crystal Based Biosensor (Fall 2017); Improvement of the Photonic Crystal Biosensor Design (Summer 2017)

Research Interests: Optics, acoustics, terahertz spectroscopy, computational science, and signal processing

Tiffany Rogers

Tiffany Rogers, Ph.D.
URECA Projects:
Changes in Social Motivation Following Oxytocin Receptor Inhibition (Fall 2021); The Effects of Intra-Cerebral Infusions of Oxytocin Agonist and Antagonist on Conditioned Place Preference (Summer 2021); Validation and Testing of a Social Motivation Task for Mice (Spring 2021); Evaluating Chronic Oxytocin Effects on Social Behaviors (Spring 2019)
Research Interests: Social and Affective Neuroscience


 Elizabeth A. Smith photo Elizabeth A. Smith, Ph.D.
Human Sciences
URECA Projects:
Factors Affecting Older Adults' Fruit and Vegetable Consumption (Spring 2020); Food Security, Coping and Support Strategies, and Diet Quality in College Students from a Moderate Sized University (Fall 2018); Mini Health and Nutrition Screen (Fall 2018)

Research Interests: Changing nutrition related health behaviors such as increasing fruit and vegetable intake, food insecurity, and preventing chronic disease through nutrition related health and wellness


 Ben Stickle photo Ben Stickle, Ph.D.
Criminal Justice Administration
URECA Projects:
Why They Died: An expanded analytical examination of details surrounding the 999 officer-involved shooting deaths in 2019 in the United States (Spring 2021); Why They Died: An expanded analytical examination of details surrounding officer-involved shooting deaths in the United States (Fall 2020); Pirates With No Sea: The Rising Rate of Porch Package Theft (Spring 2018); The True Costs of Private Security. (Fall 2017)
Research Interests: Crime prevention, environmental criminology and metal theft, private security, police operations, administration and use of force

Hanna Terletska

 Hanna Terletska, Ph.D.
Physics and Astronomy
URECA Projects: Harnessing Disorder Effects in Superconductors (Fall 2021); Designing STEM Outreach Activities Manual for K-12 Students (Fall 2021); The Role of Electron-Electron Interactions on Metal-Insulator Transitions (Spring 2019)
Research Interests: Condensed matter theory; Computational many-body physics; Strongly correlated electrons; Quantum criticality; Disordered systems and localization; Metal-Insulator transitions; Superconductivity.


 Donald Walker photo Donald Walker, Ph.D.

URECA Projects: The endosymbiotic bacterial community of the causative agent of White Nose Syndrome, (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) of bats (Summer 2021); The endosymbiotic community of the causative agent of White Nose Syndrome (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) of bats (Summer 2019); Endosymbiotic bacteria impact the function of an important wildlife pathogen of bats (Summer 2019)
Research Interests: Molecular evolution and molecular ecology of microorganisms with an emphasis on fungi. 


William Yelverton

William Yelverton, Ph.D.
URECA Projects:
Classical Guitar Transcriptions of Popular Songs & Soundtracks (Fall 2020); Classical Guitar Audio/Video Recording of Roland Dyens "Trios Saudades" (Fall 2020); Classical Guitar Transcriptions and Recordings of Minecraft Volume Alpha (Fall 2021)
Research Interests: Guitar





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