Faculty Mentor of the Week

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Mentors make a difference! The Office of Undergraduate Research officially launched the  Research Faculty Mentor of the Week recognition program in August 2017 and have since recognized 61 faculty mentors. Each week our office will highlight one of our outstanding and very much appreciated research faculty mentors who offer leadership and support of UK's undergraduate student researchers.


2019 -2020 Faculty Mentor of the Week

Week 11: Nov. 10 - Nov. 16, 2019

Dr. Robyn Brown - College of Arts & Sciences, Health, Society and Populations

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Dr. Robyn Brown is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Health, Society, and Populations (HSP) Program. Dr. Brown's research interests lie primarily within the social determinants of health and connect in significant ways with the fields of social psychology, disability studies and psychiatric epidemiology.

Mentors make a difference! In the last year, Dr. Brown mentored multiple students, including eleven doctoral students (four as primary advisor), seven undergraduate students, and worked with 14 Health, Society, and Populations students to prepare them for the 2019 Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars. "I have been a professor for nine years and have always welcomed involvement from undergraduate students in my research, in every step in the research process," she explains, "This has involved qualitative and survey interviewing, transcription, data coding, and data analysis." 

Dr. Brown considers it a privilege to mentor students, "The best thing about being an undergraduate research mentor is also the best thing about my job. I have the privilege of providing students with the tools to establish research programs of their own, and to work with them through that process. I really love engaging in the often messy work of collecting and analyzing data. What is especially rewarding in the early stages also is that I often get to learn from my students about topics I wouldn't learn about otherwise." Her undergraduate research experience with her mentor helped pave the way to her approach as a mentor, "My mentor stood out among my professors because she treated me like a valued and highly-capable collaborator. She also put in the time as a mentor so that I became capable. It's really no stretch to say that my undergraduate research experience inspired both my further education and the work I am passionate about today."  

When working with undergraduate research students, Dr. Brown appreciations students with a questioning mindset and emphasizes that answering one research question spurs new questions. She also encourages students to engage in the current literature on their topic to better understand current controversies or debates, methodological best practices, etc. Her advice to students considering research is that "college is a unique place where you're surrounded by people with extensive subject knowledge who are willing to share their expertise. Ask for their feedback, support, and guidance." She also urges students to talk to a librarian and to "appreciate that you have rare access to a great deal of information through the university libraries during your college years and make the most of it." 

Thank you Dr. Robyn Brown for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Research Faculty Mentor of the Week. 


Week 10: Nov. 3 - Nov. 9, 2019

Dr. Ann Kingsolver - College of Arts & Sciences, Anthropology

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Dr. Ann Kingsolver is a Professor of Anthropology in the UK College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Kingsolver's research interests include globalization and how people talk about it shaping their work and identities. Dr. Kingsolver's topical focus is political anthropology and her ethnographic fieldwork has been primarily in the U.S., Mexico, and (as a Fulbright researcher) in Sri Lanka, "I am especially interested in possibilities for people to communicate across different perspectives to find points of convergence in work toward economic, environmental, and social justice." Her current research is focused on interpretations of foreign trade zones and jurisdictions of place in the U.S. as well as economic nationalism in global perspective.

In the last year, even while on sabbatical in Bristol, England, Dr. Kingsolver mentored one undergraduate student and several doctoral students through virtual meetings. Technology has been very helpful in allowing her to mentor and engage students in her research, "I have facilitated linked classrooms between students in the U.S. and students in other countries to plan, carry out and publish collaborative transnational research on topics they choose together, of importance to them: examples are food insecurity and youth unemployment. Part of the challenge of the research design for students is figuring out equitable ways to navigate differences in language, time zone, communication technologies, institutional contexts, and research practices and establish feasible projects together that are also respectful to those in their communities with whom they further collaborate." Whether near or far, Kingsolver believes that learning to listen and collaborate transnationally is a research skill that all students should be able to experience. 

Mentoring is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. When she was an undergraduate student, Dr. Kingsolver had a very positive research experience and great mentors to guide her along the way, "I was volunteering in a Spanish-language clinic on the U.S.-Mexican border, and I had great mentors in the community and in my undergraduate anthropology program who encouraged me to return and do my Honors research project on both sides of the border challenging national stereotypes; that did shape my career in anthropology." When considering students for her research, Dr. Kingsolver appreciates an "openness to listening and learning across perspectives, which is vital to research in cultural anthropology, and the patience to leave room in a research design for the unanticipated - that is what we learn from the most." For students who are considering undergraduate research, Dr. Kingsolver encourages to start with a feasible project that you can build onto it based on what's been learned. "Since those I mentor are often doing interview research, it’s important to consider other people’s time and interests as well as your own in planning a conversation," she explained, "And I always suggest not asking anyone an interview question that the researcher would not be willing to answer if asked."  

Thank you Dr. Ann Kingsolver for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Research Faculty Mentor of the Week. 


Week 9: Oct. 27 - Nov. 2, 2019

Dr. Clare Rittschof - College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, Entomology

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Dr. Clare Rittschof is an Associate Professor of Entomology in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Dr. Rittschof's research interests include the evolutionary consequences and mechanistic underpinnings of behavioral plasticity, particularly in the context of social interactions. Her lab's website states, "Current research projects are primarily focused on honey bee behavior and health, but past projects have utilized a number of different arthropod species, and the lab thrives on a broadly comparative scientific framework." 

In the last year, Dr. Rittschof has mentored four undergraduate students in her lab. The undergraduate mentees' involvement in her research includes beekeeping, field behavioral experiments with honey bees, floral resource and wild bee collection, wild bee identification, molecular experiments, as well as data entry and analysis. While she was an undergraduate student, Dr. Rittschof had "many great undergraduate research experiences that all added something important to my future. I’m grateful for caring mentors." Her experience with wonderful mentors laid the foundation for her approach as a research mentor and believes that the best thing about mentoring is "meeting and getting to know smart and interesting students who are excited to learn. Watching students learn about the fun and frustration of research science." 

Undergraduate research is a learning activity that enriches a student's undergraduate experience. When considering undergraduate students for her lab, Dr. Rittschof appreciates the following qualities: "persistence and organization, an ability to reflect on past experiences and articulate what they've learned, and an openness to try something you aren't sure you'll like." Plus, an interest in insects is a bonus, especially since she's part of the entomology department. Dr. Rittschof's advice to students considering undergraduate research is to "start somewhere - you will learn something no matter what, and it will help you choose the next step - whether that's another lab or a career."

Thank you Dr. Clare Rittschof for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Research Faculty Mentor of the Week. 


Week 8: Oct. 20 - Oct. 26, 2019

Dr. Michael Samaan - College of Education, Kinesiology and Health Promotion

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Dr. Michael Samaan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion in the College of Education. Dr. Samaan received his Ph.D. from Old Dominion University in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering in 2014. His research interests include the use of biomechanics and musculoskeletal imaging to better understand the mechanisms and effects of lower extremity joint diseases such as osteoarthritis on joint health and function. 

In the last year, Dr. Samaan has mentored seven undergraduate students who enjoy an immersive undergraduate research experience. Dr. Samaan explained, "My lab utilizes gait analysis (biomechanics) and magnetic resonance imaging to thoroughly assess and understand the effects of various orthopaedic conditions on joint health and function. The undergraduate students in my lab get hands-on experience with data collection and also aid with the processing of the biomechanics- and imaging-related data. They also obtain experience working with human subjects in a clinical-based research environment." Dr. Samaan enjoys mentoring undergraduate students and takes his role as a mentor seriously, "I have come to learn that not all undergraduate students necessarily want to obtain research experience but all undergraduate students need someone to talk to about their future plans and goals. I feel truly honored when I am approached by an undergraduate student and asked to help provide some feedback or insight into their thoughts and future plans." 

As an undergraduate student himself, Dr. Samaan had a very positive undergraduate research experience that inspired his education and career path. "I performed an undergraduate research project and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience," he continued, "That undergraduate research experience helped to better inform me of the demands of graduate school and what a career in research could potentially lead to. My undergraduate research experience helped lead me to my current career path." 

When considering an undergraduate mentee, Dr. Samaan likes to meet with the student to discuss their expectations from the undergraduate research experience and "how it could help them accomplish their future  academic/career based goals." He enjoys meeting with students to better understand how his research opportunity can "provide them with an optimal and enjoyable research experience." He offers this advice to students considering undergraduate research, "Find a research mentor that you feel comfortable talking to and expressing your concerns to. The undergraduate research experience should be an educational yet enjoyable one and having the right mentor to ensure that the student has a great experience is extremely important."

Thank you Dr. Michael Samaan for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Research Faculty Mentor of the Week. 


Week 7: Oct. 13 - Oct. 19, 2019

Dr. Jeffrey Seay - College of Engineering, Chemical and Materials Engineering

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Dr. Jeffrey Seay is a PJC Board of Trustees Engineering Professor and a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the UK College of Engineering's Paducah campus. Dr. Seay's research interests include biofuels, computer-aided process engineering, energy conversion, environmental sciences, green engineering, process design and safety, sustainability, and transport processes and molecular modeling. 

In the last year, Dr. Seay has mentored eight undergraduate students and one graduate student and explained, "Undergraduates are involved in every aspect of my research work, from experiments to data analysis to field work in locations around the world. I have been able to take students on research trips, as well as to conferences around the world to present their findings." This past summer, Dr. Seay took a team of students (UKATS: University of Kentucky Appropriate Technology and Sustainability) to Uganda for a sustainability research project. Their mission is to combine the principles of Sustainability and Green Chemistry to develop appropriate technologies that meet the challenges encountered by the developing world. As an undergraduate research mentor, Dr. Seay enjoys seeing the students' contributions, "I really love it when I student comes in with a totally new idea and asks if I think it will work. My favorite answer is “let’s try it and see!”. Sometimes an off the wall idea turns into something really amazing."

When considering an undergraduate student for his research team, Dr. Seay appreciates curiosity and passion - "I'm not really looking for a specific skillset, but rather a passion for learning and discovery."  He enjoys working with undergraduates and encourages students to "Find a faculty member whose research you find interesting, then ask to get involved. It’s just that simple." Dr. Seay continued, "I think all mentors like working with interested students, so if you want to get involved, don’t wait. You ask and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the response!" 

Thank you Dr. Jeffrey Seay for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Faculty Mentor of the Week. 


Week 6: Oct. 6 - Oct. 12, 2019

Dr. Natalie Pope - College of Social Work

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Dr. Natalie Pope is an Associate Professor, Director of Doctoral Programs, and Otis Professor in Gerontology and Intergenerational Social Work in the UK College of Social Work.  Dr. Pope’s program of research broadly focuses on older adults and their family caregivers. Specifically, her scholarship aims to address the following areas: 1) planning for future caregiving needs, 2) behavioral health of community-dwelling older adults, and 3) family caregiving across the life span. With more than 10 years of experience as a family social worker, Dr. Pope is especially committed to producing research that informs social work practice, through curricular program development and improvement of social service provision.

In the last year, Dr. Pope has mentored eight students at both the undergraduate and graduate level, with between four to five undergraduate students participating in research. Although she primarily teachers in the graduate and doctoral programs, Dr. Pope appreciates her role as undergraduate research mentor, "Working with undergrads on research helps me stay connected with and get to know undergraduates at UK. It's fun to work alongside them on projects that get them excited about research." When considering undergraduate student mentees, Dr. Pope believes that strong undergraduate student researchers are motivated to learn and are open to new opportunities - even if they might be outside of their interest area. She explained, "Research skills are transferable and there may not always be a faculty member doing research in the exact area you want to be working in. I would encourage students to be open to trying new things and recognize that skills related to writing, collecting and analyzing data are versatile skills that will serve them well in other arenas - both as a student and working professional." Dr. Pope's advice to students considering undergraduate research is to talk to your professors and advisors about potential research opportunities in your college or department, "There is a ton of support at UK for undergrads doing research - the university community wants to support you all in this endeavor."

Dr. Pope's passion for research and her work reflects greatly on her mentees. We greatly appreciate the outstanding mentoring Dr. Natalie Pope provides and the difference she is making for so many UK undergraduates. We are pleased to recognize Dr. Pope's dedication this week as our Faculty Mentor of the Week. 


Week 5: Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2019

Dr. Jillienne Haglund - College of Arts & Sciences, Political Science

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Dr. Jillienne Haglund is an Assistant Professor of Political Science in the UK College of Arts & Sciences. Haglund’s research and teaching interests fall broadly in the fields of international relations and comparative politics. More specifically, she is interested in human rights, international organizations, international law, and comparative political institutions. Her work seeks to illuminate the extent to which international law constrains state human rights behavior. 

In the past year, Dr. Haglund has mentored eight students, including five working as research assistants in various capacities on a National Science Foundation funded project. Dr. Haglund's research students collect data on the quantity and quality of recommendations made by international human rights legal bodies, like the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, as well as assist with the collection of data on compliance with international human rights law. Haglund explained, "Students are trained to analyze the content of human rights reports from international human rights legal bodies and code data on the extent to which countries implement the recommendations made by international legal bodies to states." When considering undergraduate students for research, Dr. Haglund appreciates students who are intellectually curious and enthusiastic about the research topic and added, "I also look for students who are driven, ambitious, and take initiative by seeking out opportunities to work on undergraduate research." Dr. Haglund finds much joy in mentoring undergraduate research students and believes that the best thing about being an undergraduate research mentor "is watching undergraduate students develop an intellectual curiosity in a research topic. It is so rewarding to see them develop their own new research ideas as a result of their involvement with a research project."

Dr. Haglund's personal experience as an undergraduate research assistant working on a human rights data collection project (CIRI Human Rights Dataset) influenced her decision to go to graduate school and pursue a career in academic research. Haglund explained, "I’ve been fortunate to have several incredible mentors throughout my academic career, and I find it rewarding to pay it forward by using the wisdom I’ve gained through these experiences to invest in undergraduate students at UK." When asked about what advice she would give to current students considering research, Dr. Haglund replied, "Undergraduate students interested in research should take the initiative to reach out to faculty with whom they share an interest. Faculty often have research tasks that can be done by undergraduate students, and by taking initiative, undergraduates can make important connections with faculty members, which can be important for years to come." 

Thank you Dr. Jillienne Haglund for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Faculty Mentor of the Week. 



Week 4: Sept. 22 - Sept. 28, 2019

Dr. Miriam Kienle - College of Fine Arts, School of Art and Visual Studies

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Dr. Miriam Kienle is an Assistant Professor of Art History and Visual Studies in the UK College of Fine Arts, specializing in modern, contemporary, and American art. Kienle’s teaching and research interests include gender & sexuality, critical theory, new media, curatorial studies, and the digital humanities. 

In the last year, Dr. Kienle has officially mentored two students who participated in the 2019 Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars, but her mentoring did not stop there. She explained, "I feel fortunate to have been able to closely mentor many of the students in our Art History and Visual Studies program this past year, several of whom presented at conferences, published their work, and attained competitive internships." Dr. Kienle provides opportunities for students to excel through research opportunities. "Although in-class discussion with my students often pushes me to think in new ways about my research, the most salient example of student involvement would be an exhibition that was curated with students that was on view at the Smithsonian's Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery entitled, "Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art from the Archives of American Art." Her Genres and Media seminar students researched items of mail art and wrote wall labels that provided context and significance for the work, "From their research, I learned about new artists and thought about ones I already knew in new ways." When considering research mentees, Dr. Keinle appreciates hard working, bright, intensely curious and creative thinkers, as well as students who are passionate about art history and visual studies and confident in their ideas, but are also open to feedback.

Mentoring is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. When asked to explain the best thing about being an undergraduate research mentor, Dr. Kienle exclaimed, "There are so many wonderful things about being an undergraduate research mentor!" From watching her students "realize the value of truly in-depth and sustained reasearch" to seeing the students "be inspired by a theoretical proposition about which they had never thought," selecting a research topic and arriving at a research methodology that works for their project, Dr. Kienle enjoys each step in the process alongside her students. "But I think that they best thing about mentoring undergraduates, would have to be the small "ah-ha" moments when they make major realizations about their research project and things start to come together. I feel so excited for them in those moments and am grateful to be part of the process," she stated. The real value of mentoring lies in the people – the mentors and the mentees.

Kienle's personal experiences as an undergraduate research student at Centre College with phenomenal mentors inspired her education, career, and mentoring style, "I had the privilege of having a number of wonderful mentors who inspired me to want to be a researcher and educator." Whether learning the value of close looking and visual awareness, perseverance, the importance of strong research skills or inspiring her interest in feminism, aesthetics, and critical theory, Kienle explained, "Without each of them, I would not be where I am today."  When asked what advice she would give to students considering undergraduate research, Dr. Kienle replied, "Go for it!"  She continued, "Research expands your understanding of, and engagement with, the world. It moves you beyond simply writing papers for a grade and commits you to the topics about which you are researching and writing. It also gives you a sense as to whether or not graduate work is something you want to pursue. Serious undergraduate research can lead to important graduate and post-graduate work!"

Thank you Dr. Miriam Kienle for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Faculty Mentor of the Week. 



Week 3: Sept. 15 - Sept. 21, 2019

Dr. Nathan Vanderford - College of Medicine, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

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Dr. Nathan Vanderford is an Assistant Professor of Toxicology and Cancer Biology in the UK College of Medicine. Dr. Vanderford is also the Director of the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology Program. His research interests include epidemiology and molecular etiology of lung cancer, research administration, technology transfer and entrepreneurship, and science pedagogy and career development. 

In the last year, Dr. Vanderford has formally mentored three undergraduate students; although he's also informally mentored 20 high school students, at least 16 undergraduates, and around 10 PhD students in the last year that have been in his courses or participated in the experiential Appalachian Career Training in Oncology program. "I enjoy working side-by-side with undergraduates to have a transformational impact on their career trajectories," Vanderford explained, "Although that may sound cliché, the opportunity to play a role in helping students achieve their academic and career goals is what motivates me most about being a teacher and mentor." Involvement of undergraduate students in Dr. Vanderford's research has been quite engaging, as they have worked on a cancer literacy educational intervention project targeted at middle and high school students, "For this project, undergraduates have helped me deliver the intervention in schools, collect and code data, and write a manuscript that was recently submitted to a peer-reviewed journal." Mentors help students by bringing together ideas from different contexts to promote deeper learning.  Dr. Vanderford appreciates students who are highly driven, motivated, goal oriented, curious, eager to learn, and highly receptive to mentorship, "It always amazes me that these characteristics describe the overwhelming majority of our student body here at UK." 

Dr. Vanderford's dedication to mentoring students stems from his positive research experience as a high school student and undergraduate. "As a high school and undergraduate student, I had the privilege of being impacted by wonderful mentors that truly had a transformational influence on my life as well as my academic and professional career," he continued,  "As a UK undergraduate, I began working in Dr. Glenn Collins’ lab in the College of Agriculture the summer after my freshman year. Dr. Collins was remarkably kind and generous with his time and knowledge. His dedication to and exceptional qualities in teaching and mentorship inspired me to work hard and to pursue big goals. It was this early research experience that ultimately lead to my pursuit of a PhD." When asked what advice he would give to students considering undergraduate research, he replied, "Go for it! Research can be a very enriching experience. It is thrilling to consider that through research, you can discover something that no one has ever known before. Additionally, you can develop very close connections with others, including faculty, who will be highly motivated to help you achieve your academic and career goals." 

Thank you Dr. Vanderford for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Faculty Mentor of the Week. 



Week 2: Sept. 8 - Sept. 14, 2019

Dr. Nicholas Teets - College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, Entomology

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Dr. Nicholas Teets is an Assistant Professor of Entomology in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. His research interests include the mechanistic basis of environmental stress tolerance in insects. Much of Dr. Teets' research focuses on overwintering stress, both in temperate species and species from extreme environments like Antarctica.

In the last year, he has mentored six undergraduate students and one high school student, as well as five PhD students. Dr. Teets was fortunate to have an excellent undergraduate research experience with a supportive mentor who was instrumental in helping him find a lab to do his PhD. He explains, "The best thing about being a research mentor is seeing students achieve their goals. We have extremely talented students at UK, and I hope I can play a small part in getting them where they want to go."

Dr. Teets appreciates the opportunity to mentor students and values having undergraduate researchers in his lab, "Undergraduate researchers are vital to the success of our research program. Some students conduct independent projects for credit, and that research usually culminates in a scientific presentation and/or publication. The most dedicated of these students have the opportunity to present at national conferences and publish their research in scientific journals." When considering undergraduate students for his lab, Dr. Teets values motivated, curious, puncutal and responsible students. He also appreciates students who ask lots of questions, "Research is hard, especially when you're new, so write everything down!" 

Dr. Teets encourages students to engage in undergraduate research and offers words of advice to students looking for undergraduate research opportunities, "I would try to find a research mentor that you can have a long-term relationship with, rather than jumping around to different experiences. It’s obviously important to enjoy what you are doing, so don’t stick with something that makes you unhappy. But a sustained research experience will be more impactful." Thank you Dr. Teets for your unwavering support of undergraduate research at the University of Kentucky. We are pleased to recognize your dedication this week as our Faculty Mentor of the Week. 



Week 1: Sept. 1 - Sept. 7, 2019

Dr. Sebastian Bryson - College of Engineering, Civil Engineering

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Dr. Sebastian Bryson is the Hardin-Drnevich-Huang Associate Professor of Civil Engineering in the UK College of Engineering and the Co-Director for the College of Engineering Scholars Program in Undergraduate Research. His research interests include sustainable and humanitarian engineering, geotechnical and earthquake engineering, and civil engineering materials.

In the last year, Dr. Bryson has directly and indirectly mentored 13 undergraduate researchers. Bryson's undergraduate research opportunities range from involvment in predicting landslides using satellite data from the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive mission and the NASA Global Precipitation Measurement mission to students using unmanned aerial systems to asses the existing landslides. His undergraduate mentees are also developing scale models of earth dams. Dr. Bryson states, "The best thing about being an undergraduate research mentor is seeing students evolve from being mildly interested in a research topic to being very enthusiastic about the topic." When considering undergraduate research students, Dr. Bryson appreciates dependable, hard working students who are self-motivated and look for solutions to problems for themselves.  

Dr. Bryson's dedication and support to undergraduate research is profound and encourages undergraduate students to consider engaging in research opportunities. Dr. Bryson recommends that students keep an open mind and explore research topics outside their knowledge bubble. He explains, "Some of the most interesting research is sometimes about topics you may not have previously considered. Also, understand that some research topics will be an excellent fit for you, while some...not so much." His advice to students is to "be willing to explore!"

Thank you Dr. Bryson for being a champion of undergraduate research! We are thrilled to celebrate you as this week's Research Facutly Mentor of the Week. 




Week 12: Nov. 17 - Nov. 23, 2019

Dr. Jurek (Jerzy) Jaromczyk - College of Engineering, Computer Science