Campus News

College of Engineering and Natural Sciences produces undergraduate research


Contact 1: Erin Chesnut

MARTIN, Tenn. – Faculty and staff members from the University of Tennessee at Martin College of Engineering and Natural Sciences oversaw more than 24 undergraduate research projects during the 2016-17 academic year and through the summer of 2017. More than 50 students and faculty members are continuing these projects into the current semester.

“An undergraduate research experience is a wonderful opportunity for students to practice their future professions by working closely with a faculty member. At the same time, they are making real contributions to their fields of study,” said Dr. Jennifer Greenwood, interim college dean.

An overview of notable projects from each of the college’s five departments is provided below.

From the Department of Biology:

•Dr. Joaquín Goyret, associate professor, is working with Amanda Mayo, a sophomore from Atlanta, Georgia, and Jonathan Travis, a recent graduate from Martin, to determine how sensory information – including sight, smell and touch – controls the behavior of insect pollinators and how this in turn affects their ecological interactions.

•Dr. Michael Kempf, professor, is working with Caroline Williams, a senior from Huntingdon, to determine the DNA sequence of the genome of a phage (a virus-like particle) from Reelfoot Lake that is known to infect the Flavobacterium johnsoniae bacterium. They plan to compare this genome sequence to other sequenced phage that also infect bacteria.

From the Department of Chemistry and Physics:

•Dr. Jason Alexander, assistant professor, is supervising several cross-disciplinary projects with the assistance of lab technician Dan Comer. In the first project, the pair is working with William Kuenzinger, a senior from Germantown, to create an open-source, tunable, narrow linewidth light-emitting diode-based source of ultraviolet and visible light. This device will later be used by Goyret and his students to study the color vision of hawkmoths and hummingbirds through their behavioral responses.

•Alexander is also working with a team of eight current students and recent alumni to construct a low-cost, open-source Raman spectrometer and laser system. In Raman spectroscopy, a laser forces molecules to stretch or bend, producing light which reveals information about how the molecules are constructed.

•Alexander and Dr. Mark Simpson, professor of geography with the Department of Agriculture, Geoscience and Natural Resources, are supervising the work of Allan Diegan, a recent graduate from Greenfield, and Jennifer Naillon, a senior from Bethel Springs, with a portable atmospheric dynamics simulator, or “weather in a tank.” This rotating 60-liter tank is equipped with a wireless camera to give a visual representation of how the motion of water and air influences Earth’s climate.

•Dr. Jozsef Devenyi, professor, is supervising Lane Brown, a senior from Murfreesboro, in the development of several organic chemistry reactions currently studied in lecture. Successes in these experiments create new opportunities for undergraduate work in organic chemistry and increase the variety and scope of exercises conducted by future students.

•Dr. Jennifer Esbenshade, assistant professor, is working with James von Dollen, a senior from Hermitage, to reduce waste and save money through the recycling of waste produced by teaching labs.

•Finally, Dr. Genessa Smith, assistant professor, is working with Victoria Lansdale, a senior from Jackson, to design chemical syntheses of naturally-occurring small molecules known to exhibit anticancer properties in hopes of using these molecules for other medical research.

From the Department of Computer Science:

•Dr. Xiangdong An, assistant professor, and Paul Gosser, a senior from Centerville, are using data processing techniques to validate an online search engine evaluation algorithm. They are also employing data mining techniques to develop an online tool for assessing diabetes risk.

•Dr. Kathleen Ericson, assistant professor, is supervising seniors Robert Rayburn, from Trenton, and Stephen Stinson, from Holladay, to build upon existing machine-learning technology to generate new musical harmonies from brief musical samples.

•Ericson is also working with Dr. Joshua Guerin, associate professor, to supervise Meridith Brown, a junior from Trezevant as she works to scan specimens from UT Martin’s scientific collections and publish the resulting 3-D models online. This information will be made accessible to other researchers around the world who may wish to download and recreate copies of the original artifacts for future study.

From the Department of Engineering:

•In an interdisciplinary approach, Dr. Jeffrey McCullough, associate professor of engineering, is working with Dr. Joshua Guerin, associate professor of computer science, to oversee seniors Cody Robertson, from Union City, and Beth Allmon, from San Diego, California, in the development of software and hardware systems to produce tactile holograms.

•Dr. Jared Teague, associate professor, and lab technician Dan Comer, are working with Mark Lister, a senior from Martin, to recreate lost metal tempering processes from the early 1900s that were used to create durable steel knives.

From the Department of Mathematics and Statistics:

•Dr. Jason DeVito, associate professor, and Ezra Nance, a senior from Martin, are investigating new geometric shapes in higher dimensions and have discovered a new shape in 10 dimensions that bends like a sphere or cylinder at every point and in every direction.

•Dr. Curtis Kunkel, associate professor, is working with Jake Eskew, a senior from Kenton, and Sarah Martinage, a junior from Odessa, Florida, on a solution technique for solving singular fractional difference equations.

•Dr. Amanda Niedzialomski, assistant professor, is working with Jennifer Kaneer, a senior from Alamo, in the field of graph labeling. In this field, graphs that exhibit certain properties are known as “radio graceful.” Niedzialomski and Kaneer have constructed a new infinite family of radio graceful graphs and are working on a paper describing this result for publication.

For more information on the work being done in the UT Martin College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, contact the college at 731-881-7380. Contact information for individual departments and specific faculty members can also be found at


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