Ty Mellor

Ty Mellor


Ty Mellor

A few more than 2,000 people currently live in Salina, Utah—just west of a 217,000-acre geological feature called the San Raphael Swell.

It’s a gateway to some of the most remote (and still yet-to-be-permanently settled) land) in the Beehive State. But for Carl “Ty” Mellor, it’s been an ideal launching pad for a career in, of all things, microbial engineering. The double-major in chemical engineering and cellular & molecular biology places Mellor on the edge of a different frontier than that of the magnificent badlands of brightly colored and wildly eroded sandstone formations, populated by wild horses and etched drawings from the ancestors of today’s Native Americans.

Frontiers, after all, can be both big … and small. The deep canyons and giant plates of stone tilted upright in his hometown’s backyard are metaphors for the scientific reveals that await the young scientist who, inversely, investigates the micro universe rather than macro one of massive geologic upheavals where he spent time as a youth camping and hiking with friends.

“In physics,” says Mellor of his time at the University of Utah, “we were going over things that happen at the micro scale which got me interested. It’s all so complex and there’s so much left to discover on how things work at that scale, and there is so much potential for solutions to real world issues.”

Considered a “non-traditional” student, the twenty-eight-year-old U senior graduated more than a decade ago from North Sevier High School in a class of 46. During that time he worked as a dishwasher, then at Little Caesar’s pizzeria with one winter at Brian Head Ski Resort, followed in his final year at an oil change/tire repair shop. Today, he is the recipient of no fewer than seven university scholarships and awards, including the Joseph T. Crockett and the Neil R. Mitchell Endowed Scholarships.

Montell Seely and daughter Fawn examine Swasey’s Leap. Photo: Lee Swasey

From Salina to the bench at one of America’s top research institutions might seem like a leap as far and precipitous as relatively nearby “Swasey’s Leap.” Local legend has it that Sid Swasey bet his brother Charlie that he could jump his horse over the 14-foot wide, 60-foot deep gap which Charlie proceeded to do. But for Mellor, his was a leap clearly worth making. Now embedded in the Kelly Hughes Lab at the School of Biological Sciences, he is busy co-opting the type 3 secretion system used to build flagella in salmonella to secrete proteins of interest and simplify bacterial protein synthesis.

A leap from North Sevier High School, indeed.

When asked to explain something most people don’t known about salmonella, he explains that the pathogenic bacteria is named after Daniel Salmon, the first person in the U.S. to receive a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. But, despite his adoration of a pet chihuahua named “Ace,” he won’t be going to veterinary school.

“I think there is a ton of potential [for research] in aging and disease,” he says. “There is so much that we don’t understand yet about the human body. There is also potential in carbon sequestration, either by manufacturing long-term products using carbon or developing microbial carbon sinks that can sink to the bottom of the ocean for example. Possibly being able to manufacture stronger and lighter materials by mimicking the way certain enzymes have incredibly low error rates.”

The last few years have not been easy for Mellor due to the pandemic. But, perhaps surprisingly, he will tell you that he didn’t mind online classes that much. “I was working grave shifts at the time [at the University of Utah Guest House] and was able to watch all of my lectures during downtime at work. Transitioning back to normal life has been much more difficult.”

Difficult or not, in October Mellor jumped right in to share his research poster titled “One Step Protein Purification via the Type 3 Secretion System” at the annual SBS Science Retreat. His explanations to the curious as well as potentially the friendly (and admittedly rare) combatant-questioner, was clear, commanding and informed. Poster presentations of this kind are a sort of pay day for an undergraduate: it’s that rare moment when all the hours “at the bench,” under the ‘scope, and under the care of a principal investigator and mentor converge, and one’s scientific findings are distilled into appealing, bite-sized pieces.

As Mellor approaches graduation and graduate studies, he has some advice for his undergraduate cohort: “Keep in touch with old friends and put an effort into connecting to new groups (especially for tough classes). Get lots of fresh air and sunshine, spend some time learning time management, and remember the online skills you had to learn since[,] they’ll always be useful.”

Getting ready for yet another leap, this time out of an airplane, skydiving with brother Casey.

He and his older brother Casey, whom Mellor refers to as his “hero,” still hang out together. “Scientifically, he’s the only one among my family and close friends that I can talk to about research or science in general. Everyone else’s eyes tend to glaze over almost immediately, while he’ll actively argue, ask questions, and come up with his own solutions. We share reading recommendations and talk about any new stuff that pops up in the news… He’s always been there for me.”

You can take the boy out of Salina but you can’t take the Salina out of the man. And Ty Mellor wouldn’t have it any other way.

by David Pace, first published @ biology.utah.edu.

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Sage Blackburn

Meet Sage Blackburn


Academic advisor, Sage Blackburn, recently joined the Department of Mathematics.

What was your previous job before you came to the Math Dept.?
I joined the U in 2018 during my freshman year as a peer advisor for the Academic Advising Center (AAC). It was there that I began to enjoy being part of the process that supported the learning efforts and experiences of undergraduate students. As I got closer to graduation, I began to consider a career in academic advising. With research and helpful advice from advisors from the AAC, I applied for a handful of positions and decided that the Math Department was a great fit for me!

Sage Blackburn

What are your duties in your current position?
I advise all math majors in their academic planning. I oversee the student groups USAC (Undergraduate Student Advisory Committee) and Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honor society. I also serve on the Undergraduate Awards and Scholarships Committees and the Awards Program Committee.

What do you enjoy about working with students?
I believe in the advisor’s purpose and enjoy helping students develop meaningful educational goals that are consistent with their personal interests, values, and abilities. I believe that as an advisor I am an extension of a student’s learning , so I strive to educate them outside of the classroom as they navigate college. I feel that advising is meant to give students an equal opportunity to success, allowing them to view their education holistically and incorporate it into their life.

Hours and/or days when you can meet with students? Where are you located?
I meet with students Monday through Friday virtually and in person. My hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and I’m located in the Advising Hive in the Crocker Science Center, room 240. Math advisors also have their updated drop-in hours on the Math Department website.

To get the most from an advising session, how should students prepare for a meeting with you?
I suggest compiling a list of your questions so that you won’t forget to ask something! We will discuss your degree audit in your appointment so it’s a good idea to generate and review your degree audit beforehand.

What was your undergraduate degree? Where did you receive it?
I received my undergraduate degree in political science with an emphasis in public policy here at the U in 2022. I am currently considering applying to graduate school, so wish me luck!

How did your parents decide upon your unusual first name?
My parents lived and worked in Lake Powell before I was born. Sagebrush is one of the most common and abundant plants that grows in the area, and my mom loved the smell of sagebrush, especially after it rains. She also liked the double-meaning of profound wisdom (thanks Mom!).

Anything else you want to add that we've haven't asked?
I love hiking, especially in Southern Utah. I know of some beautiful areas of the desert. If you ever need suggestions for hiking, just ask! Since I’m a recent graduate from the U, I know how difficult college can be to navigate. I would love to meet with you and assist in your college journey!

 

by Michele Swaner, first published at math.utah.edu.

 

Research Scholar

2022 Undergraduate Research Scholar


Arches National Park, Moab, UT.

“My hero is my brother,” says Tiffany Do of her brother Anthony. “He’s the first in my family to graduate from the University of Utah. I look up to him because he’s gone through the trials in being a first-generation student and has helped me overcome some of those obstacles.”

Those obstacles can be daunting. Students who are first-generation college students talk about not knowing what even the right questions are to ask. Others talk about experiencing “imposter syndrome”—chronically feeling as though they are, any moment, about to be found out as someone who doesn’t belong in college.

So it makes sense that Do, who is a senior majoring in biology, would see her brother as a welcome guide to what can seem like an intimidating if not an impossible mountain to climb. But there were others who helped prepare this Taylorsville, Utah native to succeed at the college level, including her AP biology teacher Paige Ehler and her chemistry and biotechnology teacher Kristin Lillywhite who encouraged her to study the life sciences. And too, once Do arrived on campus, the ACCESS Scholars program also aided her in finding a home in STEM. The program, based in the College of Science, provided a scholarship as well as a network and experience with presenting her research at a symposium. As a senior she now works as an ACCESS mentor for others.

The results have been gratifying. Earlier this year Do had the experience of publishing her first paper in Intersect, an international Science, Technology, and Society research journal run by undergraduate students at Stanford University and supported by the Program in STS at Stanford. The journal welcomes undergraduate, graduate, and PhD submissions at the intersection of history, culture, sociology, art, literature, business, law, health, and design with science and technology, and its submissions are not exclusive to Stanford affiliates and generally span several continents.

Her article, co-authored with eight others, is titled Barriers to Accessibility of Algal Biofuels, a “companion piece to algal biofuel research with the goal of synthesizing relevant, contemporary considerations about how to expand algal biofuel to a modern society.”

That she is now published is perhaps a testament to the rich experience she’s had at the U in more than one research lab, including Dr. Catherine Loc-Carrillo’s Micro-Phage Epi Lab, Dr. James Van Etten Chlorovirus Lab and, currently, in the mycology lab under the direction of SBS’s Dr. Bryn Dentinger at Utah Museum of Natural History.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to research at first,” she concedes when she was first accepted at the U. “I was given a list of labs I could be a part of for my honors thesis and I reached out to the Dentinger Lab.” She simply found it fascinating that it was a lab that studied fungi.

“I have been gaining skills in culturing fungi, extracting nucleic acids, and quantifying the abundance and integrity of extractions,” she explains while currently conducting “a culture growth experiment grown under varying conditions that mimic ecological stressors, to induce a stress response in ectomycorrhizal fungi,” a form of symbiotic relationship that occurs between a fungal symbiont, or mycobiont, and the roots of various plant species.

 

Tiffany Do

“My hero is my brother,” says Tiffany Do of her brother Anthony. “He’s the first in my family to graduate from the University of Utah. I look up to him because he’s gone through the trials in being a first-generation student and has helped me overcome some of those obstacles.”

 

When asked to explain something interesting that most people don’t know about fungi, she explains how ectomycorrhizal fungi “form mutualistic relationships with trees. They play a key role in the nutrient cycle and there is still a lot to learn in understanding these organisms”

That said, she continues, “I’m still exploring what I really want to do once I graduate at the U.”

Meanwhile, Do is “paying it forward,” as she is “passionate about helping students especially first-gen in finding their place on campus.”

In addition to her ACCESS Scholarship she has seen nine other awards come her way, including most recently, a Research Scholars Award funded by the Mountaineer Endowment at the School of Biological Sciences. The award will help her this summer and fall semester complete her honors thesis.

Outside of class and lab work, Do is active in the Asian American Student Association (AASA), a student-led organization at the U that celebrates and promotes awareness of Asian cultures. “My family [members were] … refugees from Vietnam. This organization is a great way for me to connect with others that have similar backgrounds while also expanding my knowledge of other cultures.” She also takes advantage of Utah’s outdoor recreation as she loves to rock climb. This activity has proven a release from the trials of the pandemic which has affected her—as it has all of us.

“It’s hard to connect and keep in contact [with other people] when everything was online.” Related to that, her advice to other undergraduates or those considering attending college is “to reach out for help. As someone who has a hard time reaching out and sharing my struggles, I learned the hard way that it was necessary in my own life. There are people willing to be there for you, you just have to be willing to put in that trust. There are advisors and friends that are willing to listen.”

And for Tiffany Do, there’s also been her “hero” brother who graduated this year in mathematics and quantitative analysis of markets & organizations before securing work. He continues to help show his sister the way.

by David Pace, first published @ biology.utah.edu.

Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa Society Scholar


Muskan Walia Named Phi Beta Kappa Society Scholar.

Muskan Walia, a second-year student at the University of Utah Honors College, studying math
and philosophy, has been named a Key into Public Service Scholar by the Phi Beta Kappa Society. The Society is the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society, and the Key into Public Service award highlights specific pathways for arts and sciences graduates to launch public sector careers.

Chosen from nearly 900 applicants attending Phi Beta Kappa chapter institutions across the nation, the Key into Public Service Scholars hail from 17 states. These are high-achieving college sophomores and juniors, who display notable breadth and depth in their academic interests.

“I am extremely grateful and honored to be receiving this award from Phi Beta Kappa,” said Walia. “My community here at the University of Utah has provided me with a prodigious liberal arts and sciences education and has nurtured my interest in exploring the dynamics between science, society, and the public sector. I am excited for the incredible opportunity to further explore this interest this summer.”

Walia is an ACCESS Scholar and undergraduate researcher, working with Dr. Fred Adler, Professor of Biology and of Mathematics. In her research, Walia adapted an epidemiological SIR model for spread of disease to model the number of cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 in order to predict when different types of tests will produce false positives or false negatives.

“My summer in the ACCESS Scholars program sparked an interest and motivation to pursue a career in public service,” she said. “Being taught by faculty across the University of Utah in diverse disciplines, I learned about the intersections of science, communication, and policy and how scientists can practice the art of advocacy.

 

Muskan Walia

"My community here at the University of Utah has provided me with a prodigious liberal arts and sciences education and has nurtured my interest in exploring the dynamics between science, society, and the public sector."

 

“Working under the mentorship of Dr. Fred Adler has been invaluable. I wanted to be engaged in mathematics research that centered on justice and informed public policy. There was truly no better pairing than with Dr. Adler. He has wholeheartedly supported and encouraged my curiosity and passion to utilize mathematics principles to tackle the most pressing social justice related questions of our time.”

In addition to her studies, Walia currently serves as the ASUU student government Senate Chair and works as a youth environmental organizer in the Salt Lake City area. She founded a campaign to commit her local school district to a 100% clean electricity transition by 2030, and has assisted with the expansion of local clean energy campaigns in Utah school districts. She is also a leader and mentor at Utah Youth Environmental Solutions Network (UYES), where she supports the development of a new youth-based climate justice curriculum. Her experiences have cultivated a passion and commitment to community building, climate education, and environmental justice.

Each Key into Public Service Scholar will receive a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship and take part in a conference in late June in Washington, D.C. to provide them with training, mentoring, and reflection on pathways into active citizenship.

Below are the names of the 2022 Key into Public Service Scholars and their chapter institutions:

Aylar AtadurdyyevaUniversity of Kansas
Miguel Coste, University of Notre Dame
Noelle Dana, University of Notre Dame
Grace Dowling, Clark University
Brandon Folson, Loyola University Chicago
Justin Fox, University of Maryland- College Park
Sora Heo, University of California - San Diego
Alec Hoffman, Clark University
Samiha Islam, State University of New York at Buffalo
Ruthie Kesri, Duke University
Katherine Marin, University of Florida
Sondos Moursy, University of Houston
Olivia Negro, Ursinus College
Emily Geigh Nichols, Stanford University
Paul Odu, University of Missouri
Vaidehi Persad, University of South Florida
Diba Seddighi, University of Tennessee
James Suleyman, Roanoke College
Jonah Tobin, Williams College
Muskan WaliaUniversity of Utah
For more information about the scholarship and links to individual biographies of the recipients, please visit pbk.org/KeyintoPublicService.

 

by Michele Swaner, first published at math.utah.edu.

 

Fulbright Scholar

2022 Fulbright Scholar


Rose Godfrey Named 2022 Fulbright Scholar.

According to the Fulbright director at the U, "The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program designed to build relationships between people in the U.S. and in other countries with the aim of solving global challenges. It is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Grant recipients are selected based on academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields."

I am graduating with a Biochemistry degree, I decided to major in chemistry at the end of sophomore year after the organic chemistry series. I really enjoyed those courses, so much so that I was a teaching assistant for Dr. Holly Sebahar. I have worked in the Bone & Biofilm Research Lab with Dr. Dustin Williams in the Department of Biomedical Engineering since sophomore year.

Rose Godfrey

"During my freshman year, I started volunteering at Promise South Salt Lake Hser Ner Moo Community Center through the Bennion Center where I tutored and read with kids."

 

I became interested in applying for the Fulbright ETA program from working with kids in several volunteer opportunities and as a ski instructor at Solitude Resort. During my freshman year, I started volunteering at Promise South Salt Lake Hser Ner Moo Community Center through the Bennion Center where I tutored and read with kids. I also started volunteering with Science in the Parks on campus the summer before my junior year. Science in the Parks provides kids opportunities to experience the wonders of science through hands-on experiments to encourage kids on the west side of Salt Lake City to become scientists. I was also president of the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Committee and was involved in outreach that ACS did with local community centers and schools to get kids interested in chemistry.

Outside of research and school, in my free time I like to ski, climb, roller skate, attempt to skateboard, and to propagate plants. I have also picked up crocheting and enjoy doing puzzles.

Outstanding Graduate Student

2022 Outstanding Graduate Student


Daniel Powell named 2022 College of Science Outstanding Graduate Student.

Having completed his B.S in Chemistry here at the U, I was extremely thrilled when Danny joined my research group in the spring of 2016. This was surprising since I was listed as a Materials Chemistry Professor as opposed to an Organic Chemistry Professor (organic synthesis is Danny’s forte). As a young Assistant Professor, I was in desperate need of a student with strong organic synthesis skills that could push the development of solution-processable and high efficient organic electronics to another level and Danny certainly delivered!. With my laboratories in their infancy, Danny displayed both the initiative and drive to push through all the troubleshooting that is required to take a novel idea and turn it into a full-fledged research project without the luxury of senior students to mentor him.

Daniel Powell

Danny displayed both the initiative and drive to push through the troubleshooting that is required to take a novel idea and turn it into a full-fledged research project.

 

As Danny’s Ph.D. mentor, I have had the opportunity to experience first-hand how he has grown scientifically throughout the challenges of his research projects and his ability to independently solve scientific problems, while staying enthusiastic and engaged. He has repeatedly demonstrated himself to be eager to face and conquer scientific challenges with high ambition and strong work ethics. Danny’s dissertation work displays effectiveness in managing multiple projects with different reaction mechanisms and materials undergoing optical and structural heterogeneities that are often difficult to elucidate. Driving these complex projects to completion illustrates his organizational skills, self-motivation, and independent nature.

Danny was actively engaged with the Lassonde School of Entrepreneurship during his graduate studies. It is quite rare that graduate students will pursue extracurricular activities during their graduate studies given the difficulty and attention it requires, yet Danny not only participated but excelled in this area as well. I have to say that Danny is a very talented scientific communicator and writer!. Often, his papers were ready to be submitted without much addition from my end. He also helped me write ≈85% of a recently funded NSF proposal. I have to admit that I would dearly miss him when he is gone.

Danny recently defended his PhD work and will be joining Blackrock Neurotech (a company housed in Research Park dealing with the development of implantable neurological devices). At Blackrock Neurotech, he will be responsible for seeking both federal and investor funding for the company. I am very sure he will be very successful in his future endeavors.
 

by Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

 

Research Scholar

2022 Research Scholar


Tyler Ball named 2022 Research Scholar by the University of Utah - College of Science.

Tyler Ball is a first-generation college student who grew up in Salt Lake City. She enrolled at the University of Utah in 2018 and participated in the ACCESS Scholars program as a member of the 2018-2019 cohort. Through the ACCESS program, Tyler was introduced to broad topics related to sustainability which cemented her desire to pursue a degree in chemistry. The program also enabled her to get involved with research during the second semester of her freshman year – she joined Dr. Matt Sigman’s lab in January 2019.

Her first research project was a mechanistic study of the oxidative addition of cobalt complexes into benzyl bromides using electroanalytical techniques, which was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in October 2019. She was hoping to expand on this project using different substrates, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed her to start a fully computational project in the spring of 2020. Tyler began a project using Symmetry-Adapted Perturbation Theory to study trends within and between different types of non-covalent interactions. She is currently working toward publishing this effort in the near term. In an effort to expand the breadth of her research experience, Tyler participated in an NSF-funded REU program at the University of Minnesota during the summer of 2021. Working with Professor Ian Tonks, she evaluated cobalt catalysts for the hydroesterification of small molecules.

Tyler Ball

Tyler’s learning is propelled by her passion for sustainability. During her sophomore year, Tyler became involved with our American Chemical Society Student Chapter’s Green Chemistry Committee (GCC).

 

During the fall of 2020, Tyler applied for the Goldwater Scholarship and earned the award in March 2021. Alongside the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, Tyler has earned various awards through the Department of Chemistry and the College of Science, including the College of Science Dean’s Scholarship and the Leon Watters Memorial Award.

Tyler’s learning is propelled by her passion for sustainability. During her sophomore year, Tyler became involved with our American Chemical Society Student Chapter’s Green Chemistry Committee (GCC). The GCC helped to introduce Kimberly Clark’s glove recycling program into teaching and research labs in the chemistry department and recently worked with the College of Science to introduce mask recycling into lab spaces. Tyler’s involvement in the GCC has also helped her to focus on outreach efforts – she has organized multiple outreach events this year, with the hope of earning a Green Chemistry Award for the student chapter through the national ACS organization.

Going forward, Tyler will be pursuing her PhD in chemistry at Cornell University. Her emphasis will likely be in green catalysis with an application to polymer synthesis and her studies will be funded by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She is incredibly grateful for all the opportunities the College of Science has afforded her during her undergraduate studies and the supportive community of scientists she has been able to surround herself with.

Outside of the lab, Tyler enjoys hiking and rock climbing. She is always looking for vegan recipes to cook and loves trying new restaurants around SLC.

 

 

Outstanding Post-Doc

Outstanding Post-Doc


Amir Hosseini has received an Outstanding Post-Doctoral Fellow Award from the College of Science.

Amir received his PhD in Chemistry from Indiana University, where he trained with one of the world’s premier organic electrochemists (Dr. Dennis Peters). He then joined the University of Utah in December 2020, as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the NSF Center of Organic Synthetic Electrochemistry (CSOE) where he is working in Prof. Henry White’s laboratory.

Amir’s research project is focused on the discovering novel electroorganic transformations and using variety of electroanalytical tools to explore the mechanism of the reaction at the molecular level. Recently, he developed a new synthetic strategy for electrooxidation of alcohols that is refer to as electroreductive oxidation. The general idea is to electrochemically generate highly oxidizing radicals by reduction of a sacrificial reagent, i.e., reduction is used to initiate a desired oxidation reaction. Amir has demonstrated that this process is effective for selective oxidation of alcohols to aldehydes and acids.

Amir Hosseini

Amir is greatly passionate about mentoring and education of the next generation of scientists. He participated in the Science Research Initiative (SRI) program during the 2021 spring semester when he mentored undergraduate students.

 

This mentorship activity included defining research projects, teaching each student the basic knowledge relevant to their research project, and supervising the progress of research projects. Additionally, he has been part of ACCESS program working with other CSOE volunteers to assist students in performing at-home chemistry experiments. Finally, he mentors graduate students, teaching them the fundamentals of electrochemistry and laboratory safety, and advising them on their graduate research.

Equity and inclusion in academic setting is a very important matter for Amir. He is currently serving as the post-doc representative on the DEI committee of the Department of Chemistry. However, his outreach activities are not limited to academia. He volunteers to help new Iranian and Afghan families settling in Salt Lake City. In this role, he assists families who need a translator for taking care of paperwork, enrolling their children in school, and communicating with federal and state officials regarding their urgent needs.

NSF Fellowship

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship


Kaitlin O'Dell awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“I feel so honored to receive such a prestigious award,” said O’Dell. “I never imagined I would receive the amazing feedback I got while I was applying for the fellowship. The research I plan on doing is groundbreaking work in numerical methods, so to have that recognized is beyond exciting! The fellowship is really going to allow me to focus on my research and hopefully give not only the numerical community—but the science and engineering community—a great way
to model high-dimensional equations.”

O’Dell’s work is primarily focused on the numerical modeling of high-dimensional partial differential equations. She and her team specifically are developing a particle method that will preserve the energy dissipation structure of the physical systems. Once the actual numerical procedure is developed and analyzed for validity, the team hopes to test it on many physical models to gain a better understanding of these higher-order systems. These physical models can range from materials science to fluids, mechanics, and engineering.

Kaitlin O'Dell

“I never imagined I would receive the amazing feedback I got while I was applying for the fellowship. The research I plan on doing is groundbreaking work in numerical methods, so to have that recognized is beyond exciting!"

 

She excelled at math as a kid, but it wasn’t until she began doing research as an undergrad that she realized how much she enjoys math. “I was able to do research on engineering topics that I was already familiar with and combine them with my two favorite subjects—numerical analysis and ordinary differential equations,” she said. “This really opened my eyes as to what I could be doing in the field of math and the broad range of research I could perform as an applied mathematician.”

O’Dell started out studying engineering at the University of New Mexico (UNM) because of her love for space and science. She enjoyed internships and had the opportunity to work at NASA Ames Research Center. However, she began to find that she was enjoying the math modelling aspect of engineering more than the actual engineering. She decided to switch her major to applied math during her senior year, and she began doing research with Professor Emeritus Deborah Sulsky on beam theory (a way of calculating the load-bearing and deflection characteristics of beams) as part of her honors thesis.

“Dr. Sulsky is an amazing mentor, and she’s very much the reason that I’m now doing a Ph.D. in mathematics.” After O’Dell graduated from UNM in 2020, with honors from the university and honors in mathematics, she decided to apply to the U because of the reputation of the Math Department and the fact that the graduate students seemed happy. “At the time I wasn't sure what I would research, but I found a project that I absolutely fell in love with, and now I couldn’t be happier,” she said. After she obtains her Ph.D., O’Dell would like to stay in academia, but she also envisions working in industry. “I’ll most likely apply to a wide variety of things and choose which I think will be the best fit for me.”

by Michele Swaner, first published @ math.utah.edu

 

Outstanding Post-Doc

Outstanding Post-Doc


Julie Jung has received an Outstanding Post-Doctoral Fellow Award from the College of Science.

Julie Jung spent much of her time in high school roaming greenhouses working for a wheat lab at the USDA. Since then, she has pivoted her research to ecology, having worked first with owls, songbirds, chipmunks and pollinators within New England's deciduous forests.

Following graduation with honors in Biology from Williams College, Jung found herself on a plane to Panama to do field work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute as a graduate student in biology. There she spent the next several rainy seasons studying how red-eyed treefrogs escape hatch in response to snake vibrations.

Julie Jung

"I was so excited to have been peed on by a titi monkey while walking to lab."

 

"I was so excited to have been peed on by a titi monkey while walking to lab," she remembers. During the course of getting her doctorate from Boston University, Jung slowly grew into her role as a behavioral biologist.

As winner of this year's College of Science's "Outstanding Post-Doc Award," Jung has found a scientific home in the Werner Lab still studying the phenomenon of "phenotypic plasticity"—or how the same genotype produces distinct phenotypes depending on environmental conditions—but this time in nematodes.

Jung's NSF-funded research hopes to establish a general model of plasticity across diverse systems. The pivot from field to bench work has been jarring but only partial—as she and her lab members still get out to the Great Salt Lake to collect soil specimens.

Outside of research, Julie Jung loves to climb mountains and practice the salsa dancing skills she picked up in Panama.

by David Pace, first published @ biology.utah.edu