College of Science Awards 2022

Undergraduate Student Awards


Headshot of Porter Ellis

Porter Ellis, Chemistry 

The College of Science’s 2021 Undergraduate Teaching Fellow of the Year, Ellis provided teaching support for eight courses over three years. His awards and scholarships include the A-Pin, the Frost Award in Organic Chemistry, the Van Orden Award in Biochemistry, the Van Orden Award in Physical Chemistry and the ACS Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry. Ellis received an URCO grant to pursue structural biology research in microbial pathogenesis with faculty mentor Nick Dickenson, who is his faculty escort for commencement ceremonies. An outdoors enthusiast, Ellis plans to pursue doctoral studies in structural biology and biophysics


Scholar of the Year

Headshot of Ethan AncellEthan Ancell, Statistics, Computational Mathematics

A 2021 Goldwater Scholar, Ancell developed a novel machine learning model to measure soil moisture across Utah. He was named a 2020 Peak Summer Research Fellow and received an URCO grant to support his research. The South Jordan, Utah native, who received a USU Dean’s Scholarship, plans to pursue doctoral studies in statistics. Ancell’s professional goals include exploring research in machine learning and data mining in an industrial setting.


Dean's Scholar

Headshot of Greta AndersonGreta Anderson, Cellular/Molecular Biology; Chemistry, Mathematics, Biomathematics

While pursuing a busy academic schedule, Anderson held down two jobs and participated in research. In USU’s Biochemistry Lab, the Longmont, Colorado native grew bacteria and isolated their recombinant proteins, which sparked her interest in molecular cloning, as well as protein and gene function. Following graduation, Anderson plans to pursue doctoral studies, with the ultimate goal of becoming a genetic engineer.


Dean's Scholar

Headshot of Ashley FlakeAshley Flake, Physical Science (Composite Teaching)

A native of Apple Valley, Minnesota, Flake has served as an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow for physics and astronomy courses, and as a teaching assistant for an introductory physics course. Among her cherished activities at USU, is leadership and service in the Latter-Day Saint Student Association at the Logan Institute of Religion. A recipient of a College of Science Scholarship, Flake plans to teach high school physics and chemistry, and pursue a master’s degree in education.


Dean's Scholar

Headshot of Cate KartchnerCate Kartchner, Chemistry and Psychology minors

A recipient of the Biology Ecology Undergraduate Scholarship, Kartchner was employed in USU’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Research Lab and as a Biology Peer Advisor. She also volunteered as a chemistry and biology tutor. Her favorite USU experiences include skiing, rock climbing, eating Aggie Ice Cream and sledding Old Main Hill. Following graduation, the Spokane, Washington native will enter the University of Virginia School of Medicine.


Dean's Scholar

Headshot of Emma LindleyEmma Lindley, Biochemistry

A recipient of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s Frost Award in Organic Chemistry, Lindley has been active in research, studying CRISPR technology with faculty mentor Ryan Jackson. Her enthusiasm has benefited teen students, whom she’s mentored through Utah’s GEAR UP program. Lindley has prepared experiments to help the youngsters learn about science and opportunities in higher ed. Following graduation, the Morgan, Utah native plans a career focused on medical research in the biotechnology industry.


Dean's Scholar

Headshot of Arianna TowneArianna Towne, Biochemistry, Biology minor

Towne lists playing soccer at USU Eastern, studying abroad in Leicester, England and conducting research in the lab of Dr. Joanie Hevel among the highlights of her undergrad career. Towne was named a Peak Summer Research Fellow and was awarded an URCO grant to pursue research. She was a two-time Hansen Life Sciences Retreat presentation award recipient. The Garland, Utah native plans to pursue graduate studies in biomedical sciences.


Dean's Scholar

Headshot of Abby TuckerAbby Tucker, Cellular/Molecular Biology; Chemistry and Anthropology minors

An Alpine, Utah native, Tucker is active in research, participating in a study of bumblebee evolution and genetic plasticity, as well as research on the source of niacin deficiency in humans, with faculty mentor Mirella Meyer-Ficca. Tucker worked with USU’s Office of Research to encourage other undergrads to get involved in research, and helped to coordinate such events as the annual Student Research Symposium. She plans to work in the biotechnology industry, and pursue a career in forensic science.


Undergraduate Teaching Fellow of the Year

Headshot of Ayzia FordAyzia Ford, Chemistry-Professional, Chemistry-Teaching 

Ford says teaching has been a “stretching and rewarding experience.” The Kaysville, Utah native is grateful for the relationships she’s developed with professors, colleagues and classmates, and through teaching, says she’s “learned so much from so many wonderful and brilliant people.” Ford participated in research with faculty member Gang Li’s lab. She plans to pursue a career in chemistry teaching, as she “continues to serve my family and community.” 


Undergraduate Researcher of the Year (Peak Prize)

Headshot of Manuel SantanaManuel Santana, Computational Mathematics; Computer Science minor

A 2021 Goldwater Scholar, Santana studies graph and network theory and has participated in two NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates at Michigan State and Emory University, respectively. As a Science Council member, he organized workshops to help fellow undergrads pursue similar opportunities, and coordinated the popular “Rapid Fire Research” events to showcase student research. Santana plans to pursue doctoral studies in computational and applied mathematics.

Science Senator 2021-22

Headshot of Jonathan MousleyJonathan Mousley, Mathematics, Computer Science minor

Mousley represented the college as USUSA Science Senator for the 2021-22 academic year. The mathematics major has been a strong supporter of student research and outreach during his term of service, helping to lead such programs and activities as Science Week, the peer mentorship program, the NSF REU workshop, “Rapid Fire Research” presentations and community STEM outreach. The college applauds Mousley’s outstanding service during a challenging pandemic year.

Legacy of Utah State Award Nominee

Headshot of Chloe GeddesChloe Geddes, Geology

A College of Science Ambassador and president of the USU Geology Club, Geddes is a strong advocate for Utah State and its students. Faculty mentors describe her as “outgoing, effervescent, dependable and an absolute joy to work with.” As a club officer, Geddes has initiated innovative activities to engage fellow students in geosciences study, research and outreach. In addition, Geddes was a member of USU’s Get Away Special student space research team, which designed and built a cube satellite successfully deployed from the International Space Station.

2022 Goldwater Scholar 

Headshot of Bruce Brewer ,Goldwater ScholarBruce Brewer, Mathematics; Computer Science and Statistics minors 

A native of American Fork, Utah, Brewer is studying partial differential equations and nonlinear waves with faculty mentor Nghiem Nguyen in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. He presented his research at the 2022 IMACS International Conference on Nonlinear Evolution Equations and Wave Phenomena. Beyond his demanding academic and research schedule, Brewer is an active member of the Aggie Game Night Club. He plans to pursue graduate studies in mathematics and a career in academia. 

2022 Goldwater Scholar

Headshot of Wesley Mills , Goldwater ScholarWesley Mills, Physics; Mathematics minor

A Clovis, California native, Mills is an Honors student, an Undergraduate Research Fellow and was selected as Peak Summer Research Fellow. With faculty mentor T.-C. Shen, Mills is studying the way light interacts with extremely small structures – namely carbon nanotubes. He says his studies are motivated by “a fascination with the world.” Following USU graduation, Mills plans to earn a doctorate and physics, and continue research focusing on optics and photonics. 

2022 Goldwater Scholar Nominee

Headshot of Heather Allen , Goldwater Scholar NomineeHeather Allen, Physics; Computer Science; Mathematics minor

A Pleasant Grove, Utah native, Allen conducts research focusing on electron yield measurements of granular samples from materials flown in space, and how this information can influence spacecraft design. She hopes to someday work with actual lunar dust, to help characterize its electrostatic properties. Allen received the O. Harry Otteson Award, given to the USU physics student achieving the highest grade in introductory physics. She also received the Outstanding Student Presentation Award at the American Physical Society’s regional Four Corners Meeting. Allen plans to pursue graduate studies in physics. 

Graduate Student Awards

Master's Student Researcher of the Year

Headshot of Makenna Johnson USU Robin AwardMakenna Johnson, Biology

A 2018 recipient of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and a member of the Kapheim Lab, Johnson studies how commonly used management techniques influence the behavior, physiology and reproduction of the solitary alfalfa leaf-cutting bee. Active in science outreach, Johnson serves on the board of the Bridgerland Audubon Society. She is a Biological Science Student Intern with the USDA Pollinating Insect Research Unit and is a member of USDA Agricultural Research Service Pathways Program, preparing for a federal career.


Doctoral Student Researcher of the Year

Headshot of Nikita FedikNikita Fedik, Chemistry

A member of the Boldyrev Lab, Fedik pursues computational design of new molecules and materials, employing artificial intelligence for molecular modeling. He has predicted several novel species, which have been synthesized by collaborators at Johns Hopkins University. An internship at Los Alamos National Lab led to a full-time collaboration and financial research support. Fedik has published 29 peer-reviewed articles and plans to pursue a post-doctoral position at LANL.


Graduate Student Teacher of the Year

Headshot of Megen KepasMegen Kepas, Biology

Kepas, a doctoral student pursuing herpetology in the Savitzky Lab, studies the morphology, physiology and genetics of snakes that have evolved resistance to toad toxins. An instructor of multiple online and in-person courses, Kepas strives to maintain an inclusive environment for students of varied learning styles and backgrounds. Following graduation, she plans to pursue an academic career at a research institution and develop a program in integrative organismal biology that focuses on herpetological diversity.

Faculty/Staff Awards

Undergraduate Faculty Mentor of the Year 

Headshot of Dr. Jessica HabashiDr. Jessica Habashi, Principal Lecturer, Department of Biology

A member of the Biology faculty at USU Brigham City, Habashi teaches a range of courses and maintains robust research projects in education and conservation ecology. Habashi is active in the Biology Undergraduate Student Association’s Statewide Campus Committee and the Statewide Honors Program, along with the Affordable Learning Resources Committee. She often serves as scholars’ first research mentor, bolstering their confidence and fostering their exploration of new academic depths and challenges.


Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year (Peak Prize) 

Headshot of Dr. Sara FreemanDr. Sara Freeman, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology

Freeman is a neurobiologist, who studies the neural basis for behavior, with an emphasis on understanding social behaviors in animals and humans. A strong advocate for student research, Freeman, along with her team of graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher, has mentored 17 undergraduate researchers since her arrival at Utah State less than three years ago. She involves undergrads in all aspects of research, encouraging them to present, publish and apply for opportunities to advance their studies.


Outstanding Graduate Mentor of the Year 

Headshot of Dr. Kevin MoonDr. Kevin Moon, Assistant Professor, Department Mathematics and Statistics

Moon guides his graduate students in research ranging from development of theory and applications in machine learning, information theory and deep learning, to manifold learning with diverse applications. At USU, Moon has designed three graduate courses focused on deep learning and neural networks, machine learning and mathematics for data science. The assistant professor has advised four master’s students and currently advises six doctoral students. To date, he has served on 16 graduate committees.


Faculty Researcher of the Year

Headshot of Dr. Susannah French Utat State University AwardDr. Susannah French, Professor, Department of Biology and Ecology Center

French conducts studies of vertebrates in the U.S., as well as The Bahamas, Galapagos Islands, Honduras, and the Arctic, to better understand how animals interact with their environments. She investigates disturbances in the environment, including human-induced perturbations, that affect how animals allocate energy resources to respond to stress, reproduction and disease. French has secured funding from the National Science Foundation, USGS, USFW and National Geographic, including the prestigious NSF CAREER Award.


Teacher of the Year 

Headshot of Erik FalorErik Falor, Professional Practice Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

Falor’s students describe the computer scientist’s assignments as thought-provoking, interesting and applicable to real-world problems. With a background as a software engineer, Falor understands the distinct challenges new graduates face as they embark on a career. In his classroom, he not only strives to offer knowledge, but also works to provide students with problem-solving, management and collaborative skills to enable them to succeed in a wide range of workplace settings.


Faculty University Service Award Nominee 

Headshot of Dr. Vicki Allan ,Utah State University AwardDr. Vicki Allan, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science

A USU faculty member since 1992, Allan is active in teaching, research, advising and has served on dozens of committees to promote student, faculty and staff welfare. A former faculty senate president, Allan laid the groundwork for USU’s Center for Women and Gender. Among her notable efforts are initiatives to support, encourage and inspire young women and other underrepresented groups in computer science, including the NCWIT Aspire IT Alliance-supported “App Camp,” a summer program for middle school youths and their high school-aged mentors.


Cazier Lifetime Achievement Award Nominee

Headshot of Dr. Ian AndersonDr. Ian Anderson, Professor, Mathematics and Statistics

Anderson, who joined USU’s faculty in 1979, has mentored more than 20 graduate students, many of whom have garnered top academic and professional accolades. His field of research is differential geometry and its applications to mathematical physics and differential equations. Anderson is the author or co-author of more than 40 journal articles and conference proceedings, and author of the Differential Geometry software package, part of the Maple distributed library. He is the 1992 recipient of the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, USU’s highest research honor.


Staff Excellence (Exempt) Award 

Headshot of James CoburnJames Coburn, Laboratory Supervisor, Physics 

Within the Cache Valley community, Coburn’s name is synonymous with STEM outreach. For more than 15 years, science enthusiasts of all ages have enjoyed Coburn’s November Demo Show – a Thanksgiving week favorite – along the physicist’s visits to school and other community groups. Coburn also volunteers to lead Public Viewing Nights at the USU Observatory, sharing the joy of astronomy. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Utah State, Coburn stepped up to ensure USU students received the best possible lab learning experiences under challenging conditions.


Staff Excellence (Exempt) Award 

Headshot of Joe ShopeJoe Shope, System Administrator, Biology 

Shope is the “go-to” person for all-things-about-information-technology for the Department of Biology. In this busy and integral position, Shope handles requests with expertise, patience and efficiency. His efforts, which support faculty, staff, students and visitors, were especially appreciated during major IT needs and renovations following the Biology-Natural Resources Building Remodel, as well as during challenging pandemic conditions.