College of Science Awards 2024

 Undergraduate Student Awards


Headshot of Sterling Scott Sturgill

Sterling Scott Sturgill, Department of Biology

Faculty Escort: Dr. Ryan Jackson

A native of Kimberly, Idaho, Sterling Scott Sturgill, son of Rob and Michelle Sturgill, is the middle child of five children. In the valleys of Idaho, Sterling gained a deep respect for hard work and service, while learning from his parents and local leaders. He spent summers working as a river guide on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. He graduated from Kimberly High School after three years full of rock climbing, lacrosse, and cross country. At USU, Sterling decided to pursue a profession in health care and began studying Human Biology with a minor in Business. His weekends were often a balance between climbing, running, and studying. His second year, Sterling began working in Dr. Ryan Jackson’s laboratory in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He then served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Poland, where he learned invaluable lessons with and from refugees and volunteers. Sterling will begin medical school in Fall 2024, and hopes to specialize in oncology.

Scholar of the Year 

Headshot of Emeline Norlene HaroldsenEmeline Norlene Haroldsen, Departments of Mathematics & Statistics and Chemistry & Biochemistry

Emeline Haroldsen graduates from Utah State with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics/statistics (composite) and biochemistry, with a minor in data science. Born and raised in Maryland, Emeline never dreamed that the temperature could drop below 0°F in the winter, until she moved to Logan to attend USU. She received a USU Undergraduate Research & Creative Opportunities grant to pursue research in biochemistry faculty member Joanie Hevel’s lab, and presented her research at the Hansen Life Sciences Retreat and at Rapid Fire Research. When she isn’t doing research, Emeline likes to weight train, draw, and tell puns to make her friends roll their eyes and sigh.

Dean's Scholars

Dean Scholars

Dean's Scholars Page

Undergraduate Teaching Fellow of the Year

Sophia WithersSophia Withers, Department of Biology

Sophia Withers graduates this spring with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management, with a minor in Biology. She began assisting Biology Senior Lecturer Lauren Lucas in 2021, and became the Biology 1615/1625 Undergraduate Teaching Fellow in Spring 2023. In this position, Sophia takes care of the lab’s critters, as well as raising caterpillars and an ant colony for the Honors lab section. Sophia is a first-generation college student, and was recognized as the university’s Outstanding Aggie First Scholar Senior of the Year. She is also actively involved in research through the Honors Program. In her spare time, Sophia enjoys reading, camping, hiking and birding.

Undergraduate Researcher of the Year (Peak Prize)

Sydney SchmidtSydney Schmidt, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Sydney Schmidt grew up on a 50-acre ranchette near Missoula, Montana. At an early age, she earned the nickname ‘Sydlapedia’ for her prowess with family quiz games. In high school, Sydney and her mother collaborated to publish a children's book, illustrated by Sydney. At USU, the Presidential Scholarship recipient pursued an Environmental Chemistry major, with a minor in Mathematics. Sydney joined the research lab of Dr. Yi Rao, after excelling in his quantitative analysis class. She says she’s enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of participating in the Rao Lab’s research efforts, along with exploring the possibilities of real-world applications offered by the research. Outside the lab and classroom, Sydney coaches competitive jump rope, a sport in which she’s competed at a national level. Concerned about the health of the planet, Sydney actively volunteers for recycling and waste reduction projects.

Science Senator 2023-24

Jaxton WinderJaxton Winder, Department of Computer Science

Jaxton Winder earned a bachelor degree in computational mathematics and computer science in 2022, and immediately progressed to a master’s program in computer science at Utah State. He may be the first graduate student (or at least the first in many years) to serve as USUSA Science Senator for the college. Prior to being elected Senator, Jaxton served as the Science Council’s Vice President of Student Advocacy, advocating for student interests, encouraging student political engagement, along with involvement in research, service, peer mentorship and other activities. He initiated the USU Student Employee Compensation Survey, coordinated the “You Belong in STEM” event and led a successful Science Week, which featured a variety of activities and events.

Legacy of Utah State Award Nominee

Headshot of Bella LonardoBella Lonardo, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

A Salt Lake City native, Isabella “Bella” Lonardo is a member of USU’s Honors Program, with majors in biochemistry and biology. An URCO grant recipient, she has been active in undergraduate research, exploring what’s guiding decisions behind how proteins communicate with faculty mentor Joanie Hevel in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Lonardo and undergraduate research partner Zaharah Rossi received the Undergraduate Research Poster Award for Physical Sciences during USU Research Week 2023. The pair traveled to Utah’s Capitol Hill to present their research to legislators in January 2024. Bella, who has also been recognized for her research at the 2023 and 2024 Hansen Life Sciences Retreats, plans to study medicine. In addition to her excellent academic and research record, Bella founded the USUSA Effective Altruism Club, which engages students in critical thinking and altruistic discourse, promotes global sustainability and raises funds to enhance global health initiatives.

Goldwater Scholar Nominee

Headshot of Jacey HopkinJacey Hopkin, Department of Biology

A first-generation college student from West Haven, Utah, Jacey Hopkin studies psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience research. The Honors student, who is majoring in both Biology and Psychology, is currently conducting research in two USU labs, in which she’s studying vasopressin in monogamous animals and Alzheimer’s disease models in rats. Hopkin, who plans to pursue graduate studies, is also a USU Writing Fellow and served as the 2023-24 Honors Study Advisory Board representative for the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Goldwater Scholar Nominee

Headshot of Zachary ZitoZachary Zito, Physics; Mathematics minor

A native of West Valley City and Magna, Utah, Zachary Zito says he’s had “incredible” opportunities for learning and growth, along with invaluable mentorship from scholars and leaders at Utah State. His majors are physics, mathematics and philosophy. The Honors student, who was twice selected as a Peak Summer Research Fellow, has devoted the past two summers to full-time research on the physics and metaphysics of time. Zito plans graduate study in mathematics, philosophy and science, followed by a research career in Complex Systems Theory, with an aim of finding and utilizing hidden structures within nonlinear and chaotic systems.

Graduate Student Awards

Master's Student Researcher of the Year

Emma KrolczykEmma Krolczyk, Department of Geosciences

A master’s student in USU’s Department of Geosciences, Emma Krolczyk earned her bachelor’s degree in Geology at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. After completing her undergraduate degree, Emma joined the U.S. Geological Survey Luminescence Dating Laboratory, and became determined to pursue a career in luminescence dating. This led her to the USU Luminescence Laboratory, working under the advisement of Dr. Tammy Rittenour. Emma’s research at USU joins geology with archaeology and aims to provide age constraints for the construction of the Wiggins Fork Bison Jump Complex, a Native American hunting complex in northwestern Wyoming. She uses luminescence dating to determine when the site was constructed and used. After completing her master’s degree, Emma plans to return to the USGS Luminescence Dating Laboratory, and continue her career with an ambition to introduce new
applications to the technique.


PhD Student Researcher of the Year

Helen Bond PlylarHelen Bond Plylar, Department of Biology

Helen Bond Plylar is a doctoral candidate in the USU Department of Biology, in the lab of Dr. Alan H. Savitzky. Her dissertation research focuses on the development and morphology of the infrared-imaging system of boas and pythons. Helen is also actively engaged in many other projects, addressing several unresolved questions in snake anatomy, including two international collaborations with colleagues at Kyoto University and University of the Ryukyus, respectively. In 2023, she received USU’s Graduate Research and Creative Opportunities (GRCO) grant award to support travel to Okinawa, where she collected and prepared seasnakes for anatomical studies. In addition to her own research, Helen is lab manager of USU’s MicroCT Facility, where she leverages her knowledge of this technology to assist researchers of different disciplines (biology, geology, aerospace engineering) in data collection and analysis. Helen is active in student government at USU, serving leadership roles at the department and college level, and through USUSA as the Graduate Director (2020-2021). She is also active in her professional society, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, and is currently serving a 6-year term on the ASIH Board of Governors. Outside of lab, Helen spends her time traveling, reading fantasy novels, and hanging out with her pets.


Graduate Student Teacher of the Year

Headshot of Matt BurnhamC. Xavier Parent, Department of Mathematics & Statistics

C. Xavier Parent is a master’s student in USU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. From a young age, Xavier found an aptitude and passion for math, which spurred him to always want to know more. He has always wanted others to enjoy math the way he does, and so has sought to help others understand the math that he always found to be so beautiful. This led Xavier to seek opportunities to teach and to grow his educational abilities, so that as he continues in his academic career, he will continue to be able to inspire people with the truth he holds so dear. As an undergraduate student, Xavier worked as a recitation leader. He says it was a “wonderful feeling to empower students to succeed,” which solidified his conviction to teach. As a grad student, Xavier has taught recitations for MATH 3310 for four semesters, and has also taught 
MATH 1060. Outside of academic and professional pursuits, Xavier loves ballroom dance, as well as playing TTRPG’s, and card and board games with his family.


2024 Legacy of Utah State Award

Headshot of Megan Raddatz with ribbon awardMegan Raddatz, Departments of Biology and Psychology

Megan Raddatz is a doctoral candidate in the USU Neuroscience PhD Program, in the lab of Biology faculty mentor. Dr. Erin Bobeck.  Megan’s dissertation research focuses on discovering new roles of a G protein coupled receptor in the brain called GPR171.  Throughout her education and training, she was awarded both internal funding from USU through the Graduate Research Creative Opportunities grant (GRCO) and external funding through various organizations to support her research.  Megan is also committed to serving her community both inside and outside the university.  She spearheaded USU’s Neuroscience Outreach Program, visiting more than 25 classrooms, participating in Science Unwrapped and educating more than 1,200 K-12 students about the brain in an effort to increase the accessibility of science education. Additionally, Megan has generously shared her knowledge and experience by mentoring undergraduates and graduate students both inside and outside the lab space.

Faculty/Staff Awards

Undergraduate Faculty Mentor of the Year 

Headshot of Dr. Nghiem NguyenNghiem Nguyen, Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Nghiem V. Nguyen received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2004. He then split his four-year NSF Postdoctoral grant at the University of Oklahoma (2004-05) and Purdue University (2005-08). He joined the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at USU in 2008. Dr. Nguyen’s research interests are Partial Differential Equations, Nonlinear Evolution Equations, with emphases in Fluid Mechanics and Nonlinear Waves. He uses a variety of mathematical techniques in his research ranging from differential equations, dynamical systems, Hamiltonian dynamics, integrable systems and solitons to topological degree theory, asymptotics and perturbation theory. Dr. Nguyen serves as faculty mentor of USU’s Putnam Mathematics Competition Team.


Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year (Peak Prize) 

Headshot of Sterling SturgillStephen Walsh, Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Prior to joining the faculty of USU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Dr. Stephen J. Walsh pursued a successful career in quality assurance and experimental design. He served as a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and as a government statistician at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. He earned his doctorate degree from Montana State, where he focused on adapting Particle Swarm Optimization for generating optimal designs. His current research merges experimental with machine learning algorithms. At Utah State, Stephen is dedicated to mentoring students at all levels. Along with working with graduate students, he successfully guided two undergraduate researchers, aiding them in producing professional work, securing employment and gaining acceptance to top-tier graduate programs.


Outstanding Graduate Mentor of the Year 

Headshot of Alexis AultAlexis Ault, Department of Geosciences

Dr. Alexis Ault is an associate professor in USU’s Department of Geosciences. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Geology and Political Science from Wellesley College, she earned a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico. Alexis completed a doctoral degree from the University of Colorado Boulder, followed by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Arizona. She is the recipient of a NSF CAREER award, USU’s College of Science Researcher of the Year, and the Early Career Award from the International Standing Committee of Thermochronology. Alexis was recently selected as a Kavli Fellow by the National Academy Sciences. Her research connects earthquake geology and thermochronology to understand the spectrum of fault behavior during earthquakes. Her active research group comprises three doctoral students. Alexis and her group are committed to expanding access to science within and beyond USU.


Faculty Researcher of the Year

Headshot of Soukaina Filali boubrahimiSoukaina Filali Boubrahimi, Department of Computer Science

Dr. Soukaina Filali Boubrahimi obtained her doctoral and master’s degrees in Computer Science from Georgia State University (GSU) in 2020, under the supervision of Dr. Rafal Angryk. During her doctoral studies at GSU, she was named the “2019 Outstanding Teaching Awardee” and the “2018 Outstanding Research Awardee” by the GSU Computer Science Department. Soukaina joined USU’s Department of Computer Science as an assistant professor in 2020. Her primary research centers around data mining from scientific time series, graph, and spatiotemporal data. Her research team’s research efforts are directed towards developing novel algorithms for predicting solar flares and solar energetic particle events, addressing critical challenges such as limited datasets and incomplete understanding of solar dynamics. She has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed conference presentations, workshops and journal articles, as well as two book chapters during her career. Soukaina was named the “2022 Outstanding Faculty Researcher of the Year” by USU’s Department of Computer Science. During the past two years, she has received federal and state funding exceeding $1.2 million to bolster her research endeavors and support student training. Soukaina is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award.  


Teacher of the Year 

Headshot of Melissa KofoedMelissa “Missy” Kofoed, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

A lecturer in USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dr. Missy Kofoed earned a bachelor’s degree with majors in chemistry and biology from the University of Wisconsin-
Oshkosh, before completing a doctoral degree in biochemistry from Utah State in 2011. Her passion and aptitude for teaching led her to seek a teaching-focused career, which included seven years as a high school science educator before joining USU’s faculty in 2018. During her tenure at USU, Missy has taught more than 7,900 students in various courses including Introductory Chemistry, General Chemistry, and Introductory Biochemistry through both traditional face-to-face and online delivery methods. Her teaching aims are centered around providing effective instruction through intentional, evidence-based course design. Missy’s commitment to innovation in pedagogy inspired her to earn a certificate in Effective Online Teaching from the Association of College and University Educators, as well as a Teaching Scholar designation from the Office of Empowering Teaching Excellence at USU. In her role as a mentor, Missy actively fosters student success within and beyond the classroom, guiding students as teaching assistants, facilitating student engagement in community outreach activities, and supporting students in their pursuits of graduate education and careers.


Faculty University Service Award Nominee 

Headshot of Dr. Alan "Al" SavitzkyDaniel Coster, Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Dr. Daniel Coster earned a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics (Honors First Class) in 1980 from Cambridge University, England, and a doctoral degree in Statistics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1986. Daniel joined USU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics in 1990, receiving tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor in 1996, and promotion to the rank of Professor (Statistics) in 2009. Daniel’s research program is focused on the development of the theory and application of statistical experimental design and analysis in the applied sciences. During his 33 years at Utah State, he has published or submitted 60+ papers in peer-reviewed journals in disciplines ranging from the theory of experiment design, design and analysis of studies in public health and medicine, K-12 Education, as well as machine learning in computer science applications, biology and wildlife management. Daniel has instructed a wide variety of courses at USU, ranging from introductory statistics courses to senior undergraduate courses in mathematics and statistics and graduate courses in statistics. More recently, as Director of the Actuarial Program, he has instructed the three primary courses in this program



Cazier Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

Headshot of Steve ScheinerSteve Scheiner, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Throughout his more than 20-year tenure with Utah State, Dr. Steve Scheiner has excelled as a teacher, mentor, researcher and administrator. He led the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as department head from 200-2009, and established a reputation for fairness, an open-door policy, a good listener and a valued mentor to young faculty and students. He instituted the Alumni Achievement Award and worked with alumni donors to establish student scholarship endowments. A much-loved teacher, Steve focused on student success and mentored many undergrads in submitting their first manuscripts to scholarly journals. An outstanding researcher, Steve’s proposals to federal funding agencies garnered more than $4 million in research funding, which supported 12 doctoral students, five master’s students and many undergraduates. Steve’s work in weak bonding has resulted in more than 480 peer-reviewed papers in top journals, with more than 30,000 citations. His cumulative h-index is 86, the highest of any current USU researcher. Steve received the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, USU’s highest research honor, in 2010.


Staff Excellence Award

Headshot of Mike LongMike Long, Business Services, Department of Biology

Mike Long serves as lead business manager in the Department of Biology. An Aggie alum, Mike graduated cum laude from USU’s Huntsman School of Business with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. He accomplished this as a father of five, working two jobs and coaching three soccer teams. Mike joined the USU Controller’s Office as a Sponsored Programs Accountant in 2008. In 2012, he accepted the position of Budget Office in the Department of Biology, and advanced to his current position in 2015. He was instrumental in instituting a new business model for the Department of Biology, that “accepts all comers,” creating an enjoyable working environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors. Mike expresses his appreciation to Dean Baker, Financial Officer Lauren Anderson, former Biology Department Head Diane Alston and current Interim Biology Department Head Al Savitzky, and says, “I love coming to work. The atmosphere and the people I work with are absolutely the best.” Outside of USU, Mike performs in a band at venues throughout the valley, and enjoys spending time with his family and pets.


University Advisor of the Year

Headshot of Jordan Truex'sJordan Truex, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Logan, Utah native Jordan Truex is the Senior Academic Advisor for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The USU alumna earned a B.S. in History with a minor in Chemistry, a B.S. in Business Administration, a MBA, and a M.Ed. in Instructional Leadership with an emphasis is Higher Education and Student Affairs. After joining USU as an employee in 2014, Jordan worked in a number of positions before becoming, in 2018, the first professional academic advisor for Chemistry and Biochemistry. She has a deep passion for student success and achievement, and strives to help each of her students find success in their academic and life journeys. In addition to her role as an academic advisor, Jordan heads the Chemistry and Biochemistry Undergraduate Student Association (CABUSA), for which she received a grant from the American Chemical Society in 2023, to reinstate USU’s student chapter. Rebounding from pandemic-era inactivity, the group has been incredibly active in promoting science and chemistry through service, teaching, and leadership by providing classroom demonstrations and participation in STEM nights at more than 15 local elementary schools, participating in Science Unwrapped, hosting an American Red Cross Blood Drive, and running a food drive for the Cache Community Food Pantry. Jordan actively contributes to the advising profession and has presented her research and best practices at university, state, regional, and global advising conferences. She currently serves on the NACADA, The Global Community for Academic Advising, Region 10 Leadership as the Communications Coordinator, serving advisors from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. When she isn’t advising, Jordan serves as a Connections Instructor, teaches elementary school orchestra, edits books for USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors, and spends time with her family and friends. This summer she will begin a Ph.D. program in Leadership in Academic Advising at Kansas State University.

Perpetual Motivator Award Winners

Perpetual Motivator Award Winners

Perpetual Motivator