The College of Science at Utah State University is full of driven researchers, educators, and mentors. Each year the college recognizes several members who have gone above and beyond the norm to continue to make the college a place of increased merit and quality.
CoS Student Awards
Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science. College of Science Valedictorian Katie Sweet is often asked, “Why are your pursuing three majors?”
The answer? The Salt Lake City native’s interests are far-reaching. (And, for the record, Sweet also majored in biochemistry for a while.)
“I’ve always been interested in science and technology and have had a passion for puzzles and problem-solving since I was a little girl,” says Sweet, who graduated from Utah’s Cottonwood High School in 2013.
Not only are Sweet’s academic interests broad, her contributions to USU have impacted a wide range of areas and people. She has enjoyed teaching physics recitations, as well as introducing kids throughout the local community to physics – especially the Van de Graaff generator – in her capacity as vice president of outreach for USU’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students.
Named a Goldwater Scholar in 2015, the 2013 graduate of Utah’s Cottonwood High School participated in research with faculty mentors David Peak of Physics and Keith Mott of Biology in analyzing the heterogeneity of plants’ stomata due to changes in temperature and humidity.
In addition to academic pursuits, Sweet was a member of USU’s women’s tennis team and a recipient of a Mountain West Academic All-Conference Athlete Award. Her participation included 5:45 am workouts and nationwide travel, as well as “lots of laughs, tears and hard work.”
Sweet is currently employed as a student software engineer at USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory, where she’s pursuing her passion for designing and implementing complex software systems. She is building and testing autonomous drones for use in GPS-denied environments – primarily using computer vision.
Following graduation from USU, Sweet plans to pursue a full-time software engineering position.
Undergraduate biochemistry major Kara Swenson is the 2017-2018 USU Outstanding Peer Advisor of the Year. The graduating senior is the first recipient of the honor, which was newly established by the University Advising Office.
A Cache Valley native, Kara was nominated by Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry advisor Geri Child, who wrote, “Kara has exceeded my expectations of how a peer advisor can contribute to the advising model of our department. With her assistance, we have been able to take advising to a better level. Kara sets a high standard for future peer advisors to follow.”
During her two years of service as a peer advisor, Kara has developed DegreeWorks sample major plans to help undergrads in planning classes, registering for courses in the correct sequence and staying on track for graduation. She also co-presented on proactive advising, with University Advisor Director Mykel Beorchia, at a regional, professional conference.
Following graduation, Kara plans a gap year to prepare for future graduate study.
Sit and talk with USU undergraduate Tien Lindsay and your cares will be lighter, you’ll share a laugh and you’ll gain surprising insights about life. Born in a Vietnamese refugee camp in Thailand, to parents fleeing violence in their home country, Tien makes you feel instantly… at home. Perhaps it’s her upbringing, during which her parents instilled the importance of making the most of every opportunity and blooming where you’re planted, that the graduating senior wastes no time on regret, envy or anger.
Devastated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, the BYU grad immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army, in which she served for 10 years and was deployed several times to Iraq. In her civil affairs role, she negotiated financial settlements with Iraqi widows and mothers, who’d lost family members as collateral damage to U.S. action. Tien’s forthright and compassionate service was recognized with a number of honors, including three Army Commendation medals.
At USU, Tien is completing a degree in Biology and impressive research with the USDA Pollinating Insect Research Unit. Her work has propelled her toward upcoming graduate studies at Utah State. Tien also serves as a resident assistant in family housing, where she tirelessly helps newcomers to the U.S. navigate a new culture, a new language and new climate, and find a new and welcoming home.
Sidney Tate’s accomplishments shine: The mathematics/actuarial science and economics major has racked up a 4.0 GPA, along with an impressive resume of ambitious research, peer-reviewed publications, competitive grants and scholarships, exemplary internship performance and a long list of awards. Despite the tremendous energy and focus Sid pours into academic pursuits, his central focus is making other people’s lives better. It’s not pretense; it’s not for show. Sid genuinely looks out for the lonely and the discouraged and makes time each day to help those in need.
Among Sid’s most praised endeavors at USU are his enthusiastic efforts as an undergraduate teaching assistant and recitation leader. He admits he’s become so passionate about teaching, he’s lost his voice on occasion. In addition to his formal duties, the Orem, Utah native has tutored countless fellow students, free of charge, in the rigors of math, statistics, economics and finance. “I made the resolution to never deny anyone, who asks for help,” he says.
Beyond his daily interactions at the community level, Sid seeks to make the world better. His choice of research pursuits, including examining the impacts of the Affordable Care Act and other public policy, are influenced by a selfless principle: “Improve myself and my scholarly pursuits, so I can make a difference for others.”
James Mauch grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado, and fell in love with the landscapes of the western US from an early age. A passion for understanding the ground beneath his feet led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Earth Science from Montana State University, where he graduated in 2014. After taking a year off to hike the Continental Divide Trail and instruct for the Wild Rockies Field Institute, he returned to school for a master’s in Geology at Utah State University. Under the guidance of Dr. Joel Pederson, his research at USU has focused on understanding the processes and rates of active salt tectonism beneath the city of Moab. He has found that valley subsidence from salt-dissolution has accelerated geologically-recently and appears to be controlled by the downcutting of the nearby Colorado River. As part of this research he made a geologic map of a 7.5’ quadrangle east of Moab, which he is preparing to publish with the Utah Geological Survey. After graduating this spring, James is excited to apply his passion for Earth-surface processes and geologic hazards as he pursues a career with a geological survey or land management agency.
Nan Jiang is a senior PhD candidate in Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Prior to her matriculation at USU, she obtained her B.S. in Chemistry with a minor in Biotech (2010) and M.S. (2013) with honors in Inorganic Chemistry from Jilin University, China. Nan joined Prof. Sun’s group at Utah State University in 2013.
Nan’s graduate research focuses on developing competent electrocatalysts and new strategies for water splitting with renewable energy input, in order to covert those intermittent renewable energy sources into chemical forms, like H2. Furthermore, she has developed novel electrocatalytic systems to integrate the H2 evolution reaction with electrocatalytic biomass upgrading, which will produce two types of valuable products simultaneously, H2 at the cathode and upgraded organic product(s) at the anode.
As a graduate student, she devotes all her enthusiasm to her projects and makes achievements in her academic research. During the PhD program, she has published 16 peer-reviewed papers. Two of them were highlighted on the covers of journals and also reported USU Today. Besides multiple publications in academic journals, two intellectual patents have also been applied based on her research work.
Because of these achievements, Nan won numerous awards and fellowships. She also presented her research multiple times at both national and international conferences.
Sandra Lundell is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at Utah State University, studying Physical Chemistry with an emphasis in theoretical computation. She received a B.A. in Chemistry at Idaho State University in 2014 before moving to Logan to pursue her graduate studies. Her first taste of teaching at a university level was at Idaho State and she knew she would want to continue in that path at USU. Since becoming an Aggie, she has taught over a dozen chemistry labs and two dozen general chemistry recitations. Last year, she received the Marjorie H. Gardner Teaching Award, which is given to a graduate student each year in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for excellence in teaching. In the fall of 2017, she had the privilege and pleasure of instructing CHEM 1110: General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry. At home, Sandra loves to spend time with her beautiful wife, Katie, and their three fur-babies, Niko, Alecs, and Rarity.
As a senior Geology major, Mikaela’s involvement with several research projects has bolstered her education and her lab and field expertise. She began her research career by working with Dr. Jim Evans on projects that culminated in co-authorship on a publication detailing the in-situ stresses of a borehole in the western Snake River Plain. Mikaela then worked with fellow student Fallon Rowe on a funded URCO project under the mentorship of Dr. Carol Dehler. Together, they utilized uranium-lead detrital zircon geochronology and petrography in order to better understand the depositional age and provenance of the mid-Neoproterozoic Visingsö Group in southern Sweden.
Mikaela has presented this research at several poster sessions and is now writing a first-authored paper that will be submitted for publication shortly. Mikaela has served as an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, Vice President of the USU Geology Club, and field assistant for two geology graduate students. In addition to her research and classes, Mikaela currently works as a lab assistant in Dr. Dennis Newell’s Stable Isotope Geochemistry Lab where she prepares and analyzes samples using various scientific instruments. Mikaela will be graduating this summer and plans to begin a master’s degree in geology in the fall of 2019.
CoS Faculty and Staff Awards
Susannah French is an associate professor of biology at Utah State University. Dr. French received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in 2002 and a Ph.D. from Arizona State University in 2006. She was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University before she joined the Biology faculty at USU in 2009. Her research group currently includes three Ph.D. students and a large number of undergraduates, who are invaluable to her work. Dr. French’s group is widely published in a variety of journals and has received funding from the National Science Foundation, United States Geological Survey, the Department of Defense, and National Geographic. Through the NSF Faculty CAREER Award, Dr. French has mentored four different graduate students studying how animals allocate energy among physiological systems critical to health, reproduction, and survival.
Dr. French studies the physiology of animals in their natural environment, from lizards to polar bears. Her main line of research focuses on reptiles in Utah, The Bahamas, and the Galapagos Islands, to better understand how animals respond to anthropogenic disturbances. By using a variety of methods in the laboratory and the field, she is working to understand how species respond and hopefully adapt to environmental changes.
Described as insightful and enlightening, senior Mathematics and Statistics lecturer Greg Wheeler draws accolades from students, who consistently praise his ability to teach complex concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. Even in his very large (200+ student) classes, Greg encourages questions, adjusts his pace to student understanding and reassures students that mistakes are a critical part of learning.
Greg’s innovative leadership with the Utah System of Higher Education “Math Acceleration” initiative led to reform of USU’s remedial math courses and math placement tests, which has resulted in more students successfully completing math requirements, as well as tuition cost savings to students and cost savings to the university. His kindness, intelligence, humor, attention to detail and commitment to effective teaching distinguish Greg as a sought-after instructor and colleague.
Alexis Ault is a thermochronologist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geology. Her research pushes the boundaries of low-temperature thermochronology to document the temperatures and timing of fundamental Earth processes through integration of geological, nanotextural, and geochemical data. To support this work, she maintains a dynamic, externally-funded research program including active grants from the National Science Foundation and Southern California Earthquake Center.
She received a NSF CAREER award to develop new textural and thermochronologic tools to identify past earthquakes. Since arriving at USU in 2014, she has published 10 papers in leading scientific journals, and has been invited to speak at seven international conferences. Alexis is committed to broadening participation of underserved groups in STEM through a new CAREER grant-supported program she developed to engage local middle school students in earthquake research and involvement in USU’s Native American Student Mentoring Program. Alexis’ appointment at USU marks the culmination of her academic, professional, and personal journey among Four Corners states, including a NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Arizona. She finds inspiration while pedaling her mountain bike and has won endurance mountain bike races including 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo Duo-Female and 300 mile Arizona Trail Race.
For more than a quarter of a century, Professor Paul Wolf has contributed his time, effort and expertise to efforts at the departmental, college and university level, along with various university research centers, aimed at enriching the experiences of students, faculty, staff and community members.
In addition to serving tirelessly on tenure and promotion committees for faculty in Biology and ADVS, Paul is a member of the Advisory Board to USU Museum Studies and the USU Institutional Biosafety/Recombinant DNA Committee. He created software and data carpentry workshops to aid students and faculty, who wish to gain critical skills in software development and data science for the life sciences. Paul also lends his time to leading learning activities in DNA extraction with local high school students.
In the midst of busy teaching, research, administrative and outreach responsibilities, Paul generously stepped up to serve as associate department head of Biology and as director of USU’s Intermountain Herbarium. His efforts are anything but perfunctory; Paul serves with conviction, passion and genuine interest in providing meaningful contributions to the university’s mission.
Carol Dehler is a ‘deep time’ geologist and an associate professor in the Geology Department at Utah State University. She received her Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque and an M.S. in Geology from Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff. Her research interests include questions about pre-metazoan biotic evolution, the composition of Earth’s early atmosphere and oceans, associated climate change, the nature of ancient landscapes, and the geologic timescale. All of her projects are field-based and may be combined with lab techniques including stable-isotope and elemental geochemistry, petrography, scanning electron microscopy, and geochronology.
Carol’s research group includes graduate and undergraduate students and numerous collaborators from universities worldwide. Research has taken Carol and students to places including Grand Canyon, Death Valley, the Uinta Mountains, Namibia, and Sweden. Her group has published in journals such as Science, Nature Geoscience, Precambrian Research, and the Geological Society of America, and has generated geologic maps for state geological surveys in the west. Carol is also a voting member of the Cryogenian sub-commission, which is working on the latest GSSP (a rock-based Global Stratotype Section and Point) for the International Geologic Time Scale.
Buckley Banham is the recipient of the 2017 College of Science Staff Excellence Award in the exempt category. For more than 15 years, Buckley has run the Instrument Repair Shop located within the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, which also serves other departments of the College of Science and other units on campus. Buckley is called on to repair every kind of scientific instrument – from mundane items like stir plates and balances, to expensive high-speed centrifuges, NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), and X-ray diffraction equipment. The breadth of Buckley’s abilities to service an incredibly wide range of instrumentation is exceptional. Every major extramural grant holder in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry relies on him to maintain both basic and sophisticated equipment. Buckley also oversees the computer infrastructure in the Department, including everything from computer networks used for computational chemistry to a computer lab used for undergraduate teaching. He is dedicated, self-motivated, and possesses an incredible can-do attitude with extraordinary attention to detail. Buckley’s willingness to tackle any problem set before him makes him an invaluable member of the Department and College.
Margo Morgan is the recipient of the 2018 College of Science Staff Excellence Award in the non-exempt category. Working in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Margo is part of the Business Services team in the College of Science and also serves as the facilities manager for the Department. Her Business Services responsibilities include financial record keeping, accounting, and monitoring of all faculty members’ grant accounts as well as departmental accounts. In her capacity as facilities manager, she coordinates with USU Facilities personnel on a wide range of maintenance, repair, and remodeling projects. She also serves on the departmental Safety Committee. Margo’s work is characterized by a “get the job done” philosophy. Her coworkers describe her assistance in tracking financial matters as “extremely well-organized” and comment she is always willing to help and is knowledgeable regarding financial questions or concerns. She is also very effective in her approach toward moving facilities projects forward, with a hands-on attitude to make sure that all details are correct. Margo is a tremendous team player and is very giving of her energy and expertise for the advancement of USU.
Past Award Winners
Please refer to this page for award winners from the past 35+ years of acheivement ain the College of Science at Utah State University.Past Awards
Nominate a Candidate
The nomination process is currently underway for the 2017-2018 academic year. Please contact your department if you have any questions.