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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

Jesse Wheeler

Roosevelt, Utah native Jesse Wheeler, a dual mathematics and statistics major, is the College of Science’s 2020 Valedictorian. His faculty escort at commencement ceremonies will be Dr. Brennan Bean, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

A 2014 graduate of Roosevelt’s Union High School, Wheeler entered USU on an academic scholarship and is the recipient of a USU Seely-Hinckley Scholarship, as well as scholarships from the Mathematics and Statistics Department.

With Mathematics and Statistics faculty mentors Bean and Kevin Moon, Wheeler has been involved in a number of research projects. One of these, for which he received an URCO grant, involves creating a method for estimating Snow Water Equivalence (SWE). Such estimates, used for estimating the weight of snow, are important to structural engineers and hydrologists.

Findings from this project are an integral part of another project Wheeler and Bean, along with other students, are pursuing, called the National Snow Load Project. Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Historical Climatology Network Daily stations throughout the United States, the team is developing a snow load map that provides uniformity, while incorporating the unique requirements of each location into the map. This tool will help to ensure safety in residential, commercial and public building construction across the nation.

Jesse serves as president of the USU Data Sciences Club, which he counts as one of his favorite campus activities, along with attending USU sporting events. He graduates with his wife, Haylee Braunersrither Wheeler, who has earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and statistics education. Following graduation, Jesse plans to pursue doctoral studies

Jared Bryan

Las Vegas, Nevada native Jared Bryan is a graduating senior physics and geology major with a minor in mathematics. A 2016 graduate of Las Vegas’ West Career and Technical Academy, Jared entered USU on a Dean’s Scholarship in Fall 2016. He’s since received a number of academic scholarships and recognitions.

Jared’s interest in understanding how the Earth deforms in response to tectonic and climatic forces led him to pursue an URCO-funded research project with Geosciences faculty mentor Tony Lowry at the start of his sophomore year. Jared developed numerical models to understand how forces from mantle flow lead to deformation of the Earth’s crust.

Interested in learning more about deformation from earthquakes, Jared applied for and was awarded an internship at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, where he used numerical earthquake simulations to understand how seismic observations can be linked to earthquake rupture processes. He was awarded another internship at Harvard University, where he developed techniques to monitor earthquake damage and healing using ambient seismic noise. Jared’s current research involves studying geophysical data from a borehole drilled across the San Andreas Fault to better image the fault zone and to provide better estimates of important material parameters used to create seismic hazard models.

In addition to research, Jared served as a science writing tutor, a geochemistry lab assistant and as a Mathematics Teaching Fellow. He’s also served as a volunteer for the Department of Geosciences’ popular “Rock and Fossil Day.” Following graduation, Jared plans to pursue a PhD in geophysics “to understand how the solid earth, oceans, and climate conspire to threaten human lives.”

Kelvyn Bladen

A Cache Valley native from Hyrum, Utah, Kelvyn Bladen is a Math and Statistics Composite major with a minor in Finance.

Since graduating as a Valedictorian from Mountain Crest High School in 2014, Kelvyn has continued to achieve notable scholastic accolades. He is a recipient of the USU Presidential Scholarship, the Utah Regent’s Scholarship, and the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship. He’s on the Dean’s List and is a two-time recipient of the Utah State A-pin award.

Kelvyn has actively pursued business opportunities for using statistics. As an intern for the Utah Department of Transportation, he’s explored effective models for statewide vehicle collisions. He has applied similar algorithms in different statistics programs for Goldman Sachs, where he interned last summer. He plans to expand on his professional education this summer by providing credit risk analysis for Zions Bancorporation.

Kelvyn served as secretary of the Data Science Club, where he provided introductory training for using various statistical programs. He has also been involved in the Finance Club, Investing Club, and the Honors Program.

Following graduation, Kelvyn will pursue a Master of Science in Statistics at Utah State University.

Brandon Calley

Raised in Kuna, Idaho, Brandon is a Human Biology major, with a minor in Chemistry.

Since graduating as Salutatorian from Kuna High School in 2016, Brandon has continued to challenge himself in his academic and secular pursuits. He is the recipient of the Presidential Scholarship, the Alumni Legacy Scholarship, USU Science “A” pin, and was on the Dean’s List for all four years of attendance.

Brandon was deeply involved in in vitro research at USU’s Institute for Antiviral Research. He volunteered in multiple capacities in community organizations, including the English Language Center, the Salt Lake City Pride Festival, the Bear River Valley Hospital Emergency Room, the Logan Regional Hospital Emergency Room and The Family Place.

While at Utah State, Brandon worked as a clinical orthopedic scribe, a Catalyst Residential Treatment Center personal development mentor and an Advanced Human Physiology teaching assistant. He was also a member of the USU Tennis Club, earned a Phlebotomy Certificate and completed his first marathon.

Following graduation, Brandon will pursue a medical education at The Medical College of Wisconsin.

Ryden Crowther

Ryden is from Whitney, Idaho and graduated from Preston High School in 2013. He is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and minors in Spanish and Biology.

While at USU, Ryden has received a number of scholarships, including the Seely-Hinckley Scholarship and the Lillywhite Presidential Scholarship. He has earned multiple awards in chemistry, including the Harris O. & Eleanor Y. Van Orden Award in Biochemistry, the Irving Condie Frost Award in Organic Chemistry, and the Thomas M. Farley Chemistry Award.

Ryden has been active in research and service at Utah State. For more than two years, he served as a technician at USU’s Antiviral Research Institute. He has been involved in in vivo studies with Influenza, West Nile, Polio, Yellow Fever and numerous other viruses. Also, he worked as an Undergraduate Research Fellow at Mayo Clinic this past summer, where he investigated the epigenetic markers of kidney development. Ryden presented his work at the KUH Summer Symposium this past year at Vanderbilt University.

Ryden also completed a biochemistry and microbiology internship at Daisy Brand in Dallas, Texas. At Daisy Brand, he developed a spectrophotometric method for determining milk fat homogenization efficiency.

Ryden has been actively involved in service on campus, including serving one year as the Aggie Health Director in the Val R. Christensen Service Center. He also worked as an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow and as a supplemental instructor for various chemistry courses.

Following graduation, Ryden plans to pursue employment in the biomedical industry.

Greg Hoffmann

Greg is a Statistics, Actuarial Science emphasis, major, with a minor in Quantitative Finance. He graduated from Syracuse High School near his hometown of Clinton, Utah, in May 2014.

Greg received USU’s Presidential Scholarship and was on the College of Science Dean’s List. Throughout his undergraduate career, he worked in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as a grader, a tutor and a recitation leader.

While studying at USU, Greg enjoyed participating in student organizations and events, including the USU Symphonic Band, Days for Girls, and Poetry and a Beverage “PoBev”.

After deciding on the Actuarial Science emphasis as a freshman, Greg passed the Society of Actuaries’ Exam P in May 2019. Following graduation, Greg will work in Denver, Colorado as an Actuarial Intern and continue pursuing the ASA designation from the Society of Actuaries.

Bo Johnson

Bo Johnson, a Physics major with minors in Mathematics and Computer Science hails from Provo, Utah. He graduated from Timpview High School in 2009.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in finance from BYU in 2015, Bo found his real passion was in the sciences and he enrolled in USU’s Physics program in 2016. He is a recipient of the O. Harry Ottesen Award, an honor given to the student achieving the highest score in general physics. Bo is also a two-time recipient of the Howard L. Blood Fellowship for summer research funding, and also received the Hendrick Scholarship for academic merit and professional potential. He was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society.

Bo contributed to two published papers in the journal Chaos, where the dynamics of magnetic dipoles were explored. His senior thesis has been a continuation of this research, focused on characterizing the long-term nature of more than 1,200 periodic orbits found in published study. Bo also performed research at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Neutron Group, working on a new experiment to measure the lifetime of the free neutron and searching for hints of new physics beyond the Standard Model.

An Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, Bo has taught multiple physics labs and physics recitations. Through his participation in the USU Chapter of the Society of Physics Students, he’s an active volunteer for Science Unwrapped and other local outreach events, as well as USU Observatory Public Nights. Bo has also worked at the on-campus Math and Statistics Tutor Lab.

Following graduation, Bo will pursue a doctoral degree in high energy particle physics starting this fall.

Whitney Skabelund Conger

A Nevada native, Whitney graduates summa cum laude (4.0 GPA) with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Health Education. She previously graduated Phi Theta Kappa, with an Associate of Science Degree, from Western Nevada College, while attending Churchill County High School in Fallon, Nevada.

At Utah State, Whitney was the recipient of Dean’s and Track and Field scholarships. She was also awarded the Department of Biology’s Dr. David B. Drown Scholarship for Public Health.

As a jumper and hurdler on USU’s Track and Field Team, Whitney distinguished herself as one of the top ten long jumpers of all time at Utah State University. She is a two-time Academic All-Mountain West Honoree, a two-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete and a two-time Whitesides Scholar-Athlete. Whitney was also a member of the Utah State Club Volleyball Team.

Whitney is a member of the National Association of Leadership and Success, and she is a graduate of the Logan Institute of Religion. She volunteers as a youth leader and basketball coach at her church.

Whitney is employed with Peterson Wellness, and coaches CrossFit at Peak Fitness. She is a certified group fitness instructor and a certified personal trainer.

Married to Kix Conger, formerly of Merino, Colorado, Whitney is the daughter of Hoyt and Carmen Skabelund of Sterling, Colorado.

Thalia Alfaro

Utah native Thalia Alfaro grew up learning about the importance of education and the need for a college education to create a better life. But she had few role models to guide her toward that path. Her parents, both immigrants from Mexico, had entered the United States with no education past high school, and struggled to provide for Thalia and her siblings.

“I thought that I’d just graduate from high school, spend four years at a university and venture into the world with a solid career to support myself,” Thalia says. “Easy, right?”

Not so much. Without a support system and little knowledge about navigating the rigors of college and life on her own, Thalia admits she floundered.

“I’d received a scholarship for my Latina heritage to support my studies, but I wasn’t prepared, I lacked discipline and, eventually, lost my scholarship and my place at Utah State,” she says.

The disappointment turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“I didn’t know then that I needed that to happen to me to learn about who I was, where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there,” Thalia says.

She spent the next few years traveling, including a lot of time outdoors, and learned to hike, ski and climb.

“I realized how much I loved the earth and learning about it,” Thalia says. “I thought a lot about sustainability.”

Equipped with new resolve, she returned to Utah State and found academic and personal success majoring in Biology, with an Ecology/Biodiversity emphasis. She plans to graduate in spring 2022.

“My plan is to pursue graduate studies in either ecology or marine biology,” Thalia says. “I hope to conduct research in the tropics of Asia or South America or out on the open seas to learn more about the ocean.”

The College of Science is proud to nominate Thalia for the university’s “Legacy of Utah State Award.”

Heather Upin

Geosciences graduate student Heather Upin loves sharing stories “told by rocks.” Her study of the geomicrobiology of Peruvian hydrothermal systems, the focus of her master’s thesis, led her to the Andes Mountains of Peru, where Heather sampled 14 hot springs along a transect from Cusco to Lake Titicaca. A self-taught microbiologist, Heather honed her skills while processing microbe samples in a committee member’s lab. She applied these skills to her current research, which seeks to link microbial community differences from her Peruvian samples to the underlying tectonic setting.

Heather’s passion for research began during her undergraduate years at Smith College, from which she earneda bachelor’s degree in geosciences and wrote a senior thesis that garnered top departmental honors. Prior to starting her studies at USU, Heather lived in the backcountry of Idaho, where she helped rebuild trails and surveyed streams for salmon spawning habitat.

Heather enjoys climbing trips and guiding students in the backcountry. She’s passionate about Leave No Trace and conservation, and hopes to find a career that balances her love of the outdoors with her desire to understand the Earth through research.

Tatiana Soboleva

A USU Presidential Doctoral Research Fellow and an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellow, Tatiana Soboleva is pursuing a PhD in organic chemistry under the guidance of Professor Lisa Berreau (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and Professor Abby Benninghoff (Animal, Veterinary and Dairy Sciences).

Tatiana’sinterest in cross-disciplinary research led her to studies directed at preparing molecular tools to explore the biological roles of carbon monoxide (CO), an important signaling molecule in humans akin to nitric oxide (NO) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Her current research involves the synthesis of visible-light induced CO-releasing molecules based on an extended flavonol motif and evaluation of their effects on the viability and function of human cells in the context of the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects of carbon monoxide. The ultimate goal of her research is to develop multifunctional and medicinally suitable molecules that deliver CO in a highly controlled, localizable and dose-dependent manner.

A native of the Republic of Moldova, Tatiana earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2016. She has authored and co-authored a number of peer-reviewed journal papers and was a featured speaker during USU Research Week 2018’s Ignite USU speaker series.

Tyler Bowles

A native of northern Utah, Tyler Bowles is an MS mathematics student at USU. Since graduating from high school, teaching has been Tyler’s primary career goal and it shows in his passion for teaching, leading recitations, preparing for classes, developing lesson plans and contributing to efforts to improve mathematics instruction at Utah State.

As a graduate teaching assistant, Tyler has instructed Calculus I and Linear Algebra, led recitations for various math courses, developed and presented “Introduction to LaTeX” seminars, and served as a member of the Mathematics and Statistics Graduate Professional Development Committee. He received a 2019 Excellence in Teaching Award and is the recipient of a number of other academic accolades and scholarships.

Tyler earned a triple bachelor’s degree, in mathematics, computer science and statistics, from USU in 2018. His current graduate research, conducted with faculty advisor Dariusz Wilczyński, is in modern algebra, where Tyler works to identify universal localizations of noncommutative rings. This work has applications not only within algebra, but also in topology, geometry, and related subjects.

Following completion of his master’s degree, Tyler plans to pursue a PhD in pure mathematics, emphasizing in algebraic topology or algebraic geometry, with a final goal of a career in academia. Beyond campus, he is an avid record collector and music aficionado. Tyler enjoys dinner with friends, video games, playing the piano, rock climbingand yoga.

Alexandra Lish

Alexandra “Alex” Lish is a senior majoring in both Biochemistry and Cellular/Molecular Biology. Her foothold into undergraduate research came at the end of her freshman year, when she joined Biology Professor Frank Messina’s laboratory. She focused on understanding pest resistance in cowpeas, a major source of dietary protein in Africa and South America. Alex’scontributions to multiple projects resulted in two publications, two additional papers in preparation, and a presentation at the Fall 2018 Biology Undergraduate Research Symposium.

During her junior year, Alex joined the laboratory of Chemistry/Biochemistry faculty member Yi Rao, where she synthesized organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite materials for solar cells. She presented this work at the Spring 2019 Undergraduate Research Symposium. Alex participated in an NSF-REU internship at Scripps Research during the summer of 2019, where she focused on understanding how the molecular architecture of the brain convenes into neuronal circuits underlying cognition and behavior. She was awarded an NSF Travel Grant to present her findings at the 2020 Society for Neuroscience Conference and will be a contributing author on a manuscript resulting from this project. After graduation, Alex plans to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Science/Neuroscience to investigate the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases and identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention.

Randi Rasmussen

Randi grew up in Heber, Utah and graduated from Wasatch High School in 2009. She attended Utah State for only one semester, before returning home. After getting married and having two little boys, she found the opportunity to return to Logan to continue her education at Utah State.

Randi’s love for science and coaching high school swimming led her to set a goal of becoming a secondary education science teacher. She graduates this spring with her bachelor’s degree in Earth Science Composite Teaching. Randi was able to complete her education with the TEACH grant and CCAMPIS assistance.

Randi has been actively involved with science education outreach programs at USU, including Science Unwrapped and Rock and Fossil Day. She also loves to promote science literacy through her project “Ms. Randi Science” on Instagram, where she helps parents better immerse their children and themselves into the world of science.

CoS Faculty and Staff Awards

Dr. Brynja Kohler

Dr. Brynja Kohler has been working with teachers at USU for 15 years. She joined the university as an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, having just completed her PhD in mathematical biology at the University of Utah, and with four years of experience teaching high school.

With her first master’s student and collaborators, Dr. Kohler published an award-winning educational paper in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. This effort, along with other achievements, earned her promotion to associate professor, and she now directs mathematics education programs and outreach for the department. She works closely with regional secondary teachers, manages pre-service teacher education in our department, and leads the Master of Mathematics (MMath) professional graduate program, which provides access to advanced pedagogical, mathematical and statistical training to pre- and in-service educators in the Intermountain Region.

Dr. Kohler currently conducts federally funded research in curriculum development for secondary teachers and models bumble bee foraging behaviors in agricultural landscapes. Dr. Kohler’s numerous graduate mentees working as secondary and post-secondary educators continue to put research-based pedagogy into practice and inspire students to engage in authentic mathematical modeling activities.

Dr. KimberLeigh Hadfield

Many students who arrive in Mathematics and Statistics Lecturer KimberLeigh Hadfield’s classes think “I can’t do math.” They complete her classes with a new appreciation for the discipline, along with solid quantitative skills and confidence in their ability to continue to pursue and succeed in mathematics and statistics study.

Hadfield’s students and colleagues praise her classroom enthusiasm and skill in implementing a variety of active-learning techniques with real-life data that instill interest and understanding, while encouraging students to build critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Says one student, “Ms. Hadfield has the ability to inspire students to overcome self-defeating ideas about mathematics.” Adds another, “In a class of 300 students, Ms. Hadfield makes you feel as though you’re her only student. When I enrolled in her class, I thought I was a lost cause. She not only showed me I can ‘do math’; she showed me I can ‘do life.’”

Dr. Zhi-Qiang Wang

A professor in USU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Zhi-Qiang’s research ranges from abstract theory in nonlinear functional analysis to applied analysis and computational mathematics, providing new tools and techniques for tackling challenge questions in partial differential equations from classical and emerging fields of applied science. He has published 190 papers and was named to the Highly Cited Researcher List for 2018 and 2019 by the Clarivate Analytics (Web of Science Group). Zhi-Qiang was elected a Fellow of American Mathematical Society in 2015.

Zhi-Qiang’s research has been supported by several National Science Foundation programs, including Analysis, Applied Mathematics, Computational Mathematics, and International, as well as number of agencies around globe, including NATO-CRG, NATO-CLG, Simons, NSF of China, DAAD and DFG of Germany. A member of USU’s faculty science 1991, this is the second time Zhi-Qiang has earned the honor of Faculty Researcher of the Year for the College of Science.

Zhi-Qiang graduated from Jilin University Chinain 198 2and received his PhD degree from the Chinese Academy of Science in 1986. Prior to joining USU, he completed post-doctoral training at Peking University and New York University, and held visiting positions at the University of Utah and the University of Wisconsin.

Dr. Andreas Malmendier

Andreas Malmendier joined USU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an assistant professor in 2014. Since his arrival, Andreas is proud to have mentored numerous undergraduate students with majors in math, physics, and engineering. Under his supervision, Andreas’ students have earned impressive accolades for their research, including: two Goldwater Scholarships, two Cryptoanalysis Summer Internships with the National Security Agency, one USU Capstone Thesis of the Year Award, one College of Science valedictorian, one USU Scholar of the Year Award and four USU research grants. In addition to these awards, Andreas’ students have presented at 15 national conferences and departmental colloquia and have published or submitted three articles for peer-reviewed research publication.

Andreas holdsa PhD in Mathematics (MIT) and a Masters in Theoretical Physics (University of Bonn). Using his interdisciplinary background, Andreas is able to connect with undergraduate students from different scientific backgrounds and introduce them to the beauty and rigor of pure mathematics research. A committed advocate for broadening participation in STEM, Andreas is proud that 50 percent of his students are gender minorities in STEM. He was awarded the USU Distinguished Capstone Mentor Award in 2018 and is the two-time winner of the Undergraduate Mentor of the Year Award from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Mary-Ann Muffoletto

Houston native Mary-Ann Muffoletto joined Utah State University’s Office of Public Relations and Marketing in 2001, and has served as the public relations specialist for USU’s College of Science since 2006.

Among the university’s most prolific public relations writers, Mary-Ann submits weekly stories to Utah State Today, writes content for a range of other university print and Web publications and continually promotes USU research and accomplishments to local, state, national and international media. She serves as editor, writer, photographer and layout designer for the college’s twice-yearly alumni magazine, Discovery.

Mary-Ann is a founding committee member of the college’s Science Unwrapped public outreach program and has directed promotion of the program’s popular presentations, which draw an average of 400 attendees per event, since the program’s inception in 2009. In addition to publicizing the program, Mary-Ann has served as an active program volunteer, helping with set-up of more than 95 percent of the events, photographing events; recruiting, training and supervising student volunteers and creating innovative science learning activities.

While supervising Web content for the college’s website, along with the college’s marketing activities, Mary-Ann serves as editor of the college’s social media sites, including the popular “Cache Valley Science Kids” Facebook page, targeted to area children, teens, parents and teachers.

Says one of her co-workers, “Mary-Ann spreads positivity to our office and beyond, and relentlessly looks for ways to help others and improve processes.”


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 closed for the 2019-2020 academic year. Please contact your department if you have any questions.