Utah State University’s 14th annual Research Week concluded on April 13 with recognition of Researchers of the Year from each college, as well as college Graduate Instructors of the Year.
On April 14, a university-level awardee was announced for each of those categories at the USU Robins Awards ceremony.
Four researchers and a graduate instructor were honored, including Patrick Belmont, Jesse Fleri, Eric Lee, Sandra Lundell and Susan Washko.
Patrick Belmont – USU Faculty Researcher of the Year
From the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, Professor Patrick Belmont was recognized as the USU Faculty Researcher of the Year.
Belmont's research focuses on how water and sediment move through watersheds. He’s working to understand how landscape systems evolved over geologic time and evaluates how the current landscape influences modern processes. This is particularly useful in predicting how human activities affect land and rivers.
“Rivers have been historically thought of as just sewer systems and places to get rid of your garbage, and I see that changing a lot, with rivers being viewed as the arteries that are moving the life-blood of everything we depend on,” said Belmont.
Belmont’s research is known for translating well into actionable management and policy guidance. One of his projects in Minnesota is creating guidelines and models that can be used anywhere.
Jesse Fleri – Peak Prize: Undergraduate Researchers of the Year
Jesse Fleri, also from the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, received the Peak Prize for Undergraduate Research.
Fleri is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s in conservation and restoration ecology, with double minors in fisheries science and soil science. He will graduate with honors this spring, having completed four research projects on a variety of natural resources topics.
You won’t hear details about these topics from Fleri, though; as he says, “Nobody wants to hear about numerical models or the tedious lab work. Big picture and field stories are usually what I stick to.”
Fleri has conducted research with various professionals to assess a variety of topics, from wastewater treatment standards to salt marsh morphodynamics models in restored Chesapeake Bay islands.
"I am curious about how natural systems operate," Fleri said. "Ecology at the landscape scale is dynamic and can be difficult to generalize. I like the challenge of the work, even when projects or experiments fail."
Eric Lee – USU Doctoral Researcher of the Year
Eric Lee from the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education & Human Services received honors for his research as a doctoral student in the Psychology Department.
Lee is interested in clinical research related to modern cognitive behavior therapies, types of action that lead to meaningful improvements in people's lives, and the use of technology to assist in treatment. He also has a particular interest in the treatment of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.
When asked what he enjoys most about research, Lee answered, "meeting new people and learning to understand their unique struggles."
Sandra Lundell – USU Graduate Student Teacher of the Year
A student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Sandra Lundell was recognized for her work as a graduate student instructor.
Lundell has always enjoyed teaching others. She led a science tutoring program in junior high, but it wasn't until she taught classes as a graduate student that she seriously considered a career as a teacher. Now, she tries to channel some of the fantastic teachers she’s encountered over the years. Since coming to Utah State, Lundell has taught over a dozen chemistry labs and two dozen general chemistry recitations.
Describing how her teaching experience has changed her, Lundell said, "I love making connections and building relationships with my students, and I love those 'ah-ha moments' when they begin to understand material. Mostly, I love people and, I love how sharing what I know with them can make their lives better."
Susan Washko – USU Master’s Student Researcher of the Year
From the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, Susan Washko received the Master’s Student Researcher of the Year Award.
Washko studies differences in macroinvertebrate communities between beaver-inhabited streams and streams without beavers, as well as differences in trout populations and trout foraging.
She hopes to continue on an academic track, aspiring to be a professor and spread her passion of aquatic ecology to future students.
"Research has shown me the dedication people have to their work," Washko said. "If you're doing what you love, you'll never be bored. I'm always excited about the next steps in my research and look forward to where it takes me in the future."
For a complete list of researchers who received awards from the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, please visit rgsawards.usu.edu.