Create, explore, discover: Undergraduate research experiences spotlighted at MSU summer symposium

Assistant Professor Holli Seitz of Mississippi State’s Department of Communication speaks with senior civil engineering major Alexis L. Murrell of Vicksburg during the university’s Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium. For her project titled “Parental Attachment and Emotional Regulation on Affect after a Social Exclusion Task,” Murrell was advised by Associate Professor of Psychology Cliff McKinney. (Photo by Megan Bean)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Some of the best and brightest students at Mississippi State showcased their innovative efforts during the university’s recent Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Hosted by MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, the annual competition received 84 submissions from undergraduate students conducting faculty-guided research. Projects were assigned to one of four categories—arts and humanities, biological sciences and engineering, physical sciences and engineering, and social sciences. Certain categories had multiple award winners due to the large number of submissions.

In addition to the honors college, the symposium is supported by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, Office of Research and Economic Development, National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center and Phi Kappa Phi honor society.

A team of 30 campus faculty and graduate students representing a cross-section of academic areas served as competition judges. Featured speaker for the symposium was C. Lashan Simpson, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in MSU’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

MSU Professor of Mathematics Seth F. Oppenheimer, who serves as the honors college’s director of undergraduate research, said MSU views the encouragement and support of undergraduate research for all students as an important part of its core mission.

“Just as a good liberal arts education broadens the mind, provides students with a common core of knowledge and familiarizes them with the basic methodologies of the various academic disciplines,” Oppenheimer said, “undergraduate research allows students to dive deeply into important ideas and topics in a rigorous and creative way, paving the way for future intellectual work and exploration in academy, business and other life arenas.”

MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David R. Shaw said pursuit of research opportunities is a critical part of academic life. MSU students are recognized for their contributions in labs, studios, libraries, research farms and beyond, he added.

“We are pleased that members of our faculty are committed to providing undergraduates with meaningful roles in the overall research enterprise, and promoting interdisciplinary research as an important component of scholarly activity,” Shaw said.

“Undergraduate research gives our students opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to new areas of interest and helps them develop skills, collaborate with faculty and peers, and gain confidence. It is exciting to see the results of their efforts on display at this annual symposium,” Shaw added.

Residents of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, China and Sri Lanka, this year’s winners include (by category and placement):


FIRST—Paulino Jarquin, a senior biological engineering/biomedical engineering major from Nashville, Tennessee, advised by Steve Elder, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

SECOND—Jordan A. Coggins, a senior biochemistry/pre-medicine major from Saucier, advised by Justin Thornton, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

THIRD—Anna E. Crawford, a junior biological engineering/biomedical engineering major from Hoover, Alabama, advised by Hubert M. Tse, associate professor of microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.

THIRD—Thomas Nunn, a biological sciences major at Centre College, advised by Mark Lawrence, associate dean and professor in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Basic Sciences. Nunn is participating in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program on computational biology.


FIRST—Jacob A. Rogers, a senior aerospace engineering/astronautics major from Poultney, Vermont, advised by Donghoon Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

SECOND—Maleen W. Kidiwela, a senior geoscience/professional geology major from Sri Lanka, advised by Varun Paul, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences.

THIRD—Tianci Huang, a senior aerospace engineering/aeronautics major from China, advised by Yu Lv, an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

THIRD—Kice Brown, a chemistry major at Mississippi College, advised by Keith Hollis, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Chemistry. Brown is participating in the department’s summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program on food, energy and water security.


FIRST—Rachel A. Booth, a senior psychology major from Lindale, Texas, advised by Andrew F. Jarosz, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology.

SECOND—Alexis L. Murrell, a senior civil engineering major from Vicksburg, advised by Cliff McKinney, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

For more on MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, visit and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ShackoulsHonors.

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