Undergraduates’ commitment to research evident at MSU summer symposium

Jordan S. Bryant, an incoming freshman chemistry major from Porterville, speaks with a judge during Mississippi State’s Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium. For her research project titled “NIH R25 Bridges to Baccalaureate,” Bryant has been advised by Krish Krishnan, associate professor in the university’s Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology. (Photo by Colleen McInnis)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State is known far and wide for its research prowess in a variety of disciplines. With their participation in the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium, nearly 100 students recently showed this university reputation continues to ring true.

Hosted by MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, the annual summer competition received 97 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. Students also are receiving support from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

A team of 48 campus faculty and graduate students representing a cross-section of academic areas served as competition judges.

MSU Professor of Mathematics Seth F. Oppenheimer, who serves as honors college associate dean for academic affairs, 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 basic methodologies of various academic disciplines, undergraduate research allows them to dive deeply into important ideas and topics in a rigorous and creative way, paving the way for future intellectual work and exploration in the academy, business and other life arenas,” Oppenheimer said.

MSU Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan said pursuit of research opportunities is a critical part of academic life. MSU students are recognized for their commitment to discovery, creation and exploration in labs, studios, libraries, research farms and beyond, she added.

“We also 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,” Jordan said.

Residents of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia and Vietnam, this year’s winners include (by category and placement):


FIRST—Baleigh A. Hull, a senior architecture major from Collinsville, advised by Silvina Lopez Barrera, assistant professor in the School of Architecture.


FIRST—Phuoc T. Nguyen, a senior electrical engineering major from Vietnam, advised by John E. Ball, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

SECOND—Claudia G. Reid, a junior biochemistry/pre-medicine major from Southside, Alabama, advised by Todd Mlsna, professor in the Department of Chemistry.

SECOND—Annie H. Snyder, a junior chemistry major from Pensacola, Florida, also advised by Mlsna.

THIRD—William L. Acuff, a senior biological engineering/biomedical engineering major from Columbia, Tennessee, advised by Jan Chambers, MSU William L. Giles Distinguished Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Basic Sciences and director of the university’s Center for Environmental Health Sciences.

THIRD—Katelyn N. Sette, a sophomore biochemistry/pre-medicine major from Hurricane, West Virginia, advised by Russell Carr, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Basic Sciences and the Center for Environmental Health Sciences.


FIRST—Meghna Bajaj, a chemistry major at Alcorn State University, advised by Keith Hollis, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry.

SECOND—Ethan G. Worch, a senior electrical engineering major from Ocean Springs, advised by Sathish Samiappan, assistant research professor at MSU’s Geosystems Research Institute.

SECOND—David E. Mees, a senior biological sciences/pre-medicine major from Knoxville, Tennessee, advised by Dennis Smith, professor and head of the Department of Chemistry.

THIRD—Parker Reneau, a chemical engineering major at Louisiana Tech University, advised by Mlsna.

THIRD—Jacob P. Smith, a junior chemistry major from Martin, Tennessee, advised by Charles Webster, professor in the Department of Chemistry.


FIRST—Avery A. Bouchillon, a junior biological sciences/pre-medicine major from Ethel, advised by Michael S. Pratte, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology.

SECOND—Aubrey Parrish, a student at Florida State University, advised by Holli Seitz, assistant professor in the Department of Communication.

THIRD—Dalton L. Hall, a senior biochemistry/pre-medicine major from Laurel, advised by Laura H. Downey, associate extension professor in the School of Human Sciences.

For more on MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, visit www.honors.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.