Different format, same quality research: MSU undergraduates adapt to present at virtual symposium this fall

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State rings true on its mission to provide students with a chance to present their innovative research, and the recent Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium accomplished this with a new virtual format.

MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College hosted the annual competition that produced 13 winners selected from more than 50 submissions by students conducting faculty-guided research at the university. Projects were categorized in four areas—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.

A team of nearly 30 faculty and advanced doctoral students representing a cross section of academic areas served as competition judges.

Anastasia Elder, the honors college’s interim associate dean for undergraduate research, said this was the first time the symposium was held during a fall semester and a virtual symposium also is anticipated for the spring. Participating in undergraduate research, she said, helps students learn new skills, meet others with similar interests and engage in MSU’s intellectual culture.

“This symposium is a great way for undergraduate students to showcase their hard work in diverse, fascinating research activities and for the MSU family to celebrate their engagement, dedication and scholarship,” said Elder, also a professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations. “This event also would not be possible without the time, effort and assistance of our dedicated faculty mentors, judges and other units, including the Office of Research and Economic Development, Office of the Provost and College of Arts and Sciences.”

MSU Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan agreed, adding, “I want to thank the many faculty and staff who support this important facet of the college experience and have found ways to keep students engaged in research during the pandemic.”

This year’s winners represent Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee. They include (by project type and category):


FIRST—McKenzie R. Johnson, a senior architecture major from Fayetteville, Georgia, “Ethical and Empathetic Research in Architectural Education,” mentored by MSU Associate Professor of Architecture Alexis Gregory.

SECOND—Hailey E. Nickels, a senior art/photography major from Savannah, Tennessee, “Using Abstracted Organic Forms to Personify the Effects of Domestic Violence on Partners and Children,” mentored by MSU Professor of Art Marita Gootee.

THIRD—Naja T. Morris, a senior history major from Hattiesburg, “War is Felt by Everyone Involved,” mentored by MSU Professor of History Judith Ridner.


FIRST—Christine S. Grant, a senior biological engineering major from Starkville, “Fabrication of Thermoresponsive Chitosan Gel as a Delivery Vehicle for Fosfomycin in the Treatment of Osteomyelitis,” mentored by MSU Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering Lauren B. Priddy.

SECOND—Reese A. Dunne, a junior mechanical engineering major from Starkville, “Comparison of Compressional and Elastic Transcranial Photoacoustic Simulations for Presurgical Planning,” mentored by Muyinatu Lediju Bell, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

THIRD—Anne-Marie L. Ross, a junior biochemistry/pre-medicine major from Starkville, “Rational Design and Optimization of a Multiplex TaqMan® Quantitative PCR Assay to Detect Tick-Borne Rickettsiae in a Guinea Pig Model,” mentored by Associate Professor Andrea Varela-Stokes and Staff Scientist John Stokes, both in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Basic Sciences.


FIRST—Eric P. Million, a senior mechanical engineering major from Ocean Springs, “Macroscopic Modeling of Solid-State Thermochemical Fuel Reactors for Solar Thermal Energy Storage,” mentored by MSU Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Like Li.

SECOND—Brady A. Kruse, a senior computer science major from New Haven, Missouri,  “A Robotic Augmented Reality Virtual Window for Law Enforcement Operations,” mentored by MSU Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Ed Swan.

THIRD (tie)—Desiree’ R. Cunningham, a junior geoscience/professional geology major from Houma, Louisiana, “Effects of Fractures in Fold-Related Fault Zones,” mentored by MSU Assistant Professor of Geosciences Kelsey Crane Warden.

THIRD (tie)—Emily R. Chappell, a senior chemistry major from Vancleave, “Interactions of R2ab and Amidase with Polystyrene Nanoparticles,” mentored by MSU Associate Professor of Chemistry Nicholas Fitzkee.


FIRST—Abigail E. “Abbie” Barnes, a senior psychology major from Alpharetta, Georgia, “The Impact of Parental Emotional Support on Emerging Adults’ Internalizing and Externalizing Problems,” mentored by MSU Associate Professor of Psychology Cliff McKinney.

SECOND—Morgan Bishop, a senior psychology major from Oxford, “Parental Aggression: Predictor of Anxiety and Depression in Emerging Adults,” mentored by MSU Associate Professor of Psychology Cliff McKinney.

THIRD—Melvin C. Ellis, a senior educational psychology major from Starkville, “Religiosity, Family Communication Patterns, and Depression: A Path Analysis,” mentored by MSU Associate Professor of Psychology Cliff McKinney.

In 2006, a generous gift from MSU chemical engineering alumnus Bobby Shackouls and wife Judy transformed the University Honors Program into MSU’s Shackouls Honors College. The program has supported some of the nation’s best and brightest students in their pursuit of educational excellence for more than 50 years. Learn more at www.honors.msstate.edu.

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