Booming Research

Students in Morgan Smith’s Field Studies Archaeology class use metal detectors Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 at the Chickamauga Battlefield.

Thanks to the intellectual curiosity coursing through the student body, UTC undergraduates and graduate students are productive researchers. 

Evann Bailey outside the Guerry Center.

by Shawn Ryan

Here is a finding from research conducted by Evann Bailey, a senior majoring in Integrated Studies in the UTC Honors College. The question asked: ” Will African-American women in Chattanooga take the COVID-19 vaccine”? 

The answer: Yes. Maybe. Maybe not. 

Bailey has been part of a project in which UTC students set up Zoom meetings with African-American women in the city to ask about their attitudes toward the flu and COVID-19 vaccines. Results of the interviews were sent to Meharry Medical School, a historically black medical college in Nashville. Bailey says her interviews focused on about 50 women between 30 and 55 years old.  

“I asked how they feel about getting (the vaccine) or not getting it and what factors are in play in terms of their decision of whether to get it or not,” Bailey says. When it came to the COVID-19 vaccine, respondents were divided in their answers. She adds, “Honestly, it really just depends on the person. I’ve had responses where people who are eager and are fine with getting it and have gotten it because they’ve lost family members and don’t want other family members or loved ones at risk. 

“Then there are other respondents who are more hesitant to get the shots, mainly because there is some (unsettled) history having to do with vaccines and African Americans. Some people were kind of hesitant and wary of what’s in the vaccine,” she explains. 

Bailey’s work is just one of dozens of student research projects recently completed or under way at UTC. Projects explore questions in fields from finance to biology, education to mental health, social justice to political science, engineering to environmental sustainability. Such opportunities for research are a key component of experiential learning and a draw for prospective students. 

Amazing student projects 

Graduate students Babikir Mohamed Ahmed, Amira Abdelgadir and Noman A. Saied worked on a research project on decoupling, a process that keeps electrical distribution networks working smoothly. The resulting paper caught the attention of world-renowned expert Christian Dufour, who asked if he could use the UTC research to conduct demo tests at Opal-RT, a global developer of power grids and electronics for various industries, including development and manufacturing of automobiles, trains and aircraft.  

Abdelrahman Karrar, right, and student Babikir Ahmed in the EMCS lab where they perform research.

UTC was chosen as the U.S. Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency partner in the Scalable Asymmetric Life Cycle Engagement Consortium, a national network of private and public agencies and universities focused on increasing the talent pipeline for students pursuing microelectronic careers.  

From left: Drew Reynolds, Daniel Trentham, Leanah Chestnut, Hunter Holzhauer, Jacob Snook and Reedhi Bamnelkar outside Warehouse Row in downtown Chattanooga.

For the fifth consecutive year, a team of UTC students won the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Greater Tennessee Research Challenge. Team members are in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business’ SMILE Fund (Student Managed Investment Learning Experience), which analyzes financial data and buys and sells real-world stocks for the UC Foundation. For the competition, the team analyzed SmileDirectClub, a company that provides orthodontic aligners to help straighten teeth. The team analyzed the company’s financial strength, documented it in a professional research report and presented it to the judges. 

A research study by undergraduate Emily Wilson, “Analyzing the Social Aspect of E-cigarette Prevention with College-Aged Consumers” was one of only 35 projects accepted into the undergraduate research competition at the 2021 American Marketing Association international collegiate conference.  

Graduate student Oluwakorede “Korede” Ajumobi was a member of a research team using data analytics to identify predictors of college success for high school graduates, merging historical data from high school students in Hamilton County Schools with their UTC records to provide insight into “activities of these students at UTC that contribute to their success.”  

Mechanical engineering students developed concepts to make filters for masks similar to N95 respirator masks that, due to the pandemic, were in short supply nationwide for health care workers in 2020. The students also researched concepts to manufacture respirators and ventilators. 

Trevor Elliott

Undergraduates Megan Roy, Hannah Hightower and Willian Cofer conducted field research followed by lab work to examine more than 20,000 different beetles, discovering more than 50 species never before found in the Tennessee Valley. 

Student Chyanne Smith won a $46,000 Graduate Research Fellowship Program grant from the National Science Foundation to study degus, guinea pig-type rodents that live in Chile. 

Anthropology students conducted an archaeological survey at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the scene of a major battle during the American Civil War in 1863. While surveying for artifacts such as Minié balls—the iconic ammunition of the Civil War—buttons and horseshoes, they also uncovered Native American artifacts from the Early Archaic or Paleoindian periods, which spanned from 8,000 to 14,000 years ago. 

Students in Morgan Smith’s Field Studies Archaeology class use metal detectors at the Chickamauga Battlefield.

Undergraduate student Brooke Sobo’s research on the influence of populism on presidential  rhetoric, studied Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump to demonstrate “how presidents use populism to gather legitimacy for their actions.” 

wait, There’s More

Undergraduate student Keven Heck and graduate student Camille Wheatley explored the idea that men on the dating app Tinder send unsolicited photos and engage in “toxic masculine” behavior, such as assuming women are to do their bidding. Three women created Tinder profiles and were contacted by about 150 men per week but didn’t respond. Results showed a larger proportion of men who are respectful of women than men who see women as objects for sexual advances.

Graduate students Alexis Jackson and Diem Vu and undergraduate Delwyn Sam are working with Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center on the development of  a mathematically driven decision-making tool for controlling invasive species in the Chattanooga area. 

Undergraduate student Emily Miller examined the predictive relationship between a student’s junior-year GPA at universities with high school academic ranking and ACT scores. Universities designate many resources to retaining freshmen and sophomores, but not necessarily third-year students.  Miller is trying to determine whether there are significant differences and relationships between students’ high school rankings, ACT scores and their GPAs at the end of their junior year in college.  

Undergraduate student Hannah Bowman used historic maps of the Tennessee River valley to model the impact of development on archaeological sites. Her project considered the ways  in which environmental changes impact cultural resources and the importance of heritage management. 

Graduate student Moataz Abdalia and undergraduate Alexander Joplin determined the corrosion rate of magnesium and its alloys when used in medical implants. The research focused on various types of alloys and developing equations that document their rate of corrosion. 

Undergraduate students Yelyzaveta Zuy and  Samantha O. Sweck targeted new procedures to quickly and efficiently detect five organic gunshot residues from silicone wristbands. The organic compounds are often used during investigations of firearm-related crimes.  

Undergraduate students Trevor Paratore, Byron Freeman and Andres Field studied ways of using audible sound levels to detect the concentration of nicotine when it is exhaled indoors from e-cigarette users. Studies show nicotine vapor can permeate the skin and enter the bloodstream at levels equivalent to inhalation of secondhand smoke. 

Undergraduates Hope Hunnicut and Victoria Martino and graduate student Enass Mohammed were part of a research team that discovered electrical conductivity is three to 10 times  higher across synthetic membranes that resemble the cellular membrane of cancer cells than the membranes of normal cells. The research will help understand the response of cancer cells to electrical current and, in turn, help develop therapeutic treatments.  

Graduate student Mohammed Aman Ullah Al-Amin is working on the development of digital twin model for a two-arm collaborative robot to learn from human motion and find the optimal way to fulfill the task using deep reinforcement learning. This research is still in progress.