Learn more about the annual competition:


You could say Melissa Mueller and Ben Trussel are good at the kind of stock analysis portfolio managers rely on for making investment decisions. If you’re the national Equity Research Report Challenge, you say Mueller and Trussel are among the best worldwide.

Mueller and Trussel won the 2020 competition—sponsored by NASDAQ, Channelchek and Noble Financial Capital Markets—for their research into CanWel, a Canadian lumber producer and wholesaler. The pair recommended that investors buy shares.

Melissa Mueller

In the competition, students research companies listed on www.channelchek.com, a web-based source of data on small-capital or micro-capital, publicly held companies. First prize is $7,500 in cash for tuition or college-related expenses for students and $5,000 for the college.

Winning students also earn paid internships in the equity research department of Noble Capital Markets and a video of the award presentation will run on the NASDAQ Tower in New York City’s Times Square.

“Winning this challenge was evidence to the mentality the top students at UTC (especially those in the SMILE Fund program) have towards education and pursuit of success,” said Trussel, a double major in finance and accounting.

“The more you look at the students pursuing these officer positions and research team spots, the more you see students who refuse to stop chasing success and refuse to do anything halfway. I firmly believe that is why we have seen such great success out of the finance department and why we will continue to see success.”

Ben Trussel

“Winning this award was a great way to kick off my final semester here at UTC,” said Mueller, who plans to graduate in May. “My time here has taught me so much

and created so many great relationships both with other students and with our great faculty.”

Ray Ryan of Patten & Patten Inc. has been the mentor for Mueller and Trussel on the competition and said they both worked “very hard.”

“The CFA Research Challenge demands that students go well beyond their undergraduate course work, and our teams have competed against teams of MBA candidates from other school,” Ryan said.

Mueller was the president of the SMILE Fund in 2020 and Trussel was the vice president of market analysis for the SMILE Fund in 2019.

Trussel has taken a position in the investments department with Volkswagen of America. Mueller has a position in Financial Services at TVA waiting for her after she graduates.

Last year’s Equity Research Report College Challenge was won by UTC seniors Stephen Zurlo and Casey Szatkowski, who did research on SmartBank, which opened its first branch in 2007 in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. It now has 29 branches across Tennessee, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, including four locations in Chattanooga.

Zurlo was president of the SMILE Fund in 2019, and Szatkowski was vice president in the fund’s fundamental analysis. They graduated in 2020, both with degrees in finance. Patten and Patten’s Ryan also mentored them. Zurlo now is in Nashville at the AllianceBernstein investment firm, while Szatkowski works in Chattanooga on Unum’s investment team.


Media Relations Contacts: Email UTC Media Relations or call 423-425-5119.

Shawn Ryan is the executive staff writer in the Office of Communications and Marketing at UTC.

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1 Comment » for SMILE Fund students chosen as top-notch financial analysts
  1. Paul Hoffman says:

    Congratulations to you both for your most impressive entry — Channelchek

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