UA Little Rock announces 2019-20 Signature Experience Awards

Students present their research projects during the Research and Creative Works event.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has selected nearly 125 students as recipients of 2019-20 Signature Experience grants. 

Since 2017, the program has provided UA Little Rock students with a grant of up to $1,000 to fund a signature experience, such as a research project, creative activity, or community project, to enrich the students’ academic experience at UA Little Rock. 

This year’s 124 awards include projects that range from the delivery of drugs for bone tissue disease and cancer using nanotechnology and the creation of a voice-controlled drone to assist people with disabilities to the design and optimization of a portable medical scooter.

For the first time, a subset of grants were awarded to freshmen, sophomores, and transfer students to encourage research projects by new college students. Also for the first time, Signature Experience grants were awarded to graduate students to encourage advanced research projects. 

“In support of retention efforts aimed at getting students involved in research so they identify with their majors or programs early in their academic careers, 19 percent of our grants went to support projects undertaken by freshmen, sophomores, or students in their first year as a transfer student,” said Dr. Ecke, director of the Signature Experience Program. “At the other end of the spectrum, for the first year since its inception, the Signature Experience Program funded 29 graduate student projects.” 

Recipients of the Signature Experience grants will exhibit their work at the 2020 Student Research and Creative Works Showcase on April 17, 2020

The Signature Experience grant winners and their respective colleges are as follows:

College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences

Zayna Abdulla, a junior studying English and biology, mentored by Anindya Gosh – “A Novel, Injectable Hydrogel Based on Guar Gum for Anti-cancer Drug Delivery”

Reem Adai, a sophomore studying physics, mentored by Gregory Guisbiers – “Synthesis of Iron Oxide Nanoparticles By Laser Ablation”

Anthony Aloi, a junior studying chemistry and biology – “Laser-induced Graphene Nanofiltration Membranes for Water Purification”

Nabeel Alwan, a junior studying chemistry and biology, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “The Role of Functional Groups of Porphyrin as a Photodynamic Therapy Nanodrug”

Emily Anderson, a senior studying biology, mentored by Shanzhi Wang – “Silver Nanoparticle Conjugated Glucose Oxidase for Prevention and Growth of Bacteria”

Michael Appiah-Kubi, a senior studying chemistry, mentored by Wei Zhao – “Controlling the Pore Sizes of Graphene Oxide Nanostructures through Hydrothermal Reactions for Efficient Water Purification”

Mujeebat Bashiru, a graduate student studying applied chemistry, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “Room Temperature Phosphorescent Materials for Use in Optoelectronic Application”

Assem Basurrah, a graduate student studying chemistry, mentored by Wei Zhao – “Electrochemical Nitrogen Reduction to Ammonia Using MoS2-based Nanocatalysts”

Alexis Boling, a freshman mentored by Sandra Leiterman – “Mom and Me STEM”

Marvin Bonney, a graduate student studying applied physics, mentored by John Nichols – “Investigation of Strain Effects in Superconducting Magnesium Diboride Thin Films”

Jess Brasher, a senior studying theatre arts, mentored by Lawrence Smith – “1,000 Cranes 10,000 Thoughts: Trans Narrative in Performance”

Stuti Chatterjee, a junior studying chemistry and biology, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “Effect of Nanoparticle’s Morphology towards the Cellular Uptake, Toxicity and Selectivity to Cancer Cells”

Meghan Clark, a senior studying biology, mentored by Nawab Ali – “Effect of Oxidative Stress on Programmed Cell Death (Apoptosis) Mediated via Endoplasmic Reticulum Multiple Inositol Polyphosphate Phosphatase 1 (Minpp1)”

Sarah Coffman, a junior studying chemistry, mentored by Anindya Ghosh – “Esterification of Aromatic Aldehyde using Nickel”

Thomas Coleman, a graduate student studying interdisciplinary studies, mentored by Heather Hummel – “Intersections of Poetry and Music”

Ivy Crowe, a junior studying English, mentored by Jeffrey Condran – “Braddock Avenue Books Spring Catalogue at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, San Antonio, Texas, March 2020”

Iris Denmark, a graduate student studying chemistry, mentored by Noureen Siraj – Synthesis of Conductive Materials from Chemically Treated Renewable Carbon Precursors for Use in Energy Applications

Kajal Desai, a junior studying chemistry, mentored by Wei Zhao – “Graphene Oxide-MoS2 Composite Membranes for Arsenic and Lead Polluted Water Purification”

LaDarius Doaks, a senior studying dance and psychology, mentored by Robin Neveu Brown – “WithIN MOTION: BFA senior Dance Project Film”

Yousef Elbalawy, a sophomore studying biology, mentored by Nawab Ali – “Effect of Microgravity on the Expression of Multiple Inositol Polyphosphate Phosphatase”

Rad Elsaidi, a senior studying chemistry, mentored by Shanzhi Wang – “Anti-Microbial Effects of GSDMD”

Sakr Elsaidi, a post baccalaureate student studying biology, mentored by Gregory Guisbiers – “Synthesis of Topological Nanomaterials”

Taiwo Famuyiwa, a graduate student studying applied mathematics and statistics, mentored by Wei Zhang – “Develop New Machine Learning Methods for Integrative Analysis”

Ashi Franke, a senior studying graphic design/web design and development, mentored by Lynne Ellsworth Larsen – “Bauhaus’ Renaissance and the Future of UI/UX Design”

Luke Geoffrion, a graduate student studying applied physics, mentored by Gregory Guisbiers – “Synthesis of Colloidal Topological Insulators”

Cordell Gilreath, a senior studying chemistry, mentored by Shanzhi Wang – “Examination of the Enzymatic Characteristics of Borrelia Burgdorferi”

Taylor Green, a senior studying theatre arts, mentored by Lawrence Smith – “Uncovering Elaine: The Story of the Elaine Massacre of 1919”

Carmen Gutierrez, a junior studying dance, mentored by Stephanie Thibeault – “Nature vs. Nurture: The Roots of Movement Preferences Amongst Dancers”

Yanping Harville, a senior studying biology and geology, mentored by Scott Woolbright – “Toxic Effects of Acetaminophen on Bacteria from a Probiotic Supplement Utilized as a Surrogate for the Human Gastrointestinal Microbiome”

Tina Hesabizadeh, a junior studying biology, mentored by Gregory Guisbiers – “Quantum Structructure of Selenium Nanoparticles”

Evan Hicks, a senior studying physics, mentored by Gregory Guisbiers – “Synthesis of Tellurium Quantum Wires”

Amanda Jalihal, a graduate student studying chemistry, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “Near Infrared Ionic Dye Pairs for Optimization of Dye-sensitized Solar Cells”

Travis Jumper, a transfer student studying chemistry, mentored by Anindya Ghosh – “Polyamide Formation via a Nickel Pincer Catalyst”

Rawan Kattom, a junior studying biology, mentored by Anindya Ghosh – “Cellulose-based Doped Carbon Materials for the Efficient Degradation of NPs Under Visible Light”

Caroline Kornelsen, a senior studying chemistry, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “Investigation of Förster Resonance Energy Transfer in Ionic Materials”

Hannah Krehbiel, a sophomore studying chemistry, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “Application of Ionic Materials in Organic Solar Cells”

Thuy Le, a graduate student studying chemistry, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “Understanding of Stretchability and Conductivity Characterization of PEDOT:PSS/ionic Liquid for Flexible Electronics”

Samantha Macchi, a doctoral student studying applied science, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “Molasses-derived Nitrogen and Silicon Co-doped Carbon Material for Use as Electrocatalyst in ORR for Fuel Cell Application”

Mary Melissa Miller, a graduate student studying History of art, mentored by Floyd Martin – “Titian’s Venus of Urbino: A New Interpretation”

Brandon Moore, a senior studying biology, mentored by John Bush – “The Use of a Dominant-negative Rab32c Protein from Slime Mold, Dictyostelium Discoideum, for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases in Humans”

Gary Morris, a graduate student studying biology, mentored by Scott Woolbright – “Urban Ecology of Pearl Crescent Butterflies in the Little Rock Metropolitan Region”

Daniel Nde, a graduate student studying applied chemistry, mentored by Wei Zhao – “Investigating Algae-derived Reduced Graphene Oxide Membranes for Ionic and Molecular Nanofiltration”

Thao Nguyen, a sophomore studying chemistry, mentored by Hong Li Wang – “Enzymatic Characterization of Bgp from B. Burgdorferi, the Main Causative Agent in Lyme Disease in the United States”

Anil Parameswaran-Thankam, a graduate student studying applied chemistry, mentored by Anindya Ghosh – “Guar Plant Based Injectable, Thermoresponsive Hydrogel for Bone Tissue Engineering and Drug Delivery”

Lauv Patel, a sophomore studying chemistry, mentored by Shanzhi Wang – “Enzymatic Characterization of E11Q Mutant of Methylthioadenosine Nucleosidase from S. Aureus”

Chandrasimha Penthala, a junior studying biology, mentored by John Bush – “The Synthesis and Testing of Nanostructured Stainless Steel Wires by In Vitro Antibacterial Studies for Dental Application”

Humendra Poudel, a graduate student studying chemistry, mentored by Anindya Ghosh – “Synthesis of Nanomaterials and Its Application in the Biomedical Field”

Atikur Rahman, a graduate student studying physics, mentored by Gregory Guisbiers – “Synthesis and Characterization of Core Shell Magnetic Nanoparticles”

Olgaaurora Rodriguez, a junior studying chemistry and biology, mentored by Wei Zhao – “Biomass-derived Nanofiltration Membranes for Drinking Water Purification”

Taylor Scifres, a junior studying chemistry, mentored by Noureen Siraj – “Soy Meal as Supercapacitor”

Logan Sellen, a senior studying physics, mentored by Yslan Hicks – “Shelter We Seek: An Examination of the Cyclical Patterns of Abuse through Playwriting and Production”

Tripti Shukla, a sophomore studying chemistry, mentored by Shanzhi Wang – “Enzymatic Studies of a Triple Mutant of MTA Nucleosidase from S. Aureus”

Kaitlin Simmons, a senior studying molecular biotechnology, mentored by Qingfang He – “Effects of Phosphate Limitation on Contamination of Synechocystis sp. PCCC 6803 and a Histidine Kinase Deletion Mutant”

Damanpreet Singh, a senior studying biology, mentored by Qingfang He – “Metabolic Engineering of Cyanobacteria for Sustainable Production of Cinnamic Acid”

Peter Szwedo, a graduate student studying applied chemistry, mentored by Anindya Ghosh – “Small Molecule Activation Using a Nickel (II) Pincer Complex”

Patrick Taylor, a junior studying biology, mentored by Gregory Guisbiers

Jose Vivanco, a freshman studying physics, mentored by Tansel Karabacak – “Superhydrophobic Nanostructured Surfaces for Atmospheric Water Generator Application”

Rebekah White, a graduate student studying applied bioscience, mentored by Qingfang He – “Functions of DspA in Photosynthesis and Cellular Fitness”

College of Education and Health Professions

Sedre’Auna Griddine, a graduate student studying health education and promotion, mentored by Katie Helms – “Exercise Incentive Programs: Motivation and Longitudinal Effectiveness”

Eric Nix, a senior nursing major, mentored by Jennifer Bridges – “Nursing Students’ Knowledge of the Morse Fall Scale and the STRATIFY Tool”

Kaylin Orrell, a senior studying communication sciences and disorders, mentored by Donna Kelly –” An Investigation of Evidenced-Based Treatments for Children and Adults who Present with an Acquired Language, Language-related and/or Cognitive Impairment”

College of Social Sciences and Communication

Mariam Bouzihay, a senior studying psychology and information technology, mentored by Sandra Leiterman – “Drone Rural: Classroom Exploration”

Jacob Chisom, a graduate student studying applied communication, mentored by Avinash Thombre – “Diffusion of Climate Change Reducing Strategies in Farmers of Southeast Arkansas”

Brandy Dailey, a graduate student studying public administration, mentored by Kirk Leach – “Evaluation of Batterer Intervention Programs as a Tool to Enhance Offender Accountability”

Solomon Davis, a senior studying philosophy and interdisciplinary studies, mentored by Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm – “Working Better Together: How Material and Symbolic Transitional Justice Affect Post-Civil War Peace”

Desiree Doyle, a graduate student studying applied communication, mentored by Avinash Thombre – “Arrival of Hybrid K-Pop culture in Arkansas: An Examination of BlackPink Adoption Among Young Adults”

Sadie Goss, a junior studying criminal justice and chemistry, mentored by Robert Lytle – “Paying for Past Crimes: Employment and Prisoner Re-entry amongst Former Serious and Violent Offenders”

Zachary Jones, a graduate student studying applied communication, mentored by Louise Lowe – “Ottenheimer Library Space and Perception Study: Evidence-based Inquiry Using Student-Led Focus Groups”

Tiffany Meeks, a junior studying applied communication, mentored by April Chatham-Carpenter – “Growth, Maturity, and Stress: Study of Identity Changes through Early Management”

Madison Rodgers, a junior studying political science, mentored by Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm – “Women in Government and the Relationship Between the State and Women’s Rights NGOs”

Taylor Toombs, a junior studying political science, mentored by Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm – “Transitional Justice and Gender”

Marisha Twillie, a senior studying applied communication, mentored by Kristen McIntyre – “The Power of Biracial Women’s Code-switching”

Ashley Walker, a junior studying criminal justice, mentored by James Golden – “Evaluating Domestic Violence Batterer’s Intervention Programs and their Potential to Reduce Recidivism for Domestic Abusers”

Joshua Williams, a sophomore studying international studies, mentored by Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm – “Arab-Israelis in Evolving Israeli Politics”

George W. Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology

Alejandro (Alex) Alvarez-Barreiro, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering technology and Spanish, mentored by Sandra Leiterman – “BB-8 Continued”

Andrew Bomberger, a senior studying computer science, mentored by Philip Huff – “Cyber Security Cloud Competition Controller”

Jannice Bonilla, a senior studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Ashokkumar Sharma – “Multi-Configuration Tower Building Robot: An ASME Student Design Competition Contender”

Justin Bullard, a senior studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Mamdouh Bakr – “Portable Folding Laptop Stand”

Josh Carlat, a senior studying computer science, mentored by Sean Orme – “A Look into the Feasibility of Teaching Game Engine Design at the Undergraduate Level”

Gabriel Castro, a transfer student studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Kailash Jajam – “Measurement of In-plane Surface Deformations of Planar Solids using the Method of Digital Image Correlation”

Trey Chancellor, a senior studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Mo Bakr – “Development, Design, and Testing of Folding, Mobile Carpentry Work Bench”

John Clements, a senior studying computer science, mentored by Ivan Rodriguez-Conde – “HMD-based Teleoperation of Wheeled Mobile Robots”

Jamison Conatser, a senior studying electronics and computer engineering technology, mentored by Steve Menhart – “Voice Controlled Drone with Camera for Disabled Persons”

Brandon Crawford, a junior studying e-commerce, mentored by Thomas Wallace – “Optimizing Workflow with Modern Technology and Ergonomics: A STEAM Project”

Michael Davis, a junior studying information science, mentored by Philip Williams – “Heifer International Aquaponics Project”

Merak Dyer, a senior studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Srikanth Pidugu – “Kitchen Appliance Automatic Storage and Retrieval System”

Jacob Earley, a junior studying geology, mentored by Margaret (Beth) McMillan – “Using Short-range Photogrammetry for 3D Digital Reconstruction of Arkansaurus Fridayi Fossil Bones”

Gaige Ehrenworth, a sophomore studying computer science, mentored by Jan Springer – “Consumer Ray-Tracing in Real Time”

Denver Ellis, a sophomore studying computer science, mentored by Jan Springer – “Student Exploration in Computer Graphics Through the Creation of a Rasterization Pipeline”

Brandon Norman, a freshman studying computer science, mentored by Ivan Rodriguez-Conde – “Web System for the Visualization and Dissemination of Three-dimensional Content in the Field of Paleontology”

Jack Gaston, a freshman studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Kailash Jajam – “Influence of Layer Thickness and Interface Bonding Strength on Energy Absorption Response of Polyurea Coated Glass Plates”

John Graham, a junior studying engineering technology, mentored by Kailash Jajam – “Strengthening Behavior of 7075 Al Alloy After Strain Hardening Versus that of Precipitation Hardening”

Anna Gayle Griffiths, a senior studying geology, mentored by Michael DeAngelis – “Improving UA Little Rock’s Recycling Program”

David Hough, a graduate student studying applied science, mentored by Michael DeAngelis – “Synthesis of Targeted Composition Nanoscale Olivine”

Jacob Jackson, a senior studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Ashokkumar Sharma – “Removal of Water Turbidity Using Natural Coagulants”

Matthew James, a sophomore studying computer science, mentored by Albert Baker – “Financial Literacy for Adolescents through Technology”

Marcus Johnson, a transfer student studying computer science, mentored by Jan Springer – “Playlistify: Multi-User Application Interfacing with the Music Streaming Service Spotify”

Michael (Tyler) Kee, a senior studying geological sciences, mentored by Laura Ruhl-Whittle – “Strontium Isotopic Ratios in Central Arkansas: Insight into Rock Formation and Water Quality”

Nigel Kelly, a junior studying mechanical systems engineering, mentored by Jin Wook Lee – “Design and Fabrication of a Novel Flight Saucer”

Joseph Kready, a junior studying computer science, mentored by Xiaowei Xu – “Neural Code Search”

Trigun Maroo, a graduate student studying engineering science and systems, mentored by Andrew Wright – “Design of a Microphone Array to Facilitate Acoustic Localization”

Amanda Martin, a senior studying Geology, mentored by Rene Shroat-Lewis – “Digitization of Economic Mineral Resources of Arkansas”

Noah Mejia, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Srikanth Pidugu and Ashokkumar Sharma – “Semi-Autonomous Multi-System Integration Tower Robot”

Daniel Myers, a sophomore studying computer science, mentored by Chia-Chu Chiang – “Study of Open Source Operating System for Use as Instructional Aid”

Uche Nwali, a senior studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Ashokkumar Sharma – “Design Modification of an Existing Hydraulic Ram Pump System to Improve Its Overall Performance”

Brenda Nyangweso, a junior studying information science, mentored by Ningning Wu – “Application and Benefits of Cloud Development in the College of Engineering and Information Technology”

Tarang Parikh, a senior studying electronics and computer engineering technology, mentored by Steve Menhart – “Solar Powered Raspberry Pi Car Audio-video and Camera System”

Garrett Phelps, a transfer student studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Kailash Jajam – “Synthesis and Characterization of Epoxy Composites Modified with Micron-size Stiff and Compliant Fillers”

Ryan Ronquillo, a junior studying information science, mentored by Philip Huff – “Reversus: Education in Reverse Engineering Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities”

Shadrach Rubio-Pelayo, a freshman studying civil engineering and construction management, mentored by Srikanth Pidugu and Ashokkumar Sharma – “Unmanned Aerial Racing Cargo Vehicle: An ASME IAM3D Competition Contender”

Sherif Selim, a senior studying mechanical engineering technology, mentored by Kailash Jajam – “Processing and Mechanical Characterization of Aluminum Foam Based Interpenetrating Phase Composites (IPC) Infiltrated with Solid and Hollow Glass Microspheres”

Ramiro Serrano-Vergel, a graduate student studying information science, mentored by Ivan Rodriguez-Conde – “Enhancing User Experience in Custom Closets Prototyping Using Handheld-based Mobile Augmented Reality”

Zachary Smith, a graduate student studying applied geology, mentored by Laura Ruhl-Whittle – “Quantifying the Impact of Urbanization on the Fourche Creek Watershed, Little Rock, Arkansas”

Tiwari Snehil, a senior studying information science, mentored by Elizabeth Pierce – “Furrow Irrigation Web Application”

Eric Sutherland, a junior studying mechanical systems engineering, mentored by Soheil Saedi – “Damping Capacity of Additively Manufactured (AM) NiTi Alloy”

James Teem, a freshman studying computer science, mentored by Chia-Chu Chiang – “Integrating Voice Commands into Web Pages for Accessible Interactions”

Stephen Vang, a senior studying mechanical engineering, mentored by Srikanth Pidugu – “Design and Optimization of a Portable Medical Scooter”

Xingqiao Wang, a graduate student studying computer and information sciences, mentored by Xiaowei Xu – “Hierarchical Neural Language Model for Question Answering”

Hunter Wright, a senior studying information science, mentored by Thomas Wallace – “MAACS: Multipurpose All-around Awesome Clustered Server”

College of Business

John Fetherston, a freshman studying business information systems, mentored by Kent Layton – “Water Purification for Maroa, Venezuela”

Claire Herman, a junior studying economics, mentored by Casey Rockwell – “Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing: Ethical Concerns in the Supply Chain of a Consumer’s Raw Material through DNA Testing”

Snehil Tiwari, a junior studying economics, mentored by Moiz Bhai – “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Implementing Riparian Buffers in the Buffalo River Watershed”

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