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Congratulations to the winners of the Spring 2017 URCA Assistant Program Awards!!

Vaughn Vandegrift URCA Assistant Research Mentor of the Semester Award


Dr. Kevin Tucker, Chemistry

Nominated by: Paisley Harper

“I speak for the entire lab when I say that every day I am excited to participate in research with Dr. Tucker.  He has given us guidance, support and treats us as his peers. Despite his large group of lab students, he has given us all equal time and attention. Students in the lab are given a great amount of responsibility over our respective projects. We do field work which entails collecting samples and lab work processing and running the samples using a multitude of techniques. Dr. Tucker places a deep responsibility onto the shoulders of several undergraduate researchers by allowing them to operate the LC/MS sample analysis instrument. Dr. Tucker uses his plethora of resources and outreach to help both undergraduate students and graduate students take advantage of every possible opportunity that comes our way, such as involving us in conferences and summer internships. We appreciate that he has pushed us to be invested and dedicated to our projects and has given us agency over what we do in the lab. Dr. Tucker’s unfailing faith and confidence in us as researchers has resulted in the members of our lab, both undergraduate and graduate, to flourish academically.”

Vaughn Vandegrift URCA Assistant Research Mentor of the Semester Award


Dr. Jianwei Huang, Civil Engineering

Nominated by: Riley Hoffman

“I would like to recognize my URCA mentor for everything he has taught me throughout the last two semesters. Since we started this journey last semester, I never thought I would have gained so many life lessons for my professional career. I may have something published with a mentor that I feel I could call a friend. Through this whole journey, he has been patient and understanding with me. He has made my expedition at SIUE so much better and opened my eyes to the many things out in the world. He is the best professor and mentor that I have had the pleasure of meeting at SIUE.”

URCA Research Assistant of the Semester Award


Addison Elliott, Electrical and Computer Engineering 

Nominated by: Dr. Jon Klingensmith

“Addison Elliott is one of the best students I’ve ever had. He will not rest until he completely understands an idea or concept. Not only did he meet my high expectations, he exceeded them and in a timeframe much shorter than I expected. Addison’s job was to build our software package to be used for manual tracing.  However, beyond the typical challenges associated with developing user-facing software, there is an added layer of complexity because our software needs to be “cross-platform” – i.e. it needs to work on both Windows computers and MAC computers, a sometimes-difficult requirement to fulfill. Addison independently found a cross-platform library to build the graphical user interface, the open-source library to display images, and completed a working version of the software in a manner of weeks, far surpassing my expectations.  In fact, I foresee the software that he wrote acting as the platform on which we build many future algorithms for other related research projects."

URCA Research Assistant of the Semester Award 


Angela LittleHistorical Studies

Nominated by: Dr. Jeff Manuel

"Angela is working this semester as an URCA Assistant for the Madison Historical project, which is creating an online encyclopedia and digital archive of Madison County history. Angela is the only undergraduate member of our research team, yet she has stood out for her dogged research, excellent writing abilities, and understanding of extremely complex historical events. Although Angela has handled many responsibilities for Madison Historical this semester, perhaps her best work was in researching and writing an encyclopedia article on the history of an iconic lawsuit in county history. The case was enormously complex and controversial yet Angela sorted out the competing issues and wrote a clear, concise account of the case that we will soon be publishing on our web site. Angela illustrates what is best about SIUE’s students: a fusion of life experience and an eager desire to make the most out of her education."

Other nominees:


Dr. Yun Lu, Chemistry
Nominated by:
Samantha Wilhelm

Dr. Mitsuru Shimizu, Psychology
Nominated by:
Shamice Terrell

Dr. Barbara McCracken, Applied Dental Medicine
Nominated by:
Nicholas Ballard

Dr. Ariel Belasen, Economics and Finance
Nominated by:
Gabe DeWerff


Anna Myers
Nominated by:
Dr. Steve Tamari, Historical Studies

Dakota Kamm
Nominated by:
Dr. Joshua Wooten, Applied Health

Kylie Smutzer
Nominated by:
Dr. Connie Barber, Computer Management and Information Systems

Fall 2016 Award Winners
Spring 2016 Award Winners
Fall 2015 Award Winners
Spring 2015 Award Winners
Fall 2014 Award Winners
Spring 2014 Award Winners
Fall 2013 Award Winners
Spring 2013 Award Winners
Fall 2012 URCA Award Winners
Spring 2012 URCA Award Winners
Fall 2011 URCA Award Winners

For more information about the URCA program,
contact Dr. Laura Pawlow at 618-650-2608 or
The calls for nominations for these awards go out mid-fall and mid-spring.

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