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Congratulations to the winners of the Spring 2021 URCA Assistant Program Awards!


Vaughn Vandegrift URCA Assistant Research Mentor of the Semester Award


Dr. Brittany Peterson, Department of Biological Sciences

Nominated by: Katilin Goodbrake

 Dr. Peterson has been a prolific URCA mentor for several years. During her time with the program, she has worked with multiple students each semester, and has received high praise from many of her URCA Assistants. Kaitlin Goodbrake, who has been in Dr. Peterson's lab the past two semesters, wrote much about her mentor:

"It impresses me how she is capable of teaching other courses on top of running her research lab with 12 or more projects simultaneously going on. Every time I walk into the lab, she allows me to take control of my project, but provides the necessary education to understand what data needs to be collected and why the data is important. She tries to make the lab fun while incorporating multiple learning opportunities from other graduate and undergraduate students with the many different projects she is managing".

Vaughn Vandegrift URCA Assistant Research Mentor of the Semester Award

Dr. Carlee Hawkins

Dr. Carlee Hawkins, Department of Psychology

Nominated by: Alexis Camp & other URCA Assistants

 Dr. Hawkins joined SIUE's Psychology department quite recently, but she has already made a great impression on her URCA Assistants, who had a lot to say about her mentorship:

"I was lucky enough to be able to meet Carlee on her first day as a new professor at SIUE. Ever since that day, she has created a safe space for me to learn to the best of my ability and feel comfortable in my learning environment. From being a student in two of her courses, and my lab peers also being students, we all agree that Carlee develops her coursework to where each assignment comes with a meaning and purpose. Carlee's massive knowledge and passion for social psychological sciences and her ability to set up students for success when they move on is what sets her apart from other mentors".



URCA Research Assistant of the Semester Award


Lauren Ferris, Department of Biological Sciences

Nominated by: Dr. Maurina Aranda

 Dr. Aranda had high praise for Lauren, who has been working in her lab as an URCA assistant for the past two semesters. She describes Lauren as driven, and said her research, which investigates students' perceptions of feeling known, will have important implications for the SIUE community.

"Outside of developing a project that could inform teaching and policies here at SIUE, Lauren is also one of the hardest working undergraduate researchers in my lab. Regardless of where I set my expectations and goals for her during our weekly meetings, Lauren takes it on herself to soar over these goals. She is motivated and has one of the most impressive self-starter attitudes I've seen in a senior Biology student. Even though this research project--and biology education as a whole--is not Lauren's intended career goal, she puts every effort she can into this project, and I think that speaks volumes for Lauren's committment to our SIUE community.

 URCA Research Assistant of the Semester Award


Vu Dinh, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Nominated by: Dr. Jon Klingensmith

 Dr. Klingensmith has worked with Vu both in class and as a student researcher, and he had much to say about Vu's performance, even saying that his abilities are on par with graduate level researchers!

"Because of my experience with him in class, I had high expectations going into our first URCA semester. Not only did he meet my high expectations, he exceeded them in a timeframe much shorter than I expected. Typically, students need quite a bit of guidance before they are productive in contributing to actual feature development. However, Vu developed several new features right away and has subsequently become the main developer of our software tool".

Other nominees:


Dr. Corey Ragsdale, Anthropology
Nominated by:
Megan Walsh

Dr. Elora Voyles, Psychology
Nominated by:
Michael Schneider

Dr. Kevin Tucker, Biological Sciences
Nominated by:
Jacob Smith

Dr. Maurina Aranda, Biological Sciences
Nominated by:
Lauren Ferris

Dr. Sinan Onal,  Industrial Engineering
Nominated by:
Justin Kutter

Dr. Susanne DiSalvo,  Biological Sciences
Nominated by:
Andrew Tresslar

Dr. Thomas Fowler,  Biological Sciences
Nominated by:
Sierra Cheney & Laura Sobel

Dr. Yadong Wang, Electrial and Computer Engineering
Nominated by:
Madison House


Ethan Blomberg
Nominated by:
Dr. Nima Lotfi-Yagin, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Jacob Smith
Nominated by:
Dr. Kevin Tucker, Biological Sciences

Kayla Canas
Nominated by:
Dr. Carolina Rocha, Women's Studies

Zachary Bennett
Nominated by:
Dr. Sarah Luesse, Chemistry



Fall 2020 Award Winners
Spring 2020 Award Winners
Fall 2019 Award Winners
Spring 2019 Award Winners
Fall 2018 Award Winners
Spring 2018 Award Winners
Fall 2017 Award Winners
Spring 2017 Award Winners
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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