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Congratulations to the winners of the Spring 2023 URCA Assistant Program Awards!


URCA Research-Based Mentor of the Semester Award



Dr. Josh Wooten, Department of Applied Health 

Nominated by: Dana Smith 

Dr. Josh Wooten has worked with Dana since her first semester at SIUE, which was the fall of 2019. They have worked on three projects so far with only one going as planned. This taught Dana that “when a project does not go as planned, that does not mean that we did not learn anything from it. Instead, we gather more questions and analyze where we went wrong and how we can improve (and possibly develop future experiments).” Dana states, “I honestly have nothing but good things to say about Dr. Wooten.”  

“Dr. Wooten made our lab a team—a family. Our end of semester barbeque pig-outs would not be possible without him. I am saddened that I will be graduating and leaving the lab this year, but I am forever grateful for all he has taught me. When people ask what I will take away from SIUE, my first thought is always Dr. Wooten and our lab. I aspire to have a fraction of the knowledge, leadership, and benevolence Dr. Wooten has” states Dana.  



Dr. Barb McCracken, Department of Development, Growth, and Structure

Nominated by: Sahar Rashid 

Dr. Barb McCracken has worked with Sahar since January of 2022. He gained exposure to the SIU School of Dental Medicine and has advanced his knowledge about the oral cavity. Even with having a busy schedule, Dr. McCracken “always makes time to meet to finish up our projects, no matter how last minute it may be” states Sahar. Even if there is a mistake or confusion, Dr. McCracken is always there to help her lab get back on track!  

“Dr. McCracken has such a warm heart, she often brings us treats, and takes us out to coffee/dinner where we can relax and talk about our projects. She makes everyone around her feel welcomed and loved and deserves to be recognized for all of her kindness and hard work!!” states Sahar.  


URCA Research Assistant of the Semester Award



Dana Smith, Department of Applied Health 

Nominated by: Dr. Josh Wooten 

Dana Smith has been a part of Dr. Wooten’s lab for four years and has “demonstrated herself to be professional, extremely hard working, and passionate about research.” Her focus was on cardiometabolic diseases related to diet, exercise, and obesity. There have been several projects Dana has helped with. Her duties ranged from data collection, measurements of serum and tissue samples, literature situations, trained other research assistants, etc. “Based on her work, I believe that she has demonstrated the ability to conduct and complete research” states Dr. Wooten.  

Dana has worked on a project titled Effects of an Intensive Lifestyle Weight-Loss Program on Peripheral Biomarkers of Neurological Health, which is being reviewed in the Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. Additionally, her study titled The Effects of Fructose on De Novo Lipogenesis During Weight-Loss will be presented at SIUE’s Undergraduate Scholar’s Showcase and plans to be submitted for publication. “Based on Dana’s work as a research assistant, I believe that she has demonstrated herself to be one of the top research assistants in the URCA program” states Dr. Josh Wooten.  


 URCA Creative Assistant of the Semester Award



Shannon Corgan, Department of Art & Design 

Nominated by: Mr. Brigham Dimick 

Shannon Corgan is a studio assistant for Mr. Brigham Dimick. She is committed to arriving at his studio at 6:30am every Tuesday and Thursday ready to focus and learn! She assists Dimick is painting, which can be hard since there is a potential for “clouding the tone and voice of the artist’s vision.” However, Shannon is able to understand and demonstrate “the capacity to posit clear and nuanced questions and then apply my responses into practice with efficiency and clarity. She has an uncanny aptitude for unpacking complex orders of operation, developing innovative strategies, and implementing a plan tirelessly, never waning her focus” states Dimick.  

Shannon helps Dimick with his vision without sacrificing the quality of work which leads to further discussions. “Indeed, Shannon’s intellectual curiosity is wonderful to be around. I appreciate how expansive and thought-provoking our conversations have been, without ever losing our focus on the large-scale paintings we work on together, side by side on, as time slips by unnoticed” states Dimick. 

Atwood Huff
Nominated by:
Dr. Marcus Agustin, Mathematics and Statics
Olivia Davila
Nominated by:
Dr. Annie Imboden, Family Health and Community Health Nursing
Gregory Nodorft
Nominated by:
Dr. Debanjana Ghosh, Chemistry
Yassine Ndiaye
Nominated by: 
Dr. Saad Ullah, Civil Engineering
Dr. Annie Imboden
Nominated by:
Olivia Davila, Family Health and Community Health Nursing
Dr. Eunyoe Ro
Nominated by:
Kayla Myers, Psychology
Dr. Caroline Rocha
Nominated by:
Josephine Kanyi, Foreign Languages and Literature


Fall 2022 Award Winners
Spring 2022 Award Winners
Fall 2021 Award Winners
Spring 2021 Award Winners
Fall 2020 Award Winners
Spring 2020 Award Winners
Fall 2019 Award Winners
Spring 2019 Award Winners
Fall 2018 Award Winners
Spring 2018 Award Winners

For more information about the URCA program,
contact Dr. Ariel Belasen at 618-650-2940 or
The calls for nominations for these awards go out mid-fall and mid-spring.

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