Photo Feature: 14th Annual Mountain Lion Research Day

Faculty and student researchers brought their findings – and their research posters — to the Gallogly Event Center on Dec. 2 for the 14th annual Mountain Lion Research Day at UCCS.

Mountain Lion Research Day is an opportunity for the UCCS campus to experience high-caliber research conducted by members of the UCCS community. It is also a celebration of innovation, mentorship and new knowledge.

“A commitment to research and creative work is a cornerstone of the UCCS academic mission,” said Jessi Smith, Vice Provost of Research. “Student engagement in research is a high impact practice in and of itself, and of course the discovery, creation, and innovation that is generated from such scholarships really does change the world. But changing the world with new knowledge requires sharing that new knowledge, and that is what makes Mountain Lion Research Day so special.”

In addition to research presentations, the Office of Research celebrated the winners of the Faculty Research Council’s Top Scholar Award, the Outstanding Research Mentorship Award, and new inductees to the $1 Million Club and $5 Million Club for sponsored research.

See the winners of each award below.

Top Scholar Award

The Top Scholar Award recognizes student poster presentations characterized by excellence in scholarship, clarity in visual and oral presentation and demonstrated knowledge in a discussion with the judges.

Undergraduate Top Scholar: Aja Zamundu
Department: Psychology. Aja is also a member of the Undergraduate Research Academy of 2022
Project Title: “Race on Campus in the Aftermath of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter”
Undergraduate Top Scholar Mentor: Heather Littleton, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Operations at the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience

Graduate Top Scholar: Kristi McCann
Department: Teaching & Learning
Project Title: “Initial Employment Outcomes of UCCSTeach Graduates”
Graduate Top Scholar Mentor: Grant Clayton, Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning

Outstanding Research Mentorship Award

The Outstanding Research Mentorship Award recognizes extraordinary efforts by faculty and staff members to facilitate a mentee’s research success, contributing to a positive culture of research at UCCS.

2022 Outstanding Research Mentor: Sylvia Mendez, Professor in the Department of Leadership, Research, and Foundations

Mendez’s research centers on the creation of inclusive higher education policies and practices that advance faculty careers and student success, such as formalized mentoring program opportunities. She also studies the schooling experiences of Mexican-descent youth in the mid-20th century. As a proud product of quality mentoring, Mendez attributes her career in the professoriate to the mentoring she received at Washington State University as a McNair scholar and to her graduate advisors, Blanche Hughes at Colorado State University and John Rury at the University of Kansas. In her desire to pay forward the exceptional mentoring she received as a student, nothing gives her more joy than working with students and early-career faculty to establish and move their research agenda forward.

$1 Million Club Inductees

Gedare Bloom, Department of Computer Science

Bloom received his PhD in computer science from The George Washington University in 2013. He joined the University of Colorado Colorado Springs as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science in 2019 and Associate Professor in 2022. He was an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Howard University from 2015-2019. His research expertise is computer system security with emphasis on real-time embedded systems. He has published over fifty peer reviewed articles, serves as a program committee member and technical referee for flagship conferences and journals, and is an associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology.

Shouhuai Xu, Department of Computer Science

Xu is the Gallogly Chair Professor in Cybersecurity at UCCS. He pioneered Cybersecurity Dynamics, a systematic approach to modeling and quantifying cybersecurity from a holistic perspective. His research has won several awards, including the 2019 world-wide adversarial malware classification challenge organized by the MIT Lincoln Lab. He co-initiated the International Conference on Science of Cyber Security and is serving as its Steering Committee Chair. He has also served as Program Committee co-chair for several international conferences. He is an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, IEEE Transactions on Network Science and Engineering, and Nature’s Scientific Reports.

Brandon Runnels, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Runnels is an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. He obtained his BS in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico Tech in 2011 and his MS from Caltech in 2012. He completed his PhD work at Caltech, graduating in June 2015. He has been at UCCS since August of 2015, receiving tenure in August 2022. Runnels has secured more than $1.5 million as the PI in external funding from NSF, DOD, and DOE sponsors. He has been awarded the NSF CAREER award and named the UCCS Engineering and Applied Science Researcher of the Year. Runnels is the director of the Solid Mechanics Research Group, which performs cutting-edge research at the intersection of mathematics, mechanics, materials science, and high performance computing.

$5 Million Club Inductee

Gregory Plett, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Plett received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and joined UCCS in 1998. Together with Professor Trimboli, he co-leads a team of student researchers who apply control-systems theory to the management of high-capacity battery systems, such as those found in electric vehicles. His current research agenda also includes physics-based reduced-complexity modeling of lithium-ion battery dynamics; nondestructive parameter estimation for physics-based models; and real-time estimation of cell internal state and degradation state. This research is both theoretical and empirical. As just one shining example, his UCCS CHARGE laboratory initiated with NSF funding houses equipment that enables cutting-edge research in advanced but practical algorithm prototyping. His work also includes courses and programs in battery controls developed under a DOE project that not only support this research effort but help in educating qualified researchers. 

See winners from the event below. Kylee Popp and Jeff Foster contributed to event photography.

Undergraduate Top Scholar Aja Zamundu, Department of Psychology. Aja is a member of the Undergraduate Research Academy of 2022
Graduate Top Scholar Kristi McCann, Department of Teaching & Learning
2022 Outstanding Research Mentor Sylvia Mendez, Professor in the Department of Leadership, Research, and Foundations
Ekzhin Ear accepting the $1 Million Club Inductee award on behalf of Shouhuai Xu, Department of Computer Science
$1 Million Club Inductee Gedare Bloom, Department of Computer Science
$5 Million Club Inductee Gregory Plett, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Learn more about research at UCCS through the Office of Research website. See a full list of participants on the Mountain Lion Research Day site. Find related coverage below.