Event Recap: 15th Annual Mountain Lion Research Day

Faculty and student researchers brought their findings – and their research posters — to the Gallogly Event Center on Dec. 8 for the 15th annual Mountain Lion Research Day at UCCS. This year’s event saw over 270 attendees in addition to the nearly 100 presenters. View the complete book of abstracts here.

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.

“We take great pride in our vibrant research and creative works at UCCS,” said Jessi Smith, Vice Provost of Research. “Active involvement in research is not only a high-impact practice for students but also a catalyst for the discovery, creation, and innovation that has the power to change the world. However, the transformative potential of new knowledge can only be realized through sharing. That’s precisely why we gather at Mountain Lion Research Day – to learn collaboratively, establish connections, share our passions, and celebrate the invaluable contributions of our campus researchers.”

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: Kaitlin McAllister
Department: Physics & Energy Science
Project Title: “MiniMag: A Magnetometer Based on the Faraday Effect for Space Applications”
Co-Authors: Joey Espejo, Kush Tyagi, Zbigniew Celinski, Maria Usanova and Dmytro Bozhko

Graduate Top Scholar: Colton Hill
Department: Computer Science
Project Title: “The Tradeoff Between Altruism and Anarchy in Transportation Networks”
Co-Authors: Philip Brown

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.

2023 Outstanding Research Mentor: Jugal Kalita, Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science

Kalita has been a professor at UCCS since the fall of 1990. He has taught over twenty-five different classes in all aspects of Computer Science, published over 250 papers with 12,500 citations and received a dozen NSF grants. His areas of research are Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. He has also authored four research-focused books and three textbooks, including two published in 2023: single-author “Machine Learning: Theory and Practice” by CRC Press in January 2023, and “Fundamentals of Data Science: Theory and Practice”, co-authored with two others, published in November 2023.

Kalita has been an advisor for 100 undergraduate independent studies and 75 master’s theses and projects. He has also been a Ph.D. supervisor for more than 20 students and received the Computer Science Department’s “The Teacher Who Taught Me Most” award, as voted by students, in 2017 and 2021. Kalita was also awarded EAS College Teacher of the Year in 2001, the Service Excellence Award in 2005 and Researcher of the Year in 2011. He received the Chancellor’s Award in 2011 in recognition of his superior contribution to teaching, service and research at UCCS and, most recently, received the campus’s Research Mentor Award in 2023.

$1 Million Club Inductees

Jena McCollum
Dr. McCollum is an Associate Professor and Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Texas Tech University in 2015, completed a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at the US Air Force Academy’s Chemistry Research Center, and joined the faculty at UCCS in the fall of 2016. Her current research interests involve studying particle binder interactions during the cure of thermosetting and photocuring processes, investigating polymer dynamics in fluorinated, random copolymers to advise processing routes for consistent size and structure for controlled viscoelastic response, and utilizing coupled rheology/spectroscopy to inform additive processing techniques for propellant and other dense paste materials.

Lissanna Follari
Dr. Lissanna Follari, Associate Professor and Certified Trauma and Resilience Trainer, has spent the past 21 years as an Early Childhood Education college faculty, joining UCCS in 2014. Her scholarship agenda focuses on practical applications in inclusive early childhood education to create a high impact on professional practice and workforce development. The latest progression of her research focuses on the effects of adverse childhood experiences and social emotional learning through trauma and resilience informed practice on children’s learning and development. This research and publication focus has also informed her teaching and IECE program development efforts, bringing this important theme to the UCCS IECE program requirements. As a program administrator, Lissanna has leveraged large scale grants to build early childhood special education workforce development pipelines focusing on distance teacher preparation and development and launch of the newly registered UCCS ECSE Apprenticeship Program. Additionally, she annually seeks and secures sizeable grants to provide student scholarships for IECE program completion.

Katie Anderson-Pence
Katie L. Anderson-Pence is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning and the Associate Dean in the College of Education at UCCS. She teaches courses in Elementary Mathematics Education in the Teacher Education Program. Her writing can be found in Educational Research: Theory and Practice, Education Sciences, and the Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Her current research focus is on teacher apprenticeships and efforts to strengthen the teacher pipeline.

Her most recent grant activity was funded by the Removing Barriers to Educator Preparation Act (HB22-1220), which provided funding to award stipend money to eligible education and school counseling students to reduce the financial barriers of participating in required clinical practice in the student teaching and internship semester(s). These stipends alleviate the need for students to work additional jobs outside of their full-time unpaid field placements. The funding has also provided exam payment vouchers and tutoring support for students preparing to take the Praxis exams required for professional licensure.

Deborah Pollard
Dr. Deborah Pollard has been a nurse educator for over 35 years with a clinical specialty in pediatrics and maternal-infant nursing. Her area of research has been conducting studies related to breastfeeding initiation and duration for term and preterm infants with experience in qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Her primary teaching areas have been maternal-child nursing, nursing research and theory, evidence-based practice, pathophysiology, and nurse educator graduate courses. She has been at UCCS since 2015 and served in leadership positions as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Operations and Department Chair for Nursing for Johnson Beth-El. Her recent scholarship has evolved around program grants for the Nurse Family Partnership Program, a Behavioral Health Initiative Grant for our Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program, and a Rural Healthcare Workforce Grant.

Guy Hagen
Dr. Guy Hagen is a research assistant professor with BioFrontiers and has been at UCCS since 2015. Dr. Hagen’s research involves topics in biophysics and biomedical engineering and includes Structured illumination microscopy, Single molecule localization microscopy, and Live cell imaging. He is the author or co-author of over 50 papers. Dr. Hagen’s research is supported by NSF, NIH, and by BioFrontiers.

Christopher Layne
Dr. Christopher Layne is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Associate Professor of Psychology at Nova Southeastern University, where he directs the Child and Adolescent Traumatic Stress Program – a training clinic that specializes in the assessment and treatment of traumatized and bereaved youth. Dr. Layne is also Principal Investigator of the National Child Trauma Workforce Institute, a large Federally-funded institute dedicated to adapting and disseminating the Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma across the US. Dr. Layne served as Program Director of Education in Evidence-Based Practice at the UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress for 15 years. His professional interests include traumatic stress and bereavement; professional education and training; developmental psychopathology; evidence-based practice; evidence-based assessment; theory building; research methods; and trauma- and bereavement-focused intervention.

Genia Olesnicky
Dr. Eugenia Olesnicky is a Professor in the Department of Biology, where she has been a faculty member for 12 years and is Associate Dean in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Dr. Olesnicky’s research program focuses on understanding the genetic underpinnings of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. During her time at UCCS she has received three grants from the National Institutes of Health and one from the National Science Foundation. In collaboration with many undergraduate and graduate students, the Olesnicky research lab has identified a number of genes that are critical to the development of sensory neurons and motor neurons. More recently, work in the Olesnicky lab has shifted to investigating how genetic mutations contribute to neurodegeneration and affect locomotor behavior.

Jevita Rogers
Jevita Rogers oversees the UCCS Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment and has been with UCCS since 2011. Yearly, her office assists over 8,000 students in utilizing on average $110 million in financial aid to provide students opportunities to finance their college education.

The Finish What You Started Grant was created to assist students “across the finish line” to be able to graduate with their bachelor’s after having taken a break from studies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students receive a tuition grant to cover their tuition and fees as well as a one person point of contact for any questions that may arise. To date, we have assisted 81 students with their tuition and are on target to assist more students as the grant is fully funded through 2025.

Rogers has 30 years of experience in higher education working in financial aid and has served on state, regional, and national committees from NCAA to the U.S. Department of Education.

Kathrin Spendier
Dr. Kathrin Spendier was formally an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Energy Science at UCCS. While she is no longer a faculty member, Dr. Spendier is a Special Member of the Graduate Faculty in Physics and is still making an impact with her grant funding. She earned her Ph.D. in Physics with distinction from the University of New Mexico in 2012. Her areas of interest include experimental biophysics, theoretical biophysics and the development and characterization of glass capacitors.

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.

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