The Undergraduate Researcher of the Year award honors a junior or senior who has demonstrated excellence in undergraduate research through independent inquiry, classes, and student employment.
Haslam Scholar and physics major Louis Varriano, of Memphis, has excelled in research while finding ways to interest others in science. As president of the UT chapter of the Society of Physics Students, he spearheaded the creation of Saturday Science Club, which sends volunteers to Pond Gap Elementary School to pique young students’ interest in science. Under his leadership, the chapter received the national organization’s Blake Lilly Award. He also serves as the editor in chief of Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee and co-director of the Undergraduate Research Council.
Varriano, who has received numerous academic awards, is also being honored as Undergraduate Researcher of the Year for his work on the mirror matter model of dark matter—research that could help physicists and astronomers get closer to understanding the composition of the universe. He has held internships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso in Italy, authored numerous publications, and presented at conferences in the US and abroad. Last year he received the national Society of Physics Students Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research.