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2020 Undergraduate Researchers of the Year

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.

Audrey Jean “AJ” Culpepper

AJ CulpepperAJ Culpepper, a senior majoring in Russian literature, researches the intersections between literature, visual art, and science. She has presented her work at national conferences and at UT, where her digital analysis of narrative forms in Dostoevsky won an Award of Excellence at EURēCA. After graduating in May, she will go as a Fulbright Scholar to the Russian Federation on a research award.

How does your research benefit UT?

I believe my research benefits UT because too often humanities are excluded from the conversation of critical inquiry, and, on a larger level, relevancy. I hope to continue the scholarship conducted at UT, in addition to starting a precedent for digital humanities approaches at both the research and classroom level.

Alec Yen

Alec YenElectrical engineering senior Alec Yen, of Tullahoma, Tennessee, is interested in how emerging integrated circuits technology will reshape the future of sensing, biotech, and communication. His current research investigates low-power circuits for monolithic integrated spectral analysis. Having been involved in research since his sophomore year, he has also performed research in emerging fields including power systems, biometrics, and neuromorphic hardware. He has held internships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Garmin International and authored multiple conference and journal publications. He plans to pursue a PhD in electrical engineering at MIT starting in the fall of 2020.

How does your research benefit UT?

UT is a fast-growing research institution. As more and more of its students do compelling work in STEM research, UT’s visibility in the academic world will continue to improve, giving its researchers a stronger platform to communicate their work. At the same time, UT students gain experience working to solve challenging but meaningful problems ranging from health to energy to computing. As for me, my research investigates analog integrated circuits and how we can reduce power consumption, shrink chip size, and improve design versatility. I really enjoy circuits research because it requires a diverse toolbox of knowledge, including circuit design, device physics, signal processing, and electromagnetics.