Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

2023 Jimmy and Ileen Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence

The Jimmy and Ileen Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence is awarded annually to an outstanding student currently pursuing a PhD who has completed at least four semesters of study.

Brittany Zepernick

Brittany Zepernick

Brittany Zepernick, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, received her BS from Bowling Green State University in 2017. She defended her PhD in microbiology at UT in April 2023. Her dissertation employed biomolecular tools to focus on harmful algae, large lakes, and climate change.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you? How has UT empowered you to make a difference in a way you might not have imagined elsewhere?

“To me, being a Volunteer means being a part of something bigger than simply yourself. It represents a commitment you have to the Volunteer family and the broader Knoxville community. With this commitment comes a responsibility to strive for success and lift others up along the journey. UT has empowered me to make a difference within my research field of harmful algal blooms. As a result, it is my hope this work will serve to protect global communities from harmful algal blooms, including my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. UT has also empowered me to make a difference within the local community by volunteering in various outreach organizations which serve to increase representation and diversity in the STEM fields and increase citizen STEM engagement.”