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Bredesen Center Honors


NSF Graduate Fellowship recipients Mallory Ladd, Kemper Talley, and Jayde Aufrecht (not pictured: David Garcia). Image courtesty of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

National Recognition

The Bredesen Center is home to 13 national fellowship recipients. These prestigious awards have been granted to graduate students by the following programs:

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship
  • Nuclear Nonproliferation and International Safeguards Fellowship
  • Nuclear Energy University Program Fellowship
  • Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellowship
  • Hydro Research Foundation Fellowship
  • Fulbright U.S. Student Program



Bredesen Center Honors Day

Each spring The Bredesen Center honors graduate students for outstanding achievement in Research, Entrepreneurship, and Policy. We are proud to honor these diverse contributions in research, education, and outreach. See below for descriptions and previous winners of each award, as well as space to nominate current students for this year’s awards.

Honors Day RSVP


Honors Day Nomination Form


Research Awards


First Step Award

Presented to students who have published their first 1st authorship paper during the past year

Adeola Adediran, Chrsitine Ajinjeru, Jayde Aufrecht, Josh Beers, Keith Britt, Kristine Cabugao, Maria Campa, Sudershan Gangrade, Shang Gao, Ryan Ginder, Andrew Kaminsky, Alex Pawlowski, John Qiu, Deeksha Rastogi, Patrick Shower, Zach Sims

**Additionally recognized for first author papers: Nick Dexter, Amanda Haglund, Kristian Myhre, Emilio Ramirez, Ben Shassere, Debbie Weighill


First Authorship Award

Presented to the student with the most journal articles published as 1st author since joining the Bredesen Center

2018 recipient: Luis Stand


Hit the Ground Running Award

Presented to the student with the most journal articles published since joining the Bredesen Center

2018 recipient: Artem Maksov


The Derek Austin High Impact Award

Presented to the student published as first author in the highest impact journal during the past year

2018 recipients: Eric Muckley and Akinola Oyedele

Muckley, E. S.; Naguib, M.; Wang, H. W.; Vlcek, L.; Osti, N. C.; Sacci, R. L.; Sang, X.; Unocic, R. R.; Xie, Y.; Tyagi, M.; Mamontov, E.; Page, K. L.; Kent, P.R.C.; Nanda, J.; Ivanov, I. N., “Multimodality of Structural, Electrical, and Gravimetric Responses of
Intercalated MXenes to Water,” ACS Nano 11 (11), 11118–11126 (2017).


Oyedele, A. D.; Yang, S.; Liang, L.; Puretzky, A. A.; Wang, K.; Zhang, J.; Yu, P.; Pudasaini, P. R.; Ghosh, a. W.; Liu, Z.; Rouleau, C. M.; Sumpter, B. G.; Chisholm, M. F.; Zhou, W.; Rack, P. D.; Geohegan, D. B.; Xiao, K., “PdSe2: Pentagonal Two-Dimensional Layers with High Air Stability for Electronics,” J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 139 (40), 14090–14097 (2017).



Derek Austin and PhD advisor, Dr. Mike Simpson.

Much like the Bredesen Center students of today, Dr. Derek Austin received his Ph.D. from UTK in 2006 after performing his research work at ORNL in Mike Simpson’s group.  Derek was a pioneer of the prominent noise biology work to come out of this group — work that continues on today.  Derek’s crowning research achievement resulted in a paper published in Nature that he first authored.  Derek blazed a path that serves as example of the core values of the Bredesen Center.  He performed cutting edge interdisciplinary research that was published in top journals, but he also made entrepreneurship a part of his legacy by participating in the formation of two successful start-up companies. Although Derek ultimately lost his courageous battle against pancreatic cancer, his example lives on within the Bredesen Center.  The Derek Austin High Impact Award honors the Bredesen Center students that follow Derek’s example and publish their research results in prominent scientific journals.

 Entrepreneurship Award

The entrepreneurship award recognizes the student whose entrepreneurial initiatives have been productive and enriched opportunities for their colleagues.

2018 recipient: Shang Gao

“Shang Gao received multiple nominations from faculty and students. His nominators recognized the volunteer spirit he has shown in both entrepreneurship courses, in Prof. Ramanathan’s research group where he “has been instrumental in supporting the development of novel text comprehension tools for clinical text applications,” and in his dedication to assisting Tom Rodgers’s efforts to establish an AI accelerator / Data Science hub in East TN.

During the entrepreneurship courses Shang naturally assumed a leadership role in the project team that worked with Lirio this past fall, the first project that was performed by a team of DSE students. Lirio management was very impressed with the team’s efforts and work product.

In Prof. Ramanathan’s research group Shang contributed to a publication in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association that was selected as one of Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s (OLCF) science highlights.

Shang will also report success factors of the leading AI accelerators in the country to some of ORNL’s leadership team later this spring.”

Policy Award

The policy award recognizes the student whose efforts have produced thorough policy recommendations, initiatives to inform and engage students and the community on relevant issues, and create opportunities for other students.

2018 recipient: Michelle Halsted

“Michelle Halsted showed great determination and leadership during the completion of a Clean Power Plan analysis. The analysis was begun during Fall 2015 for an independent study led by Justin Knowles that involved several Bredesen center students. This led to the development of an educational app “myCPP” with a spring 2016 independent study course with lead coder Alex Pawlowski. Michelle was fully involved in both courses. Though the CPP has been made moot in legal battles, Michelle recognized that the work is valuable and pursued final preparation of the manuscript for publication, ultimately on the Baker Center website.”

Community Outreach Award

The community outreach award recognizes the student whose efforts have informed and engaged our broader community on scientific topics in ways that strengthen and enrich our scientific community.

2018 recipient: Mallory Ladd

“Mallory Ladd founded Pipeline: Vols for Women in STEM, 2017-2018. Within this organization she directed a committee of students to raise funding for and organize 4th annual women in STEM symposium and established committees that focus on 1) mentoring 2) intersectionality and 3) graduate student professional development.

Mallory also served as the speaker coordinator for taste of science – Knoxville. Which are quarterly events for scientists to communicate their work to the public in an informal setting with no powerpoint slides.

She recently hosted a cross-over event with 500 Women Scientists – Knox Pod to raise funds for CienciaPR, a nonprofit working to help scientists in Puerto Rico recover from the hurricanes.

Mallory reviewed manuscripts for two journals and submitted a proposal to serve as chair for a session at the AGU 2018 conference. She served as a moderator at Science Bowl 2018 and on multiple political campaigns, local and federal, as a science adviser providing short, scientific briefs on topics-of-interest.”

Service Award

The service award recognizes the student whose efforts have supported their colleagues, created opportunities for them to interact across disciplines, and enabled them to develop their own initiative.

2018 recipient: Ernesto Zuleta

“Ernesto Camilo Zuleta Suárez is a Yates Dissertation Fellow in the Bredesen Center. In 2016, Ernesto was nominated and elected as the 2nd Treasurer of the Forum on Science Ethics and Policy (FOSEP), a student-led organization promoting discussions and understanding of issues at the intersection of science and policy. In this capacity, Ernesto actively and accurately maintained our financial ledger and was quick to distinguish different restrictions carried by various funding sources.

More recently, Ernesto organized and hosted the 1st CRC-CABLE Bioeconomy workshop of East Tennessee. The first of its kind at UT, this workshop featured four distinguished experts in the field to discuss emerging trends in the bioeconomy sector of East Tennessee and beyond. Ernesto arranged sponsorship for this workshop through UT’s Center for Renewable Carbon (CRC) and the Consortium for Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Education (CABLE). Singlehandedly, Ernesto coordinated invitations to Jeff R. Beegle, Virginia H. Dale, David P. Harper, and Lee L. Riedinger, in addition to arranging for their parking.

Ernesto promoted the event both on social media platforms and by physically posting flyers in almost every single building on the UT campus. These efforts proved fruitful, as the event was attended by dozens of students, faculty, and community members. During the workshop, Ernesto set up online video conferencing to connect with other members of the CABLE team, numbering 20 academic institutions. Currently, Ernesto continues to serve as the CABLE student delegate representing the University of Tennessee in this initiative launched by the US Department of Agriculture.”

Research Awards

First Step Award: presented to students who have published their first 1st authorship paper during the past year

2017 recipients: Seong-Jin An, Tony Bova, Patrick Caveney, Victoria DiStefano, Kassie Ernst, Michelle Halsted, Edward Jones, Vidya Kishore, Andrew Lepore, Kate Manz, Ben Mohr, Eric Muckley, Akinola Oyedele, Naren Raghavan, Holly Ray, Missy ShowersNiyanth Sridharan, Luis Stand

2016 recipients: Sam Akato, Jay Billings, Emily Clark, Chris Hartnett, Jake Houser, Alex Lewis, Yunchao Li, Beth Papanek, Alan Pezeshki, Kyle Sander, Peter Shankles

2015 recipients: Robbie Brese, Mary Alice Cusentino, Zach Langford, Meng Li, Kun Lou, Liz Norred, Guin Shaw, Adam Thompson, Humaira Taz, Jennifer Trumbo, Tracey Wellington, and Debbie Weighill

First Authorship Award: presented to the student with the most journal articles published as 1st author

2017 recipient: Eric Muckley

2016 recipient: Alan Pezeshki

2015 recipient: Ernesto Zuleta

Hit the Ground Running Award: presented to the student with the most journal articles published since joining the Bredesen Center

2017: Luis Stand

2016 recipient: Yunchao Li

2015 recipient: Anthony Gianfrancesco

The Derek Austin High Impact Award: presented to the student that has published a paper as first author in the highest impact journal

2017 recipient: Yunchao Li

2016 recipients: Beth Papanek and Adam Thompson

2015 recipient: Meng Li

Entrepreneurship Awards

2017 recipient: Rob Moseley

2016 recipients: Jeff Beegle and Tony Bova for their work with Grow Bioplastics

2015 recipients:

Policy Awards

2017 recipient: Guin Shaw

2016 recipient:

  • Justin Knowles for his leadership on various Bredesen Center projects related to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

2015 recipients:

  • Justin Knowles received ANS Student Conference Awards for Commendation of Service and Best Graduate Presentation in Detection / Measurement
  • Justin Knowles 2015 recipient of the ANS Distinguished Service Award
  • Mallory Ladd for her work with The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC
  • Tracey Wellington for her work with the U.S. Department of Energy Scholars Program

Outreach Awards

2017 recipient: Jessica Velez

2016 recipient: Not awarded

2015 recipients:

Service Award

2017 recipient: Nannan Jiang