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Life of the MindKNOXVILLE—The fourth and final Life of the Mind discussion panel, “Undergraduate Research at UTK: Be Inspired, Get Involved!” will help acquaint first-year students to undergraduate research being done at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and show them how they can get involved.

The hour-long panel discussion begins at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18, in the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center Auditorium.

Life of the Mind is a common reading experience that gives first-year students their initial taste of academic life at UT Knoxville. This year, for the first time, Life of the Mind is part of FYS 100, a zero-credit, satisfactory/no-credit course required for all first-year students.

This year’s book is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, an award-winning science writer. It’s the story of an African American woman whose cervical cancer cells, taken during a biopsy and cultured without her knowledge or permission in the 1950s, have been integral in developing the polio vaccine, unlocking secrets of cancer and viruses, helping understand the effects of the atom bomb and contributing to the development of in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping. The cells are known as HeLa, a name derived from the initial letters of her first and last names.

Students were required to attend at least one of the four panel discussions to fulfill FYS 100 requirements.

During this panel discussion, first-year students will hear from several undergraduates currently active in research at UT, including some students who work with HeLa cells. The student-researchers will describe the work they are doing, how their ideas evolved into their, research and how they found their faculty research mentors.

The October 18 panel will be moderated by undergraduate faculty research mentor Mark Littmann, professor of journalism and electronic media and Hill Chair of Excellence in Science Writing. Also featured will be Sharon Pound, from the Office of Research, who will talk about how the office can help students find research opportunities.

Undergraduate researchers who will sit on the panel include:

  • Madelyn Crawford, junior in biological science, who works in a microbiology lab, researching the structure-function of a protein. Crawford is a Haslam Scholar and is on the editorial review board for Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research.
  • Melissa Lee, a Haslam Scholar sophomore in biological sciences, who is studying the circadian rhythm in Professor Rebecca Prosser’s research lab.
  • Eric Martin, senior in engineering physics, who is studying a thermoelectric material using soft x-ray spectroscopy to explore how the material converts heat to electricity. Martin is the recipient of two physics department fellowships and a Chancellor’s Honors research grant.
  • Marybeth Parker, senior in materials science and engineering, who is conducting research with a focus on Maus’s Salt, which exhibits magnetic frustration and defects that have interesting qualities. Parker is engaged with ORNL through its Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship.
  • Mark Remec, a Haslam Scholar sophomore in mathematics and biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, who is conducting biophysical research with Associate Professor Elias Fernandez.
  • Ryan Rickels, senior in biological sciences, who is doing HeLa cell research.
  • Mark Walker, senior in nuclear engineering, who is involved in research at ORNL, and has interned with the US Department of Energy in Washington, DC. Walker’s research involves nuclear safeguards, and he hopes to pursue policy development in nuclear security. He is a Haslam Scholar and a recipient of the Goldwater Foundation Scholarship.

C O N T A C T :

Stephanie Dixon (865-974-2125,

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,