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Alexandre and Varriano Receive Undergraduate Research Awards at Chancellor’s Honors Banquet

During the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet, Dr. Gladys Alexandre received the University’s top recognition for an undergraduate research mentor. Dr. Alexandre was named the Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year for her ongoing work to support undergraduate research at UT, including the research mentoring of 52 UT undergraduates and 6 non UT-undergraduates. She has a track record of co-authoring peer-reviewed publications with her students and supporting them in both on-campus and off-campus presentations, showings, performances, awards or scholarships related to research. Many of her students have gone on to graduate school and medical school.

Dr. Gladys Alexandre (pictured on the right) is a Professor and Associate Head in the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT). Her research focuses on the molecular events underlying sensing and signaling in bacteria. Alexandre completed two M. S. degrees, one in plant biology (1994) and one in microbial ecology (1995), before getting her Ph.D. in microbial ecology (1998) from the Universite Claude Bernard, Lyon (France). She worked as a postdoctoral research scientist under the advising of Igor B. Zhulin at Loma Linda University, School of Medicine (1998-2000) and then the Georgia Institute of Technology (2000-2001). She obtained her first academic position in the department of Biology at Georgia State University (2001) before moving to UTK in 2005. She was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2007 and to full professor in 2013. Since 2014, she is the PI and director for the NIH-funded program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER) which aims at increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups earning Ph.Ds in Biomedical and Behavioral sciences. Alexandre has published over 35 papers, has participated in several dozen conferences and has been invited as a speaker around the world. Alexandre’s research has been continuously supported from the National Science Foundation (NSF) since 2003, including with a prestigious CAREER award. Her research is currently supported by NSF and the Science Alliance (UTK/ORNL).

At the same event, Louis Varriano was named Undergraduate Researcher of the Year. Since 2013, Louis has conducted research at UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Christian Brothers University, and the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS) in L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. He has numerous presentation credits to his name as well as several authored publications. Louis was recognized for his leadership with the Society of Physics Students, the Undergraduate Research Students’ Association, and as Editor-in-Chief of Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research at UT. Louis received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention for Tennessee in 2016. Louis has also received UT’s highest honor, being named a Torchbearer.

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Louis is currently a senior in physics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has done extensive research on the mirror matter model of dark matter, with a particular focus on the phenomenological aspects of neutron-mirror neutron oscillations. His work developing a formalism to describe these oscillations in a gaseous environment has allowed him and other researchers to begin designing an experiment to search for these theorized oscillations. The experimental detection of each of these phenomena requires new physics which will ultimately affect every other theory in physics, from early cosmology to current high energy particle physics. The proposed neutron regeneration experiment will radically transform our understanding of the universe if evidence for mirror matter is found. Through his research, he has attended and presented at many conferences in the United States and abroad. In addition to his academic and research endeavors, he is also heavily involved in the undergraduate life of his department and of the university more broadly and has spent significant time trying to improve the research experience of undergraduates across the campus.