As part of the Chancellor’s Honors Awards program, undergraduates Audrey Jean “AJ” Culpepper and Alec Yen both received the University’s top recognition for an undergraduate researcher. Both were named the Undergraduate Researcher of the Year.
AJ Culpepper is a senior Russian Studies major minoring in Mathematics. She conducts interdisciplinary research, seeking to find meaningful connections between the fields of visual art, language, mathematics, and literature. Most recently, she was awarded the Fulbright Research Fellowship for Russia. Under the direction of Dr. Stephen Blackwell in Modern Foreign Languages and Literature, her senior thesis explores the philosophical and literary conversation that exists between Russian novelist, Andrei Bely, and Russian theologian and scientist, Pavel Florensky. Her research links their artistry and the conception of literary inspiration to the abstraction found in the language of mathematics. She was slated to present the early findings of her thesis work at the 2020 National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR) under the title, “The Language of Mathematics in Bely”, before it was canceled due to COVID-19. AJ has presented her research at numerous other conferences both at UT Knoxville and nationally including the Central Slavic Conference (St. Louis, MO, 2020), the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) (San Diego, CA, 2020), the Fall Research Showcase (UT Knoxville, 2019), the Undergraduate Research Symposium (UT Knoxville, 2019), the Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (EURēCA) (UT Knoxville, 2019), and the Undergraduate Research Symposium (UT Knoxville, 2019). Her visual work was exhibited at Gallery 1010 (Downtown Knoxville, 2019).
Alec Yen is a senior in Electrical Engineering and was recently awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. Under the direction of Dr. Benjamin Blalock in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Lab, Yen’s current research investigates low-power analog filter banks toward monolithic integrated spectrum analyzer technology. This research is critical to achieving low-power consumption for remote sensor networks that can extend the length of deployable service. Since 2017, Yen has held research positions at CURENT Engineering Research Center (UT Knoxville, 2017), Oak Ridge National Lab (Oak Ridge, TN, 2018), TENNLab Research Center (UT Knoxville, 2019), Garmin International (Olathe, KS, 2019), and Integrated Circuits and Systems Laboratory (ICASL) (UT Knoxville, 2020). He was recently accepted to work as a research intern at MIT Lincoln Laboratory (Lexington, MA) in the summer of 2020. Yen plans to pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering.