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Graduate School holds annual Susan A. Siltanen Graduate Student Research Symposium

Thu, 04/22/2021 - 10:50am | By: David Tisdale

Graduate students at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) shared their research with a broader audience and earned recognition for their work during the annual Susan A. Siltanen Graduate Student Research Symposium, held recently online through the ForagerOne Symposium Platform.

The symposium provides graduate students with an opportunity to present their research to faculty, staff and students in a competitive environment through oral and poster presentations. Students submitted pre-recorded videos of oral or poster presentations, then participated in a live, but virtual, question and answer session. In addition, the Graduate Faculty Mentor of the Year and Graduate Assistants of the Year are announced at this event.

Winners in the symposium’s various categories of competition include the following:

Oral Presentations

Arts and Humanities

1st place: Travis Ascione of New Castle, Pennsylvania

2nd place: Fernanda DeOliveira Veiverberg of Ponta Pora, Brazil

3rd place (tie): Jack Hoda of Petal, Mississippi and Sarah King of Ridgeland, Mississippi


Life, Health, and Environmental Sciences

1st place: Annmarie Fearing of Gainesville, Florida

2nd place: Loren Stearman of Stillwater, Oklahoma

3rd place: Neil Redmond of South Kingston, Rhode Island


Physical Sciences and Mathematics

1st place: Luke Galuska of Houston, Texas

2nd place: Song Zhang of Anhui, China

3rd place: Rahul Shankar of Mumbai, India


Social and Educational Sciences and Business

1st place: Kendal Smith of Ellisville, Mississippi

2nd place (tie): Nicholas Maxwell of Olive Branch, Mississippi and Madison Estrada of Iola, Kansas


Poster Presentations

Social and Educational Sciences and Business/Arts and Humanities

1st place (tie): Fayth Walbridge of Burns, Wyoming and Karlie Herndon of Sutherlin, Virginia

2nd place: Nazanin Amerian of Tehran, Iran


Physical Sciences and Mathematics

1st place: Catherine Sarantes of Los Angeles, California

2nd place: Devin Jen of Palatine, Illinois

3rd place (tie): Evan Grimes of Grimes, Iowa and Brad Davis of Carrollton, Texas


Graduate Assistants of the Year include those in the following categories:

Teaching Assistant – Rachael Fowler of Mobile, Alabama
Research Assistant – Lacey Wallace of Jayess, Mississippi

Dr. Frank Heitmuller, an associate professor of geology and geography in the School of Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences, was named Graduate of the Year.


USM Graduate School Dean Dr. Karen Coats expressed gratitude to Graduate School staff members Shelby Flores, Tracy Barnhill and Jessica Hurt for their assistance in organizing the symposium.

“Late last year, clearly influenced by the impact of COVID-19, Forbes magazine included resiliency, flexibility and thriving in a virtual environment among the top 10 most important job skills companies are looking for in 2021,” Dr. Coats said. “Those attributes were on display by our graduate students during the Susan A. Siltanen Graduate Research Symposium. As professional societies across the globe have done, this long-standing annual event showcasing students’ research and creative activity had to pivot to a virtual format.

“I had the pleasure of judging one category of competition, but I also viewed the presentations of several other students, and was so pleased with the quality of their videos, their ability to explain their research, and their depth of knowledge displayed in the question and answer session with judges. I also was impressed by the innovation and impact of their projects. While all the videos I viewed were really well done, the winners were just exceptional.” 

For information about the USM Graduate School and annual Susan A. Siltanen Symposium, visit