Lamar University announces its 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows

After several months of extensive groundwork, the 16 winners of the 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship presented their research at Lamar University’s first SURF Symposium.

SURF, one of the two programs sponsored by Lamar University’s Office of Undergraduate Research, hit multiple milestones in its 2021 edition; they’ve tied with last year for the highest number of sponsored students, and all five of Lamar University’s academic colleges are represented in research projects for the first time since the program’s inception.

“The scores for this cohort were the highest ever,” said Dr. Cristian Bahrim, acting director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “If we scale 100, the lowest score was 74, the highest was 91. Every single one did wonderfully in the SURF symposium.”

Each proposal is scored by four reviewers, two of which are considered experts in their field. They are graded through a rubric over the efficacy of their abstract, thesis, organization, budget, and other details that are critical to the legitimacy of their research. This year, 11 students were selected for STEM research and five were selected for Humanities, Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences Education, and Business.

“The benefit of being in these programs is the opportunity to build a stronger, more robust resume and come [to graduate schools and employers] with evidence of success,” Bahrim said. “To make a program successful, meaningful and have stature, you have to make it competitive,”

Far preceding the success of the symposium was the selection process, where research hopefuls submitted their concepts in February for literary review. In mid-March, researchers were officially selected from the pool of applicants, and June kicked off the 10-week summer research experience. Being selected for SURF means a $2,000 stipend, up to $1,000 in research support, and free housing in the Cardinal Village for the duration of the program.

“I call it a journey of discovery,” Bahrim said. “They discover themselves first, then how to run a research project; If you don’t have prior experience it’s a rather difficult process to start.”

The journey isn’t finished just yet for the summer research fellows. Coming up is the 9th Texas STEM Conference and the 8th HASBSEB Conference —set to take place on Oct. 30 and Nov. 20 –– for these researchers to conduct their presentations and explore opportunities to learn and engage with the LU community. Keynote speakers Dr. Nick Lanning from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Dr. Juan Nicolau of Virginia Tech will be guest speakers at the events.

Following the conferences will be the OUR Awards Ceremony on Dec. 1, where those who were recognized for exceptional presentations in the aforementioned conferences will receive their awards.

 “The student is never alone, they have me, the OUR, and they have their mentors,” Bahrim said. “We are very grateful to Provost Nichols, who has graciously supported us no matter the financial situation, and to all academic Deans and Chairs for their constant support and encouragement.”

2021 SURF awardees and their mentors


Name: Kalen Baker
Major: Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics
Mentors: Dr. Ping He
Title: Theoretical Research on Sintering of Metals based on Results of Molecular Simulations

Name: Alexander Bahrim
Major: Electrical Engineering
Mentors: Dr. Gleb Tscheslavski & Dr. Cristian Bahrim
Title: Development and assessment of hardware model for studying the mechanism of Regenerative Braking System (RBS)

Name: Cymone Houston
Major: Civil Engineering
Mentors: Dr. Thinesh Selvaratnam
Title: Biological Treatment of Produced Water

Name: Melissa Tan
Major: Civil Engineering
Mentors: Dr. Thinesh Selvaratnam
Title: Studying the Extracellular Polymeric Substances of Galdieria sulphuraria As Flocculation Aid for Improving Algal Harvesting Efficiency

Name: Gabriel West
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Mentors: Dr. Sushil Doranga & Dr. Jenny Zhou
Title: Vibration Response Prediction of Printed Circuit Boards used in the Transportation Industry

Name: Damaris Thrash
Major: Health and Kinesiology
Mentors: Dr. Shannon Jordan
Title: Effects of Motivational Music on Post-Exercise Recovery

Name: Cesar Julian Delgado
Major: English and Modern Languages
Mentors: Prof. Andre Favors & Prof. O’Brien Stanley
Title: Cultural Identity and Digital Citizenship: How Do Social Media Consumers and
Creators Reconcile their Identities in the Digital World

Name: Madison Fondren & Kinlee Buesing
Major: Speech and Hearing Sciences
Mentors: Dr. Jaime Azios
Title: “Where are my friends?” A Narrative Inquiry of Friendship Maintenance and Dissolution in the Early Period Post-stroke and Aphasia

Name: Chloe Smith
Major: Speech and Hearing Sciences
Mentors: Dr. Monica Harn
Title: A Cross-sectional Study of the Portrayal of Childhood Speech Sound Disorder Interventions in YouTube Videos

Name: Viviana Denova
Major: Management
Mentors: Dr. Gevorg Sargsyan
Title: The Financial Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses in Dining and Hospitality Industries in Southeast Texas