The Senior Excellence in Research Award (SERA) goes to four or five seniors who have been significantly active in undergraduate research during their time at UWM and who propose a research plan for their senior year.  Applications are due March 15, 2017 for the following academic year.  The SERA award recipients meet monthly to discuss their research progress and will share their outcomes with an oral presentation at a colloquium in the spring.  They also serve as ambassadors for undergraduate research in various ways including class visits and media interviews.

How to Apply for 2018-19

2017-18 Recipients

Emily Gerstein is a senior Material Science and Engineering student working with Dr. Hugo Lopez on the development of mathematical models capable of predicting rapid solidification phenomena in Co-Cr alloys for biomedical implants. These models will aid in elucidating the effects of cooling on the resulting microstructure and segregation of alloying elements in the hopes of decreasing the effects of wear and corrosion while in the human body. In advancing her knowledge of metallurgy, Emily also presently interns with MetalTek International, and hopes to pursue higher education in Metallurgical Engineering. Email:


Jessye Hale started at UWM in 2013 while concurrently attending high school through the Youth Options program. In the summer of 2015, she began research in a Neurobiology lab on campus with mentors Dr. Moyer and Erin Adams with support from the UR@UWM program. Soon after, she received her first SURF award to continue her work in the fall, studying the neuroprotective effects of apoaeqorin in the case of ischemic stroke. After declaring a biology degree with an emphasis on cell and molecular biology, Jessye began working with Dr. Steeber and his research team in his immunology-focused lab. The Steeber lab was testing novel compounds that fall into a class of up and coming cancer treatment drugs called HDAC inhibitors. The Office of Undergraduate Research provided SURF funding for this project beginning in the summer of 2016. Currently, Jessye is still working in the Steeber lab, focusing on the study of myeloid derived suppressor cells in 4T1 breast cancer tumors. Jessye has also been working for over two years with the Animal Care Program which handles all research having to do with vertebrates. This includes the review of scientific protocols necessary for research and development. She works as a climbing instructor at Adventure Rock and has completed her curriculum through the Honors College with distinction in research. She is also president of Climbing Club at UWM and is involved in many student orgs on campus such as Conservation Club and Strategic Gaming Club.  Email:

Nisrit Pandey is a senior in Materials Science and Engineering working with Dr. Benjamin Church on the evaluation of coking resistance of centrifugal cast alumina forming stainless steels. He has worked in Dr. Church’s lab since 2014, conducting various projects on lithium and lead acid batteries. This led to a summer-long research internship at Technische Universität- Ilmenau in Germany as well as an a summer internship at Johnson Controls. After graduation, Nisrit hopes to pursue a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering focusing on energy materials and energy-efficient manufacturing processes. Email:

Brandon Patterson is a senior majoring in Biochemistry and currently works for the Drug Discovery Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee under Dr. Nicholas Silvaggi. Their work focuses on elucidating the structural and mechanistic properties of enzymes and their active sites. One of his projects is focused on characterizing and mutating an enzyme involved in a biosynthetic pathway that produces a major component of an antibiotic that demonstrates anti-MRSA activity. He has worked in Dr. Silvaggi’s laboratory since the winter of 2016 and plans to continue his work there until graduation. He began his research experience in the Chemistry Department at UWM in Dr. Arsenio Pacheco’s inorganic chemistry laboratory in the summer of 2015. While there he studied and mutated a c-heme protein involved in nitrogen fixing bacteria. In the future he plans to pursue his PhD in Biophysical Chemistry. Email:

Kirill Shmilovich is a senior Physics and Mathematics double major working in Dr. Ionel Popa’s Laboratory for Advanced Biopolymers and Nanomechanics of Proteins in the Department of Physics. His work focuses on reconciling the molecular character of protein hydrogels with their mechanical properties through experiments and computer simulations. Kirill is the recipient of UWM’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Biology and Mathematics and has interned at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Dr. Alexander Katz’s Laboratory for Theoretical Soft Materials. Kirill has presented his work at seven conferences around the nation and maintains a personal science blog ( where he communicates his passion for science through educational content. As a professional, Kirill aspires to use computational and mathematical tools to model and simulate biological and physical systems—providing a telescope to investigate elusive nanoscale phenomena. Email:


2016-17 Recipients

Anne Barlas is a senior in the Mechanical Engineering department. Her research focuses on chemically engineering porous material to combat phosphorus pollution in the Great Lakes. Anne works under Dr. Marcia Silva through the UWM Water Technology Accelerator, located in the Global Water Center. She has presented her research at the UWM College of Engineering poster competition where she won third place, the UWM Undergraduate Research Symposium, and the Naval Academy Science and Engineering Conference. To bring clean energy to Milwaukee, she completed a fellowship with a non-profit called RE-volv, fundraising for the Riverwest Co-op to go solar. Anne has interned with Rexnord and We Energies as a Mechanical Engineer, and is looking forward to pursuing a career within the energy and water sectors.

Marijam Frahmand is a senior Cell and Molecular Biology student working in Dr. Ira Driscoll’s Cognitive Neuroscience lab since 2013. The work has expanded her knowledge of the brain changes that may be early predictors of cognitive deficits and dementia as well as the roles of hormones and genetic background as modulators of age-related cognitive decline. As a Biology major, Dr. Driscoll’s lab provides an opportunity to experience research from biological as well as cognitive and psychological standpoints which have helped provide a well-rounded experience and interdisciplinary education. Marijam has also attended local and international conferences where she has presented this work.

Lianna Hawi is a senior Mechanical Engineering student working with Dr. Brooke Slavens on evaluating a new, multispeed wheelchair wheel.  They look at stroke cycle characteristics, muscle activity, energy expenditure, and upper extremity kinematics for a comprehensive evaluation. This study has the potential to help millions of wheelchair users.  The lab also studies rotator cuff issues, amputees, and other assistive device users.

Christopher Spiewak is a senior mechanical engineering student. He works in the Biorobotics Lab run by Dr. Mohammad Habibur Rahman. He is developing a robotic assistive device for hand rehabilitation using an EMG interface to help those who have lost the control of their hand (through paralysis or spasticity) to recover that control. While conducting this research project he has gotten to present at many conferences (some international), which gave him the opportunity to not only showcase his work, but to network with established professionals in the field. He hopes to pursue a PhD in Robotics, and to continue in research.