The Senior Excellence in Research Award (SERA) goes to a small group of seniors who have been significantly active in undergraduate research during their time at UWM and who propose a research plan for their senior 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, outreach events and media interviews.

Application due April 1st, 2022

If you are interested in applying please see our application page for more details.

2020-21 SERA Recipients
2019-20 SERA Recipients
2018-19 SERA Recipients
2017-18 SERA Recipients
2016-17 SERA Recipients

2021-2022 recipients:

Meghan Berger is a senior pursuing a BFA in Design and Visual Communication with an Honors Degree. She is a past SURF recipient and has been working as a studio assistant with Dr. Nathaniel Stern since mid-2019. Since she began participating in Undergraduate Research nearly two years ago, Meghan has been involved with several amazing projects, many of which focus on using art to challenge audiences to think deeply and differently about the world around them. In January of 2020, Meghan had the incredible (once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity to help assemble The World After Us — an exhibition featuring artwork that combines the natural world with electronics — in the gallery space at the St. Kate Arts Hotel here in Milwaukee. While Meghan is currently working on a number of unique projects with Dr. Stern and his other studio assistants, she’s very excited for the future and seeing these projects come to life. Being a part of the Undergraduate Research Program and working with Dr. Stern has been the highlight of her college career, and she hopes to share this passion with others who are also interested in research. After she graduates, Meghan hopes to work as a graphic designer and use her art to encourage others to change the world around them. Email:


Sanya Kathuria is a senior pursuing biomedical sciences with an emphasis on medical laboratory sciences. She has been involved in undergraduate research since 2019. She has been working under Dr. Elizabeth Liedhegner for the past 2 years. They have been working on the TEAM Science project focusing on the role of mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) in rotator cuff repair. Initially, Sanya supported this project through intensive literature review learning how stress was related to healing processes including determining which stress questionnaires were most valid and reliable and how mindful based interventions can reduce stress. She further researched the utilization of cortisol as a biochemical marker for stress. She also presented at various symposiums including UW- Milwaukee’s Research Symposium, UW System Research Symposium, College of Health and Sciences Symposium and UW-Whitewater’s Symposium. For her senior project she will be performing cortisol analysis on human salivary samples and linking these to the data acquired from questionnaires which assess mental well-being. Outside research, Sanya will be starting her clinical rotations at Columbia St. Marys, volunteering at various Aurora St. Lukes in their HELP program, and working as a laboratory assistant at Norris Health Center. She plans to pursue her master’s in clinical embryology and work in the clinical setting as an embryologist. Email:


Nathan Tennies is a senior at UW-Milwaukee who will be graduating in spring 2022 with a Mathematics BS and Biological Sciences minor. Since 2019 he has worked in the Alberto Lab in Biological Sciences where he developed a species distribution model for Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) and is developing a webapp for exploratory data analysis of Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) population change off the Southern-Central California coast. He was fortunate to present about his species distribution model at the 12th Undergraduate Conference for Synthesis of Biology and Mathematics during fall 2020. Nathan’s interest in aquatic plants and ecology stems to his experience surveying fish habitat in the Milwaukee Estuary when worked in the Janssen Lab at the School of Freshwater Sciences prior to his current position. He is very grateful and happy for being involved in these experiences through the SURF program. After graduation Nathan is planning to continue to graduate school. He is considering a masters in math and intends to pursue a PhD related to aquatic ecology. Outside of research, Nathan was involved in the RE-volv Solar Ambassadors Fellowship where he helped nonprofits go solar through crowdfunding. Because of this experience, he would like to continue being a sustainability advocate in addition to his other plans. During college Nathan also took Arabic classes and studied abroad in the United Arab Emirates. If possible he would like to do environmental work in the Middle East in the future. Email:


Jessie Van Dyck is studying design in the form of architecture at UWM-SARUP. She is pursuing a BSAS (Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies), a certificate in urban planning, and an Honors degree with distinction. Jessie is passionate about design, art, and music. Her studies in architecture and urban planning have led her to become involved at the Office of Undergraduate Research as a SURF Grant Recipient. Her research with Assistant Professor Trudy Watt looks towards a future where design is accessible for everyone and is deeply rooted in compassion. Jessie believes everyone should be able to access and enjoy beautiful things—beautiful buildings, streets, artwork, communities, etc.. To bring this to life, Jessie hopes to bring awareness and urge other designers and architects to consider learning more about design that prioritizes humanity, culture, and the well-being of others. As a part of the Phase III Research Team, supported by the Office of Undergraduate Research, Jessie and her fellow research peers have worked on several projects which target improving health and social inclusion through design research, prototyping, and community engagement. This year, Jessie hopes to write and submit a manuscript to a peer-reviewed scholarly journal and continue working with the Phase III Research Team on an exhibit to be installed in the SARUP gallery. Email:


Mary Widener is a senior majoring in Digital Studio Practice with a focus in Print and Narrative Forms. Previously a 2017 UR@UWM participant, she first worked with DocUWM, however, starting in her freshman year she began assisting Dr. Nathaniel Stern, with whom she has worked for since. Researching in several different projects with him, the main one she has assisted with is called The World After Us, which seeks to replicate what may happen to our technology days to millennia after it is discarded, as well as find creative ways to reuse these materials now. This involves things like grinding phones into ink for prints and inserting plants into computers. The work is planned to be a traveling exhibition, and the first show opened in early 2020 in the Museum of Wisconsin Art’s Downtown location at the Saint Kate Arts Hotel. Along with being a SURF participant, in 2019, she took part in the National Conference on Undergraduate Research or NCUR as a presenter, as well as contributing in UWM’s yearly Research Symposiums from 2018 to the present. Her experiences in the Undergraduate Research Program have shaped the trajectory of her college career and beyond. Outside of research, she is a printmaker and illustrator, with her main interest being comics, and is currently working on her first full-length graphic novel. Email:


Tien Wong is a senior-year computer science student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and one of three undergraduate researchers for AI in Materials Science, a project supervised by Dr. Pradeep Rohatgi. Prior to being admitted to SERA, Tien has worked on this project as a SURF student during spring and summer of 2021. Machine learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence that has multiple applications in materials science, such as property prediction, defect detection, and process optimization. The AI in Materials Science team’s current project focuses on property prediction. The aim of this project is to develop machine learning models to predict the tribological properties of aluminum-graphene metal matrix composites. The accuracy of these models will be evaluated and compared, and machine learning analysis will be performed on them. The models will be recommended for particular datasets or analyses based on those results. Working as a SURF student for AI in Materials Science taught Tien that machine learning isn’t just a tool to mine personal data for profit; it’s also a catalyst for scientific advances. Being well-connected to the computer science community at UWM, Tien knows many undergraduates who have trouble finding internships, either because they’re inexperienced or lack the social skills their interviewers want to see. As a SERA student, Tien hopes to introduce such students to undergraduate research. Not only will this build on their technical skillset, but it will improve their social skills and network in a way most internships would not. Email: