Students in the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources win top research awards


Olivia Crisp, CASNR graduate

Olivia Crisp, a graduating senior from the Department of Animal Science in the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, took home two of the top awards at a recent undergraduate research competition for UT. Photo courtesy UTIA. Download image.



KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Olivia Crisp wants the milk you buy at the grocery store to taste better. It’s just one of the goals of her research project that seeks to decrease the recurrence of mastitis in dairy cattle. Mastitis inflames the mammary glad due to infection, caused by bacteria. In this case, Crisp investigated the link between staph bacteria and mastitis.


“Mastitis infections can decrease the shelf life of milk, decrease taste and increase cow mortality,” said Crisp. “By getting rid of these infections, we can select for better cows and increase herd efficiency. We want to tell people what mastitis is and work to fix this $2 billion a year problem,” she added.

Crisp, from Seymour, Tennessee, is a graduating senior in Animal Science at the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA). She took home the two top awards at the recent EURēCA competition at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her research presentation won both the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society’s Best of Show Award and the top prize in Natural Sciences (gold medal) for CASNR.

Stephanie Kerrigan is seeking an economic alternative for farmers to survey their fields by using aerial drones. Many large commercial farms use drones to survey their fields. These surveys can run upwards of $8,000, according to Kerrigan, which makes it economically unviable for smaller farms. She wants to be able to cut that number to $3,000.

“We’re trying to create an economic alternative to some of the big companies that are bringing their technology over here,” said Kerrigan. “It’s much cheaper to use a drone than hire a traditional plane.” Pending favorable FAA regulations later this year, Kerrigan sees potential to help smaller farms with this new mapping technology.

Kerrigan is from Hendersonville, Tennessee, and is a graduating senior in Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science. Her team project won the William Franklin Harris III Undergraduate Research Award as well as the gold medal in the College of Engineering Category. In addition to Kerrigan, the team consisted of Tyler Stanley, Grant Davis and Sean Knox.

Both Crisp and Kerrigan credit EURēCA with providing valuable experience in presenting research to both peers and faculty. “It teaches you how to think and about the why. EURēCA emphasizes critical-thinking skills while learning how to process and work through information, said Crisp.

EURēCA stands for Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement. It is an annual event that showcases creative activities by undergraduates in collaboration with a faculty mentor. Entries can be either individual or group and a panel of UT faculty members judges the projects. The project is coordinated by the UT Office of Research and Engagement and helps to develop faculty-mentoring relationships with undergraduates. This year more than 35 CASNR students participated in the showcase.

Other winners from CASNR include: 

  • Dixie Daniels, silver award for her research into the walnut twig beetle and its connection to Thousand Cankers Disease.
  • The team of Chistian Wiberley, Coleman Bradley and Hunter Hill (Biosystems Engineering) for their project on a plot switchgrass harvester.
  • Lindsey Rogerson for her project, “Extraction of Phenolics from Oak."
  • Alexander Houck for his project, “Understanding the Role of PSAP in Apoptosis and Gamma-Secretase Clevage.”
  • Devarshi Ardeshna and Samantha Brown (Animal Science), for their project, “Heat Shocked Enhanced Conjugation in Campylobacter.”

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

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Contact: Dr. Kimberly Gwinn, UT Institute of Agriculture, 865-974-7135, kgwinn@utk.edu