Tongue Sensor Research Wins Undergraduate Award

Research that models the motions of the human tongue may one day help people correct speech disorders or even learn new languages.  Senior computer science major Luis Torres used sensors on the tongue to construct three dimensional models of the inner workings of the mouth during speech.  The strength of his research and the quality of his recent poster presentation earned him a top place finish in the Office of Research’s third annual Undergraduate Research Poster Competition.

This year’s awards carry a cash prize of $500 each for first place, $300 for second place and $200 for each of the third-place winners.

Torres was among 54 undergraduates selected in November to receive Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards, sponsored by the UT Dallas Office of Research.  Students received $500 each and their faculty mentors $300 each to cover their expenses.  The students spent the next two semesters engaged in research, which they presented in poster sessions.  Nine finalists emerged from rounds of competitions that showcased each student’s research. 

“This research project has been the most influential part of my undergraduate experience,” Torres said.  “If I hadn’t done the research I wouldn’t be able to get into graduate school and pursue a PhD.  The peer-to-peer time with a professor is something you can only get in a laboratory doing research.  It’s about tackling a problem together.”

Judges scored the researchers on the quality of their research objective, their methodology, research findings, the implications of the work and how the research was presented.

“We are extremely pleased with the continued growth of this program and the impressive quality of the research it has produced,” said Dr. Bruce Gnade, the vice president for research at UT Dallas.  “While undergraduate research is only a small part of the overall research enterprise at the university, its impact should not be underestimated.  For a relatively modest investment, we are engaging a significant number of undergraduate students in an essential part of the university’s mission.”

The complete list of winning students, their projects and their mentors were as follows.

  • First place: Luis Torres, “Simulation and Visualization of the Human Tongue with Motion Capture Constraints,” Xiaohu Guo (Engineering).
  • Second place: Thomas Krenik, “Micro air cycle system,” Dr. Bruce Gnade (Engineering).
  • Third place (tie): Pauras Memon, “Synthesis and Characterization of Zeolitic Imidazolate Frameworks for Incorporation into Mixed-Matrix Membranes for Gas Separations,” Dr. Inga Musselman (NS&M).
  • Third place (tie): Alexander Palmer, “Search for Charmed Baryonia in Reaction: e⁺ e⁻ → γ ISR Λ⁺cΛ⁻c,” Dr. Joseph M. Izen (NS&M).

The Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards began in 2007 with 21 undergraduate researchers and faculty mentors.  In 2009, 45 students were awarded grants.  This year, 54 students received grants, with nine selected as finalists.   Since the program’s inception three years ago, UT Dallas has funded 120 projects and devoted nearly $100,000 in research support  to undergraduate students and mentors.

This year marked physics senior Alex Palmer’s second top three finish in the undergraduate research awards competition.  Palmer was recently awarded a Department of Energy fellowship to pursue graduate studies in particle physics.  He is also a recipient of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and is a member of the University’s Eugene McDermott Scholars Program.        

 “As UT Dallas aspires toward Tier One, competitions like these help showcase the quality of our research,” Palmer said.  “It’s neat to be able to share what I’m doing with people from different specialties across campus.”

This year's Undergraduate Research Poster Winners were (from left) Luis Torres, Alex Palmer, Thomas Krenik and Pauras Memon


Judging the Research Contest

This year’s panel of judges included industry leaders along with Dr. Michael Coleman, dean of undergraduate education.  Joining Dr. Coleman were:

Dr. David Thomas, senior vice president for research and development, Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. Dr. Les Priebe, senior principal fellow, Raytheon. Dr. Kamini Dunne, senior engineer II, PepsiCo. Mr. Austin Kozman, principal engineer, PepsiCo.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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