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Dr. George Siopsis, Director of GSSE

George SiopsisGeorge Siopsis is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Tennessee. He grew up in Greece and attended Sussex University in England where he got his B.Sc. degree majoring in mathematical physics. He did his graduate work at Caltech studying theoretical elementary particle physics, receiving his PhD in 1987. He then spent a few years as a research associate at Texas A&M University working on string theory before moving to Tennessee in 1991.

In recent years, his research has focused on quantum gravity and related issues (holography, entanglement, black holes and the information loss paradox), and applications to condensed matter physics. He has trained several PhD students who have embarked on promising careers, and introduced undergraduates as well as high school students to research in quantum physics and fundamental interactions. Currently, he is working on quantum computing and quantum information processing in collaboration with members of the Quantum Information Science group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Dr. Lila Holt, Course Director (STEM Skills)

Lila HoltDr. Lila Holt is a lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She also teaches as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the College of Education. Her interests include finding ways to better use technologies for learning and for life. Rapid advancements in computers and technology create a need for adaptation for learning and for life skills. Her research covers using technology, including the web and multimedia, for effective communication for instruction and for work place excellence.

Dr. Kristina Gehrman, Course Director (STEM in Society)

Dr. Kristina Gehrman is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She specializes in ethics and environmental philosophy, and she is especially interested in understanding the thoughts processes people use to make decisions. How do we solve moral dilemmas? Make major life decisions? Etc. And – could philosophy possibly help us to make better decisions? She received her PhD from UCLA.



Dr. Ryan Windeknecht, Course Director (STEM in Society)

Dr. Ryan Windeknecht is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and a founding member of the Simulations + Gaming + Role-Playing Community of Scholars at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Using Game-Based Learning, Ryan designs tabletop role-playing games to help teach undergraduate philosophy. His current project, World of Professionals, is a game-based, open-educational resource for teaching and learning professional responsibility. He received his PhD from Keele University in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, Course Director (Biology)

My research interests center on vertebrate taphonomy, ichnology, paleopathology, and paleoecology. In particular, I study bone surface modifications generated under modern and experimental conditions to better understand the processes which left similar traces on bone in the fossil record. My current research projects include:

  1. testing methods for applying these modern analogies in a deep time perspective
  2. interpreting trophic interactions, behavior, and diet from bite marks left by different archosaurian groups, especially members of Crocodyliformes
  3. identifying and differentiating historically understudied traces and pathologies, such as bite marks vs. shell disease and different types of plant mediated damage to bone.

Bhavya Sharma, Course Director (Chemistry)

Bhavya Sharma received her PhD degree in Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. Following a postdoctoral research position, she started her academic career at the University of Tennessee in August 2015. Bhavya’s research involves the use of Raman spectroscopy, a light scattering technique, to examine the underlying physics and chemistry of biological systems. In particular, her group is interested in biomedical applications of Raman spectroscopy. Dr. Sharma’s group also uses nanoscience in their development of biochemical assays for biomarkers of human health.

Dr. Remus Nicoara, Course Director (Mathematics)

Remus NicoaraDr. Remus Nicoara earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from UCLA, and his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Bucharest, Romania. He is currently a Professor of Mathematics and Director of the Math Honors Program at the University of Tennessee. His main research interest lies in von Neumann algebras, which are algebras of operators that model quantum mechanical systems. Outside of work, Remus likes to hike, bike and garden while thinking about math. He enjoys meditation, Sci-Fi books, and Hanayama puzzles. He is also an avid gamer and he currently teaches a class about video games and math, called Math Effect.

Dr. Haidong Zhou, Course Director (Physics)

Haidong ZhouHaidong Zhou is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UTK. Haidong obtained his PH.D. in Physics in December 2005 from University of Texas at Austin. He became a Postdoctoral Associate at National High Magnetic Field Lab/Florida Sate University with Prof. C. R. Wiebe. In August 2008, he obtained a position as assistant scholar/scientist in NHMFL. He became an Assistant Professor in the Physics Department at UTK in August 2012.

Haidong’s research is concerned with the nature of phase transitions in condensed matter systems, especially strongly correlated systems and quantum matters. More specifically, he is involved with the single crystal growth and using the x-ray scattering, low temperature and high magnetic field measurements, and neutron scattering, as complementary probes to study the spin, electron and structure of solids. His research interests are:

  • Single crystal growth
  • Geometrically frustrated magnets (GFM)
  • Multiferroic systems
  • Systems with strong spin/orbital/lattice coupling
  • Systems approaching the itinerant electron limit

Floyd Ostrowski, Course Director (Industrial & Systems Engineering)

Floyd OstrowskiFloyd is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He has a forty year progressive track record in advanced manufacturing concepts beginning as a machinist apprentice and culminating in a Chief Operating Officer position with multi-plant, multi-state, international operations experience, and strong lean manufacturing skills. Floyd has attained results that have radically streamlined and improved supply chain processes, achieving entitled levels of profitability, responsiveness, inventory turns and customer satisfaction. This was accomplished through driving the implementations of JIT (pull replenishment), TQM, and employee empowerment (Kaizen blitz events and cross functional teams).

Floyd received his BA in Business Administration from Antioch University. He received his MS in Industrial Technology, Manufacturing Concentration, from East Carolina University.

Mary Kocak, Course Director (Materials Science & Engineering)

Mary Kocak earned her Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University and her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kentucky. She is currently a full-time professor in the Department of Engineering and Media Technologies at Pellissippi State Community College and an adjunct instructor in the Tickle College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee. Mary started her career in a manufacturing position, progressed to an international consulting firm that specialized in the physical protection of industrial and commercial properties against fire, explosion, earthquake, collapse, and windstorm damage, and transitioned to faculty appointments at the university and community college levels. Courses that she teaches include Materials and Manufacturing Processes, Mechanics, Strength of Materials, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics.

Mary’s research experiences include thermal contact conductance of materials at high temperatures, landfill gas as an alternative fuel for industrial boilers, alternative energy methods for the desalination of salt water, advanced manufacturing and prototyping, and the integration of novel metal alloys in the field of die-casting. In her many collaborations, she has worked with diverse teams of engineers and she looks forward to sharing the relevance of material science to students of all engineering disciplines.

Lynn Klett, Course Director (Materials Science & Engineering)

Lynn Klett is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator in the Engineering and Media Technologies Department at Pellissippi State Community College and an Adjunct Instructor in the Tickle College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee. She grew up in South Carolina and attended Clemson University where she earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MS in Engineering Mechanics.  Her graduate research involved evaluating the long-term effects of physiologic saline on the mechanical properties of carbon fiber reinforced PEEK composite materials for use in joint replacements.

Mrs. Klett began her career at Pratt and Whitney where she focused on design and analysis of advanced propulsion technologies for government aircraft engines. After graduate school, she spent 12 years as a member of the Polymer Matrix Composites Group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. During that time she was involved with a variety of projects involving design, stress analysis, processing and testing of polymer matrix composites and other advanced materials.

Mrs. Klett has been teaching as an adjunct and then a full time faculty member at Pellissippi State for 11 years. Courses that she has taught include Statics, Strength of Materials, Mechanical Systems Design, Additive Manufacturing, Fluid Mechanics, Composite Materials and Structures and Engineering Fundamentals. She is also the faculty advisor for the Pellissippi State Formula SAE team.

Dustin Gilbert, Course Director (Materials Science & Engineering)

Dustin Gilbert is an Assistant Professor in the Materials Science Department and Adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of Tennessee. Gilbert was a Physicist and NRC Fellow at the National Institute for Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research for four years after earning his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Davis in 2014. His research has included a range of nanoscale technologies including quantum materials, data storage and processing, and biomedical devices. Currently, Gilbert’s lab focuses on the novel use of neutrons to investigate chiral spin textures, including magnetic skyrmions, under a DOE Career award, functional high-entropy materials and nano-composite textiles in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.