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Teaching Assistants

Brandon Meadows, STEM Skills

Brandon Meadows is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee studying Aerospace Engineering. While at UTK, he has been active in the Student Space Technology Association and the universities American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics chapter. He has an on campus job with the Innovation and Collaboration Studio where he works with fellow students to assist them with classroom and personal projects. He also supports Dr. Elizabeth Dyer with research and attended the 2022 UTK EURēCA showcase. He is excited to be a teaching assistant and to meet everyone this summer!

Isabelle Dancer, Chemistry

Isabelle Dancer graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in May 2022. While earning her B.S. in Chemistry, she was an undergraduate research assistant in the Sharma Lab Group in the UTK Chemistry Department. In the fall, Isabelle will be starting her PhD in Organic Chemistry at the University of Oklahoma.

Pouya Afshin, STEM Skills

I am joining the GSSE as a TA for the first time. I graduated with a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Rostock in Germany in 2020. I also completed my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering focused on Electronics in Iran. Since August 2020, I have been a Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. My research interests lie in Information Theory, Error Control Coding, Wireless Communications, and Machine Learning. I have been both GRA and GTA at the University of Tennessee.

Besides studying, I am interested in sports, music, and traveling. I have been involved in Intramural tournaments such as soccer and volleyball at the University of Tennessee. I work out regularly at TRECS and swim in the pool. In my free time, I also play the Keyboard.

Alex Tesar, STEM in Society

Alex is a Tennessee native who earned a bachelor’s degrees in Applied Physics before serving in the United States Army as a commissioned officer forward stationed in Europe with combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Following his military service, he returned to university earning a second bachelor’s, this time in Philosophy, and is currently a graduate student pursuing a PhD in the Philosophy Department at the University of Tennessee.

Chengkun Xing, Physics

Chengkun Xing is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Physics Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). He has been a graduate teaching assistant for two years and now is a graduate research assistant at UTK. He works in Dr. Haidong and Dr. Jian’s lab at IAMM. His research interests involve crystal growth, epitaxial film growth and manufacturing new heterostructure systems. He also interests in material characterization like x-ray scattering, low temperature and high magnetic field measurements. He enjoys cooking and reading in his free time. This is his first time becoming a TA of the GSSE and he is excited to meet everyone!

Rooh Haghshenas, STEM in Society

Rooh Haghshenas is a PhD student and a GTA of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee. After finishing his bachelor’s in Architecture and before coming to UT, he did a master’s in Philosophy of Religion and another master’s in Philosophy. The question he has been working on for the last few years is what kind of valuing creatures human beings are and what it implies for our expectations of ourselves and others. For this philosophical questioning, he gets inputs from a variety of fields from psychology to history and is hopeful to have some outputs for some social and economic problems.

Matthew Cothrine, MSE

Matthew Cothrine is a fourth-year PhD student in the Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). He received his master’s degree in MSE from the University of Central Florida in December 2017. At this university, he has been a graduate teaching assistant for the undergraduate-level Principals of Materials laboratory courses, the introductory Materials Chemistry course, and the MSE Governor’s school in 2019 and 2020. He works in Dr. Mandrus’ research group focusing on novel material synthesis, specifically investigating growth and discovery of spin liquid candidates and Kitaev materials. He also works with neutron diffraction techniques for material characterization. In his free time, he enjoys reading, playing video games, and playing with his ferrets.

Troy Polidori, STEM in Society

My name’s Troy and I am a PhD student in philosophy at UTK. I work mainly in ethics and social and political philosophy. I’m from southern California originally, and love basketball, music, and have a newfound passion for hiking and being outdoors since I’ve moved to East Tennessee.

Fatima Bowers, STEM Skills

Fatima Bowers is a rising junior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she majors in computer science and was a teaching assistant last semester. Her interests include art, technology, and psychology. This will be her first time at GSSE, and she is excited to meet each of you!

Hattie Williamson, ISE

I’m Hattie Williamson, I’m a Junior at the University of Tennessee studying Industrial Engineering. I was born and raised in Memphis, TN. I work a campus job during the school year in the Chemistry storage room assisting the lab tech and help running the labs. Other than school, I love designing and creating t-shirts, music, and plants. I’m the t-shirt chair of my Greek organization and I started and ran my own t-shirt line in 2020. This is my first time being a teaching assistant and I’m really eager to meet everyone.

Shuler HopkinsMathematics

Dr. Shuler Hopkins received his PhD in mathematics from the University of Tennessee, and his bachelor’s degree from King University in Bristol, Tennessee (not far from where he grew up in Blountville). He will be starting a new position as a visiting assistant professor at Sewanee: The University of the South this fall. Shuler enjoys teaching, so far a variety of calculus courses, and his research has focused on the study of Hadamard matrices. Away from school, Shuler enjoys soccer, hiking, and running.


Colby SainBiology

Colby Sain is a senior in the department of Earth & Planetary Sciences. Her research experience ranges from invertebrate paleontology to planetary geomorphology. During her last four years at UTK,  Colby was an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) student at the American Museum of Natural History and attended Field Camp through the University of Arizona. She has been awarded several scholarships, research grants, and has presented her findings at Geological Society of America conferences. After grafuation, Colby will continue her collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City by conducting field research out west prior to accepting a five month position in the invertebrate zoology lab.