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Teaching Assistants

Drake Robins, Chemistry

Drake Robins earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in the Spring of 2023. During his time at the university, Drake was a member of the Sharma Lab group, in which he conducted research in Raman spectroscopy. Drake also commissioned into the United States Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant. After the summer, Drake will be attending Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus AFB, Mississippi.



Alexander Brassignton, Physics

Alexander 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 research assistant at UTK. He works in Dr. Haidong’s lab at IAMM. His research interests involve crystal growth and characterization of magnetic materials. Characterization techniques used include x-ray scattering, low temperature and high magnetic field measurements, heat capacity measurements, and neutron diffraction in collaboration with ORNL. This is his first time becoming a TA of the GSSE and he is excited to meet everyone!

Lorna Treffert, Industrial & Systems Engineering

Lorna is a 1st year Ph.D. student in the Theory and Practice in Teacher Education Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She holds both a BS and MS in Industrial and Systems Engineering. Her research interests include facilitating diversity and inclusion within engineering education and applications of operations research in an education context. She also a huge D&D nerd and lover of scary movies.




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.





Maggie Limbeck, Biology

Maggie has just finished her Ph.D. in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is a paleontologist and geochemist and is interested in how organisms make their skeletons and what these skeletons can tell us about past ocean conditions. Maggie has been a graduate teaching assistant for 6 years and has been a TA for GSSE Biology for 4 years. Outside of teaching and research, Maggie enjoys knitting, camping, and relaxing with her cats!

Mike Hanson, Mathematics 

Mike Hanson is a recent math PhD graduate from the University of Tennessee. His research lies in Number Theory, specifically in special functions called modular forms. He will begin a research postdoctoral position at the University of North Texas in August.






Matthew Valderrama, Materials Science & Engineering

Matthew is an undergraduate student in the Materials Science and Engineering Department (MSE) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In his four years at UT, he has worked on research projects such as metal 3D printing, creating biodegradable fishing lures, and musical instrument restoration. He currently works on electrospinning of lignin underneath Dr. David Harper of the Center for Renewable Carbon. Matthew has always been passionate about sharing the impact of STEM with others and attributes this to when he was a GSSE student in 2018.

Clair Dartez, STEM in Society 

Claire just completed her PhD in philosophy and the University of Tennesse in Knoxville in May 2023. She is interested in how we come to understand ourselves, each other, and the world we share, using the specific slate of mental capacities we have. Her research focuses on the ways emotions and other feelings contribute to understanding. Besides philosophy, she enjoys good food, listening to metal, single-player RPGs, and spending quality time with friends.




Chris Webb, Materials Science and Engineering 

Chris Webb is a recent bachelor’s recipient from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). While earning his B.S. in MSE, he was an undergraduate research assistant at the Center for Renewable Carbon. His undergraduate research includes natural fiber composites for automotive applications, processing biomass waste products, and compounding biomass via twin screw extrusion. In the fall, Chris will be starting his PhD in Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Southern Mississippi.