URF Ambassadors

Aleksander Nelson envelope icon

Major: Journalism

Minors: Computer Science, Music

Aleksander comes to USU from American Fork, Utah. His research trajectory began with work on the Digital Folklore Project in the English Department, tracking and documenting trends, memes, and hashtags on social media. His current research looks at the effects of social media on those with disabilities and their families.

Aleksander plans to attend graduate school before working for a non-profit organization. When he isn’t researching, Aleksander enjoys dogs, books, running, music, national parks, and Netflix.

Emily Rice envelope icon

Majors: Economics and Marketing

Minors: Horticulture and Political Science

Emily came to Utah State from West Bountiful, UT. Emily is studying a wide variety of things, and her research encompasses many of her interests. She works with the College of Agriculture to study farmers, their practices, and how it relates to economics. She also has research interests in Political Economics, Government Policy and Law, and Horticulture.

Emily loves to be outdoors and she enjoys fishing, hiking, and gardening.

Fiona Van Leeuwen envelope icon

Major: Chemistry

Minor: Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering

From Sandy, Utah, Fiona’s academic focus is on aerospace engineering. Her research focuses on Scheimpflug lenses, evaluating the effectiveness of this type of lens to analyze the depth of field and accuracy. She has also done a project on the evolution of women in the Star Trek series.

Fiona plans on going to graduate school for chemistry and is interested in learning more abut astrochemsitry. When she isn’t researching, Fiona enjoys reading and playing her flute and saxophone.

Anneka Walton

Major: Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science

Anneka is from Richland, WA. She loves spending time with friends and family, making food, exploring nature, reading, and enjoying all that USU has to offer. Anneka loves studying just about anything having to do with medicine and healthcare, but is especially excited by public health, genetics, and nutrition. She is also very interested in research on patient provider interactions, healthcare disparities, and what can be done to improve both.

Anneka hopes to attend graduate school and work in the medical field to improve the lives of those in underprivileged communities.

Rachel Sagers envelope icon

Majors: Biology, Public Health

Minors: Chemistry, Sociology

Rachel works on research on air quality and particulate air pollution in Cache Valley. Currently she is working on a project looking at different aspects of wellbeing for Utah residents, focusing on how the environment affects their wellbeing. She is very interested in the intersection of the natural world and human health. She plans on furthering her interests through obtaining a masters degree in environmental public health after graduation.

When she isn’t researching, Rachel enjoys showering her two cats with love, reading, playing video games, and starting craft projects.

Haylee Downey

Major: Psychology

Minor: Statistics

Haylee is from Denver, Colorado. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, camping in the middle of no where, and a good cup of coffee. Broadly, she seeks to understand why people behave in ways that are not beneficial in the long run. She is currently examining impulsive decision making in the context of delay discounting. The delay discounting framework can be applied to behavioral problems such as drug addiction, obesity, smoking, and pollution.

After she graduates, Haylee plans to attend a PhD program in behavioral economics or experimental psychology, with hopes to eventually become a research professor.

Isaiah Olsen envelope icon

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Minor: Mathematics

Isaiah is from Pocatello, Idaho and comes to USU for the Aerospace Engineering program. Currently, he is researching the viability of Genetic Algorithms (GA) with Newtonian solvers in convex problems. This research mainly focuses on optimizing a given function, approaching the correct value via various methods, and creating a systematic approach to solve similar problems. 

Isaiah hopes to attend Graduate School in Aerospace Engineering with a more math-heavy focus followed by a career in the Aerospace Industry. He also enjoys backpacking, camping, skiing, kayaking and weightlifting, and is a part of various groups here at USU.


Maria Catalano envelope icon

Major: Conservation and Restoration Ecology

Minors: Spanish and Sociology

Maria is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and comes to USU for the Ecology program. She has worked in multiple campus research labs on projects involving dendrochronology, riparian research, arctic biomass, and biodiversity in Utah. She has conducted her own research using stable carbon isotopes in tree rings to study water and carbon fluxes and is currently researching the history of women’s involvement in the natural resources college.

Maria has also been involved in many volunteer and leadership positions at USU and the Cache county area.