The Melton Scholars program pairs accomplished undergraduate students with business analytics and statistics faculty members to actively pursue academic research. Recipients receive funding and course credit for two semesters during their senior year while they conduct an original research project. By the time they graduate, they will have submitted a paper to an academic journal, presented at a research conference, and/or converted the research into cutting-edge instruction.
Scholars apply for the program in the spring, and they are chosen based on:
- how well they have done in business analytics classes,
- how well their projects mesh with faculty members’ current research interests, and
- their future plans after graduation.
Qualified applicants are interviewed by the program’s faculty lead and their potential faculty advisor to gauge ultimate suitability. Scholars are notified by the end of the spring semester of the award so that any necessary preparations can take place over the summer.
The Melton Scholars program is made possible because of a generous contribution by George Melton. Melton is a Tennessee native, born in Maryville, and a graduate from Red Bank High School in Chattanooga. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in statistics from UT in 1968. George met his wife Margaret (Peggy) at UT in 1967, and they are celebrating nearly 50 years together.
After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corp, including spending one year in Vietnam, George enjoyed a successful 43-year career in the aerospace and defense industry, which included executive positions with Allied-Signal, Tracor, BAE Systems, EG&G and Wyle Inc.
Since graduating from UT, George has lived in New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Texas, and now lives in Ojai, California He is eager to support the university and to enrich students’ lives at UT by providing the opportunity for undergraduates to form meaningful connections with faculty members. These types of interactions are relatively rare at UT, and students would not have had access to this opportunity without Melton’s generous donation.
Nicklaus Brown is a business analytics major with ultimate goals of becoming a data science practitioner in the private sector. Currently, he works in the business intelligence department at Pilot Flying J. optimizing project ROI using techniques in machine learning, statistics and web applications. He will be working with Michel Ballings on a project involving data from the popular social media app Foursquare, which uses crowdsourcing reviews to recommend fun and interesting things to do based on a user’s location.
Thao Tran moved to the United States from Vietnam and is currently majoring in mathematics and statistics and has plans to obtain her master’s degree in business analytics at UT after graduation. Thao will be working alongside Michel Ballings and Julie Ferrara on a project she began through the Summer Research Institute. Her research involves evaluating the quality scores of Google AdWords with the goal of clarifying its scoring algorithm so that advertisers can both improve their ads and reduce the price they have to pay to advertise on Google.
Elizabeth Nichols is majoring in statistics with a double minor in business administration and leadership studies and plans to obtain a master’s degree in applied statistics after graduating. She works with Wenjun Zhao on the properties of large-scale market-basket datasets to identify the intrinsic correlation of items that are purchased together. Elizabeth’s contributions could help improve, for example, the “frequently bought together” recommendations given by online merchants.
Joseph Trice is an accounting and finance major (collaterals in information management and business analytics), whose ultimate goals are to create innovation in the healthcare industry and to improve the patient experience. Having worked with the Hospital Corporation of America in the past, his current project with Bogdan Bichescu focuses on healthcare analytics. Joseph is developing models that examine the association between physician workload and measures of hospital operational performance and quality of care. The next time you experience excellent care during an extended stay at a hospital, it could very well be due to the impact of his research.Read more
Nainika Sudheendra is a supply chain and business analytics major with dreams of designing augmented reality video games using technology that is currently utilized in industrial shop-floor applications. She has previous research experience at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, at Hitachi Data Systems, and at the Prometheus Group (a Knoxville-based cybersecurity company). Her project with Sean Willems involves sifting through two years of retail data to determine how stock outs proliferate. She hopes to answer questions such as: why some stockouts stay local to a specific store while other stockouts impact all stores and if particular ‘name-brand’ item is sold out, whether customers will instead buy a generic brand.Read more
Isaac Edmiston is a double major in statistics and in economics and plans on obtaining a master’s in business analytics at UT, though his ultimate goal is to work as a consultant or actuary. He has previously conducted research at the Howard Baker Center (placing third for the project, “A Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free University of Tennessee”), and works with William Seaver on a project in time-series analytics.