Seventeen Aggies Chosen as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows for 2015

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prestigious awards to support graduate students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Over 16,000 applications were submitted for the 2015 NSF Fellowship competition, resulting in 2,000 award offers. This spring, 17 former Texas A&M University students were selected as 2015 NSF Graduate Fellows, while 9 were named Honorable Mention. Most of these students participated in Honors and Undergraduate Research programs while undergraduates, including 13 who completed an undergraduate research thesis as an Undergraduate Research Scholar, 8 who graduated with Honors distinctions, 2 Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, and 3 Authors for Explorations, the undergraduate journal.

2015 NSF Graduate Fellow Dillon Amaya is a first year PhD student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego. While a Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences major and Oceanography minor at Texas A&M Amaya studied paleoclimate, physical oceanography, and climate change with faculty in the Department of Oceanography as well as the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Amaya, a Summa Cum Laude graduate, was the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Astronaut Foundation Scholarship. A member of the inaugural cohort of Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, he holds a strong interest in communicating science to the public.

In response to his selection Amaya said “I am honored to have been chosen for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. This kind of Fellowship gives me the funding and the freedom to do the exciting and innovative research that interests me the most. None of it would be possible, however, without having participated in substantial undergraduate research at Texas A&M. The experience I gained as an undergraduate made my NSF reviewers sit up and take notice. Every single NSF review I received cited my undergraduate research experience at A&M as the primary reason for my nomination for the award. For this reason, I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me during my undergraduate career.”

Dillon Amaya, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences ‘14, shows oceanographic instruments to 5th graders on a tour of the research pier at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
Dillon Amaya, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences ‘14, shows oceanographic instruments to 5th graders on a tour of the research pier at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Alejandro Azocar, another 2015 NSF Graduate Fellow, graduated Summa Cum Laude with University and Aerospace Engineering Honors. During his time at Texas A&M Azocar completed five cooperative education tours at NASA Johnson Space Center, working in three different research labs. As an Undergraduate Research Scholar, he won two best paper awards from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region IV Conference for his work in unmanned aircraft simulation (2013) and electromyographically-controlled quadrotors (2015).

Azocar also was the recipient of the 2015 Ammon S. Andes National Award from Sigma Gamma Tau, the national aerospace engineering honor society. This award recognized him as the top aerospace engineering student in the United States based upon his academic, service, and extracurricular accomplishments. Azocar credits his mentors and peers at Texas A&M for his success, saying, “Texas A&M surrounded me with incredible people and opportunities, and allowed me to grow as a researcher, leader, and communicator.” This fall Azocar will begin his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. He will be working at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago with a research focus on either bionics or brain-machine interfaces. With NSF support he hopes to develop prosthetic arms, legs, and exoskeletons that can be controlled through the user’s neural signals.

In his spare time Alejandro Azocar, Aerospace Engineering ’15, served as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat.
In his spare time Alejandro Azocar, Aerospace Engineering ’15, served as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat.

Honors and Undergraduate Research would like to congratulate the Aggie 2015 National Science Foundation Fellows and Honorable Mentions and acknowledge their valuable contributions to HUR programs!

National Science Foundation 2015 Research Fellowship Awardees:

  • Dillon Amaya, Geosciences, Climate and Large-Scale Atmospheric Dynamics. Undergraduate Research Ambassador and Astronaut Foundation Scholarship recipient
  • Alejandro Azocar, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Scholar, and University Honors
  • Ryan Brito, Nuclear Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Foundation Honors, University Honors
  • Christopher Chini, Civil Engineering. Foundation Honors
  • Andrea Delgado, Particle Physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Keith Krenek, Electrical Engineering. University Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Timothy Kroeger, Mechanical Engineering. University Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Anna Means, Materials Engineering
  • Andrew Moehlman, Developmental Biology
  • Lakshmi Nathan, Chemical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Christopher Pannier, Mechanical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • William Scholten, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Jeremy Seidel, Chemical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Ambassador
  • Zachary Steelman, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Honors Fellows, Explorations author
  • Jeffrey Swofford, Social Sciences, Sustainability
  • Jason Szafron, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Explorations author and Editorial Board
  • William Whitten, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Explorations author

Honorable Mention:

  • Christopher Akers, Theoretical Physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Shelby Bieritz, Biomedical Engineering. Fulbright Award Grantee, Whitaker Fellowship recipient
  • Charles Giattino, Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Dion Hubble, Materials Engineering
  • Kelli Humbird, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Kristin Nichols, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Foundation Honors, University Honors
  • Jesse Pyle, Microbial Biology
  • Nicholas Rinkenberger,   Microbial Biology. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Michael Whitely, Biomedical Engineering
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