Introducing the Class of 2021 University Scholars

The Honors Welcome on Friday, August 24, recognized eleven students selected to the University Scholars Program. University Scholars is a highly-selective program with intensive personal and professional development opportunities for students who have demonstrated outstanding academic accomplishment in their first year.

Each spring, all first-year Texas A&M University freshmen who finish their first semester with a 3.5+ GPA are invited to apply. Based on these applications—which include a personal statement, creative story, and discussion of a critical question in the students’ intended field—about forty are invited for a rigorous interview to discuss and defend their ideas. The University Scholars are selected for the critical thinking, self-awareness, poise, and maturity demonstrated in their application and interviews. This process helps us identify the students who are most intellectually curious, motivated, and accomplished.

The University Scholars Class of 2021 will join twenty of their upperclassman peers in the Exploration Series—seminar courses offered to University Scholars each semester. Sophomores new to the program participate in a personal statement writing seminar, “Futuring Yourself.” New this year, juniors will participate in “Agents of Change” and seniors “Happiness” in the fall semester. In spring semesters, University Scholars get to choose from a variety of topical seminars; past topics have included  transportationeducationtelevisioncomedy, and animal conservation, among many other topics.

Throughout the program, University Scholars seek intellectual challenge and share their unique perspectives from an array of academic and cultural backgrounds. We are excited for these eleven new University Scholars to grow in this program over the next three years, and look forward to seeing how they impact Texas A&M and the world!

Mustafa Ahmed ’21

Mustafa Ahmad is a public health major and economics minor from Houston, Texas and is a recipient of the President’s Endowed Scholarship and National Merit Finalist awards. He is currently in the University Honors Program and was a part of the Broad Street Society, a cohort of distinguished freshman public health majors. In the summer of 2017, Mustafa attended the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. He is involved with the MSC Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA) and currently serves as its Director of Internal Marketing. Mustafa’s professional interests lie in health law and policy, and he is involved with a School of Public Health research project on the influence of telehealth on rural health quality and outcomes. When not studying, Mustafa likes to read (particularly non-fiction books on history and politics), discover new films and music from around the world, and devise unexecuted travel plans.

Cameron Caldwell ’21

Cameron Caldwell is a biochemistry major from Aledo, Tx. He is an avid sports fan and loves to play basketball at the rec in his free time. Cameron is a Lechner Scholar and an active member in the TAMU American Medical Student Association (AMSA) chapter. He is currently researching in a lab under Dr. Vishal Gohil, studying mitochondrial lipids and their effects on mitochondrial respiratory chain function. His goal is to go to medical school and specialize in pediatric endocrinology so that he can help kids fight the battle against type 1 diabetes, just as he has for almost nineteen years.

Alexis Couch ’21

Alexis Couch is an international studies major from Sugar Land, Texas. She is a National Hispanic Scholar who is passionate about traveling and experiencing other cultures. She spent the summer of 2018 immersed in Italian culture by working as an English tutor in Italy while living with host families. Her personal interests include dancing, writing, and cooking. Alexis is a member of Texas A&M National Scholars Ambassadors (TANSA) and of the MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness. She was also selected to join the International Studies Honors Program and looks forward to advanced work and research opportunities offered by the program. In addition, Alexis is a member of Alpha Delta Pi where she is active in volunteer activities supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Cora Garcia ’21

Cora Garcia is a biomedical sciences major from Katy, Texas. She is interested in someday working as a shelter veterinarian for a small animal rescue. Currently, Cora works part-time as a student ambassador for the College of Biomedical Sciences and as a veterinary technician at low-cost vaccination clinics. She is also a National Hispanic Merit Scholar and a member of various pre-vet organizations including, Pre-Vet Society, Aggies for Animal Rescue, and Veterinarians Without Borders.  In her free time, Cora enjoys going to concerts, practicing the trombone, and rereading her favorite books.

Emma Haschke ’21

Emma Haschke is a sophomore biomedical sciences major from Austin, Texas. Her academic interests consist of veterinary medicine and its applications for wildlife conservation. Her personal interests consist of painting, traveling, and anything involving exploration of the great outdoors. Through the Aggie Research Scholars program, she conducts research on developing models for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome through the department of Biomedical Sciences. Additionally, Emma is involved in Veterinarians Without Borders, Aggie Outdoors, and MSC Freshman Leadership International. As a member of MSC FLI, Emma was involved in the design and execution of a campus program that examined the disparities of developed and underdeveloped nations in their natural disaster preparedness and recovery through an interactive simulation. She also pursues her passion for dance by performing with the Texas A&M Dance Department in multiple student-choreographed productions.

Joshua Korb ’21

Joshua Korb is a biomedical sciences major from Burleson, Texas. Joshua is a National Merit Scholar, President’s Endowed Scholar, Brown Scholar, and University Scholar. He competes for the TAMU Men’s Club Volleyball team, attends Antioch Community Church, and hopes to attend medical school after completing his degree.

Rachel Porter ’21Rachel Porter is a molecular and cellular biology major with minors in chemistry and mathematics from Kempner, Texas. She is a recipient of the President’s Endowed Scholarship and a National Merit Scholar. Rachel began participating in undergraduate research by studying potassium channels in E.coli in the lab of Dr. Lockless. As a Beckman Scholar, she is currently researching time of day differences of ribosomal protein composition in Neurospora in Dr. Bell-Pedersen’s Lab. In her free time, she enjoys baking and sketching.

Ryan Randle 21

Ryan Randle is a history and English double major who also plans on adding a minor in classical studies. While her family currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, she has lived the majority of her life overseas on an Army garrison in Germany. She is the recipient of the 1st place Humanities Undergraduate Oral Presentation award at the Student Research Week and is a member of the Glascock Summer Scholars Program and a Sophomore Advisor in the University Honors Program. Her research interests include medieval adaptions of classical texts, literary history regarding the nature of chivalry, and the representation of female virtue or monstrosity in literature. In her free time she enjoys kayaking, hanging out with friends, cooking, and binging reality TV shows

Sriniketh Sukumar ’21

Sriniketh Sukumar is a petroleum engineering major from Chennai, India. Sriniketh is a recipient of the Nelson Scholarship and is part of the Engineering Honors program and the Dean’s list. He is actively involved in TAMU Society of Petroleum Engineers and is the director of “The Well Log”, the chapter’s online oil and gas magazine. Sriniketh participates in research on unconventional oil fracturing and plans to specialize in petroleum economics and finance. He enjoys learning about philosophy and finds satisfaction in helping those around him. He also loves creative writing and watching comedy shows and movies in his free time.

Faris Zaibaq ’21

Faris Zaibaq is a biomedical sciences major from Sugar Land, Texas who is interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. He is part of a research team headed by the world renowned physical organic chemist Dr. Daniel Singleton here at Texas A&M. Ryan was invited through his group to attend the 2018 Reaction Mechanisms Conference in Vancouver, Canada. He is also an active member of the organization TAMECT (Texas A&M Emergency Care Team) which has trained him to become a first responder. This opened the door for him to work at the Beutel Health Center on campus as a fully trained emergency medical dispatcher. He graduated top 7% from his high school, the Dulles Math and Science Academy, where he swam on the varsity team for 4 years and developed the academic and extracurricular habits which earned him the Lechner Scholarship here at TAMU. Outside of school, Faris is an Eagle Scout and an avid outdoorsman. He has watched every single World Cup game this summer and looks forward to having a great sophomore year as a University Scholar and a Sophomore Advisor with the University Honors program.

Gabriel Zolton ’21

Gabriel Zolton is a chemical engineering major and English minor from Kingwood, Texas, where he graduated from Kingwood Park High School as Valedictorian. He is a National Merit Scholar, Eagle Scout, and Brown Foundation Scholar. He is particularly interested in the polymer-focused side of chemical engineering, and he was involved in researching the use of high performance polymers in electrospinning during his freshman year. Along with being involved in the University Honors community, Gabriel is an active member of Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassadors (TANSA), and active at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. In his free time, he enjoys reading, writing, and gaming. He is currently in the process of writing his own fantasy novel.

Freshmen interested in applying for the University Scholars program can learn more by attending information sessions in November or the recruitment mixer in December. The application will open in January 2019. See our website at

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