The 20th annual Student Research Week (SRW) was held March 27-31, 2017. The four-day celebration of student research is coordinated by the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) and provides opportunities for students to present–either orally or in poster form–the research they have conducted as students here at Texas A&M University. The theme for 2017 was inclusivity, and the SRW committee set a goal of representing all of the academic colleges. SRW helps foster a campus-wide culture of research and sets a high standard for student research by advertising the opportunities for inquiry at Texas A&M and inviting the university community to participate in this exciting endeavor.
LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research is excited to announce another successful year for our students at SRW. In addition to comprising a substantial proportion of the presenters, our undergraduates took home the following awards:
SUBJECT AREA AWARDS
Engineering Jordan Lewallen, 1st Place Poster
Kendal Paige Ezell, 1st Place Oral
Kanika Gakhar, 2nd Place Oral
Science Lorna Min, 1st Place Poste
Sara Maynard 2nd Place Poster
Brooke Versace, 1st Place Oral
Miranda Apfel, 2nd Place Oral
Claire Nowka, 1st Place Poster
Daniel Joseph Welch, 2nd Place Poster
Amanda Gomez, 1st Place Oral
James McLean Bell, 2nd Place Oral
Agriculture and Life Sciences
Mackenzie Hartman, 1st Place Oral
Janna Brooks, 1st Place Poster
Education and Human Development
Katelyn Elaine Goodroe, 1st Place Poster
Devyn Chan Rice, 2nd Place Oral
Madison Moore, 1st Place Oral
Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Rebecca Harlow, 1st Place Poster
Rebecca Thornton & Michelle Hoathian, 1st Place Oral
Serene Yu, 2nd Place Oral
Morgan Riba, 1st Place Poster
Gabriella Abouelkheir, 2nd Place Poster
Virginia Beth Neese, 1st Place Poster
Sigma Xi Symposium Theme Award
Brooke Versace, Undergraduate Winner
Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Award
Thomas Edward Settlemyre, Undergraduate Winner
Melbern G. Glasscock Humanities Special Award
James McLean Bell, Undergraduate Winner
University Center Award for Outstanding Abstract
Nicole Green, Undergraduate Winner
University Writing Center Award for Outstanding Presentation Amanda Gomez, Undergraduate Winner
For more information about getting involved in undergraduate research, visit http://ugr.tamu.edu.
LAUNCH: National Fellowships is delighted to announce the recognition of three outstanding students in this year’s Goldwater Scholarship competition. Kendal Ezell ‘18, Kanika Gakhar ‘18, and Brooke Versaw ’18 were all selected for Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention.
Kanika says of the honor that “Receiving the Goldwater Honorable Mention has been a humbling reminder of the appreciation the research community has for projects like mine. By encouraging young undergraduate researchers like me to pursue topics of interest in the field of science and technology, the Goldwater Scholarship committee is truly doing a remarkable job at helping students recognize their passions and the significance of their work in a global research community. I am very grateful to LAUNCH for introducing me to this opportunity and giving me a chance to refine and present my research proposal to the prestigious Goldwater Committee. “
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program seeks sophomores and juniors who are planning careers in STEM research. Fewer than 300 Goldwater Scholars are chosen from across the nation each year, so the scholarship is both prestigious and highly competitive. Candidates must demonstrate strong research experience, clear vision for a research career, and academic excellence in STEM coursework. Students selected as Goldwater Scholars receive a $7,500 scholarship for the next academic year.
Kendal Ezell ’18 is a junior biomedical engineering major from Corpus Christi, TX. Ezell’s extensive involvement at Texas A&M has included Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Student Engineers’ Council, American Medical Student Association, and the University Honors Program and Engineering Honors. She has been selected for numerous honors and awards including as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Fellowship, as the 2017 Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior for the College of Engineering, Southerland Aggie Leader Scholar, and Peter Chaplinsky Memorial Scholar.
Ezell currently works in the Biomedical Device Laboratory with Dr. Duncan Maitland, researching biomaterials and material characterization. She plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and conduct research in a clinical setting to develop new medical technologies for practice. Her primary interest is treatment and prevention of tissue degradation in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Ezell’s extensive undergraduate research will result in two first-author publications on independent projects as well as other publications by the time she graduates.
Kanika Gakhar ’18 is a junior aerospace engineering major from Faridabad, Haryana, India. She has extensive leadership experience from her involvement in in Lambda Sigma Honor Society, the Memorial Student Center, Maroon & White Leadership Fellows, and Undergraduate Research Ambassadors. Gakhar has been selected as a University Scholar, for the TAMU Academic Excellence Award, the Larry J. McQuien ’76 “Take Flight Award,” and was part of a design team selected to present at the SpaceX Hyperloop Design Weekend.
Gakhar is currently working in the Advanced Vertical Flight Laboratory with Dr. Moble Benedict. Her Undergraduate Research Scholar thesis is on a robotic hummingbird project that seeks to revolutionize the field micro-aerial vehicles by improving efficiency of flapping-wing mechanisms through mimicry of insects and birds. Gakhar is also working with a team of mechanical, electrical, and aerospace engineering students on an Aggie Challenge Project focused on preventing railroad accidents and train derailments. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and conduct research in biomimicry and nature-inspired design to revolutionize atmospheric and space flight. Gakhar’s research has resulted in multiple publications, including one for which she is first author.
Brooke Versaw ’18 is a junior chemistry major from College Station, TX. Versaw has served in leadership roles with the American Chemical Society and Aggie Honor Council, and has been active as a member of the MSC Visual Arts Committee and as a National Scholar Ambassador. Versaw was selected as a University Scholar, Beckman Scholar, Undergraduate Research Ambassador, and a Robert A. Welch Foundation Scholarship, and is proficient in Spanish.
Versaw has extensive experience in undergraduate research, having worked in Dr. Junha Jeon’s synthetic organic lab, with Dr. Steve Lockless’s protein chemistry group, and in Dr. Karen Wooley’s polymers and functional macromolecules laboratory. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry and have an academic career conducting research on polymer synthesis and materials characterization. Versaw’s research has resulted in multiple first-author publications.
Texas A&M has a long history of success with the Goldwater Scholarship. Previous Goldwater Scholars include Nicholas Mondrik ’15 (physics), Erica Gacasan ’16 (biomedical engineering), Aaron Griffin ’16 (biochemistry & genetics), and Maura Cadigan ’17 (aerospace engineering). If you are a STEM student invested in research and would like to learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship, please contact National Fellowships coordinator Benjamin Simington (email@example.com) or visit our website: http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.
The post below comes from Joshua Fuller, an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, former President of Honors Student Council, former Junior Advisor and Sophomore Advisor for the Honors Housing Community. Fuller is a senior psychology and Spanish double-major, with a minor in neuroscience. You can find his ePortfolio at http://joshuafuller.weebly.com.
– By Joshua Fuller ’17
Exhilarating. Intimidating. Inspiring.
These three words explain my four-day long journey at my first national research conference, the 36th National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) annual meeting.
Applying to NAN 2016 was admittingly somewhat of a last-minute endeavor. I remembered my research mentor, Dr. Steve Balsis, talking about his experience at NAN 2015 in Austin, Texas, and thought NAN 2016 would be a great forum to present my most recent work, a first-author publication on the nature of neuropsychiatric symptom presentation in Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, we caught the abstract deadline two weeks before it passed (which still blows my mind since the abstract deadline was in February and the conference was in October). As an undergraduate interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on neuropsychology, or the assessment of neurological conditions, this conference was an obvious place to submit my work.
As a seasoned undergraduate Alzheimer’s researcher and an aspiring neuropsychologist, I was simultaneously excited and timid as I exited my cab and walked into the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle, the site of NAN 2016. Sure, I had presented my lab’s work before at the Texas A&M Student Research Week (and even took home an award), but this was clearly a whole different ball game. Instead of answering A&M student or faculty members’ questions about my work, I was going to be fielding questions from actual real-life neuropsychologists (some of whom are faculty at the Ph.D. programs I am currently applying to, so that was also terrifying).
I attended two long lectures the morning of my poster presentation, the first on neuroimaging and the second on diversity in clinical practice. Following the lectures, I immediately went to the exhibit hall where I hung my poster and talked to passerby for two hours. In the mix of visitors, two judges came by my poster and seemed to be very impressed by the quality of my work (especially because I was an undergrad among a sea of graduate students and post-docs). I had also networked some via email with Dr. Laura Lacritz, the President of our conference, because she studies Alzheimer’s disease is a professor at the UT Southwestern Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program (one of the Ph.D. programs I applied to this application cycle). Well… if there’s one thing I have learned by now it is that networking sometimes can really pay off! Dr. Lacritz stopped by my poster, talked to me for about fifteen minutes, and as we parted ways she complimented my research me that if I ever have any questions or would like to collaborate she’s just an email away.
After my poster presentation, I had the chance to listen to other world-renown Alzheimer’s experts, like Dr. Yaakov Stern of Columbia and Dr. Dorene Retnz of Harvard, give lectures on their inspirational research. I also had a chance to go to a few events for students where I met many graduate students (including a large plethora from UT Southwestern) who talked to me about their experiences and their research, giving me more encouragement during my Ph.D. application season.
I was sad that I had to leave the conference early to get back to College Station for a fundraiser, as I was truly in nerd-heaven. Before I left, a new graduate student friend told me to be on the lookout for the student poster award recipients (as I was going to miss the award ceremony). I knew I had a nice poster and that I gave an excellent presentation, but my poster was one of several hundred at the conference eligible for five awards. Surely I was not going to win a student poster award…
Well, I did… and I am still surprised and humbled to this day. Honestly, though, receiving such an honor is not a testament to my ability, but rather the time and energy that Dr. Balsis and so many other mentors have poured into me throughout my undergraduate research career. Being among the top poster presentations at the conference was an amazing way to close my first ever national research conference.
When I left College Station for Seattle, I felt anxious. When I returned, I was inspired. Undergraduate research has been a winding (and sometimes cyclical) journey for me, but I am so proud of the relationships I’ve built and the projects that I’ve been a part of over the years. As someone who was cynical about research before coming to A&M, I encourage you to keep an open mind! There are so many different questions that need to be answered, and you have an incredibly unique opportunity to explore alongside some of the world’s most talented research faculty. If I got involved in research (and have now won multiple awards and first-authored a publication currently in review) simply because I asked my professor about research opportunities in the Alzheimer’s arena, so can you! Get started today by visiting the LAUNCH website and talking with your professors about topics you would like to research.
This post from freshman engineering student, Elise Hackney ’20, describes the success her team from ENDS 101 – Design Process has enjoyed so far. ENDS 101 is a perennial favorite with undergraduates because it fulfills both the Creative Arts and International & Cultural Diversity degree requirements. Students also enjoy the focus on building creative thinking skills in the course. Professor Rodney Hill, who created the course, requires his students to submit their class projects to real-life competitions. Here, Hackney describes the experience competing at the National Association of Broadcasters Pilot Competition in Pebble Beach, CA, October 30, 2016 – November 1, 2016.
– By Elise Hackney
Through the class ENDS 101, groups were randomly assigned for assignment purposes. The first group assignment was to enter into two competitions. One of the competitions our group entered was the Pilot Innovation Challenge. The Challenge Question for this competition was “How might local television and radio broadcasters engage their communities with next generation content on any device, whether big, small or moving?” Our idea is called History GO.
As evident by the success of the game Pokemon GO, people enjoy the interesting dynamics of augmented virtual reality. Virtual History uses the same principals and technology to allow people to see what History has happened or is happening where they are standing.
History GO is an app that will allow the user to connect with the history of their surroundings as well as current events. When opened, the app connects to the user’s current location. Using AR technology, History GO supplements a person’s environment with relevant facts, pictures, and videos. This app allows users to see the world through virtual eyes and connect where they are standing with where others have stood before.
As a result of the initial judging process our idea of History GO finalized in the top three of the Pilot Innovation Challenge. Our team quickly scrambled to book flights to the convention in Pebble Beach, CA where we needed to present our idea before the attendees decided the respective places of third, second, and first. Being that the trip was so last minute only Jordan Sales and I were able to attend the convention in CA.
NAB Futures Convention
We arrived the Spanish Inn at Pebble Beach where the convention was being held Monday morning, October 31st, and were quickly led through the process for presentation that was to be at 3:00pm. After the logistics of the presentation were explained, Jordan and I went up to our room to practice. After our presentation, we were assigned to podiums where the attendees of the conference could ask questions before voting. Throughout this process we were asked challenging questions and given great advice from many experts in the broadcasting industry. At the end of the voting our idea History GO won 2nd place which included a $15,000 award to support the development of our idea.
Throughout this experience Jordan and I met and spoke with highly-successful individuals. Socializing with the attendees of the conference rewarded us with so many benefits. From advice to future business contacts, we both came out of this trip with a different perspective. Having this real-world experience and interacting with businessmen and women led me to see a more refined view of my intended future career.
With this cash prize our group plans to develop the app through the help of Startup Aggieland. We hope that by the Las Vegas NAB Convention in April we will have a prototype app to display. After the Las Vegas event we will continue working on the app to launch a prototype version that will work on campus, referencing historical events as well as current events in the College Station area.
Elise’s travel was funded, in part, by LAUNCH: Honors through generous contributions to the Honors Parents’ Fund and the Association of Former Students.
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prestigious awards to support graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Nearly 17,000 applications were submitted for the 2016 NSF Fellowship competition, resulting in 2,000 award offers. This spring, 14 current and former Texas A&M University students were selected as 2016 NSF Graduate Fellows, while 21 were named Honorable Mention. Several of these students participated in LAUNCH programs at Texas A&M, including 5 who completed an undergraduate research thesis as an Undergraduate Research Scholar, 4 who participated in the University Honors program, one Undergraduate Research Ambassador, and two authors for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal.
2016 NSF Graduate Fellow Alexandria Payne recently graduated from Texas A&M, where she double-majored in bioenvironmental sciences and wildlife & fisheries sciences. Alex began her research experience in the labs of Dr. Karen-Beth Scholthof and Dr. Herman Scholthof in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Alex will continue at A&M for a PhD in entomology, studying with Dr. Juliana Rangel in the Honey Bee Lab, where Alex will investigate the interactions of honey bees and the invasive Tawny crazy ant. Alex, a University Scholar and Undergraduate Research Scholar, was previously nominated for the Udall Scholarship recognizing commitment to environmental issues. She graduated cum laude with the Honors Fellows and Honors in Bioenvironmental Sciences distinctions. Alex has an upcoming publication, “Do More Promiscuous Honey Bee Queens Produce Healthier Hives?” in Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal, Volume 8, to be published in fall 2016.
In addition to the GRFP, Alex’s graduate study will be supported by Texas A&M’s Diversity Fellowship. She also received the Senior Merit award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Reflecting on the benefits of the GRFP, Alex says, “This fellowship has given me the gift of being able to choose research topics I find interesting and wish to delve into. I wish to advise everyone to apply for or reach for the seemingly impossible as you may surprise yourself with the results.”
Ana Chang-Gonzalez, another 2016 NSF Graduate Fellow, recently graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering and the Engineering Honors distinction. As an undergraduate, she volunteered in the Molecular Biomechanics Lab and conducted protein simulation in an AggiE-Challenge. She also began working with the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories to develop software for biological purposes. With NSF support, Ana will continue that project in her graduate studies, expanding a software that builds computational models of biological images and analyzes them for quantitative information. Ana is a former resident of the Honors Housing Community and a member of Alpha Eta Mu Beta, the Biomedical Engineering Honor Society, and Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society. She has an upcoming publication, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Numbers,” in Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal, Volume 8, to be published in fall 2016.
A three-time recipient of the Dean’s Honor Roll, Ana says that, through her NSF application, she “learned how to neatly craft all [her] experiences into a concise form, how to formulate a research proposal, and the value of having faculty mentors that truly care about [her] success.” This fellowship will allow her “to focus more on conducting high-impact research and making a true difference in the field.”
LAUNCH would like to congratulate the Aggie 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellows and Honorable Mentions and acknowledge their valuable contributions to our programs!
National Science Foundation 2016 Graduate Research Fellowship Awardees:
At the close of the 2015-2016 academic year, LAUNCH offers congratulations to the many students in our programs who have been recognized for outstanding achievements in academics, leadership, and other areas!
ASPIRE (Aggie Scholars Promoting Incentive, Resources, and Encouragement) Presented by LAUNCH: Learning Communities Hannah Gerken, Mentor of the Year
Abraham Hinojosa, Mentee of the Year
King Thrills, Small Community of the Year
Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Outstanding Student Award Presented by Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies
Andy Baxter, College of Science
Buck Weirus Spirit Award Presented by Department of Student Activities Isabelle “Izzy” Antes
W. Hayden Lander
Class Stars Award Presented by Department of Student Activities
Andy Baxter, Class of 2016 – Academics
Luke Oaks, Class of 2019 – Leadership
Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior
Ali Jalal, College of Science
Women’s Progress Award Presented by Department of Multicultural Services Emily Parrish
Thank you to the Departments of Student Activities and Multicultural Services, the Association of Former Students, the Associate Provost of Undergraduate Studies, and our learning communities for supporting students across the university and for encouraging service, academic excellence, and high achievement!
LAUNCH congratulates biomedical engineering majors Ashley Holt ’19 and Luke Oaks ’19 on their selection as 2016 Beckman Scholars. In 2013, Texas A&M was invited to be one of twelve institutions participating in the Beckman Scholars program, which supports undergraduate research in chemistry, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and genetics. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, in conjunction with the TAMU office of the Vice President for Research, provides a scholarship for the Scholars, who are chosen at A&M through a rigorous application and interview process. A&M’s Beckman Scholars begin research with their Beckman faculty mentors during the summer after their freshman year and continue this research until graduation.
This summer, Ashley will join Dr. Ry Young’s lab to begin her work as a Beckman Scholar. She will be working to discover the mechanism by which a specific bacteriophage, or virus that infects bacteria, destroys the outer membrane of its host cell. The phage that she will be studying infects a type of E. coli and, in outbreaks, has been causing the release of harmful toxins along with the destruction of the bacterial cells. The outcome of this research could lead to methods of treatment for these particular outbreaks and, with a better understanding of the workings of phages, could lead to new antibiotic agents.
This will be Ashley’s first research lab experience, and she looks forward to learning and developing as a researcher and scientist. Ashley is excited to have the opportunity to work outside of her department and to gain some interdisciplinary knowledge. Overall, in her research career, she would like to work toward the accomplishment of one of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges: Engineering Better Medicine. Specifically, Ashley hopes to help create new and better antibiotics in order to combat the growing problem of multidrug resistant bacteria.
During her time at A&M, Ashley has joined the Biomedical Engineering Society and Discover, Explore, and Enjoy Physics and Engineering (DEEP), as well as John 15 and Transformers Bible Study. She is a Women in Engineering Ambassador and a member of both the Engineering Honors and University Honors programs. Ashley was also recently selected as a University Scholar. Before beginning her freshman year at A&M, Ashley was recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction and as the valedictorian at her high school, where she served as president of both National Honor Society and the choir. Ashley is from Kingwood, Texas.
Luke, son of Todd and Michele Oaks, is an undergraduate research assistant in the Grunlan Polymeric Biomaterials Lab, where he contributes to the development of an implantable glucose biosensor. During his first semester at Texas A&M, Luke was an experimental researcher for the DeBakey Undergraduate Research Scholars program, studying the relationship between radiation therapy and lymphatic failure. Additionally, in the summer before his freshman year, he was contracted as a Wright Scholars Research Assistant for the Air Force Research Lab in southwestern Ohio to work with heart rate sensors. Luke will begin his career as a Beckman Scholar this summer in Dr. Gerard Coté’s bioinstrumentation lab, where he will be initiating an independent project to develop a novel biomarker platform technology that uses surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy for lung cancer diagnosis.
In addition to his research endeavors, Luke has heavily involved himself in a variety of campus activities, including serving as a Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassador as well as joining the Editorial Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. He has also participated in three design competitions through Aggies Invent, represents the club tennis team – for which he is Vice President – at the national level, and was a delegate to the Gilbert Leadership Conference. After attending the POSSE+ Retreat earlier in the spring semester, Luke has developed strong ties to the POSSE Scholar community and looks forward to mentoring incoming freshmen during a STEM immersion experience later this summer.
Due to his extracurricular involvement and ongoing commitment to serving as an advisor for a community service initiative in his hometown, Luke received Texas A&M’s Freshman Class Star Award for Leadership. Additionally, Luke, a member of the Engineering Honors program, was recently selected as a University Scholar. He has been designated as one of 15 college students in the nation to serve on an advisory board for Pearson Higher Education, where he hopes to improve modern educational technologies by focusing his passions for sociology and academic empowerment. Prior to attending Texas A&M, Luke was recognized as a National Merit Scholar, a National AP Scholar, and the valedictorian of his high school in Troy, Ohio. He is pursuing a minor in sociology.
Ashley and Luke join Mikayla Barry ’17, a current Beckman Scholar in biomedical engineering, as well as Scholars Gabby Lessen ’18 in biochemistry, Jennifer Tran ’18 in biochemistry and genetics, and Brooke Versaw ’18 in chemistry.