Category Archives: Research Opportunities

Carnegie Endowment Offers Fellowship to Graduating Seniors

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States. Founded in 1910, its work is nonpartisan and dedicated to achieving practical results.

Each year, the Carnegie Endowment selects 8 to 10 graduating seniors as Carnegie Junior Fellows.  The Junior Fellows are matched with senior associates – academics, former government officials, lawyers and journalists from around the world – to work on a variety of international affairs issues.  Junior Fellows have the opportunity to conduct research for books, participate in meetings with high-level officials, contribute to congressional testimony and organize briefings attended by scholars, journalists and government officials.

Junior Fellows spend one year (beginning August 1st) at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, DC.  Positions are full-time and include a salary and benefits package.

Applications are accepted only from graduating college seniors or individuals who have graduated within the past academic year.  No one will be considered who has started graduate studies (except those who have recently completed a joint bachelors/masters degree program).  Applicants should have completed a significant amount of course work related to their discipline of interest.  Language and other skills may also be required for certain assignments.  The selection process for the Junior Fellows Program is very competitive.  Accordingly, applicants should be of high academic quality.

Students will specify in their applications one area of specialty:

• Democracy/Rule of Law – Political Science background preferred.
• Middle East Studies – Native or near-native Arabic language skills essential.
• Nonproliferation
• South Asian Studies – Strong math skills required in additional to background in international affairs or political science.
• Energy and Climate
• Chinese Studies – Mandarin Chinese reading skills a huge plus.
• Russian/Eurasian Studies – Excellent Russian language skills required

Mokhtar Awad
Mokhtar Awad, 2012 Carnegie Junior Fellow

Mokhtar Awad ’12 was selected as a 2012-2013 Carnegie Junior Fellow for the Middle East Program.

Students who are interested in applying for University nomination should contact Jonathan Kotinek ( or call 979-845-1957 to schedule an appointment.


Freshmen Going Above and Beyond in Undergraduate Research!

By Hayley Cox

Although 20-30% of Texas A&M University graduates indicate that they have participated in research during their undergraduate careers (, undergraduate research may sound intimidating to incoming freshman students. Fortunately, undergraduate research opportunities exist in every department and college at Texas A&M and faculty members are available as advisors, making the experience much more manageable.

Two freshmen currently in involved in undergraduate research, Trevor Nelligan and Luke Bacon, have taken on the task with enthusiasm. Trevor Nelligan, an engineering student from The Woodlands, Texas, is currently researching in the field of artificial intelligence, more specifically with multiple robot systems. His research is conducted under the guidance of Dr. Dylan Shell whom Nelligan met during his first day with the Texas A&M fencing club. The engineering student said, “I have always had a soft spot for robotics, so I was eager to work with him [Dr. Shell] the moment I knew it was a possibility.

Trevor Nelligan '17
Trevor Nelligan ’17

Nelligan is autonomously responsible for his research problem aside from the guidance of Dr. Shell, as he is not working with a graduate student’s assistance. The freshman enjoys the freedom that he has been given in undergraduate research. He said, “For my entire life as a student, people have been giving me due dates and rules. This is the first time anyone has trusted me completely to produce results without enforcement.” Nelligan just completed the first iteration code for his robotics project and is excited to see what the next phase of his research will bring. His advice for students interested in research was, “The worst thing you can do is nothing.” He said, “Professors do not come to you; you have to go to them. So just do it!”

Luke Bacon, an honors biomedical science and neuroscience student from San Antonio, Texas, is currently researching with Dr. C. Jane Welsh in her neuroscience lab. In Welsh’s lab, Bacon is in search of possible causes and/or therapies for Multiple Sclerosis and/or Epilepsy in mice models. The San Antonio native pursued the help of a faculty mentor when he first arrived at Texas A&M, while considering research as a future career path.

This semester, Bacon will be conducting a project alongside of a graduate student evaluating the therapeutic benefits of CLIP peptides in mice that are induced with Multiple Sclerosis or Epilepsy. He will be injecting the mice with the therapies and monitoring the development of their disease over the period of a few weeks.

Over the course of his research, Bacon has found that a large part of research is made up of waiting when dealing with animals, depending on their life cycles and development. His advice for freshmen interested in research is to continue to send a lot of emails and seek out opportunities. He said, “Not a single professor I corresponded with was rude, and every one I met with offered some way to help me get involved with in his/her lab.” Bacon said, “If you show genuine interest, they [professors] will want you.”

In the future, Bacon would like to investigate the link between parasitic infection and diseases such as MS or Parkinson’s. There is some evidence that these diseases are the result of viral infections and under-exposure to certain pathogens and he is interested in researching this link. Bacon is excited to continue and extend his research experience in Dr. Welsh’s lab over the course of the spring semester.

Honors and Undergraduate Research is very proud of the freshmen in research, like Trevor Nelligan and Luke Bacon, and would like to encourage students of all years to pursue this great experience!

The Pathways to Undergraduate Research

In November the Texas A&M University System held its 11th annual Pathways Student Research Symposium for undergraduate and graduate students in Kingsville.  Over 400 students from all Texas A&M campuses presented oral and poster presentations throughout the Symposium, with an awards ceremony was held at the conclusion of the event. Dr. Margie Moczygemba, an Assistant Professor of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis at Texas A&M University Kingsville was the keynote speaker for Pathways this year.

Connor McBroom
Connor McBroom

Texas A&M University College Station students Aaron Griffin and Connor McBroom attended the 2013 Pathways Student Research Symposium. Griffin, a sophomore biochemistry, genetics, and pure mathematics major from Missouri City is a Class of 2016 University Scholar, 2014 Undergraduate Research Scholar and a senior editor for the Explorations Undergraduate Journal. McBroom, biochemistry major from Maryland is also an Undergraduate Research Scholar and an editor for the Explorations Undergraduate Journal.

Aaron Griffin
Aaron Griffin

To apply, their online abstract had to be accepted by the Pathways Symposium organizers. Their research project was titled “Identifying Novel Regulators of Mitochondrial Copper Homeostasis.” Griffin said, “The research for this project was completed in Dr. Vishal Gohil’s laboratory in Biochemistry and Biophysics during the summer of 2013, and dealt with using the yeast model system Saccharomyces cerevisiae to investigate mitochondrial proteins for their possible participation in coordinating the delivery of copper ions to cytochrome c oxidase, an enzyme essential component of the mitochondrial respiratory chain responsible for generating cellular energy via respiration.”

002At the Pathways Symposium Griffin and McBroom presented their poster and spent time observing presentations by other students and touring the Texas A&M University Kingsville campus, including the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. Griffin said his favorite part of the symposium was “getting the opportunity to present the research [they] had spent hours performing to other members of the scientific and academic community and watch[ing] them become excited about the results….” He said, “The communication of science is truly a joy.”

Returning from Pathways, Griffin realized the importance of personal interest and immersion in one’s research. He said this immersion allowed research partners to become knowledgeable of the subject and to more effectively present their results. Because of this were Griffin and McBroom able to field difficult and unexpected questions from the judges and observers.

Griffin said that if he could give some advice to students participating in research he would share with them the words of his mentor, Dr. Gohil: “Do good science, and the rest will follow.” Griffin said, “Often I am very excited to apply for an exciting opportunity to showcase my research, and Dr. Gohil will remind me I still have several aspects of a project to complete before I can put together a full story.” He hopes that students involved in research will take full advantage of the opportunity and the satisfaction it brings.

Griffin thanked the Gohil Lab for facilitating this research project, Honors and Undergraduate for informing him of this opportunity, as well as the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies for financing the trip. HUR commends both Aaron Griffin and Connor McBroom for their successes in research and at the Pathways Symposium in Kingsville!

Meet Our 2013 National Fellowship Nominees!

By Hayley Cox

Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) has nominated nine students for National Fellowships including the George C. Marshall Scholarship, the George Mitchell Scholarship, and the American Rhodes Scholarship!

The Marshall Scholarship finances up to 40 young Americans of high ability to study for a graduate degree in any field of study in the United Kingdom. The selected scholars’ direct engagement with Britain through its best academic programs contributes to their ultimate personal success.

The Mitchell Scholarship is a nationally competitive award sponsored by the US-Ireland Alliance. It was named in honor of former U.S. Senator Mitchell’s contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and designed to introduce upcoming future American leaders to Ireland, while fostering scholarship, leadership, and community commitment.

The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest international fellowship awards around the world. 32 young Americans are selected each year as Rhodes Scholars from 300 American colleges and universities. These scholars are chosen for outstanding scholarly achievements along with character, commitment to others, and for their potential leadership in their career aspirations. The Rhodes Trust, honoring Cecil J. Rhodes, provides full support for Rhodes Scholars to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

HUR’s 2013 nominees for these prestigious fellowships include:

Chris Akers – Rhodes Scholarship Nominee, Marshall Scholarship Nominee
Dillon Amaya – Rhodes Scholarship Nominee, Marshall Scholarship Nominee
Shelby Bieritz – Marshall Scholarship Nominee
Emily Boster –Marshall Scholarship Nominee, Mitchell Scholarship Nominee
Daniel Miller – Marshall Scholarship Nominee
Stephen O’Shea – Rhodes Scholarship Nominee, Marshall Scholarship Nominee, Mitchell Scholarship Nominee
Andy Sanchez – Rhodes Scholarship Nominee, Marshall Scholarship Nominee
Kindall Stephens – Marshall Scholarship Nominee
Philip “Dane” Warren – Marshall Scholarship Nominee, Mitchell Scholarship Nominee

Chris Akers
Chris Akers
Chris Akers, a physics student pursuing minor degrees in both math and philosophy, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces at the Imperial College London or Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, along with his nomination for the Rhodes Scholarship. Akers is the co-founder and Vice President of the revamped Society of Physics Students at Texas A&M in which he invented Physics Phamilies groups and transformed the leadership structure. He was a Fish Camp Co-chairperson from November 2012 to September 2013, and he assists Dr. Tatiana Erukhimova in her presentations of her famous physics show to children in grade school. Akers has also made three research symposium presentations including his work “Assembly Database for the VIRUS Project” at the TAMU Astronomy Symposium. He is a President’s Endowed Scholar at Texas A&M and was awarded the “Mechanics Scholar” title for his excellent score on Texas A&M’s Mechanics Scholar test. Akers is a runner, plays chess, and trains in Crossfit.

Dillon Amaya
Dillon Amaya
Dillon Amaya, a meteorology student pursuing a minor degree in oceanography, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton or Polar Studies at the University of Cambridge, along with his nomination for the Rhodes Scholarship. An advocate for exercise, Amaya is a member of the Texas A&M Club Racquetball Team and several intramural teams. He is heavily involved with the College of Geosciences Undergraduate Recruitment Team and has given tours to high school seniors interested in the program for the past three years. Amaya was also the Vice President of the Texas A&M Student Chapter of the American Meteorology Society. He aspires to be a professor of climate sciences or physical oceanography at a Tier 1 research university in either the US or the UK.

Shelby Bieritz
Shelby Bieritz
Shelby Bieritz, a biomedical engineering student pursuing a minor degree in mathematics, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Biomedical Engineering at Aston University or Biomedical Research at University College of London. Bieritz has widely spread interests, from engineering to musical performance. She was a member of MSC Town Hall at Texas A&M where she served as the Advertising Executive for the 2011-2012 academic year. Bieritz also organized a regional conference for the National Association of Engineering Student Councils while she was a member of the Texas A&M University Student Engineers’ Council. In the future, the senior hopes to complete a PhD in biomedical engineering with a focus on total artificial heart development in order to create a pediatric heart that can be specialized to a child’s needs and conditions. To accomplish this, Bieritz hopes to manage a laboratory and adapt a heart pump to a variety of congenital heart conditions.

Emily Boster
Emily Boster
Emily Boster, an aerospace engineering student, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Engineering Design at the University of Bath or Aerospace Engineering and Management at the University of Glasglow, along with her nomination for the Mitchell Scholarship. Boster interned at Lockheed Martin Space Systems for 12 weeks in summer 2013 and at Space X for 10 weeks in summer 2010. She also works in Texas A&M University’s Astronomical Instrumentation lab. Boster enjoys playing guitar and composing her own music and lyrics, and she recently started playing along with her church’s band in College Station. Throughout her high school and undergraduate education, Boster was awarded with the Astronaut Scholarship, the AIAA Foundation Scholarship, the President’s Endowed Scholarship, and the Aggieland Bound Scholarship. For the past year, the senior also started fostering retired racing greyhounds and has been working on extending the reach of this Austin-based organization to the Bryan/College Station area.

Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller, an electrical and computer engineering (ECEN) and applied mathematics (APMS) double major, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Advanced Computer Science at the University of Cambridge or Machine Learning at the University College of London. Miller holds a perfect 4.0 GPA at Texas A&M University and has done programming work for both Lincoln Laboratory and Silicon Laboratory. As an Undergraduate Research Scholar, Miller created an energy model for residential solar water heated in which he designed and implemented a data logging and system control board. He is continuing to work on implementing statistical forecasting and predictive control methods to his model. Miller also intends to build a plasma speaker, a Gauss gun and an automated laser flyswatter in his free time. The engineer has been a swimmer since age five and has recently picked up hobbies in running, hiking, and rock climbing. In the future, Miller intends to pursue a Master’s degree in Machine Learning and a Doctorate focusing on renewable energy systems. His overall goal is to improve the global environment, and to address the issues caused by an increasing energy demand.

Stephen O'Shea
Stephen O’Shea
Stephen O’Shea, an English student with a focus in creative writing, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study creative writing at either City University of Kingston University, along with his nomination for the Mitchell Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarship. O’Shea has worked as a writing consultant with the Texas A&M University Writing Center. He also presented a research project on creative writers in the Writing Center at a conference in Corpus Christi and implemented a university-wide Creative Writing Workshop that began in spring 2013. O’Shea’s work has been published by both “Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal” and “The Eckleburg Project: the Literary Magazine of Texas A&M University.” The creative writing student was selected as an executive for Aggie Leaders of Tomorrow (A LOT) during his sophomore year. He participated in the Texas A&M Jazz Band as Lead Tenor Saxophone and played alto saxophone at Aggie home basketball games with the Hullabaloo Band. O’Shea hopes to be an author of research-based fiction, first by completing and publishing his “From the Land of Genesis” collection, and later he hopes to become a professor.

Andy Sanchez
Andy Sanchez
Andy Sanchez, a chemical engineering student pursuing minor degrees in chemistry and creative writing, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to obtain either a Masters in Advanced Chemical Engineering or a Masters in Catalysis at the Imperial College of London, along with his nomination for the Rhodes Scholarship. Sanchez is a screener and editor for the Callaloo Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters. He has also worked as a Catalyst Developer with ExxonMobil Process Research doing supplemental projects in catalyst synthesis and modeling. Sanchez is the Corporate Relations Chair of the Student Engineers’ Council (SEC), an organization which seeks to increase engineering awareness and promote professional development of students. He is also a member of the Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honors Fraternity, and he acted as a Sophomore Honors Advisor. The chemical engineering student has been recognized as a University Scholar, a 2013 Craig Brown Outstanding Senior English Engineer, and an American Chemical Society Scholar. In the future, he plans to pursue research with a focus in petrochemical catalysis, and to ultimately rise to a technical management position to coordinate this research.

Kindall Stephens
Kindall Stephens
Kindall Stephens, an environmental design student, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study Architecture at either the Architectural Association or London Metropolitan University. Stephens worked for LaMarr Womack & Associates Architects as an architectural intern in summer 2013 and has attended four national conferences for the American Institute of Architecture Students. Stephens was a Fish Camp counselor at Texas A&M University, and she has served as Career Fair Coordinator and President for the university’s chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students for the past two years. She is an active member of Habitat for Humanity at Texas A&M and is on the founding committee for a new campus wide service organization called BUILD. She was a member of the Best Overall Team at Design Workshop’s Design Week, a National Winner of AIAS and SAGEW Foundation Renewing Home Student Design Competition, and AIA Brazos Scholarship Recipient. In the future, the architecture student plans to obtain her architectural license and to work as both an architect and a professor.

Philip "Dane" Warren
Philip “Dane” Warren
Philip “Dane” Warren, an economics student pursuing a minor in art & architecture history, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either International Public Policy at the University College of London or Global Environment, Politics, and Society at the University of Edinburgh, along with his nomination for the Mitchell Scholarship. Warren has worked for Camp Invention during most summers, but spent this past summer interning with Clean Water Action. Warren was also a Teaching Assistant for the course Energy, Resources, and their Use and Importance to Society. Next semester he will be a Section Instructor, teaching students about the energy industry and writing skills. Warrens work with partner Mariah Lord “Cap and Trade and Global Compromise” was published in Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. He is currently working on a project to evaluate the effectiveness of residential water utility pricing programs and is the Chair of the Aggie Green Fund Advisory Committee. He is also a Team Leader in Texas A&M’s The Big Event, a student-led volunteering project. Warren presented his research at an academic conference in Hiroshima, Japan and has been recognized as a Texas A&M University Honors Student and Undergraduate Research Scholar.

HUR would like to congratulate all of these outstanding nominees and wish them luck in the selection process for the Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes Scholarships! We are so proud of your hard work!

Julia Garcia takes on Canada!

By Hayley Cox

Julia Garcia, Class of 2014
Julia Garcia, Class of 2014
Senior English student Julia Garcia traveled to the Canadian Sociological Association Conference in Victoria, Canada in June 2013. She was a member of a team, along with students Devita Gunawan and Vennessa Jreij, studying the effects of education on economic development in primary, secondary, and university education systems.

Although her teammates were unable to make the summer trip, Garcia traveled to Victoria along with the team’s advisor, professor of sociology Dr. Samuel Cohn. Dr. Cohn had been working on a project in research towards eradicating poverty, and needed a team of research assistants. The previous summer, Garcia traveled to Austin, Texas to gather census data at the University Library at the University of Texas in correlation with Dr. Cohn’s research efforts. Her team would ultimately gather census data for over 40 countries, including The United States, Canada, and England. Garcia’s background as an English major influenced her role as writer and large concept framer for Dr. Cohn’s research.

After Garcia completed the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program with teammates Gunawan and Jreij, Dr. Cohn encouraged the team to apply for the Canadian Sociological Association Conference, and the team was accepted. Garcia applied for and was awarded with an Undergraduate Research Travel Award, giving her the privilege to spend nine days in Victoria, four of which she would spend at the conference.

Victoria, Canada
Victoria, Canada
Garcia expressed her appreciation for the beautiful sites she saw on her trip, beginning with a ferry ride from Seattle to Victoria. She was impressed by the progressive nature and awareness level at the University of Victoria. She said, “It’s interesting because at the University of Victoria, global warming IS a thing. It is not a debate, but instead an issue to which people are working to make a change.”

At the conference, Garcia heard presentations which were mostly political discussions dealing with poverty, sanitation, and water. She said it was a great learning experience to be in the same room with incredibly successful professors from all over the United States and Canada. Her favorite presentation was made by a man who purchased a golf membership in India in order to observe class differences between elite members, caddies, and staff. He lived in India for six months, attending the golf course each day, interviewing and observing these individuals.

Julia's presentation group. Dr. Cohn is pictured Row 1 far right and Julia Garcia right behind.
Julia’s presentation group. Dr. Cohn is pictured Row 1 far right and Julia Garcia right behind.
Also at the conference, Garcia presented the team’s thesis “The Influence of Education on Economic Development,” along with Dr. Cohn. She said this was her first opportunity to fully experience the research process. Garcia said the statistical analysis segment of the project was time consuming and somewhat frustrating, but overall she wouldn’t have changed much that the team did throughout their work. She encouraged students to take part in undergraduate research and to create relationships with professors. Garcia said, “Why wouldn’t you be a part of a great experience with the opportunity to take a fully paid trip to Canada?”

IMG_1375The senior will be graduating in May 2014, and hopes to travel as a part of her many post-graduate aspirations. She is considering law school or a graduate degree in public policy or comparative literature, but intends to take a year off of school to live in Washington, D.C. or Austin, or to travel the world. Through research, Garcia saw many inevitable problems in society which tied into her already present humanitarian interests. She said should would definitely consider living in another country where she would find a humbling experience.

Honors and Undergraduate Research is very proud of Julia Garcia, along with her research teammates Devita Gunawan and Vennessa Jreij. Congratulations to the team and Dr. Cohn in all of their research accomplishments and their acceptance to travel to the Canadian Sociological Association Conference in Victoria!

Student Research Week 2013 – Where Curiosity Speaks

By Hayley Cox

SRWThe 16th annual Student Research Week (SRW), a student run event on the Texas A&M campus, was a success in showcasing undergraduate research throughout the last week of March. This event illuminates the outstanding research undertaken by Texas A&M graduate and undergraduate students, allowing students to receive feedback from their peers as well as experts in their respective fields of research.

The week-long event is organized by the Graduate Student Council. This year’s theme “Where Curiosity Speaks” celebrated those students with the drive to reach beyond current knowledge to learn more.

SRW director Vineet Bhambhani said, “Student Research Week 2013 was a great success. We had a record number of undergraduate students present their research at the event. 300 undergraduates participated at the event to showcase their ongoing research in 10 different subject areas.” He said he “would like to thank the Honors and Undergraduate Research Office for their continuing support and participation in this annual student run event.”

Students present their research during SRW 2013.
Students present their research during SRW 2013.
Undergraduate Research Scholar Janelle Randolph ’14 took first prize in the earth sciences oral presentations, applying her research on sand grain movement and distribution to a dune blowout site in Padre Island National Seashore. Randolph said, “Undergraduate research is extremely challenging, but every second was worthwhile and the overall experience was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my college career. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to rise to the challenge.”

Undergraduate Research Scholar (UGRS) and University Scholar, Austin Baty, was the 2013 recipient of the Melbern G. Glasscock Humanities Award, the Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Award, and first prize in the astronomy oral presentations. Baty used computer simulations to model the properties of molten salts containing radioactive elements. He said, “I’m very honored by receiving these awards, and I am glad to see that TAMU recognizes students who put in a lot of time to their research projects.”

In competition with 300 contenders, members of the Undergraduate Research Scholars program took over 60% of the undergraduate prizes. See the list below for details on SRW2013 undergraduate prize winners:


1st Austin Alan Baty (UGRS and University Scholar)
2nd Kristin Nichols (UGRS)

1st Jenni M. Beetge (UGRS)
2nd Benjamin Cassidy

Earth Sciences:

1st Janelle Randolph (UGRS)
2nd Rachel Musgrove

1st Dillon Amaya
2nd Stacy Arteaga (UGRS)


1st Kevin Barnett
2nd Taylor Lane (UGRS)

1st Nicholas Oborny
2nd Carlos Lopez (UGRS)

Fine Arts:

1st John Mark Vanderpool (UGRS)
2nd Cecilia Morales (UGRS)


1st Katherine Anne Elmer (UGRS)
2nd Julie Butler (UGRS)

1st Caitlin Detke and Lisa Rene Clayton


1st Matthew Barry (UGRS)
2nd Matthew Border

1st Cesar Adolfo Rodriguez Villanueva (UGRS)
2nd Andy Hampton and Jennifer Than


1st Vivek Karun (UGRS)
2nd Michelle Eifert and John Peters

1st Olivia George
2nd Robert Seth Thompson


1st Alexander Constantine (UGRS)
2nd William Jacob Cobb (UGRS)

1st Henry Joseph Lessen (UGRS)
2nd Jacob Michael Simpson

Plant Science:

1st Aaron Stephen Wang (UGRS)

1st Joseph Eric Evans
2nd Catherine Marie Hernandez (UGRS)


1st Charles Arvin (UGRS and University Scholar)
2nd Sherwin Chiu (UGRS)

1st Nancy Castellon
2nd Megan Dudley (UGRS)

Melbern G. Glasscock Humanities Award:

1st Austin Alan Baty (UGRS and University Scholar)
2nd Charles Arvin (UGRS and University Scholar)

1st Jennifer Than and Andy Hampton

Vice President for Research Diversity Award:
1st Megan Dudley (UGRS)
2nd Nancy Castellon

Sigma Xi Award for Genomics:
1st Brenda Bustillos

Sigma Xi interdisciplinary Award:
1st Austin Alan Baty (UGRS and university Scholar)

Undergraduate Research Spotlight, Holland Kaplan

Kaplan (right) in Canberra, Australia preforming research on platypus sex chromosomes.
Kaplan (right) in Canberra, Australia preforming research on platypus sex chromosomes.

Undergraduate Researcher doesn’t even begin to credit the work of Holland Kaplan ’13, biology and philosophy major. Since before setting foot on the A&M campus Kaplan has been expanding her mind through research. Her passion for education has taken her from Australia to Portugal to New Zealand and across the United States. I recently interviewed Kaplan to learn more about her, her work, and her future.

What is your major/class year?
I am double majoring in philosophy and biology and will be graduating in May.

How did you get started in Undergraduate Research?
My first experience in undergraduate research was in biology on platypus genomics and genetics. The cover of Nature in May 2008 had a huge platypus on it, and it announced that the platypus genome had been sequenced. I read this article and some others about platypus genetics and was hooked. Platypuses have ten sex chromosomes, which changes all kinds of things about the way they express genetic information. I emailed the lead author of the paper and was invited to spend a summer at Australian National University conducting research under Dr. Jennifer Graves, a prominent platypus researcher. The following summer I continued my platypus research at the University of Connecticut with one of Dr. Graves’ previous post-docs, Dr. Rachel O’Neill. When I got to Texas A&M, I became more interested in interdisciplinary research regarding medical ethics. I had previously taken a class with Dr. Mike LeBuffe, and he agreed to be my advisor for my thesis applying Kantian ethics to end-of-life situations in children.

What is your project about?
My most recent research culminated in an undergraduate research scholars thesis entitled “Pediatric Euthanasia: The End of Life as an End in Itself?” In my thesis, I present background on pediatric euthanasia, expand on some key ideas in Kantian philosophy, develop a model for decision making in pediatric end-of-life situations, and systemically apply ideas of Kantian ethics to my model. It is my hope that a model similar to the one I developed can be used to articulate and prioritize relevant concerns during these types of decision-making processes.

How has this project changed or solidified your views of the importance of undergraduate research?
I certainly want to be involved in research in medical school and in my career, so I think my research experience as an undergraduate will prove to be valuable. It gave me an opportunity to engage with the material I was learning in my classes instead of just passively absorbing it. I was also lucky to be able to compare and contrast my research experiences in science and in the humanities, both of which I enjoyed and will probably engage in in the future.

How was your experience presenting in another country? What did you take away from that experience?
Presenting my work at a global, interdisciplinary conference in Lisbon, Portugal was a great experience. I met many other people with similar interests and received valuable input on my work. Presenting my work in Portugal and studying abroad previously in New Zealand have been some of the most impactful experiences I’ve had while at Texas A&M. Both of these experiences exposed me to different types of cultures and people, which I think is useful for any profession.

What work will be published in Explorations?
I have published my previous research in Explorations in the article “The Platypus: Duck-Billed Outcast or Crucial Evolutionary Link?” My current research will be published by the conference at which I presented it.

What are your future plans?
I have been accepted to Baylor College of Medicine and will pursue my M.D. with a concentration in medical ethics. I hope to become an academic physician with a dual appointment in a subspecialty of internal medicine and a center for medical ethics, allowing me to see patients, conduct ethics research, and teach medical students.