Category Archives: Scholarships

Announcements of nationally-competitive scholarship and fellowship competitions.

Ezell and Versaw to Receive Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Awards Thursday

Kendal Ezell ‘18 and Brooke Versaw ‘18 have been selected to receive 2017 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarship awards. Both students previously received Honorable Mention recognition in the 2017 Goldwater scholarship competition.

In 1984, the six surviving members of the Mercury 7 mission created the scholarship to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors. Today the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) program members include astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs. Over the last 33 years the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has awarded over $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars over the last 32 years. This year only 45 students nationwide are being honored with this prestigious scholarship.

2017 Astronaut Scholar, Kendal Ezell ’18

Kendal Ezell is a senior biomedical engineering student minoring in neuroscience. She was honored in 2017 as the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior for Texas A&M after being selected as the Outstanding Junior from the College of Engineering. As noted above, Ezell was selected for Honorable Mention in the 2017 Goldwater Scholarship competition, and is a member of both the University Honors Program and the Engineering Honors program. Ezell was an Undergraduate Research Scholar, completing her undergraduate thesis on shape-memory polymer foam devices for the treatment of brain aneurysms with Dr. Duncan Maitland in the Biomedical Device Lab. She has also conducted research on the relationship between emotions and learning memory with Dr. Mark Packard in the Institute of Neuroscience, and on biotech device design with Dr. Jeremy Wasser in the Germany Biosciences Study Abroad Program. Ezell’s research has resulted in three publications, including one in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Journal for Design of Medical Devices Conference for which she is first author. She also was awarded a Gilman scholarship for international study and has gained inventorship on provisional patent applications.

Ezell plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. dual degree and work in medical device development and treatment and prevention of tissue degradation in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Ezell’s grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s sparked her passion in this direction. “Before my grandmother’s passing,” she says, “medicine was my chosen field, but her illness gave me further direction into a research career. I realized that I want to do more than just treat patients; I want to conduct research so that I can develop new ways to help and treat patients like my grandmother. The fields of neurology and tissue engineering interest me. It is at the intersections of these fields where I hope to apply interdisciplinary strategies to solve problems in unique ways.”

2017 Astronaut Scholar, Brooke Versaw ’18

Brooke Versaw is a senior chemistry student with a minor in business administration. Versaw was selected as a Beckman Scholar and University Scholar in 2015, and has served in multiple leadership capacities within the University Honors Program Honors Housing Community and Honors Student Council. Versaw also has extensive research experience. The summer before her senior year in high school, she worked with Dr. Junha Jeon at the University of Texas at Arlington as a Welch Foundation Summer Scholar. The summer before her freshman year at Texas A&M, she worked with Dr. Steve Lockless in the Department of Biology to study intracellular signaling. Most recently, Versaw has worked with her Beckman Scholar mentor, Dr. Karen Wooley, as an Undergraduate Research Scholar. Her thesis examined the development of a novel class of degradable polycarbonate materials to create environmentally-responsible plastics. In addition to conducting original research, Versaw is also invested in extolling the virtues of scientific research.

“While my research experience has undoubtedly informed and inspired my desire for a career in scientific research,” Versaw says, “it has also made me an enthusiastic advocate for science outreach. As an Undergraduate Research Ambassador for Texas A&M University, a volunteer for the annual Chemistry Open House, and a workshop leader for Expanding Your Horizons, a STEM initiative for 6th grade girls, I discovered that I enjoy both conducting research and communicating its findings. Moreover, I enjoy serving as a role model and a source of encouragement for younger students.”

Following graduation, Versaw plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry and a career as a polymer chemist on the faculty of a Tier-1 research institution, where she can impact both her field of polymer and materials synthesis, and help cultivate future generations of scientists.

Ezell and Versaw will be presented their ASF awards at a special ceremony on Thursday, October 26, by former astronaut Fred Gregory.

2017 ASF Award Presentation, Reach for the Stars, with astronaut Fred Gregory. Gregory will present awards to Ezell and Versaw before making public comments.

To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Astronaut Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://natlfellows.tamu.edu.

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Four Nominated for Rhodes, Marshall Scholarships

Four outstanding students at Texas A&M University have been nominated for the 2018 Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships, the two most prestigious and highly-coveted academic scholarships available to students in the United States.

The Marshall Scholarship is awarded to 40 students and is tenable for two years of graduate study at any university in the United Kingdom; the well-known Rhodes Scholarship is given to 32 students and is tenable for two to three years of graduate study at Oxford University.  Among the most competitive scholarship competitions in the world, only about 4% of the nationwide pool of over 1,000 university-nominated applicants receive either award.

LAUNCH: National Fellowships congratulates the four Texas A&M nominees to these prestigious competitions for their hard work and dedication to the process of intensive self-reflection required in these applications.

Rhodes Nominees

Andy Baxter ’16, Rhodes Nominee

Andy Baxter ‘16 is a management consultant for Credera in Dallas, Texas. He grew up on a cattle ranch in Franklin, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M with a dual degree in physics and mathematics and a minor in business. He was honored with the Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award which is presented annually to the top two graduating students for their exemplification of the leadership of General Rudder and dedication to academics and Texas A&M University. While at A&M, Andy was broadly involved and an active leader. He served as Director for Freshmen Leaders in Christ (FliC), Treasurer for the Society of Physics Students, Muster Host, and Impact Counselor. He also worked in Washington, D.C. through the Public Policy Internship Program, studied abroad in Budapest, Hungary, and worked in the Accelerator Research Laboratory. Andy is applying for the Rhodes Scholarship to study for two degrees: M.Sc. in Global Governance and Diplomacy and an M.B.A. He hopes to work as a humanitarian strategy consultant to equip organizations in fighting issues such as water scarcity and modern-day slavery.

Caralie Brewer ’18, Rhodes Nominee

Caralie Brewer ‘18 is a senior bioenvironmental sciences and wildlife & fisheries science double major with a minor in environmental soil science. She grew up hiking and exploring the outdoors in the greenbelt of Austin, TX and have always been fascinated by the environment. Here at Texas A&M, she has been involved in Environmental Issues Committee and Alternative Spring Break, working in both towards environmentally-centered community service and community involvement. Caralie also served as an animal care technician for the Aggieland Humane society; in this capacity, she handled animal care, gave vaccines, and aided in adoption counseling.  Caralie was selected as the COALS Alpha Zeta Outstanding Sophomore Award recipient; this is the highest award given to non-seniors in the College of Agriculture. Last fall, she studied ecology in Quito and the Galapagos, Ecuador, where she fell in love with the high-altitude Andean ecosystem known as the páramo. Since then, Caralie has been working towards returning to Ecuador as an applicant to the Fulbright Program; she would hope to aid in conservation initiatives that will help preserve the páramo and maintain a habitat for the species that call it home. Caralie is applying for the Rhodes Scholarship to study for a Ph.D. In Zoology.

Cora Drozd ’18, Rhodes Nominee

Cora Drozd ‘18 is a philosophy major and dance minor. An advocate for pre-college philosophy instruction, Cora’s passion is promoting civil discourse by leading philosophy discussions in K-12 classrooms. Cora’s Undergraduate Research Scholar thesis is on the implications of pre-college philosophy for American democracy. Cora was selected as the Manuel Davenport Prize winner for service to the mission of the Department of Philosophy, served as a public ambassador for Philosophy for Children, was selected as Miss College Station 2017 and was as a finalist for Miss Texas. A student leader, she served as the president of the Association of Cornerstone Students, a liberal arts honors students program, and led RYLLIES, her women’s service organization, to accomplish over fifty community service events as a chair of service. Cora is a group fitness instructor at the Texas A&M Recreation Center where she teaches pilates and dance cardio. She previously interned in the U.S. Congress and studied abroad as an associate member at New College, Oxford. Cora hopes to pursue master’s degrees in Global Governance and Diplomacy and Political Theory at Oxford for a career in law or diplomacy.

Marshall Nominee

Matthew Murdoch ’16, Marshall Nominee

Matthew Murdoch ’16 graduated Summa Cum Laude from Texas A&M in December 2016 with a bachelor of science in political science. While at Texas A&M, Matthew enjoyed an active role in community service and leadership as a Sunday School teacher at his church, a volunteer at the Twin City Mission in Downtown Bryan, and  Special Events Subcommittee member and Ring Day Coordinator with MSC Hospitality. Along with his studies and research assistance, Matthew took part in the Texas A&M Summer European Academy, where his experience witnessing the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis spurred his interest international relations. Matthew was selected for the Public Policy Internship Program and interned at the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, working closely with the National Security Division in Washington, D.C.  After graduation, Matthew worked as a legislative aid/policy analyst with Senator Bryan Hughes in Austin, Texas. He is currently serving as the Deputy Campaign Manager for the Thomas McNutt House District 8 campaign. Looking forward, Matthew is pursuing a career in foreign service. Matthew hopes to pursue an M.Phil. in International Relations at Oxford.

Although these awards are highly competitive, students from Texas A&M are competitive. In fact, since 2001, 18 Aggies have been selected as finalists for the Rhodes or Marshall Scholarships, and four Aggies have been selected as Rhodes or Marshall Scholars! Students interested in applying to nationally-competitive awards such as the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships are encouraged to review opportunities at http://tx.ag/NatlFellows and contact National Fellowships Program Assistant Benjamin Simington at natlfellows@tamu.edu.

Three Aggies Nominated to Truman Competition

Three Texas A&M students have been nominated for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, an award from the Harry S. Truman Foundation which recognizes college juniors who aspire to work in public service. The scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students. Each year, 55 to 65 applicants are chosen from a pool of approximately 600 nominated students. The 2017 nominees from Texas A&M are Alexander S. Jones ‘18, Lucia M. Winkeler ‘18, and Elizabeth J. Woods ‘18.

Alexander Jones ‘18, 2017 Truman Nominee

Alexander S. Jones is a junior political science and economics double-major from San Antonio, Texas. Jones is active with the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, Air Force ROTC, and the Ross Volunteers-Texas Governor’s Honor Guard. He served as the 2016-2017 Aggie Band Command Sergeant Major and has been selected as the incoming Aggie Band Commander for 2017-2018. Jones was selected for the Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP), and he served as a delegate in the Texas A&M University – College Station-Qatar Spring Leadership Exchange Program. Jones is interested in pursuing a Master of Arts in foreign affairs, and he desires to have a career in public service, hoping to one day working for the Office of Public Affairs for the United States Air Force.

Lucia Winkeler ‘18, 2017 Truman Nominee

Lucia M. Winkeler is a junior international studies (politics and diplomacy focus), and Russian language and culture double-major from Austin, Texas. Winkeler is involved in the Texas A&M University Russian Club, the National Slavic Honor Society (Dobro Slavo), and the MSC Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA). She has also served as an intern in the U.S. Department of Commerce (International Trade Association) with the Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) and served as a Fulbright Hays GPA Scholar for summer 2016 study abroad through the Moscow-Texas Connections Program. Winkeler is interested in pursuing a Master of Arts in international affairs, and she desires to have a career in public service, hoping to one day work for the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Service Officer.

Elizabeth Woods ‘18, 2017 Truman Nominee

Elizabeth J. Woods is a junior international studies major from Meridian, Texas. Woods is involved in International Justice Mission, Aggies for Christ, and Freshman Liberal Arts Reading Excellence (Freshman Leadership Organization). She also served as a Communications Manager for Representative Dan Flynn and served as a Peace Corps intern. Woods is interested in pursuing in a Master of Arts in global policy studies, and she desires to have a career in public service, hoping to one day work for the U.S. Department of State or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Two hundred students will be selected as finalists after their applications are reviewed by the Truman Finalist Selection Committee. The finalists will then be interviewed by a series of Regional Review Panels before the 2017 Truman Scholars are announced. In the past 10 years, nine Aggies have advanced to the finalist round. Omar El-Halwagi is the most recent Aggie selected as a Truman Scholar in 2011.

For more information, please contact Benjamin Simington in LAUNCH: National Fellowships, at 845-1957 or natlfellows@tamu.edu.

Texas A&M Nominates Three for 2017 Udall Scholarship Competition

Nominating outstanding students for nationally-competitive scholarships and fellowships is one way to showcase the world-class undergraduate experience at Texas A&M. Not only do the winners in these competitions receive valuable support for their educational expenses, but they also join professional networks that will continue to open doors throughout their careers. But a student does not have to win a competition to realize the value of the national fellowships application process. The applications for these awards ask students to reflect on their ambitions and how they are building knowledge, skills, and experience related to following their dreams. Students report that the application is a truly clarifying experience.

One of the awards that LAUNCH: National Fellowships serves as a nominating official for is the Udall Scholarship. This award, from the Morris K. & Stuart L. Udall Foundation, recognizes top students planning careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Students who are selected will receive scholarships of up to $7000 and join a community of scholars whose dedication to sustainable public policy honors the legacy of the Arizona congressmen.

We are proud to announce the nomination of three TAMU students for the 2017 Udall Scholarship competition: Charlie Arnold, Grace Cunningham, and Jasmine Wang.

2017 Udall Nominee Charlie Arnold ’19

Charlie Arnold ’19 is a mechanical engineering undergraduate in the university and engineering honors programs. He spends his spare time designing solar lighting shelters with Give Water Give Life to be used in rural communities in Burkina Faso Africa, and is the vice president of the cycling team. Arnold became interested in the environment through his cycling. His cycling throughout the country opened Arnold’s eyes to the environment and impacts of climate change occurring in the world today. His interest in engineering and energy spurred Arnold to become interested in renewable energy. After completion of his undergraduate mechanical engineering degree, Arnold plans on working for renewable energy companies before following his goal of starting his own net zero energy home company.

2017 Udall Nominee Grace Cunningham ’18

Grace Cunningham ’18 is a junior bioenvironmental science major pursuing minors in Spanish and business. Cunningham hopes to unite professionals from varied disciplines—including science, business, planning, and design—across government, academia, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses from around the world to work together to solve environmental problems in a more holistic way. A member of the University Honors Program, she served as a Sophomore Advisor and was inducted as a University Scholar in 2015. Cunningham has worked as an intern with the City of Dallas Trinity Watershed Management, conducted undergraduate research in Dr. Brian Shaw’s fungal biology lab. She has participated in a variety of study-abroad opportunities that include conducting tropical and field biology research on endemic species in the Commonwealth of Dominica, instructing a seminar in Italy as an MSC Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership Seminar student leader, and participating in a student leadership exchange to Qatar in the Persian Gulf Coast; in 2017, she will be studying Spanish language and culture in Barcelona as well as conducting research on sustaining human societies and the natural environment in Antarctica. Cunningham is also a member of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega. After graduating from A&M, Cunningham hopes to pursue a masters degree in environmental management.

2017 Udall Nominee Jasmine Wang ’19

Jasmine Wang ‘19 is a sophomore political science major and sociology minor from Houston, TX. Wang is involved in and currently serves as a Student Senator and Chair of Diversity & Inclusion and the Chair of Sustainability through the Texas A&M Student Senate, Aggie Belles, a women’s leadership development and service organization, as well as multiple university-wide committees spanning a wide array of subject matter. Wang also serves as an intern through Texas A&M’s Office of Sustainability, a university institution devoted to fostering a culture of preservation and respect for environmental, social, and economic resources on campus. Just recently, she was a recipient of the prestigious Buck Weirus Spirit Award. Following her completion of an accelerated undergraduate program, Wang plans to attend law school in pursuit of a Juris Doctor with a focus on environmental and energy law and advocacy.

Since 1996, Texas A&M has had seven Udall Scholars and two Honorable Mentions. The most recent Udall Scholar was Victoria Easton ‘15, who was the first TAMU Udall Scholar selected in the Tribal Public Policy category.

For more information about the Udall Scholarship see http://udall.gov.

To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Udall Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.

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 (jkotinek@tamu.edu) or call 979-845-1957 to schedule an appointment.

Four Top STEM Students Nominated for Goldwater Scholarship

LAUNCH: National Fellowships is proud to announce four nominees for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program: junior biomedical engineering major with emphasis on biomaterials Mikayla Barry ’17, junior aerospace engineering major Maura Cadigan ‘17,  sophomore biomedical engineering major and neuroscience minor Kendal Ezell ’18, and sophomore biochemistry major Gabrielle Lessen ’18 .

The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes 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.

Mikayla Barry '17, 2016 Goldwater Nominee
Mikayla Barry ’17, 2016 Goldwater Nominee

Mikayla Barry is the first member of Texas A&M’s Beckman Scholars program. She conducts research in Dr. Melissa Grunlan’s Polymeric Biomaterials lab, developing coatings for silicone to prevent blood clots. This project could allow devices like catheters to remain implanted longer with a lower risk of infection and clot formation. Barry serves as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and volunteers at events like the Chemistry Open House, the Physics & Engineering Festival, and SEE Math Camps. She also plays piccolo in A&M’s Wind Symphony, creates stained glass, and runs long-distance. Barry intends to pursue a PhD in materials science and mentor undergraduates as a faculty member at a research university.

Barry explains that her proposed research project, as articulated in a detailed application essay, “would enhance the lifetime of extended wear contact lenses while reducing swelling and infections.” On the benefits of applying for the Goldwater Scholarship, she remarks, “The application process has helped me grow in my knowledge and motivation for learning.” Maura Cadigan, a fellow nominee, feels that the Goldwater “serves to recognize the hard work of students who have gone above and beyond what is required.”

Maura Cadigan '17, 2016 Goldwater Nominee
Maura Cadigan ’17, 2016 Goldwater Nominee

Cadigan currently serves as a technical consultant on a multinational research team as part of the Stanford U.S. Russia Forum. She is the first Aggie to be accepted into the program. Maura is also active in the Student Engineers Council, co-coordinating the Spring 2016 career fair, and is the mechanical team lead for the Women in Engineering’s first VEX robotics team. She works as a teaching assistant for ENGR 112 and hopes to pursue a graduate degree at a top technical school like Georgia Tech.

Kendal Ezell '18, 2016 Goldwater Nominee
Kendal Ezell ’18, 2016 Goldwater Nominee

For Kendal Ezell, the Goldwater Scholarship represents an opportunity to thank and give back to “the people who helped her to get to that point by providing opportunities and guidance.” Ezell has participated in Dr. Duncan Maitland’s Biomedical Device Laboratory since her second semester at Texas A&M. Her work in the lab has focused on cold plasma surface modifications of shape memory polymer devices and materials characterization, resulting in presentations at three research symposiums across the state and a second place award at the Pathways Symposium at Texas A&M – Corpus Christi. During the fall of 2015, Ezell joined Dr. Mark Packard in the Institute for Neuroscience to study memory in rats. Currently, Ezell is working with biotechnology companies in Germany during her study abroad there. In addition to her research, Ezell is an involved member of Kappa Alpha Theta, the Student Engineers’ Council, the American Medical Student Association, and Alpha Eta Mu Beta. She plans to pursue an MD/PhD in order to perform clinical research on neurotissue degradation and medical device design.

Gabrielle Lessen '18, 2016 Goldwater Nominee
Gabrielle Lessen ’18, 2016 Goldwater Nominee

Gabrielle Lessen is also nominated for the Goldwater Scholarship. She began research with the Michael E. DeBakey Undergraduate Research Scholars Program as a freshman, working under Dr. Christopher Quick and Dr. Thomas Stiles to model renal fluid dynamics. In spring 2015, Lessen was named a Beckman Research Scholar for Texas A&M, and through this program, she is currently conducting an independent research project on telomere biology in Dr. Dorothy Shippen’s lab. Lessen serves as an ambassador for the University Honors Program as one of the University Scholars, is involved in the Biochemistry and Genetics Society and National Aggie Scholar Ambassadors, and currently acts as the Development Director for the MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness. She plans to pursue an MD/PhD and conduct cancer research.

Each of the nominees has greatly benefited from the support of dedicated faculty, research advisors, recommendation writers, and National Fellowships staff. Lessen, for example, extends a special thank you to Dr. Dorothy Shippen, Dr. Sumana Datta, Dr. Thomas Stiles, Dr. Ana Suescun, Adelia Humme, and Jamaica Pouncy. The National Fellowships program depends on faculty and staff to serve on nomination committees and to provide feedback on applications, and we appreciate all that they do to help us.

Since 2000, Texas A&M has produced 26 Goldwater Scholars. In the 2015 competition, genetics and biochemistry double-major Aaron Griffin ‘16 and biology major Erica Gacasan ‘16 were selected as Goldwater Scholars and Will Linz ’16 was named a Goldwater Honorable Mention. Other notable Aggie Goldwater Scholars include Rhodes Scholarship finalist Andrew Matteson ’08, Hertz Foundation Fellow Luke Hunter ’08, and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipients Brian Sedio ’07 and Agustin Mohedas ‘07.

Best of luck to Mikayla, Maura, Kendal, and Gabby in the national Goldwater Scholarship competition!

If you would like to learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship, please see http://natlfellows.tamu.edu/National-Fellowships/About-National-Fellowships/Barry-Goldwater-Scholarship, or email natlfellows@tamu.edu for additional information about fellowship opportunities.

 

Eleni Mijalis Nominated for Churchill Scholarship

LAUNCH: National Fellowships has nominated Eleni Mijalis ’16 for the Churchill Scholarship. The Churchill Scholarship was established to help American STEM students pursue graduate study in Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Master of Advanced Study (MASt) programs at the University of Cambridge in the UK. The Churchill Scholarship will present 15 awards in the current application cycle, each of which covers all University and College tuition and fees and provides a living allowance. Mijalis, a senior biology major and University Honors Student with a minor in computer science, hopes to pursue an MPhil in bioengineering through the scholarship.

While in high school, Mijalis joined the Health Sciences Center lab at Louisiana State University (LSU) to research type 1 diabetes. She engineered a new method that allows the number of experiments conducted per day to increase from one to five so that statistical relevance can be determined. Mijalis also presented at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association as a college freshman and published her work in Diabetologia as a sophomore. She then transitioned to the Center for Phage Technology at Texas A&M, where she annotated a previously unstudied genome, resulting in her first-author publication for Genome Announcements.

Mijalis’s second love is computer programming, which she dubs a “lifestyle” that “permeates [her] whole life.” She channels this enthusiasm into hackathons, where she competes on a team to design novel software applications. Mijalis estimates that she has participated in ten “hacks,” and her creative programming expertise has netted her first place in competitions at other universities and at Facebook’s Austin headquarters. After participating in a poorly organized hack, Mijalis and her teammates decided they could do better and founded TAMUHack, an annual event with over 350 participants. The 24-hour hack is Texas A&M’s largest programming event and has now occurred twice. As treasurer of TAMUHack, Mijalis manages the budget, approves all purchases, organizes food and prizes, and oversees approximately 40 volunteers.

By serving as a prominent organizer of TAMUHack, Mijalis hopes to boost the confidence of other women in STEM fields. She feels driven to represent women in computer science, having observed the skewed gender ratio at programming events. Mijalis’s efforts in establishing TAMUHack comprised her Undergraduate Leadership Scholars capstone project for the University Honors program. She applied computer science theory to leadership theory to create her own hybrid theory on group leadership.

Seeking to bridge her medical research and programming Interests, Mijalis began research in bioinformatics last fall. Currently, she uses Python, a programming language, to design a module that can identify specific RNA and DNA segments. She intends to add this module to Galaxy, a platform for genome analysis. Uniting her two areas of specialty through bioinformatics, Mijalis is preparing for her career goal of becoming the chief medical officer of a technology company.

 For more information about applying to the Churchill Scholarship or another nationally-competitive award, please contact natlfellows@tamu.edu. You can also learn more about the Churchill Scholarship on the LAUNCH website.