Sigma Xi to Host Research Expo for Undergraduates

Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society, is sponsoring the Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research Expo. At least one iPAD will be given to a lucky student as a door prize.

Date: Wednesday Oct 6th
Location: Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building Atrium
Time: 4-6 PM

The Expo is an opportunity for undergraduate students to meet and talk to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) faculty to see what research is being conducted at Texas A&M. Not only will this be an interesting event, but it’s also a great chance to “network” and discover some new opportunities to get involved in undergraduate research!

The event is “come and go,” and finger food will be available at 5:00 PM.
This event is being conducted in collaboration with the Division of Research and Graduate Studies, Council of Principal Investigators, the Office of Undergraduate Research, and Honors and Undergraduate Research.

Faculty members who would like to have undergraduate students carry out research in their laboratories are encouraged to display research activities presently being conducted in their laboratory and to interact with undergraduate students considering research opportunities (possibly for their first time). This is an opportunity for faculty to advertise their undergraduate research openings and to showcase their research to the community.

For further information, contact Michelle Sullens ( or Dr. Larry Johnson (


A “Build Your Own” Major?

The September 5 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education featured a story, “Newly Customized Majors Suit Students With Passions All Their Own,” which examines a growing trend in undergraduate education: “Build Your Own” Majors.

You’re Majoring in What?

Few students are aware that such an option exists here at Texas A&M University! In fact, the first two University Studies – Honors majors just graduated in May, 2010.

University Studies - Honors Graduates Kat Drinkwater and Libby Joachim
University Studies - Honors Graduates Kat Drinkwater and Libby Joachim

The University Studies – Honors major allows students to identify an “area of concentration” comprised of 21 to 24 credit hours of course work focused on a particular topic. To supplement, students must also select two pre-designed minors, one of which must be housed in a different college than their main area of interest.

For example, recent University Studies – Honors graduate Libby Joachim ’10 identified her area of interest as “Neuropharmacology,” which included course work in microbiology, nanotechnology, neuroscience, pharmacy, and biomedical engineering.  Libby will pursue an MD/PhD at the University of Illinois.

Fellow University Studies – Honors graduate Kat Drinkwater ’10 designed a curriculum that took a holistic approach to the topics of communication and interaction by combining courses from neuroscience and psychology, with minors in linguistics and Spanish.  She will continue on to nursing school.

To some students, the inherent value of the University Studies – Honors major is obvious. As the Chronicle article relates…

Self-designed majors generally allow students to choose which courses count toward their majors. “This is the kind of major that could have kept a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs in college,” Dave B. Jones, dean of Drexel’s Pennoni Honors College says.

Another administrator notes…

“I think students do best when they are studying what they really care about,” Raymond W. Hedin, Professor of English at Indiana University says. “I had a number of students who told me they would have left college if they had not had an individualized major.”

But What Do I Do With That?

A common response to the idea of a “build your own” major is that it will hinder students who apply for graduate school, professional school, or the workplace. In fact, the opposite is true. As the Chronicle article notes,

Trudy G. Steinfeld, who runs New York University’s Wasserman Center for Career Development, says undergraduates in NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study generally fare better in the job market than do classmates with traditional majors. An individualized course of study allows students to market themselves as “entrepreneurs and self-starters,” she says.

In fact, students with aspirations of top-flight graduate programs, medical schools, or law schools might actually fare much better with their custom-built degree plan. In addition, students with an individualized major are often more competitive for prestigious fellowships:

Last year four of NYU’s 11 Fulbright scholarship winners were Gallatin students or alumni, Ms. Steinfeld notes, even though students at the school make up only about 6 percent of the university’s full-time undergraduates. Other institutions cite similar statistics. For example, although less than 2 percent of Duke University’s students have individualized majors, five of them have been among the 13 Rhodes scholars there in the last 15 years, says Norman C. Keul, associate dean of Duke’s Trinity College.

So when people ask you “What are you going to do with that?”, you can say, “Whatever I want.”

For further information on the University Studies – Honors major, contact the Honors Programs office at 845 – 1957 or

Info Session: Boren Awards for International Study

A representative from the Institute for International Education (IIE) will be visiting the Texas A&M Campus on Wednesday, September 1st to present information on the Boren Awards, a unique funding opportunity for U.S. students to study world regions critical to U.S. interests. The presentation will be from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm in Bizzell Hall West, Rm. 358.

Boren awards for undergraduates fund study in countries that are generally underrepresented in study abroad. Boren awards for graduate students add an important international and language component to their graduate studies. Undergraduate students are awarded up to $20,000 for an academic year and graduate students are awarded up to $30,000 for two academic years.

Additional information on preferred geographic regions, languages, and fields of study, as well as application procedures can be found at

For information on this and other awards, contact Kyle Mox, Honors Programs.

Kristina Yancey Receives Fulbright Grant

The Honors Programs office announces that nuclear engineering major Kristina Yancey ’10 has received a Fulbright grant to conduct research and study in Switzerland for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Sponsored by the Department of State, The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards scholarships to U.S. graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists selected through a national, merit-based competition for study and research abroad. Academic fields include the social sciences, humanities and the sciences. The Program emphasizes leadership development. Approximately 1,500 scholarships are awarded each year for study in over 150 countries.

Yancey will use her grant to work with the FAST Reactors Group at the Paul Scherrer Institute near Zurich, Switzerland. Her hope is to develop a computer model of a next-generation nuclear reactor.

Yancey is an Honors Research Fellow and will graduate with distinctions from the Engineering Scholars Program and with both Foundation Honors and University Honors distinctions from the University Honors Program. A President’s Endowed Scholar and a Galen T. Brown Scholar, she has served as president of the Global Justice student organization. She has also been recognized with the Aggie Spirit Award for determination in the face of adversity and as a Stinson Scholar by the Department of Nuclear Engineering.

Yancey comments that her proposed research in Switzerland would be of benefit as she progresses in her education towards a PhD in nuclear engineering and towards her ultimate goal of designing more sustainable nuclear reactors. “As the world moves toward more environmentally-friendly power sources, it will be vital to make the case for nuclear power to be part of the energy portfolio and to keep striving for excellence in the nuclear industry, both with current and future technology,” Yancey comments. In reference to why studying in Switzerland, as opposed to the United States, will be so valuable, she adds, “I would not only be sharing ideas about the group’s work but also learning about the country’s attitude toward nuclear energy. Because Switzerland is made up of an international community, learning about the country’s attitude would give me a better understanding of nuclear energy in a more global context.”

In the past ten years, 20 Texas A&M students have received Fulbright Grants, studying such diverse fields as archaeology, engineering, and journalism in countries ranging from Chile to Japan to Poland. The application cycle for Fulbright Grants for the 2011-2012 cycle is currently underway. For more information, please contact Mr. Kyle Mox, National Scholarships Coordinator at (979) 845-1957 or

Fulbright Grants to Fund Study Abroad

The online application for the Fulbright Program for US Students is now open.  Fulbright is the premier study abroad program for US students, providing complete support for an entire academic year of foreign study or research.

Sponsored by the US Department of State, Fulbright annually awards over 1,300 grants to support foreign research or study in over 140 countries. A Fulbright grant entirely supports one academic year of study, research, or teaching assistantship experience—projects may include university course work, independent library or field research, or professional training in the arts.

To be eligible, students must be U.S. citizens and hold at least a bachelor’s degree by the start of the grant period (i.e. graduating seniors and graduate students may apply). Students should begin preparing their applications at the end of their third/junior year of undergraduate study.

The Fulbright program provides invaluable opportunities to meet, work, and live with people of various cultures, promotes cross-cultural interaction and mutual understanding through engagement in local communities, and fosters appreciation of other’s viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think, through direct interaction with them on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in daily tasks.

For more information on the Fulbright Program for US Students, visit

For information on how to apply to the program, visit or

For further guidance on the application process, contact Mr. Kyle Mox, National Scholarships Coordinator at or 979.204.4709.

Pew Charitable Trust Offers New Internship

The Pew Leadership Year

The Pew Leadership Year offers hands-on experience in public policy advocacy, research and communications to individuals who are dedicated to building a leadership career in the public or nonprofit sectors and have recently completed an undergraduate or advanced degree.  The first Pew Leadership Year will begin in September 2010 and conclude in August 2011.

These year-long, paid positions – all based in our Washington, DC, office – will provide 22 exceptionally talented graduates the chance to work alongside Pew professionals, gaining valuable skills while making important contributions to our work.  Pew Leadership Fellows will learn and hone essential skills that will help them thrive not only during their tenure at Pew, but in any chosen career.

Participants will work with a diverse group of Pew staff in specific departments.  Through observation and involvement, each fellow will have the opportunity to work on critical issues, which may include: global conservation; U.S. land conservation; marine environmental advocacy; global warming and energy policy; federal banking regulations; financial reform; state fiscal issues; election initiatives; public safety; the healthy development of young children; and early childhood education.

Each program participant will focus on one discipline – advocacy/policy, research or communications – within one department – Pew Center on the States, Pew Economic Policy Group, Pew Environment Group or Pew Health Group.  While immersed in one area, participants will have ample exposure to other program areas and attend professional and leadership development seminars.

During their Pew Leadership year, Fellows will have a wide range of responsibilities, which may include:

  • Conduct original research and writing projects.
  • Collect, compile and analyze data.
  • Provide financial assistance to advocates and other leaders to educate policy makers and the public about the benefits of various programs.
  • Become immersed in the research, planning, strategy formulation and execution of a multi-state advocacy campaign.
  • Help prepare for press and other events and attend seminars, briefings or congressional hearings.
  • Assist in efforts to educate policy makers, coordinate work with coalition partners and create fact sheets and other materials.
  • Help create effective online presentations that promote various issues and campaigns.
  • Track legislation and relevant press coverage and research public officials’ records and statements.
  • Support a broad range of advocacy activities.


The Pew Leadership Year is open to individuals graduating with a bachelor or advanced degree from December 2009 through August 2010.  Individuals who studied the following areas are strongly encouraged to apply: economics, political science, environmental science, health science, communications, journalism or public policy.  An applicant must have the legal right to work in the United States at the time of applying to the program.

The criteria for assessment of applicants will include:

  • Evidence of superior academic achievement.
  • Demonstrated analytical skills through academic studies and/or work experience, including an ability to synthesize large amounts of information and focus quickly on the essence of an issue.
  • A strong commitment to producing measurable results.
  • Demonstrated leadership capabilities.
  • Excellent written and oral communications skills, including an ease in communicating complex concepts in a clear, effective manner for a general audience.
  • Demonstrated interest through academic study and/or prior full-time or part-time work experience in building a leadership career.
  • Demonstrated understanding of policy, research and organizational issues.
  • Ability to perform substantive research.
  • Results-oriented style with a focus on process and achievement.
  • Recognized ability to meet multiple deadlines by maintaining a high level of organization.
  • Strong interpersonal skills, including the ability to develop and manage productive relationships with colleagues.

Application Process

Applications are available online in the Careers @ Pew / Pew Leadership Year section of Pew’s website at   We suggest you create a login ID and password, allowing for future access to edit your information.

Applications should be submitted no later than May 24, 2010.

A cover letter is not required.

School transcript and recommendation letters are required at the time of an office interview.

Essays:  In addition to the application questions, two essays are required.  Each essay should be no longer than 400 words.  Each should be a concise, well-written essay describing your academic studies and other relevant experiences and how each has prepared you to pursue a career in public policy or the nonprofit sector. The essays may include any notable coursework, research activities, participation in local, regional, or national volunteer activities, and work experience. Your essays should also provide information illustrating your leadership experience and ability to work independently as well as in teams.

Essay 1:

Explain your reasons for applying to Pew’s one-year leadership program and why you have chosen your areas of interest.   Include how your education and prior experiences make you well-qualified for the position.  What strengths and ideas do you bring to the role?

Essay 2:

Describe an experience that demonstrates your leadership abilities and qualities.  What was the objective of the effort, and what role did you play to encourage success?  In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?

Interview Process

You will be contacted in late May should you be selected for an interview.  The first round of interviews will be conducted by telephone.  We expect to invite finalist candidates to our Washington, DC, office for a last round of interviews in the first two weeks of June.  Arrangements may be made for a video-conference interview in lieu of an in-office interview.

Please note that applicants are responsible for any travel expenses.

Offers will be extended in late June/early July 2010.

Program Areas Hosting Pew Leadership Fellows

Pew Center on the States

Pew’s Center on the States (PCS) works to advance state policies that serve the public interest. PCS conducts credible research, brings together diverse perspectives, and analyzes states’ experiences to determine what works and what does not. We work with a wide variety of partners to identify and advance nonpartisan, pragmatic solutions for pressing problems affecting Americans.

–          Policy/Advocacy Positions – Children’s Campaign

–          Research Positions – State Fiscal Policy and Government Performance

Pew Economic Policy Group

Pew’s Economic Policy Group (PEPG) combines a belief in the importance of upward mobility and the power of the market economy. In this spirit, we promote policies and practices that strengthen and ensure the future competitiveness of the U.S. economy by cultivating new bipartisan coalitions, informing critical national debates and striving toward meaningful policy change.

–          Research Positions – Subsidyscope; Financial Reform

Pew Environment Group
The Pew Environment Group (PEG) is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts and focuses primarily on addressing the problems of climate change, the preservation of large intact wilderness ecosystems, and the protection of the global marine environment.

–          Policy/Advocacy  Positions – Campaigns; Government and Field Operations

–          Communications Positions

Pew Health Group

The Pew Health Group (PHG) seeks to improve the health and well-being of all Americans.  Based on research and critical analysis, the program advocates policies that reduce unacceptable health risks, focusing on areas that include food, medical and consumer product safety.

–          Communications Positions – Web and Media

–          Policy/Advocacy Positions – Financial Security Portfolio

We are an equal opportunity employer.

New Honors Course on Adoption Narratives Offered

Many students may be interested in a new course being team-taught by Dr. Claudia Nelson and Dr. Liz Talafuse: ENGL 394-200: “The History and Development of Adoption Narratives.”

The course will survey representations of adoption primarily in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American, British, and Canadian fiction, children’s literature, memoir, drama, film, and social science writing to explore the development of the adoption narrative as a genre. Throughout the semester, the class will investigate what narratives of adoption suggest about the concept of “family.” Questions to be considered include: What does “family” mean if the biological component is absent? How are the concepts of “family” and “blood” connected? How does the adopted child understand his/her position in the adoptive family? How do authors and readers respond to adoptive parenthood? The literature included in this course will examine adoption from the perspectives of adoptive families, biological families, and adopted children. Furthermore, we will investigate how representations of adoption have/have not changed over time.

The course is MWF, 12:40 pm to 1:30 pm. It will count as an upper-level Humanities course towards both Foundation and University Honors.

For further information, contact Dr. Nelson – – or Dr. Talafuse –  Further course information may be found via the course listing at

From Promise to Achievement