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INTRODUCING THE CLASS OF 2020 UNIVERSITY SCHOLARS

Today’s Honors Welcome recognized twelve new students joining the University Scholars program. University Scholars is a personal and professional development program for high-achieving students who serve as ambassadors for the University Honors program. Each spring, ten to twelve freshmen are selected for the Scholars program through an intensive application and interview process. The program seeks students who are intellectually curious and who demonstrate critical thinking, self-awareness, poise, and maturity. Scholars are able to engage in rigorous conversation and to defend their ideas. They’re also highly accomplished and motivated students who love learning for the sake of learning.

University Scholars Class of 2020: (left to right) Immanuel Ponminissery, Hannah Lehman, Loan Do, Seth Reine, Sydney Tejml, Caleb Allison, Tessa Williams, Alex Sharma, Sarah Swift, Jon Williamson, Katherine Miller

These new Scholars will join their twenty upperclassman peers in the Exploration Series, seminar courses offered to Scholars each semester. Previous Exploration Series have delved into transportation, education, television, comedy, and animal conservation; this coming fall will feature seminars on Aggie History and Food and the Sacred. Sophomores new to the program participate in a personal statement writing seminar, “Futuring Yourself,” together.

Throughout the program, University Scholars seek intellectual challenge and share their unique perspectives from an array of academic and cultural backgrounds. We are excited for twelve new University Scholars to grow in this program during the next three years and look forward to seeing their future accomplishments both at Texas A&M and in the world!

Caleb Allison ’20, University Scholar

Caleb Allison

Caleb Allison is a sophomore business major from Argyle, TX. Allison is an outdoorsman and adventurer, and he loves anything to do with mountains, snow, and conservation. He was a member of MSC ALOT as a freshman and will be on staff as a Group Leader for his sophomore year. He is also a member of the University Disciplinary Appeals Panel and Discovery Church. Allison went abroad to Italy the summer before his freshman year as part of the Champe Fitzhugh Honors Freshman International Leadership seminar.

Loan Do ’20, University Scholar

Loan Do

Loan Do is an allied health major from Houston, TX, who plans to go to Nursing School. Do is interested in studying either neonatal medicine or oncology for her specialization someday. She is a member of the Regents’ Scholars Orientation Planning Board and Texas A&M University’s Texas Emergency Care Team (TAMECT).

Hannah Lehman ’20, University Scholar

Hannah Lehman

Hannah Lehman is an aerospace engineering major and mathematics minor from Austin, Texas. Lehman is interested in one day combining air and spacecraft with more advanced artificial intelligence. She loves sculpture and martial arts and is a certified Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is involved in Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), Virtual Reality Club, and the Honors community.

Larry Liu ’20, University Scholar

Larry Liu

Larry Liu is an economics major from Alpharetta, Georgia. Liu has always been interested in history and human expression through the arts. He enjoys literature and films, and he is particularly interested in the story and the human struggle in these. Liu is an avid runner, and is often seen running with the Corps early in the morning. He has made Dean’s List, is a recipient of the Sul Ross Corps Scholarship, and serves as the Scholastics Sergeant for his outfit in the Corps.

Katherine Miller ’20, University Scholar

Katherine Miller

Katherine Miller is a biology major and Latin minor from Denver, Colorado. She is a recipient of the President’s Endowed Scholarship and National Merit Semi-Finalist. In her free time Miller enjoys reading fiction, studying languages, and communing with the great outdoors. When she is not studying, Miller is involved in Venture Crew, a co-ed organization of the Boy Scouts of America.

Immanuel Ponminissery ’20, University Scholar

Immanuel Ponminissery

Immanuel Ponminissery is a mechanical engineering major and economics minor from Thrissur, India. Technology and its benefits never fail to excite him, especially developments in his major. Ponminissery also enjoys reading the news, monitoring stock prices, and occasionally getting deeply philosophical. Another passion of his is immersing himself in different cultures. Ponminissery was briefly involved with Model United Nations at Texas A&M and currently serve as Treasurer of the Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honor Society.

Seth Reine ’20, University Scholar

Seth Reine

Seth Reine is a biomedical engineering major from Arlington, TX. Reine is interested in the applications of shape memory polymer biomaterials, increasing medical care across different cultures, and service as a disciple of God. Besides the University Honors program, he is involved with Engineering Honors, Class Councils, Residence Life, and research in the Biomedical Device Laboratory under Dr. Duncan Maitland. Reine is also a Plum Family Endowed Scholar and a President’s Endowed Scholar. He enjoys amateur weightlifting and learning to cook. While away from A&M, Seth works at Camp Thurman as a Christian youth outreach counselor.

Alex Sharma ’20, University Scholar

Eikagra “Alex” Sharma

Alex Sharma is a computer science major and mathematics minor from Bareilly, India. Sharma is currently working at the Energy Systems Laboratory, TEES to improve the software platform for engineering efficiency in buildings. He wants to work in the field of Sustainable Energy Production. Sharma is a member of the Christian Engineering Leaders organization, and is active in volunteering and community service. He is motivated to learn new cultures and skills, and is also passionate about mathematics. Sharma contributes Calculus problems for an e-book as part of the MYMathApps project and is also conducting research under Dr. Philip Yasskin on improving a parser that converts math input to Sage code.

Sarah Swift ’20, University Scholar

Sarah Swift

Sarah Swift is a biomedical engineering major and philosophy minor from Magnolia, TX, where she graduated from Magnolia High School as Valedictorian. She is a National Merit Scholar and Brown Foundation Scholar. Swift’s academic interests lie in medical technology innovation, medical care in underdeveloped countries, and the ethical implications of engineering research. Her personal interests include dance, writing, travel, and spending time outdoors. In the summer of 2016, Swift attended the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. She is a volunteer for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership seminar and is passionate about empowering the youth. During her freshman year at Texas A&M, Swift served as a staff member for The Big Event, as a member of the TEDxTAMU committee of MSC Aggie Leaders of Tomorrow, and a delegate for the Gilbert Leadership Conference. She is also an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta.

Sydeny Tejml ’20, University Scholar

Sydney Tejml

Sydney Tejml is a biomedical sciences and animal sciences double-major with a minor in psychology from Hutto, Texas. Academically, Tejml is interested in veterinary medicine and disease pathology and epidemiology. Her personal interests include travel, camping, and hunting. She loves backpacking, canoeing, snorkeling, and scuba diving! She is involved in ASPIRE, the Terry Foundation, and Pre-Vet Society on campus. Her achievements at Texas A&M include becoming a member of Phi Eta Sigma and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and making the Dean’s List for both semesters of her freshman year.

Tessa Williams ’20, University Scholar

Tessa Williams

Tessa Williams is a business major and psychology minor from Friendswood, TX. She is interested in psychology, especially neuroscience and abnormal and forensic psychology, as well as literature and political science. Outside of school, Williams enjoys reading, hiking, and exploring new places, whether foreign or local. This past year, she was a member of Memorial Student Center Freshman Leadership International, in which she was able to develop leadership and communication skills while putting on educational programs and developing relationships with an amazing group of peers.

Jon Williamson ’20, University Scholar

Jon Williamson

Jon Williamson is a mechanical engineering major from Centennial, CO, he also plans on adding a computer science major and mathematics minor. Throughout his childhood, he was fascinated with math, science, and space exploration. Williamson is a President’s Endowed Scholaras well as a Craig and Galen Brown Foundation Scholar. Outside of academics, he is extremely involved in MSC Aggie Leaders of Tomorrow and is the TEDxTAMU Executive for the 2018 conference. Williamson is an avid sports fan, especially for the Denver Broncos. In his free time, he enjoys reading, working out, and playing basketball.

Freshmen interested in applying for the University Scholars program can learn more by attending information sessions in November or the recruitment mixer in December. The application will open in January 2018. See our website at http://launch.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.

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Three Aggies Selected for Goldwater Honorable Mention

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.

Goldwater Honorable Mention, Kendall Ezell ’18

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.

Goldwater Honorable Mention Kanika Gakhar ’18

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.

Goldwater Honorable Mention Brooke Versaw ’18

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 (natlfellows@tamu.edu) or visit our website: http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.

Md. Mashfique Reza – Gilman Scholar Reflection

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that helps students with limited financial means to experience the enriching experience of study abroad and help prepare them for work in a global economy. The reflection below describes an experience from a recent Gilman Scholar.

By Mohammad Reza ‘19

Gilman Scholar Md. Mashfique Reza ’19

My name is Md. Mashfique Reza. I am one of the ten students from the aerospace engineering department who got the opportunity to come to the Indian Institute of technology (IIT) Gandhinagar with departmental professor Dr. Kinra who mentored us throughout and after the program.

I am grateful that I took this trip. As a Bengali American, I spent a lot of my life in the U.S. and my teenage years in Bangladesh. I got a good experience of life in both worlds. I would proudly say that I accept the good and bad in both American and South Asian culture.
When I was nineteen, I moved back to the United States. I had nostalgia for home and struggled with adapting culturally. However, as time passed I adapted myself, while not forgetting my own South Asian cultural principles that I gained in my teenage years.

However, I never realized what American culture had taught me. I never knew that I am a totally different individual than I used to be ten years ago before moving back to U.S. American culture has taught me to be more humane, practice more responsible habits, such as not throwing garbage anywhere on the road, and learn different concepts of good manners, such as waiting in line. U.S. culture removed the social class and pride from my soul.

During the trip each night, I would think about the past me compared to the present me. I can see how sensitive I became to my surroundings. I could see the current me being sensitive to the fact that  the past me would not have noticed the racial discrimination with the so-called lower class, such as waiters and cooks having to treat so-called upper class with extra respect. If they were sitting down watching TV when we arrived, they would give up their seat. They would not sit beside us and watch TV because upper-class society would see this as disrespectful.

However, Indian people are generally very friendly. People would go out of their way to help us. Anywhere I went, I did not feel uncomfortable or unsafe asking a random individual on the street for directions or any question. There were a couple of incidents where we were not sure about our destination, and we got local strangers giving going out of their way to show us our destination.

The cultural places we visited were really glorious. This country is rich with monarchs and the architecture of forts and palaces left by them. The gems, stones, and clothing were handcrafted and unique. We visited the fortress of King Jai Singh and the gems and clothing stores in Jaipur. The Dilhi Jami mosque was fascinating. The tour to Akshardham temple with its  historical details was mind-boggling.

Another fascinating part of the India tour was the food. Each state has its own way to spice the food and each dish, with different recipes tasting totally different. Parotas, fish, mutton curries, different type of veggie dishes, such as lentils and beans, and appetizers, such as dosas and puris, are some of the unique indian foods that we got to taste. The street food in Delhi is something we do not get to see much in the U.S. It is like a gyro cart in New York City, but  it has its own unique Indian set up, with ten times the taste and variety to choose from.

Indian culture is rich with strong family values. People are very hospitable, welcoming, and less alienating to foreigners. It was easy for me to connect with them, as I could speak and understand Hindi. I was able to practice my foreign language skills and interpret for my team while we were navigating and communicating during in trips to Jaipur, the Taj Mahal, and Delhi. I made some good friends in India who I have been in touch with via Facebook. I was also able to create academic exchanges as well, comparing our academics with theirs.

At the end of the day there are good and bad sides in every culture. I am glad that I got a taste of both cultures. This trip to India gave me an opportunity to understand the value of American lifestyle and technology. I was able to reflect on the values I adopted from the US that differs from my culture. This trip also allowed me to cherish the principles of Bengali Indian culture and family values.

To learn more about the Gilman Scholarship or other nationally-competitive awards, please visit http://tx.ag/NatlFellows or contact natlfellows@tamu.edu.

Honors Reunion (A Letter to Honors Freshmen)

By Adelia Humme ’15

Dear Honors freshmen,

Right now, your biggest concern is probably How will I make friends? You may be wondering Why do I have to live in the Honors Housing Community? Or What if I don’t like my roommate?

Worry no more. Living in Honors Housing is one of the best experiences you can have at Texas A&M. It’s one thing for me, as an Honors Advisor, to tell you that you’ll make plenty of friends. It’s another thing for me, as a former Honors student who lived in Lechner Hall for two years, to tell you that my cohort of fellow Honors students is still in contact more than a year after graduation. For Memorial Day weekend, more than a dozen former students from the University Honors program, Class of 2015, reunited in Houston. Our weekend included volleyball, bowling, swimming, two-stepping at Wild West, a crawfish boil, a visit to the planetarium, and about eight rounds of the card game Werewolf. We also put our college educations to the test at Escape the Room Texas, where we solved puzzles and searched for clues to find keys and open combo locks in order to “escape.” You’ll be delighted to hear that Honors pays off: we got out with one minute to spare on the one-hour time limit!

escape room
Honors Former Students Conquered the room!
Sam & Edward patriotism
Sam & Edward are patriotic!

More important than anything we did was reminiscing about our time in the Honors Housing Community, where we met as freshmen. Most of us were Sophomore Advisors (SAs) in 2012-2013; a few were “spouses,” or partners chosen by Sophomore Advisors to help mentor Honors freshmen. Living in Lechner and McFadden Halls together bonded us. We pulled all-nighters in Hobofo, Lechner’s second-floor foyer. As freshmen, we designed the greatest shack ever for Habitat for Humanity’s annual fundraiser, Shack-a-thon. It featured an enormous and detailed Nazgul for our Lord of the Rings theme. As SAs, we painted ourselves blue for free food at Blue Baker and hosted our own Hunger Games for the freshmen, arming them with pool noodles and flour-filled socks. We opened the annual talent show with our own rendition of “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. And even after we moved out of HHC, we volunteered for Big Event, attended Muster, celebrated Ring Day, and dressed up for Ring Dance together.

Nerd Shack 2012
Nerd Shack 2012
sports
Sports!

The Aggie spirit is still strong in our hearts, and we still hold to our identity as Honors students. So if you’re afraid that you’re going to be alone in college, I hope I can reassure you. Living in the Honors Housing Community, I felt that I had found people who spoke not only my language but my dialect. My fellow Honors students liked what I liked; we watched the same sci-fi TV shows and knew the same geek culture references. You’ll make connections, like we did. You’ll make memories, like we did. You might meet your future spouse (no pressure!). And you very well could have a one-year reunion of your own in 2021.

crawfish boil better
Honors Former Students enjoy a crawfish boil

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten your second worry, which is probably What’s my plan? What am I going to do after college? Not knowing the answer right now is okay! You have plenty of time (and plenty of guidance within Honors) to help you figure it out. We were there, too, and we made it. Here’s what we’re doing now:

  • Alyssa Bennett is pursuing a PhD in naval architecture at the University of Michigan. She majored in ocean engineering and graduated with Foundation Honors. Alyssa was a Sophomore Advisor and a Junior Advisor.
  • Sam Carey is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech through the Critical Skills Master’s Program at Sandia National Laboratories. Sam spends his summers working for Sandia in Albuquerque, NM. He majored in electrical engineering and graduated with University Honors and an Honors Minor in mathematics. Sam was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Mallory Carson is a PhD student studying medical physics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She is working on methods to detect and correct errors in dose calculations to improve the quality of radiation therapy. Mallory majored in radiological health engineering and minored in mathematics. She was a Sophomore Advisor and an Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Danielle Cope is a planning/project engineer for ExxonMobil at the Baytown Olefins Plant. She majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors and Foundation Honors. Danielle was Pj’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.
  • Pj Downey is a systems engineer for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He majored in aerospace engineering and was a Sophomore Advisor. Pj graduated with certificates in engineering project management and engineering business management.
  • Jacob Glenn is a healthcare consultant at Apogee Consulting Group in Houston. He majored in economics and was an Undergraduate Research Scholar and Sophomore Advisor.
  • April Holland is a business consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Houston. She double-majored in business honors and supply chain management. April was a Sophomore Advisor and graduated with Business Honors.
  • Edward Ji is in the Baylor College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program in Houston and continues performing as a violinist with the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra. He majored in biomedical sciences with a minor in psychology.
  • Taylor Peterson is an administrative assistant with Switched Over Consulting and plans a career with Texas Parks and Wildlife. She is majoring in wildlife & fisheries sciences and was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Lauren Roverse is a second-year student at the University of Houston College of Optometry, where she is pursuing a Doctor of Optometry degree. Lauren majored in biology and was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Eric Vavra is a chemical engineering PhD student at Rice University, where he is investigating foam flow dynamics in porous media. He majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors. Eric was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Trey Whitaker works as a developer for the Advance Technology Division of AmRisc, LLC. Trey majored in computer science and was April’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.

As for me, I’m currently an Honors Advisor and the program coordinator for National Fellowships and University Scholars at Texas A&M, but I’ll soon be moving to Boston to begin graduate school at Emerson College. Leaving College Station after five years feels like the end of an era because Texas A&M, and particularly the Honors community, has been my second home. I hope you find that same sense of belonging, security, and no-holds-barred fun when you arrive.

Best of luck, and gig ’em!

 

Two Aggies Honored in Goldwater Competition

LAUNCH: National Fellowships is delighted to announce the recognition of two outstanding students in this year’s Goldwater Scholarship competition. 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.

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

Maura Cadigan ’17, a junior aerospace engineering major, was selected as a Goldwater Scholar. Maura has previously conducted research under Dr. Rodney Bowersox on the Supersonic High-Reynold’s wind tunnel at the National Aerothermochemistry Laboratory. She is also the first Aggie to be selected for the Stanford U.S. Russia Forum, a collaborative research effort between the two countries that examines competition between aircraft manufacturers, with a particular focus on China. As the team’s technical consultant, Maura researches the technical requirements of Chinese markets. Maura’s work on gold-plated nanorods with the Warner Research Group at LSU resulted in her co-authorship on a publication in the Journal of Materials Chemistry. Additionally, Maura is the mechanical team lead on a VEX Robotics team, participates in Student Engineers’ Council and the Society of Women Engineers, and has interned at United Launch Alliance and the Paris Air Show. She intends to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering, researching advanced space propulsion systems, and then work for NASA or a national laboratory.

Kendal Ezell '18, 2016 Goldwater Honorable Mention
Kendal Ezell ’18, 2016 Goldwater Honorable Mention

Kendal Ezell ’18, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, received an Honorable Mention. She has recently served as a research assistant, examining the locations of memory processes, to Dr. Mark Packard in the Institute of Neuroscience. Kendal also researches shape memory polymers in the Biomedical Device Laboratory with Dr. Duncan Maitland and is co-author on a publication based on this work. Kendal’s involvement at Texas A&M includes sorority Kappa Alpha Theta, Student Engineers’ Council, the University and Engineering Honors programs, and biomedical engineering honor society Alpha Eta Mu Beta. She plans to pursue a MD-PhD and become a clinical researcher, studying tissue regeneration and biomaterial engineering.

Texas A&M has a long history of success with the Goldwater Scholarship. Previous Goldwater Scholars include Daniel Miller ’13 (electrical engineering & applied mathematical science), Nicholas Mondrik ’15 (physics), Erica Gacasan ’16 (biomedical engineering), and Aaron Griffin ’16 (biochemistry & genetics). If you are a STEM student invested in research and would like to learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship, please contact National Fellowships coordinator Adelia Humme at arhumme@tamu.edu or visit our website.

Encouraging Others in Engineering Research

In this post, aerospace engineering major and University Scholar Kanika Gakhar ‘18 describes her experience on the Texas A&M Society of Automotive Engineering AERO Design Team and how she plans to use her experience to become an aerospace engineer.

By Kanika Gahkar

University Scholar Kanika Gakhar '18
University Scholar Kanika Gakhar ’18

The Texas A&M Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) AERO Design Team is a student-run organization of 20 members that participates in the annual international SAE Aero Design Competition. This competition challenges teams to design, build, and fly a remote controlled aircraft capable of lifting an internally stored payload within the competition constraints. This year, my team will be returning as the reigning international champions as we took first in the Oral Presentation, second in the Written Report, and first in the Flight Portion, barely edging out a very competitive Canadian team in the 2014 competition. Our margin for victory came down to less than one point, highlighting the combined efforts of the whole team as we took first overall in an international competition.

When I had learned to tame my ideas and use sophisticated research methods to design engineering products, I looked for a hands-on experience. Before I could move on to innovate bio-influenced aviation technology, I had to understand the current engineering process involved in the building of unmanned aerial vehicles. So, I joined the Society of Automotive Engineering International Aero-Design Team.

As a member of the structures sub-team for the Texas A&M Society of Automotive Engineering AERO Design Team, I am currently working on building a radio-controlled aircraft. Being the only sophomore on the team, I had a hard time initially coping with the workload of my project and keeping up with my upper-classmen teammates. However, I stayed up late at night and tried to do additional research; I searched and searched till I found links between my introductory Aerospace courses and my project assignments. Now, as I work on the wing structures for our airplane, I simplify complex relationships using programming languages and fundamentals taught in freshman classes. I analyze the load distributions and force interactions to model the tandem wing. Laser cutting wood and bending sheet metal gives me hands-on experience. Outdoor flight runs and wind-tunnel testing helps me reflect on the effect of mathematical assumptions on real world situations. Additionally, I use my experience in material analysis from my research in ‘Applications of Shape Memory Alloys’ to work with my team on material testing. Hence, the knowledge gained from my various courses, in addition to my self-motivated research and learning, is helping me elevate myself to the level of my senior teammates and work with them diligently to design our structurally sound aircraft.

As a part of this student-run organization, my team of 20 members participates in the annual international SAE Aero Design Competition. This competition challenges teams to design, build, and fly a remote controlled aircraft capable of lifting an internally stored payload within the competition constraints. This year we will be returning as the reigning international champions as we took first in the Oral Presentation, second in the Written Report, and first in the Flight Portion, barely edging out a very competitive Canadian team in the 2014 competition. Our margin for victory came down to less than one point, highlighting the combined efforts of the whole team as we took first overall in an international competition.

As an aspiring aerospace engineer, I am very fortunate to be granted the opportunity to be on such a prestigious team; this team emulates industry by following a design process with technical analysis, experimentation, and trade-off studies, giving students the opportunity to gain experience unavailable in a classroom environment.

I hope to be able to share my story with the rest of the honors community and encourage them to expand their limits. Using myself as an example, I would like to show the students not to be afraid to chase their dreams even when they think they aren’t ready. In order to do this, I hope to conduct an outdoor session; in this session, I will share my first-hand engineering experiences with the rest of the honors society by conducting a flight demo where my team and I demonstrate our automated aircraft in action. This demo will help the students see tangible proof of my research and encourage them to step outside their comfort zones to expand their horizons. I will also work on recording footage of my team’s progress and my personal and professional development. I will finally compile all the footage in a short, fun video that students can watch at their own leisure.

Kanika’s project was supported, in part, with a University Scholar development grant. Enriching opportunities such as this one are made possible due to the generous support of the University Scholars program by the Association of Former Students.

Due to inclement weather, Kanika’s demo will be rescheduled. Stay tuned for the official date of Kanika’s flight demo.

 

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.