Tag Archives: Aggie Research Scholars

2015 Beckman Scholar – Jennifer Tran

Female student with long dark hair and glasses, wearing a black jacket
2015 Beckman Scholar Jennifer Tran ’18

Biochemistry and genetics double major Jennifer Tran ‘18 from Carrollton, Texas, is the third of our three new Beckman Scholars from Texas A&M University. Tran impressed the faculty, staff, and student application reviewers and interview panel with her ability to view issues from multiple angles, her appreciation of a “eureka” moment earlier this year that changed her view of the world and her enthusiasm for problem solving. While Tran’s description of herself as “independent” and “involved” was clearly demonstrated by her many activities, the critical self-knowledge and self-deprecating humor demonstrated in her application essays made quite an impact on the application readers.

Tran is a University Honors freshman and member of the Biochemistry and Genetics Society. She began research her first semester at TAMU with the Aggie Research Scholars helping to build a self-regulating pressure pump and then moved to the laboratory of Dr. Vishal Gohil in the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics to study mitochondrial copper transport. Tran started her leadership development early through the MSC Champe-Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar the summer before matriculating at TAMU and has continued as a member of the Freshman Leadership Experience Service committee. Even while in her first semester at TAMU, Tran continued community service she began in the Dallas area, such as her volunteer work with the Dallas Marathon.

In June, Tran will begin her research as a Beckman Scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Ry Young, the first Director of the Center for Phage Technology, looking for ways to identify and adapt phage particles for use as a new paradigm for antibiotic function.

Three TAMU Students Recognized in Goldwater Competition

The Goldwater Scholarship is a competitive National Fellowship that recognizes students with outstanding potential who wish to pursue careers in STEM research and rewards them with a maximum of a $7500 scholarship to be used in the coming academic year. The 2015 Goldwater Scholars were selected from a pool of 1206 math, science and engineering majors nominated by faculty at top academic institutions for their outstanding academic achievement and research potential.

Three Texas A&M Students were recognized this past March for their outstanding academic achievements in biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and mathematics by the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation. Erica Gacasan, a ’16 biomedical engineering major, and Aaron Griffin, a ’16 biochemistry major, have been selected as Goldwater Scholars and William Linz, a ‘16 mathematics major, has been named a Goldwater Honorable Mention.

Female student with long dark hair in a maroon and white t-shirt
2015 Goldwater Scholar Erica Gacasan ’16

Gacasan, who has been developing artificial scaffolds for regenerating bone and cartilage with Dr. Melissa Grunlan in the department of Biomedical Engineering, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. Gacasan’s outstanding research and academic strength, including her role as a team leader for the Aggie Research Scholars Program, led to her selection as one of only 16 students to join the 2015 Biomedical Engineering Summer Internship Program at the National Institutes of Health. Gacasan’s remarkable research acumen and communication abilities resulted in her being chosen to represent TAMU undergraduate research at Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Austin and as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador here on campus. Gacasan has also participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.

2015 Goldwater Scholar Aaron Griffin '16
2015 Goldwater Scholar Aaron Griffin ’16

Griffin, who has been researching the mechanisms of mitochondrial disease with Dr. Vishal Gohil in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, plans to pursue an M.D. and a Ph.D. in cancer cell biology after graduation. Griffin’s research activities and academic excellence, including his participation in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, led to his being selected for the 2014 Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Undergraduate Research for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Griffin has also taken on leadership positions as as the Co-Chair of the Explorations Executive Board where he oversees the process of proposal solicitation, article review and selection, editing, layout and publication of TAMU’s Undergraduate Journal and a 2015-2016 Undergraduate Research Ambassador where he will spread the word about the excitement of undergraduate research .

Male student with short dark hair and glasses, wearing a maroon polo shirt.
2015 Goldwater Honorable Mention William Linz ’16

Linz, who has been investigating the use of mathematics to model searching strategies through large volumes of data with Dr. Catherine Yan in the Department of Mathematics, plans to pursue a Ph. D. in mathematics. Linz’s unusual and complex insight into combinatorics has led to a publication in a professional peer-reviewed mathematics journal and successful completion of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. His leadership and desire to communicate a love of science in general and mathematics in particular have been honed through his service as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and a member of the Explorations Executive Board.

Current freshman and sophomores interested in applying for the 2016 Goldwater Scholarship should contact Jamaica Pouncy, Program Coordinator, National Fellowships and Honors Academic Advisor, jamaica.pouncy@tamu.edu.

HUR Staff Spotlight: Tammis Sherman

Honors and Undergraduate Research presents Tammis Sherman. Sherman serves as Program Coordinator for the Undergraduate Research Scholars program, and coordinates support and enrichment for undergraduates engaged in summer research projects at Texas A&M, such as the Aggie Research Scholars and the many campus REUs.

Tammis Sherman
Tammis Sherman, HUR Program Coordinator

Sherman grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and has had a horse or pony for as long as she can remember. She had a small buckboard wagon she would hitch up and give friends rides around her rural home. Sherman was in 4-H and developed a great love for exploring. It was that sense of adventure that took Sherman from New England to Texas, with a couple of years spent living in Oahu, Hawaii, swimming with her daughter at Waikiki.

With a background in finance, Sherman spent 30 years working with people doing estate and retirement planning. With so much energy and enthusiasm, Sherman could not stay retired. She began working with the Texas A&M Research Foundation, and then under the Vice-President for Research, Dr. Robert Webb, and Dr. Suma Datta, who was serving as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research. When Dr. Datta was selected as Executive Director and tasked with combining the University Honors Program and Undergraduate Research Scholars program, Sherman made the move with her.

Sherman lives on a small farm and enjoys time with her many animals, which included horses, cows, cats, dogs, and the occasional bull. An accomplished baker, Shermans’ cupcakes and muffins are the highlight of office gatherings, especially when she is trying out a new recipe. Sherman is also a gifted artist and often shares inspiring photographs taken on her farm. She also paints, and her fantastic animals not only adorn her office wall, but also the custom cards she gives each year at the holidays.

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Aaron Griffin Awarded COALS Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Undergraduate Research

University Scholar Aaron Griffin, ’16, was recently awarded the 2014 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Undergraduate Research, one of the highest honors presented by the college to faculty, staff, and students. Griffin, a biochemistry and genetics double-major, was notified in May that he had been nominated by the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics. Each of the fourteen departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Science are allowed to nominate one undergraduate student for the Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award, and a college-level committee selected Griffin from this pool.

Aaron Griffin '16, Recipient of the 2014 College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Undergraduate Research
Aaron Griffin ’16, Recipient of the 2014 College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Undergraduate Research

The Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Awards are meant to recognize, award, and encourage excellence in the work of faculty, staff, and students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The award for undergraduate research, specifically, recognizes and encourages excellence in undergraduate student research. Successful nominees must demonstrate substantial involvement in major research projects or conduct independent research with faculty members. The award is limited to research completed while the undergraduate student is enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.

For two years, Griffin has investigated the genetic and biochemical basis of mitochondrial disease as an undergraduate in Dr. Vishal Gohil’s lab. Mitochondrial disease describes a group of diverse genetic diseases arising from mutations in DNA that result in broken mitochondrial machinery, resulting in defects that may affect the heart, brain, or other organ systems. As part of the Aggie Research Scholars program, Griffin has presented research with team members Daniel Diaz and Connor McBroom at the Texas A&M Summer Undergraduate Research Poster Session and Texas A&M University System Pathways Student Research Symposium in 2013. He also presented work related to his thesis for the Undergraduate Research Scholars program at the 2014 Texas A&M University Student Research Week oral presentation session with Shrishiv Timbalia and Sarah Theriault. Griffin was listed as an author on a manuscript published recently in Human Molecular Genetics, and helped author a grant proposal recently accepted by the National Institutes of Health.

Griffin cites his involvement in Honors and Undergraduate Research programs such as the Honors Housing Community, Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal, University Scholars, and Undergraduate Research Scholars as playing a large role in his academic development. Griffin has certainly taken advantage of the range of programs offered through our office to help students identify, prepare for, and pursue their passions. He is excited to use this experience and the tangible evidence of his accomplishments as he pursues doctoral studies in medicine and cancer cell biology.


Summer 2014 Undergraduate Research Poster Session

On Wednesday, August 6, over 100 undergraduate students presented the results of their summer research at the annual Summer Undergraduate Research Poster Sessions, held in the lobby of the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences building. The poster sessions, organized by Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR), provide an opportunity for students who have spent their summer working under the research mentorship of TAMU faculty and graduate students to communicate their results to the campus community. Additional poster sessions were held by the College of Engineering for participants in their Undergraduate Summer Research Grants program.

Summer 2014 Undergraduate Research Poster Session
Summer 2014 Undergraduate Research Poster Session

For many undergraduate students, summer is an ideal time to become engaged in research. A variety of summer research programs, open both to Aggies and to students from other universities, provide immersive summer research experiences with the intent of encouraging students to continue their research activities during the regular semester and continue on to graduate school. These include 14 programs supported by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) which attract students from across the country, the HUR and College of Liberal Arts-supported Glasscock Summer Scholars Program for students interested in humanities research, and the Aggie Research Scholars, an innovative and diverse program using peer research mentors sponsored by the Michael E. DeBakey Institute in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Due to the popularity of summer research, this year for the first time the poster program was split into two sessions: a morning session comprised of posters in the physical sciences and engineering and an afternoon session comprised of posters in the life sciences, geosciences, and humanities. This change in the program schedule eased the crowding of the 2013 session which had a total of over 170 posters. The Summer 2014 Undergraduate Research Poster Sessions were a huge success and boasted a total of 117 posters presented by over 200 students. Please visit our online photo album to see pictures from both sessions!

The programs represented included:

Students explain the results of their research projects.
Summer 2014 Undergraduate Research Poster Session

Honors and Undergraduate Research provides support for summer undergraduate research programs run on the Texas A&M campus. The support provided by HUR includes coordination of social events, brown bag lectures, access to campus services, tours of research facilities, and the end-of-summer poster . Enrichment opportunities like this poster session are made possible through the generous support of the Association of Former Students. If you appreciate their support of programs like these, as we do, please let them know!

In Memory of Dr. Jim Aune

We are saddened today to share the news of Prof. Aune’s untimely death.

 In tribute to the countless students whose minds he challenged and helped to become the people they were meant to become, here are the remarks he delivered at the Honors Recognition Ceremony on May 8, 2008.

Howdy! Thank you for the kind words. A few years ago, some students and I wanted to propose that Texas A&M create a new tradition, that of electing a Faculty Yell Leader, and, strangely enough, Professor Ritter didn’t want to be nominated. There’s a common expression we all have probably used after meeting someone and that person later comes up in conversation with a friend: “What’s that guy’s story, anyway?” To me, Kurt’s story is that of someone who more than any faculty member I know lives out the Spirit of Aggieland–a distinguished scholar of presidential speechwriting, an inspiring teacher, and someone who puts the good of his university community ahead of himself. The great Jewish writer and survivor of Auschwitz Elie Wiesel once wrote, “God made human beings because he loves stories.” So, as the organizing theme of this speech, I want to pose this question to our honors graduates: What’s your story? How would you want someone to answer that question about you, now and at the end of your life?

Because you are Aggies, there are Aggie stories you will tell about yourself and about Aggie traditions. Some of them you won’t want to tell your parents, at least until they’re enjoying your struggles with your own children. Some you will forget, especially the episodes you worried too much about at the time–usually having to do with a grade. Many you will cherish. My own Aggie story began in the fall of 1996. I had spent my first 16 years of full-time teaching in the small private college setting, mostly in Minnesota, my home state. One of my frustrations with that setting was the growing expectation of my students, who seemed to grow richer each year, that since they were paying tuition that cost more than my first mortgage, I really would ruin their lives if I gave them a B plus. As I was calculating my final grades at the end of my first semester year, a young man came into my office and asked if he could see his final grade. I thought to myself, “Here it comes. I wonder how you whine in Texan?” I showed him the numbers, and the final letter grade. He looked at me and said, “A C? thank you, Sir!” After he left, I thought to myself, I could really get used to this.

In addition to your Aggie stories, you are part of a continuing family story. The characters and plot lines may differ slightly from family to family, but the questions the characters ask are remarkably similar. If you are a parent, like I am, you might ask: When am I ever going to stop worrying about him or her? If you’re a father of a young woman graduate, you might ask: How am I going pay for this wedding that seems to be taking on the proportions of Operation Desert Storm? If you are a graduate, you might ask: can I stop worrying about my grades now? Will they ever let me grow up? Am I ever going to get over this hangover? The family story I cherish was told to me late in life by my paternal grandmother, who emigrated from rural Norway with her family in the 1880’s, at age 12, and rode with them in a boxcar across Canada in the dead of winter before landing in central Minnesota on the land they were to farm. My grandmother was scared to death during the journey, because in the boxcar there was a pile of what Americans call corn, which she had never seen before, and which she assumed were the teeth of dead Indians. I know now the sort of poverty and desperation that causes families to seek opportunity in a new land, and that she could never have imagined just how much opportunity this country could provide for her children and grandchildren.

Because you see, our Aggie and our family stories are part of America’s story, and this university, more than any other I know, helps us remember that we are part of that larger American narrative about freedom, opportunity, and sacrifice. We are now in the middle of what one historian called “our great autumnal madness” of selecting a President. A Texas story: my father died the year my family moved to Texas. A distinguished teacher himself, my father was most proud of his service in the Army Air Corps during WWII as a B-17 navigator. As was his right as a veteran, he received an American flag for his funeral, a flag that now sits in a triangular case on our mantelpiece. A while back, my next-door neighbor, a good friend of my wife’s, walked into our living room and noticed the flag for the first time. She looked at the flag, at my wife, then back again, with a puzzled look on her face. She said, “Why do you have a flag? Y’all are Dimocrats!” I’d like to think she was kidding, but I am reminded every day during this election season that somehow we have lost our sense of a common story, that we seem to have forgotten that sense of civic friendship, going back to ancient Athens, which means that people who are part of a common story can disagree passionately, even angrily at times, without viewing our neighbor as the enemy.

Which leads me, finally, to your personal story. I spend a lot of time, inside and outside of the classroom, thinking about the legacy of the ancient Greeks. One line that haunts me still from my undergraduate education is the line of the Greek poet Pindar, in the Pythian Ode: “Know what you are, and that become.” My own continuing education now is mostly about co-authoring a story that answers Pindar’s injunction–as I learn from my community, my family, my neighbors, and especially from my students. Put another way, the Jewish sage Rabbi Zusya once said, “When I reach the next world, God will not ask me, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ Instead, he will ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusya?'” Why were you not the person you were meant to be? My hope is that you, like me, continue to struggle, with courage and with joy, to tell the right story about yourself, before your family, your community, and with the Almighty.

All stories, Rabbi Zusya reminds us, have an end. A punctuation. A period. Since coming to Aggieland, I have learned a new form of punctuation. It is called a Whoop! Those of us who have been successful studying, reading books, working in a lab or a studio, and slaving away at the computer, often spend too much time postponing joy, as if it might make us look foolish. And we didn’t get where we are by looking foolish. Or so we think. If you forget everyting else I’ve said, and you will, just remember this. Now’s the time to Whoop! Congratulations! You’ve earned it. And let that Whoop ring from the rafters.