Tag Archives: Agriculture and Life Sciences

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.

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Student Research Week 2017

The 20th annual Student Research Week (SRW) was held March 27-31, 2017. The four-day celebration of student research is coordinated by the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) and provides opportunities for students to present–either orally or in poster form–the research they have conducted as students here at Texas A&M University. The theme for 2017 was inclusivity, and the SRW committee set a goal of representing all of the academic colleges. SRW helps foster a campus-wide culture of research and sets a high standard for student research by advertising the opportunities for inquiry at Texas A&M and inviting the university community to participate in this exciting endeavor.

LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research is excited to announce another successful year for our students at SRW. In addition to comprising a substantial proportion of the presenters, our undergraduates took home the following awards:

SUBJECT AREA AWARDS

Engineering
Jordan Lewallen, 1st Place Poster
Kendal Paige Ezell, 1st Place Oral
Kanika Gakhar, 2nd Place Oral

Science
Lorna Min, 1st Place Poste
Sara Maynard 2nd Place Poster
Brooke Versace, 1st Place Oral
Miranda Apfel, 2nd Place Oral

Liberal Arts
Claire Nowka, 1st Place Poster
Daniel Joseph Welch, 2nd Place Poster
Amanda Gomez, 1st Place Oral
James McLean Bell, 2nd Place Oral

Agriculture and Life Sciences
Mackenzie Hartman, 1st Place Oral

Geosciences
Janna Brooks, 1st Place Poster

Education and Human Development
Katelyn Elaine Goodroe, 1st Place Poster
Devyn Chan Rice, 2nd Place Oral

Architecture
Madison Moore, 1st Place Oral

Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Rebecca Harlow, 1st Place Poster
Rebecca Thornton & Michelle Hoathian, 1st Place Oral
Serene Yu, 2nd Place Oral

Health Sciences
Morgan Riba, 1st Place Poster
Gabriella Abouelkheir, 2nd Place Poster
Virginia Beth Neese, 1st Place Poster

SPECIAL AWARDS

Sigma Xi Symposium Theme Award
Brooke Versace, Undergraduate Winner

Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Award
Thomas Edward Settlemyre, Undergraduate Winner

Melbern G. Glasscock Humanities Special Award
James McLean Bell, Undergraduate Winner

University Center Award for Outstanding Abstract
Nicole Green, Undergraduate Winner

University Writing Center Award for Outstanding Presentation
Amanda Gomez, Undergraduate Winner

Provost Watson presents Josh Fuller ‘17 with a certificate of appreciation for his help with SRW 2017
Photo credit: Elizabeth Peterson

For more information about getting involved in undergraduate research, visit http://ugr.tamu.edu.

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.

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.

 

Former Student Spotlight: Randal Halfmann

Dr. Randal Halfmann, ’04, took a bachelor’s in genetics from TAMU before completing his doctorate in biology at MIT. Dr. Halfmann is the recipient of the UT Southwestern Sara and Frank McKnight Fellowship and the NIH Early Independence Award. These awards are designed to help talented young scientists engage in research as principal investigators, bypassing traditional postdoctoral training under the supervision of more senior faculty. Dr. Halfmann’s work with prions was highlighted in the January 2014 issue of The Scientist (see “The Bright Side of Prions”).

Dr. Randal Halfmann
Dr. Randal Halfmann

 Dr. David Stelly, who served as faculty mentor for Dr. Halfmann’s undergraduate thesis, commented, “Randal was an outstanding undergraduate genetics student, student worker and Honors [University Undergraduate Research] Fellow…it was a real pleasure having him in our group.” Dr. Stelly noted that, even as an undergraduate, Dr. Halfmann did not shy away from challenge. “For his Honors Research project, he took on a project that was not being investigated in the lab but of great relevance. [It was an] extremely challenging topic, trying to devise systems for cell cycle synchronization and chromosome doubling in plant in vivo systems.”

 Dr. Halfmann took some time to respond to our questions about his experience as an undergraduate in Honors at Texas A&M, and how his experience has helped to shape his current success.

How did you end up at Texas A&M?

I never seriously considered any other college. Having grown up on a ranch in rural west Texas, and with several Aggies in my family, A&M always felt like the natural choice. But what sealed the deal was my involvement in FFA in high school. In addition to nurturing an interest in applied biology, FFA also yielded the tangible reward of a sizable scholarship to be applied towards an ag major. Luckily, the Genetics program is in the college of Ag and Life Sciences at A&M. So it was a perfect match.

What are your favorite memories of your time at Texas A&M?

I have so many great memories of A&M, from football games to Northgate to to over-caffeinated all-night study sessions. Many of my fondest memories are from my freshman year in Lechner Hall. It was very formative for me, so much so that I would consider honors housing to be one of the major perks of the Honors program. I was surrounded by diverse, driven, incredible people, all of whom were inspiring and some of whom have become lifelong friends. Finally, I cannot forget the emotionally charged A&M vs. OU game of Sept. 22, 2001. The “Red, White, and Blue-Out” of Kyle Field that followed the 9/11 terrorist attack stamped an indelible sense of unity and belonging, and affirmed my faith in the power of individuals to make a difference. I have never been so proud to be an Aggie.

In what aspects of the Honors Program did you participate?

I came into A&M with a Lechner Scholarship, which provided an allowance for studying abroad. So the summer of my sophomore year, I attended the University of Copenhagen as part of Denmark’s International Studies program. While there I lived with a Danish family and was immersed in a completely different environment – physically, culturally, and politically – than anything I could have experienced back in the US. Needless to say I returned home with a deep appreciation for diversity. I honestly would not have considered that opportunity if it weren’t for the honors scholarship.

I actively participated in Honors Student Council, where I became the VP of Public Relations and worked with other members to improve visibility of honors programs on campus.

I was a University Scholar, which grouped me thenceforth among the academic crème de la crème of my classmates. I was exposed to the movers and shakers on campus, and benefited from regular, small scale seminars with faculty and other University Scholars.

I was also an Undergraduate Research Fellow with Dr. David Stelly.  My thesis: “Towards Improved Methods for Cell Cycle Manipulation and Chromosome Doubling in Cotton”.

How did your research experience shape your career path?

Working with Dr. Stelly was by far the most formative experience for my subsequent research career. He is a top notch mentor, and he cares intensely for his students. He provided just the right amount of direction for my project and gave me free reign of the lab, which I took full advantage of. He encouraged me to attend conferences, helped me choose a grad school, and to apply for a graduate fellowship that would subsequently pave my way at MIT. I spent a LOT of time in the lab, and found myself thinking about strategies for chromosome doubling even when I wasn’t there. Having something like that to devote one’s creative time and energy to, and to see it reach fruition, was immensely fulfilling. The objects of my scientific curiosity have changed, but the passion that was born in that first research experience continues to get stronger.

What advice can you offer Honors students as they look forward to an uncertain future after college?

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting deep, firsthand experience in your chosen career. Take every available opportunity.

Honors and Undergraduate Research is grateful to the students, faculty, and staff that make programs like the Honors Housing Community, University Scholars, and Undergraduate Research such a transformative experience. We could not put these programs on without the generous support of the Association of Former Students.

 We love to share news and success stories from our Honors Former Students! If you have something to share with our current, former, and prospective students and their families, please contact honors@tamu.edu.