Tag Archives: Alexandria Payne

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Awards

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prestigious awards to support graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Nearly 17,000 applications were submitted for the 2016 NSF Fellowship competition, resulting in 2,000 award offers. This spring, 14 current and former Texas A&M University students were selected as 2016 NSF Graduate Fellows, while 21 were named Honorable Mention. Several of these students participated in LAUNCH programs at Texas A&M, including 5 who completed an undergraduate research thesis as an Undergraduate Research Scholar, 4 who participated in the University Honors program, one Undergraduate Research Ambassador, and two authors for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal.

Alexandria Payne ’16, Bioenvironmental Sciences and Wildlife & Fisheries
Alexandria Payne ’16, Bioenvironmental Sciences and Wildlife & Fisheries

2016 NSF Graduate Fellow Alexandria Payne recently graduated from Texas A&M, where she double-majored in bioenvironmental sciences and wildlife & fisheries sciences. Alex began her research experience in the labs of Dr. Karen-Beth Scholthof and Dr. Herman Scholthof in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Alex will continue at A&M for a PhD in entomology, studying with Dr. Juliana Rangel in the Honey Bee Lab, where Alex will investigate the interactions of honey bees and the invasive Tawny crazy ant. Alex, a University Scholar and Undergraduate Research Scholar, was previously nominated for the Udall Scholarship recognizing commitment to environmental issues. She graduated cum laude with the Honors Fellows and Honors in Bioenvironmental Sciences distinctions. Alex has an upcoming publication, “Do More Promiscuous Honey Bee Queens Produce Healthier Hives?” in Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal, Volume 8, to be published in fall 2016.

In addition to the GRFP, Alex’s graduate study will be supported by Texas A&M’s Diversity Fellowship. She also received the Senior Merit award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Reflecting on the benefits of the GRFP, Alex says, “This fellowship has given me the gift of being able to choose research topics I find interesting and wish to delve into. I wish to advise everyone to apply for or reach for the seemingly impossible as you may surprise yourself with the results.”

Ana Chang-Gonzalez ‘16, Biomedical Engineering
Ana Chang-Gonzalez ‘16, Biomedical Engineering

Ana Chang-Gonzalez, another 2016 NSF Graduate Fellow, recently graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering and the Engineering Honors distinction. As an undergraduate, she volunteered in the Molecular Biomechanics Lab and conducted protein simulation in an AggiE-Challenge. She also began working with the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories to develop software for biological purposes. With NSF support, Ana will continue that project in her graduate studies, expanding a software that builds computational models of biological images and analyzes them for quantitative information. Ana is a former resident of the Honors Housing Community and a member of Alpha Eta Mu Beta, the Biomedical Engineering Honor Society, and Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society. She has an upcoming publication, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Numbers,” in Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal, Volume 8, to be published in fall 2016.

A three-time recipient of the Dean’s Honor Roll, Ana says that, through her NSF application, she “learned how to neatly craft all [her] experiences into a concise form, how to formulate a research proposal, and the value of having faculty mentors that truly care about [her] success.” This fellowship will allow her “to focus more on conducting high-impact research and making a true difference in the field.”

LAUNCH would like to congratulate the Aggie 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellows and Honorable Mentions and acknowledge their valuable contributions to our programs!

National Science Foundation 2016 Graduate Research Fellowship Awardees:

  • Shelby Bieritz, biomedical engineering. 2014 Fulbright Scholar.
  • Timothy Brown, physics of materials research.
  • Stacy Cereceres, biomedical engineering.
  • Ana Chang Gonzalez, bioengineering. Engineering Honors, Explorations
  • Chace Holzheuser, evolutionary biology.
  • Ethan Kamphaus, materials engineering. Engineering Honors.
  • Shannon Murray, materials engineering.
  • David Parobek, macromolecular, supramolecular, & nanochemistry.
  • Alexandria Payne, entomology. University Honors Program, Honors in Bioenvironmental Sciences, Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Scholar, Udall Scholarship nominee, Explorations
  • John Peters, neurosciences. University Honors Program, Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Karis Tang-Quan, bioengineering.
  • Taneidra Walker, biomedical engineering.
  • Jessica Wang, paleoclimate geosciences. Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Sarah Ward, macromolecular, supramolecular, & nanochemistry.

Honorable Mention:

  • Kristine Arvola, tissue engineering.
  • Alyssa Bennett, ocean engineering. University Honors Program, Honors Housing Community Sophomore & Junior Advisor.
  • Megan Brooks, materials engineering.
  • Erin Buchholtz, ecology.
  • Prachi Dhavalikar, biomedical engineering.
  • Garrett Edwards, biochemistry.
  • Grace Fletcher, biomedical engineering.
  • Thomas Fowler, aeronautical & aerospace engineering.
  • Julie Hammett, systems engineering.
  • Joshua Herrington, aeronautical & aerospace engineering.
  • Chris Holland, organismal biology.
  • Rania Labib, mechanical engineering.
  • Pierre Lau, environmental biology.
  • James Moore, chemical synthesis. Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Anish Patel, chemical engineering.
  • Zachary Popkin-Hall, evolutionary biology.
  • Ryan Priest, environmental engineering.
  • Mayra Ramirez, developmental psychology.
  • Elise Voltura, environmental biology.
  • Elizabeth Walsh, physiology.
  • Randy White, particle physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Undergraduate Research Ambassador.

Written by Adelia Humme ’15, Program Coordinator for National Fellowships, LAUNCH

Edited by Annabelle Aymond ’14, Administrative Assistant for Undergraduate Research, LAUNCH

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University Scholar Exploration Series – Agatha Christie

Each semester, University Scholars engage in small-group discussion seminars called “Exploration Series.” During fall 2015, Scholar Bridget O’Connell ’16 led a seminar on Agatha Christie novels for her Undergraduate Teacher Scholars capstone. Scholar Kat Williams ’16, who is pursuing a Master of Public Service and Administration, reflects on her love of the class’s leading detective.

By Kat Williams

When I signed up for the Agatha Christie seminar, I wasn’t aware that I was going to fall in love. I especially wasn’t aware that the object of this love would be a short, rotund, mustachioed, and delightfully fussy Belgian. The most prominent character in Christie’s vast canon of mystery fiction, Hercule Poirot, is a brilliant, eccentric detective with a great deal of confidence in the ability of his little grey cells. In our seminar class, we read two novels (The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) and watched two films (the 1978 and 2004 versions of Death on the Nile) which feature Poirot.

The responses to the detective after the novels were mixed; some found him interesting and brilliant, while others thought him to be arrogant and overbearing. After we watched both versions of Death on the Nile, the feedback remained essentially the same: Poirot was interesting, but his profile would definitely be a left swipe. To me, however, the 2004 version of the film, starring David Suchet, presented a Poirot that had more depth of character and nuance of emotion than the Poirot of the novels we had read. While most of the class was ambivalent towards or openly ready to leave Hercule Poirot behind, I wanted to know more about this egotistical yet lonely little man. To my delight, I was informed that there is a British series that has an episode or TV movie (with Suchet as Poirot) that depicts every one of Christie’s short stories or novels which feature Poirot, on Netflix, no less!

The Agatha Christie class celebrated with a 1920s-themed potluck. From left: Kat Williams, Chloe Dixon, Alex Payne, Trace Dressen, Bridget O’Connell.
The Agatha Christie class celebrated with a 1920s-themed potluck. From left: Kat Williams, Chloe Dixon, Alex Payne, Trace Dressen, Bridget O’Connell.

Initially, I figured that I would only watch a few of the episodes or movies. Who has time for fancy old mysteries featuring a prissy detective and his pals when there are so many comedies, dramas, and Netflix Original Series out there? Apparently, I did. About a week after the end of the seminar, I realized that I was already two seasons into Agatha Christie’s Poirot. I tried to explain to my roommates and friends why I was always watching “that random British show with all the people in fancy suits,” but they didn’t seem to have the same level of interest in literary adaptations that I did. The drama in terms of sex scenes and drugs and what not is mostly lacking from Poirot, but the complexity of the mysteries and the ingenious ways they are solved were often more interesting than even the most disturbing episode of SVU. I found myself often having to Google the summaries of the plots just to make sure I understood them correctly. In three weeks, I had gone through all twelve seasons of episodes and TV movies, and was just a little attached to Poirot.

Interestingly, Christie was reported to have found the character of Poirot tiresomely fastidious and despicably arrogant towards the later years of her career, which seem to mirror how some members of the seminar class had perceived him. Even through three weeks of binge-watching Poirot, I still found myself rooting for him. The little Belgian detective is irritating and obsessive, but also wise and often compassionate. Thus, I am grateful to have been exposed to the subunit of Christie fiction through this seminar, and especially glad to have met Mr. Hercule Poirot. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I was just informed that the final season of Agatha Christie’s Poirot is now on Netflix.

1920s-themed dishes included finger sandwiches, fruit salad, deviled eggs, and pineapple upside-down cake.
1920s-themed dishes included finger sandwiches, fruit salad, deviled eggs, and pineapple upside-down cake.

Applications for University Scholars open January 22. For more information on University Scholars and how to apply, please see: http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.

Student Research Week 2015

The 18th annual Student Research Week was held March 25-27, 2015. The week-long celebration of student research is coordinated by the Graduate Student Council (GSC) 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. Student Research Week 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.

Student Research Week 2015 Connecting Ideas

The theme for Student Research Week 2015 was “Connecting Ideas,” emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary collaboration, finding and exploring common issues, and connecting the results of research with public concerns.

Student Research Week 2015 marks the first time that Undergraduate Leadership Scholars participated in the event. Two of the inaugural capstone members, supply chain management major, Hana Hoshiko ’16, and business honors and management double-major, Derek Allen McKee ‘16 presented posters describing the projects they developed as part of the capstone program, which is open to all Texas A&M undergraduates.

A male student in a dark suit and a female student in a brown jacket and dark skirt give a thumbs up in front of their research posters.
Undergraduate Leadership Scholars Derek McKee ’16 and Hana Hoshiko ’16

Student Research Week 2015 involved close to 1000 participants between competitors, judges and volunteers. There were 441 competitors that received scores, including 172 graduate students and 269 undergraduate students. This 61% undergraduate participation is the first time that undergraduate presentations have outnumbered graduate presentations. 151 of the 269 undergraduate participants in Student Research Week 2015 are students in programs run by Honors and Undergraduate Research. Not only did our students constitute a significant portion of undergraduate participants, they also took prizes in every subject area and were awarded 31 out of 103 (30%) of the undergraduate prizes. See the list below for details:

Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Material Sciences
Oral
2nd – Colin Whisler, University Honors and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Poster
1st – Jose Roberto Dimas Valle, Undergraduate Research Scholar
2nd – Zachary Dell, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics
Oral
1st – Annalisa Erder, University Honors, Undergraduate Research Ambassador and Undergraduate Research Scholar
2nd – Michael Li, University Honors and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Poster
2nd – Christina Allen, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Earth Sciences, Geosciences, Water Resources
Oral
1st – Amanda Walker, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Poster
1st – Coryn Collins, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Engineering, Architecture
Oral
1st – Adekunle Adepoju, Undergraduate Research Scholar
2nd – Tasnim Mohamed, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Poster
2nd (tie) – Jack Reid, University Honors, Undergraduate Research Ambassador and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Health, Nutrition, Kinesiology, Physiology
Oral
Laura Reid, Undergraduate Research Scholar

History, Literature, Fine Arts, Communication, Languages, Philosophy
Oral
1st – Maci Greene, Undergraduate Research Scholar
2nd – Harry Zhang, University Honors Program

Poster
2nd (tie) – Kimberly Johnson, Undergraduate Research Scholar
2nd (tie) – Renee Costello, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Math, Statistics, Computer Science
Poster
2nd – Zachary Varnadore, University Honors and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience
Poster
1st (tie) – Colin Dodson, Undergraduate Research Scholar
1st (tie) – Iyan Younus, Undergraduate Research Ambassador and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Plant Sciences, Animal Sciences, Wildlife & Fisheries Science, Entomology, Agriculture, Ecological Restoration
Oral
1st – Taylor Strange, Undergraduate Research Scholar
2nd – Lauren Naylor, University Honors

Poster
1st – Alexandria Payne, University Honors
2nd (tie) – Bryan Sales, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Business, Education, Political Science, Economics
Oral
1st – Rebecca Mentzer, Undergraduate Research Scholar
2nd – Cameron Halbert, University Honors and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Poster
1st – Murphy Young, Undergraduate Research Scholar
2nd – Hunter Hampton, University Honors and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Glasscock Award Winners
Oral
Taylor Laufenberg, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Poster
Hunter Hampton, University Honors and Undergraduate Research Scholar

Vice-President for Research Awards
Oral
Adekunle Adepoju, Undergraduate Research Scholar
Taylor Strange, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Male student in grey button-up shirt and black pants gestures in front of a presentation projected on a screen.
Undergraduate Research Scholar Adekunle Adepoju ’15 presents at Student Research Week 2015

Congratulations to all of the 2015 Student Research Week winners!

TAMU Nominates Six for 2015 Udall Scholarship Competition

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

One of the awards that Honors and Undergraduate Research serves as a nominating official for is the Udall Scholarship. This award, from the the Morris K. & Stuart L. Udall Foundation, recognizes top students planning careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Students who are selected will receive scholarships of up to $5000 and join a community of scholars whose dedication to sustainable public policy honors the legacy of the Arizona congressmen.

We are proud to announce the nomination of six TAMU students for the 2015 Udall Scholarship competition: Sean Castillo, Jaclyn Guz, Jessica Gwinn, Alyson Miranda, Alexandria Payne, and Jennifer Rangel.

Sean Castillo '16, Udall Nominee
Sean Castillo ’16, Udall Nominee

Sean Castillo ’16 is a junior bioenvironmental sciences major, minoring in geography. He served as a sophomore mentor for Aggies Selflessly Serving in Shaping Tomorrow (ASSIST). Castillo participates in undergraduate research in the Scholthof labs in the Texas A&M Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology where he studies the Panicum Mosaic Virus, Citrus Tatter Leaf Virus, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, and Tomato Bushy Stunt Virus. He plans a career studying the effects of environmental toxins with the hope that his work will inform lawmakers and educate citizens about the need to reduce pollution.

Jackie Guz '17, Udall Nominee
Jackie Guz ’17, Udall Nominee

Jaclyn Guz ’17 is a sophomore environmental studies major with a minor in geographic information systems. Guz has previously conducted undergraduate research as part of the Michael E. DeBakey Undergraduate Research program in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and is currently working in the Cairns lab studying the tree line in Northern Sweden, She also serves as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for the TAMU Academic Success Center. Guz completed a water quality analysis internship through a summer research program at the University of Vermont in Summer 2014, and served on the EPA Science Advisory Board as part of her participation in the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) in Fall 2014. Guz plans a career using sound data analysis to craft economic and legal incentives to promote sustainable practices.

Jesse Gwinn '16, Udall Nominee
Jesse Gwinn ’16, Udall Nominee

Jessica Gwinn ’16 is a junior bioenvironmental sciences and wildlife & fisheries sciences double degree student. She served as secretary and webmaster for the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) and is a staff member for Aggie RePlant. Gwinn is an undergraduate researcher in the Roelke Lab studying the  toxic effects of Prymnesium parvum, an algae with potentially useful biofuel applications that is known to cause massive fish kills. Gwinn is also employed as a student worker in Dr. Ong’s plant pathology lab studying Rose Rosette Virus and writing Extension publications about rose diseases. She plans a career researching the ecological relationships between micro- and macro-organisms and the importance of these relationships to humans.

Aly Miranda '17, Udall Nominee
Aly Miranda ’17, Udall Nominee

Alyson Miranda ’17 is a sophomore University Scholar, majoring in bioenvironmental sciences with a minor in business administration. She has served as a site leader and local service executive for Alternative Spring Break, volunteers with the Texas A&M Howdy Farm and Brazos County Senior Citizens’ Association, and is a sophomore advisor (SA) in the Honors Housing Community. She was also recently selected as a 2015 Public Policy Intern with PPIP. Miranda is conducting undergraduate research in the Lacher lab, performing regional extinction risk assessments for the Gulf of Mexico. She plans a career bridging the gap between science and policy in making food production chains more sustainable.

Alex Payne '16, Udall Nominee
Alex Payne ’16, Udall Nominee

Alexandria Payne ’16 is a junior University Scholar, double-majoring in bioenvironmental sciences and wildlife & fisheries sciences. She is the president of the Human Environmental Animal Team (HEAT) and is the Department of Bioenvironmental Sciences representative to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS) Student Council. Payne has conducted undergraduate research related to plant virology in the Scholthof labs, on the invasive Tawny crazy ant as part of an NSF-REU at the University of Texas with Dr. Edward LeBrun, and most recently in the Honey Bee Lab at TAMU with Dr. Juliana Rangel. She plans a career researching the mystery of honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in order to create a healthy bee population and stable food supply.

Jennifer Rangel '16, Udall Nominee
Jennifer Rangel ’16, Udall Nominee

Jennifer Rangel ’16 is a junior recreation, park & tourism sciences major with minors in sociology and urban & regional planning. She is the coordinator of registration for the Student Conference on Latino Affairs, an officer for Going Out and Leading from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a member of Future Former Students from the Association of Former Students, and the I Lead Maroon program. Rangel serves as an intern with the Family and Consumer Sciences Program as part of the TAMU AgriLife Extension. She is particularly interested in the intersection of a community’s space and infrastructure design, and the implications of this intersection for human behavior. Rangel plans a career educating people about the positive impacts of green space in a community, especially for low-income and high-risk families.

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

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

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

2014 Udall Scholars Selected

On May 1, 2014, the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Foundation will announce the selection of 50 sophomore- and junior-level scholars dedicated to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Students who are selected will receive scholarships of up to $5000 and join a community of scholars whose dedication to sustainable public policy honors the legacy of the Arizona congressmen.

Honors and Undergraduate Research is proud to report that University Honors Student Victoria Easton ‘15 has been selected as a 2014 Udall Scholar. In addition to Easton, Texas A&M also nominated Kristen Koch ‘16 (environmental geosciences), who plans to pursue a career in environmental law and hopes to work for an organization such as the EPA remediating brownfields; Lázár Kish ’15 (physics) who plans a career in condensed matter physics to help reduce waste; Matthew McMahon ’15 (geology) who plans to be a materials scientist with a focus on green materials, such as clay polymer nanocomposites that can be used as biodegradable food packaging; and Alexandria Payne ’16 (bioenvironmental sciences) who plans a career in ecological restoration.

Victoria Easton '15, 2014 Udall Scholar
Victoria Easton ’15, 2014 Udall Scholar

Easton is a junior history and philosophy double major from Tomball, TX. In addition to participating in the University Honors Program, Liberal Arts Honors, and the Cornerstone Learning Community, Easton is an officer for FREE, an anti-trafficking organization, and is the founder and president of the American Indian Student Association. Easton is a National Merit Scholar and President’s Endowed Scholarship recipient, and has been awarded the History Undergraduate Scholarly Activities Grant to support her independent research.

Easton is studying historical notions of law, justice, and gender in Muscogee communities and plans to complete a senior thesis next spring. Easton recently accompanied her research mentor, Dr. Angela Pulley Hudson, to the annual historical symposium put on by the Muscogee Nation Office of Cultural Preservation where she had the honor of introducing Dr. Hudson. Easton plans to attend law school after graduation to prepare for a career advocating for human trafficking and domestic abuse victims.

Since 1996, Texas A&M has had six Udall Scholars and 2 Honorable Mentions. The most recent Udall Scholar was Brian Sedio ’06, who was selected for the honor two years in a row.

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

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