Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

Ezell and Versaw to Receive Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Awards Thursday

Kendal Ezell ‘18 and Brooke Versaw ‘18 have been selected to receive 2017 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarship awards. Both students previously received Honorable Mention recognition in the 2017 Goldwater scholarship competition.

In 1984, the six surviving members of the Mercury 7 mission created the scholarship to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors. Today the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) program members include astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs. Over the last 33 years the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has awarded over $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars over the last 32 years. This year only 45 students nationwide are being honored with this prestigious scholarship.

2017 Astronaut Scholar, Kendal Ezell ’18

Kendal Ezell is a senior biomedical engineering student minoring in neuroscience. She was honored in 2017 as the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior for Texas A&M after being selected as the Outstanding Junior from the College of Engineering. As noted above, Ezell was selected for Honorable Mention in the 2017 Goldwater Scholarship competition, and is a member of both the University Honors Program and the Engineering Honors program. Ezell was an Undergraduate Research Scholar, completing her undergraduate thesis on shape-memory polymer foam devices for the treatment of brain aneurysms with Dr. Duncan Maitland in the Biomedical Device Lab. She has also conducted research on the relationship between emotions and learning memory with Dr. Mark Packard in the Institute of Neuroscience, and on biotech device design with Dr. Jeremy Wasser in the Germany Biosciences Study Abroad Program. Ezell’s research has resulted in three publications, including one in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Journal for Design of Medical Devices Conference for which she is first author. She also was awarded a Gilman scholarship for international study and has gained inventorship on provisional patent applications.

Ezell plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. dual degree and work in medical device development and treatment and prevention of tissue degradation in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Ezell’s grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s sparked her passion in this direction. “Before my grandmother’s passing,” she says, “medicine was my chosen field, but her illness gave me further direction into a research career. I realized that I want to do more than just treat patients; I want to conduct research so that I can develop new ways to help and treat patients like my grandmother. The fields of neurology and tissue engineering interest me. It is at the intersections of these fields where I hope to apply interdisciplinary strategies to solve problems in unique ways.”

2017 Astronaut Scholar, Brooke Versaw ’18

Brooke Versaw is a senior chemistry student with a minor in business administration. Versaw was selected as a Beckman Scholar and University Scholar in 2015, and has served in multiple leadership capacities within the University Honors Program Honors Housing Community and Honors Student Council. Versaw also has extensive research experience. The summer before her senior year in high school, she worked with Dr. Junha Jeon at the University of Texas at Arlington as a Welch Foundation Summer Scholar. The summer before her freshman year at Texas A&M, she worked with Dr. Steve Lockless in the Department of Biology to study intracellular signaling. Most recently, Versaw has worked with her Beckman Scholar mentor, Dr. Karen Wooley, as an Undergraduate Research Scholar. Her thesis examined the development of a novel class of degradable polycarbonate materials to create environmentally-responsible plastics. In addition to conducting original research, Versaw is also invested in extolling the virtues of scientific research.

“While my research experience has undoubtedly informed and inspired my desire for a career in scientific research,” Versaw says, “it has also made me an enthusiastic advocate for science outreach. As an Undergraduate Research Ambassador for Texas A&M University, a volunteer for the annual Chemistry Open House, and a workshop leader for Expanding Your Horizons, a STEM initiative for 6th grade girls, I discovered that I enjoy both conducting research and communicating its findings. Moreover, I enjoy serving as a role model and a source of encouragement for younger students.”

Following graduation, Versaw plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry and a career as a polymer chemist on the faculty of a Tier-1 research institution, where she can impact both her field of polymer and materials synthesis, and help cultivate future generations of scientists.

Ezell and Versaw will be presented their ASF awards at a special ceremony on Thursday, October 26, by former astronaut Fred Gregory.

2017 ASF Award Presentation, Reach for the Stars, with astronaut Fred Gregory. Gregory will present awards to Ezell and Versaw before making public comments.

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


Three Exceptional Undergraduates Nominated for Truman Scholarship

By Macy Moore –

Three exceptional Texas A&M students have been nominated for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a foundation recognizing college juniors who aspire to work in public service. The scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students. Each year, 55 to 65 applicants are chosen from a pool of approximately 600 nominated students. This year, the nominees from Texas A&M are psychology and Spanish major Joshua Fuller, civil engineering major George Gillette, and a third student who has asked to remain unidentified for the time being.*

2016 Truman Nominee Josh Fuller '17
2016 Truman Nominee Josh Fuller ’17

For Joshua Fuller ’17, the coordination of research and response efforts to large public health concerns is paramount to his career goals. Fuller believes molding research and public policy together is the way he is best equipped to serve the public. During his time at Texas A&M, he has conducted research about Alzheimer’s disease in the lab of psychology Professor Steve Balsis. Through the use of large datasets that track Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers, such as brain volume and cerebral spinal fluid, he has worked with Dr. Balsis on creating empirical models of Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis that can be used by researchers and clinicians in the fight against the disease. Fuller also studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador where he volunteered at the Fundación TASE Alzheimer’s Center for five weeks in the summer of 2015, gaining valuable clinical experience working with dementia patients. As part of his commitment to TASE, Fuller developed and led an English class as a cognitive therapy for five patients who had some bilingual proficiency, synthesizing research about bilingualism being a protective factor against Alzheimer’s disease. Fuller intends to pursue a joint doctorate in clinical psychology and a Master of Public Health. Through his involvement as a leader in several student organizations at Texas A&M, such as the Honors Student Council and the Student Affairs Fee Advisory Board, as well as his acceptance into the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP), Fuller has learned that the greatest impact he can have in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and other public health concerns is not just in the laboratory. Rather, through the amalgamation of research and policy, Fuller plans to serve as an ambassador between the research community and lawmakers in the hope that we can globally coordinate the present and future study and response to diseases that threaten our way of life.

2016 Truman Nominee George Gillette '17
2016 Truman Nominee George Gillette ’17

George Gillette ’17 is a civil engineering student with a focus in transportation and data science. He began working in research at Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) in his freshman year under Melisa Finley to evaluate the impact of impaired driving. Since then, he has worked on a variety of projects with TTI, including determination of how distraction impacts start-up time, entropy of eye-tracking glances to evaluate driver attentiveness, and estimation of tire debris volume through image processing. His work at TTI has resulted in publications to Transportation Research Board and has earned him ATLAS Undergraduate Student of the Year Award and Trinity Undergraduate Student of the Year Award. Outside of his research, Gillette serves as the president of Engineers Serving the Community, a student organization that applies engineering skills to real-world projects to benefit the community. Additionally, he is the co-founder and under-secretary-general of Texas A&M Model United Nations. Gillette aspires to be the first secretary of transportation with a technical background in order to better move the industry forward.

Two hundred students will be selected as finalists after their applications are reviewed by the Truman Finalist Selection Committee. The finalists will then be interviewed by a series of Regional Review Panels before the 2016 Truman Scholars are announced. In the past 10 years, nine Aggies have advanced to the finalist round.

For more information, please contact Adelia Humme in LAUNCH: National Fellowships, at 845-1957 or natlfellows@tamu.edu.

Update 3-28-16: Our third nominee contacted us and asked to be unidentified for the time being. This post has been edited accordingly.

2015 Astronaut Scholars Announced

Texas A&M is fortunate to announce the designation of two 2015 Astronaut Scholars, Kirstin Maulding ‘16 and Will Linz ‘16. This is the second time that two of our nominees have been selected to receive this prestigious award from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which seeks to recognize outstanding undergraduates working in STEM fields who will have the potential to be next-generation leaders.

2015 Astronaut Scholar Kirstin Maulding '16
2015 Astronaut Scholar Kirstin Maulding ’16

Maulding is an Honors Student from Spring Branch, Texas majoring in molecular and cell biology with minors in genetics and neuroscience. She has been working in biological research since high school and has continued her commitment to research as an undergraduate, both in the lab of Dr. Bruce Riley and as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Maulding’s combination of ability, creativity, and work ethic resulted in her publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal by her sophomore year. Her career goals include pursuing research related to neurological diseases such as Alzheimers. Read Maulding’s nomination profile here.

2015 Astronaut Scholar, Will Linz '16
2015 Astronaut Scholar, Will Linz ’16

Linz is an Honors Student from Temple, Texas majoring in mathematics with a minor in German. When he graduates in May 2016, he will have completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. Linz got involved in undergraduate research as a first-semester freshman, completed his undergraduate thesis as a sophomore, and continues to do research with Dr. Catherine Yan in combinatorics. He has presented his research at professional meetings and campus research expos, and has submitted his work for publication in a top mathematics journal. Linz currently serves on the Executive Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal and is also an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. He is planning a career in mathematical discovery and serving as a liaison to help mathematicians and computer scientists develop mathematical tools for practical use in computer science and technology. Read Linz’s nomination profile here.

The campus community is invited to a public lecture and award presentation on Tuesday, October 6 at 10:30 AM with Former Astronaut Charlie Duke (Brigadier General, USAF, Retired) to honor Maulding and Linz and present each of them with a $10,000 scholarship. Following the award presentation, Mr. Duke will give a lecture about his experiences as an astronaut on the Apollo 16 mission and as Capcom on the Apollo 11 mission.

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for entry and are available through the Memorial Student Center Box Office.

digitalevite_charlieduke_LGRelated: See post honoring Maulding & Linz on the TAMU College of Science Blog

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Nominee Kirstin Maulding

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation permits only a handful of institutions in the country, based on the strength of their programs in STEM, to nominate candidates for the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship. Texas A&M is one of the few institutions allowed to nominate sophomore or junior STEM majors for this award. Astronaut Scholars become one of a very select group of outstanding students who have demonstrated not only outstanding academic talent, but also incredible creative ability and productivity in research, indicating that they have the potential to become the next generation of leaders pushing the boundaries of science and technology. Texas A&M is proud this year to be nominating three students for the 2015 Astronaut Scholarship competition! Meet the second of our 2015 nominees!

Kirstin Maulding sits in a chair.
Kirstin Maulding ’16, Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Nominee

How outstanding do you have to be to become an Astronaut Scholar nominee? When it comes to research creativity and productivity, 2015 TAMU Nominee Kirstin Maulding may have broken the mold. Maulding is in the University Honors and College of Science Honors Programs, majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology with minors in Genetics and Neuroscience from Spring Branch, Texas. She will graduate with a BS in Molecular and Cell Biology in Spring 2016.

Maulding began her interest in biological research as early as the summer between her junior and senior year in high school, becoming a summer intern with National Academy member Dr. James Hudspeth to study sensory neurobiology. Her fascination with the field led her to persuade Dr. Bruce Riley to let her join his research group the summer before her freshman year at Texas A&M, a decision he categorizes as “one of the best” he has made in the past 20 years. Maulding’s exceptional intellectual abilities, independence and drive led her to take over sole ownership of her research project as an incoming freshman when the graduate student mentor she was working with over the summer pulled back to write and defend his thesis. As a freshman Maulding’s incredible scientific maturity and capability resulted in her being given free rein to design key experiments, execute them on her own and analyze the results. She has presented her award-winning work at a departmental poster session and Student Research Week. Maulding’s work progressed so swiftly given her dedication to the project, that she amassed enough data for a first author publication in a peer-reviewed journal by the end of her freshman year! This made her a published author in her sophomore year.

Maulding’s talents are not limited to the bench, as her perfect 4.0 GPR demonstrates. In fact, even among the top students at Texas A&M she shines. Her rigorous class schedule boasts multiple courses a level or two above that of her classification. Within those classes competing with high power pre-med students Maulding easily stands out as the top student, although she is frequently the youngest.

Maulding’s passion for research and its potential to solve problems in society has led her to the realization that she also wants to become a mentor and advocate for student involvement in research. To that end, she is submitting an application to become an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in order to share her experiences with others and inspire them to participate in research activities.

Maulding’s long-term goals include studying the underlying basis of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, a societal problem that will increase dramatically with the “graying” of American society. Maulding hopes that insights she uncovers in her investigation of nervous system development and function will hold the clues that reveal possible treatments for these intractable diseases.

Aggies Helping Elders

Lauren Simcic is one of several Honors Students who participated in the pilot of a new capstone called Undergraduate Service Scholars. To learn more about capstones, please visit https://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/Capstone.shtml.

By Lauren Simcic – On the Texas A&M campus, young adults predominate. Sometimes I forget that the world is not made up of people between the ages of 18 and 22. The “college bubble” could accidentally cause well meaning Aggies to ignore populations younger or older than themselves.

This semester, I founded a service organization called Adopt a Senior. Four volunteers and I regularly visited an assisted living facility and spent one-on-one quality time with the residents there. During that time period, I learned how to coordinate a group of volunteers, and we accomplished something really impactful.

First impressions
I am no stranger to the nursing home environment. My grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s Disease, lived in one briefly before moving in with my mother and me. I gathered from her experience that elderly residents are constantly bored, and their medical problems are ignored by staff.

Photo of the author with her grandmother
The author, Lauren Simcic (front, center) at age 10 with her grandmother (left).

Sadly, at the assisted living facility where Adopt a Senior is taking place, my assumption proved partially true. All around the building, seniors sit in chairs, staring without talking to anyone. The seniors have difficulty navigating in wheelchairs. Sometimes, when a person gets stuck, I give him or her a push. If I were handicapped and had little help moving around I would feel very trapped.

Getting to know each other
I was matched with Lois, a very cheerful woman whose husband, sister, and best friend passed away recently. We have both lost loved ones–for me it was my father and two grandparents–and our shared pain helped us to bond. I knew to listen quietly rather than say, “It’s going to be okay.”

Lois has given me an interesting perspective on living in a nursing home. When I ask her about the food, activities, etc., she always responds that they are “good enough.” At first, I was upset because I felt that Lois and the other residents deserved more. I still feel that way, but I am realizing that Lois’ commitment to being content regardless of her situation is quite admirable.

Christmas party
The Adopt a Senior team ended the semester with a crafting party. Half of us hosted bingo, and the rest taught five seniors to make wrapping paper Christmas trees. Things went better than I had ever expected! I think the program was properly tailored to participants’ energy levels and interests. It was great to the residents talking to one another, since socialization seems so rare at this facility. My only regret is that no one brought a camera!

Looking ahead
My hope for the coming semester is to retain the volunteers who have come together and to attract new ones. I can tell that Adopt a Senior is making a difference in individual lives. It would be wonderful to have enough people involved to influence a whole nursing home–maybe even expand to a second facility.
In the months ahead I want to continue visiting Lois, put on more programs, and get some snapshots of our good times!