Tag Archives: Beckman Scholars

Texas A&M Undergraduates Nominated for the 2018 Astronaut Scholarship

Texas A&M undergraduates Oscar Gonzalez ‘20, Ashley Hayden ‘19, Ashley Holt ‘20, and Quinton Lawton ’19 have been nominated for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s 2018 Astronaut Scholarship.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) seeks to support the brightest scholars in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) while commemorating the legacy of America’s pioneering astronauts. The ASF has supported undergraduate students across the nation in pursuing their education for more than 30 years. The Astronaut Scholarship is one of the most significant merit-based scholarships in STEM fields that can be awarded to an undergraduate. Students must be nominated by faculty based on achievements in their chosen field. Out of a pool of 42 Universities, ASF typically chooses one recipient from each school. However, Texas A&M undergraduate students have proved themselves to be incredibly strong candidates and ASF has awarded multiple of our students in the past.

Texas A&M University has had 30 honorees since the scholarship was established in 1984 by the surviving Mercury 7 astronauts. More than 100 astronauts have contributed to the cause, resulting in over $4 million in scholarships.

The LAUNCH office wishes all four of the 2018 nominees all the best while final selections are being made.

Ashley Holt '19 posing for a portrait
Ashley Holt ’19, Biomedical Engineering

Ashley Holt ‘20

Ashley Holt, a biomedical engineering major from Kingswood, Texas, researches bacteriophages, the viruses of bacteria, and how new antibiotic strategies can help build defense against bacterial disease. Ms. Holt says “[her] short-term professional goal is to pursue a MD/PhD after [her] undergraduate degree. In the long-term, [she] want[s] to use clinical research to confront a global threat: antibiotic resistance.” She hopes to pursue a MD/Ph.D. and further develop her career in clinical research. She is a Beckman Scholar, a University Scholar, and was most recently awarded the 2018 Goldwater Scholarship.

Ashley Hayden '19 posing for a portrait
Ashley Hayden ’19, Biology

Ashley Hayden ‘19

Ashley Hayden, a biology major and bioinformatics and psychology minor from Friendswood, Texas, researches the monarch butterfly’s ability to sense magnetic fields. Her work could become the model system for identifying the yet unknown magnetoreceptor molecule(s). Along with participating in multiple Honors programs within the University, Ms. Hayden is also a University Scholar, a Biology Honors Program Ambassador, and was most recently accepted as a LAUNCH Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Ms. Hayden’s long-term goals include to one day “teach in academia, lead a research lab, and if given the opportunity, even lead an honors program.”

Oscar Gonzalez '20 posing for a portrait
Oscar Gonzalez ’20, Chemistry

Oscar Gonzalez ‘20

Oscar Gonzalez, a chemistry major and physics and mathematics minor from San Juan, Texas, focuses on solving technological problems and hopes to one day become a professor. Mr. Gonzales works in two research projects, both done at Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee’s lab. He synthesizes hematite films for photoelectrochemical water splitting and creates ways to push the deposition process towards higher film quality and higher water splitting efficiency. He is a Century Scholars Program mentor, facilitating the transition of high school seniors into their freshman year at Texas A&M. Mr. Gonzalez is also a Science Leadership Scholar and an active member of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Quinton Lawton '19 posing for a portrait
Quinton Lawton ’19, Meteorology

Quinton Lawton ‘19

Quinton Lawton, a meteorology major and oceanography minor from Houston, Texas, researches the relation between tropical cyclone behavior and global climate change and is a LAUNCH Undergraduate Research Ambassador. “This position [as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador] lets me share my passion with others and encourage them to deepen their involvement in research. […] I don’t just participate but lead, while inspiring others to do the same”, says Mr. Lawton. Undergraduate Research Ambassadors strive to expand and enrich student engagement in undergraduate research. In long-term, Mr. Lawton “[hopes] to carve a new path forward and serve as an example for others long into the future.”

The recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship will be announced at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Ceremony on September 20, 2018 at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.

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.

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Two Aggie Students Honored by Barry M. Goldwater Foundation

The LAUNCH office at Texas A&M University congratulates Ashley Holt ’19 and Oscar Gonzalez ’20 in being recognized for their outstanding academic achievements by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Ms. Holt, a biomedical engineering major from Kingwood, Texas, was selected as the 2018 Goldwater Scholarship recipient, and Mr. Gonzalez, a chemistry major from San Juan, Texas, has been named a Goldwater Honorable Mention.

Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to exceptional sophomore or junior undergraduates who intend to pursue a research careers in mathematics, natural sciences, or engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

The Goldwater Foundation gave its first award in 1989 and has bestowed more than $40 million worth of scholarships. Hundreds of scholarships are awarded each academic year to students who have impressive academic qualifications and merit, as the average awardee has a 3.9 GPA. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Texas A&M University has produced 36 Goldwater Scholars since 1991.

Ashley Holt '19 posing for a portrait
Ashley Holt ’19, Biomedical Engineering

Ms. Ashley Holt was nominated by Texas A&M University as part of a pool of thousands of applicants from colleges and universities nationwide. In 2016, Ms. Holt began working with Dr. Ry Young, named Distinguished Professor in March 2018, to discover the mechanism by which a specific virus destroys the outer membrane of its host cell. Ms. Holt’s research focused on how a phage, or virus, that infects E. coli releases harmful toxins and destroys bacterial cells during an outbreak. The results of her research will shine new light into treatment options for bacterial infections through her identification of a novel antibiotic mechanism. Ms. Holt has already published two papers based on her work in the Young Lab, directly reflecting the success of her research. She says that “[her] foundation in phage biology has impacted the evolution of [her] own career and guided [her] toward achieving a long-term goal: building defenses against bacterial disease by creating new antibiotic strategies.”

Among many of her other achievements, Ms. Holt was selected as a Beckman Scholar and a University Scholar in 2016. She is currently completing her Undergraduate Research Scholars thesis as part of her Capstone experience for the University Honors Program.

Ms. Holt is also the treasurer of Texas A&M’s chapter of Engineering World Health (EWH), where engineers are encouraged to solve health challenges occurring in the developing world. “I study ways to bring together science, mathematics, and engineering to improve human health,” says Ms. Holt. While her short-term goal is to pursue a MD/PhD after graduation, she plans to continue to do research on antibiotic resistance and hopes “to stand at the intersection of medicine, engineering, and scientific innovation.”

Oscar Gonzalez '20 posing for portrait
Oscar Gonzalez ’20, Chemistry

Mr. Oscar Gonzalez ‘20, a chemistry major, began working with Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee in 2017 investigating ways to control the dimensions of magnesium nanowires through the development of a coating that inhibits corrosion of the material. These studies are critical for the development of magnesium batteries which have the potential to be more shelf-stable and storage-efficient than current lithium batteries. He hopes to continue his research and complete graduate school so that he may teach his own research students about problems that inhibit further technological advancements.

Mr. Gonzalez serves as a peer mentor for the Century Scholars learning community. Mr. Gonzalez says that “being a mentor has helped [him] improve [his] presentation, leadership, and time management skills while at the same time helping freshmen make the transition from high-school to Texas A&M University.” As a result of those strong communication skills, Mr. Gonzalez has been recently selected as a 2018-2019 Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Ambassadors work to inspire broader engagement in undergraduate research by educating and serving the Texas A&M University community. They Represent LAUNCH at research, recruiting, and outreach events, give presentations to student organizations and meet with administrators, faculty, and prospective students. “I want to share and use everything I have learned with the rest of the world,” said Mr. Gonzalez. With an extensive research resume along with co-curricular and community activities, Mr. Gonzales personifies the expectations held by the Goldwater Foundation as a nominee.

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

 

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 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.

Ashley Holt and Luke Oaks Selected as 2016 Beckman Scholars

LAUNCH congratulates biomedical engineering majors Ashley Holt ’19 and Luke Oaks ’19 on their selection as 2016 Beckman Scholars. In 2013, Texas A&M was invited to be one of twelve institutions participating in the Beckman Scholars program, which supports undergraduate research in chemistry, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and genetics. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, in conjunction with the TAMU office of the Vice President for Research, provides a scholarship for the Scholars, who are chosen at A&M through a rigorous application and interview process. A&M’s Beckman Scholars begin research with their Beckman faculty mentors during the summer after their freshman year and continue this research until graduation.

2016 Beckman Scholar Ashley Holt
2016 Beckman Scholar Ashley Holt

This summer, Ashley will join Dr. Ry Young’s lab to begin her work as a Beckman Scholar. She will be working to discover the mechanism by which a specific bacteriophage, or virus that infects bacteria, destroys the outer membrane of its host cell. The phage that she will be studying infects a type of E. coli and, in outbreaks, has been causing the release of harmful toxins along with the destruction of the bacterial cells. The outcome of this research could lead to methods of treatment for these particular outbreaks and, with a better understanding of the workings of phages, could lead to new antibiotic agents.

This will be Ashley’s first research lab experience, and she looks forward to learning and developing as a researcher and scientist. Ashley is excited to have the opportunity to work outside of her department and to gain some interdisciplinary knowledge. Overall, in her research career, she would like to work toward the accomplishment of one of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges: Engineering Better Medicine. Specifically, Ashley hopes to help create new and better antibiotics in order to combat the growing problem of multidrug resistant bacteria.

During her time at A&M, Ashley has joined the Biomedical Engineering Society and Discover, Explore, and Enjoy Physics and Engineering (DEEP), as well as John 15 and Transformers Bible Study. She is a Women in Engineering Ambassador and a member of both the Engineering Honors and University Honors programs. Ashley was also recently selected as a University Scholar. Before beginning her freshman year at A&M, Ashley was recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction and as the valedictorian at her high school, where she served as president of both National Honor Society and the choir. Ashley is from Kingwood, Texas.

2016 Beckman Scholar Luke Oaks
2016 Beckman Scholar Luke Oaks

Luke, son of Todd and Michele Oaks, is an undergraduate research assistant in the Grunlan Polymeric Biomaterials Lab, where he contributes to the development of an implantable glucose biosensor. During his first semester at Texas A&M, Luke was an experimental researcher for the DeBakey Undergraduate Research Scholars program, studying the relationship between radiation therapy and lymphatic failure. Additionally, in the summer before his freshman year, he was contracted as a Wright Scholars Research Assistant for the Air Force Research Lab in southwestern Ohio to work with heart rate sensors. Luke will begin his career as a Beckman Scholar this summer in Dr. Gerard Coté’s bioinstrumentation lab, where he will be initiating an independent project to develop a novel biomarker platform technology that uses surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy for lung cancer diagnosis.

In addition to his research endeavors, Luke has heavily involved himself in a variety of campus activities, including serving as a Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassador as well as joining the Editorial Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. He has also participated in three design competitions through Aggies Invent, represents the club tennis team – for which he is Vice President – at the national level, and was a delegate to the Gilbert Leadership Conference. After attending the POSSE+ Retreat earlier in the spring semester, Luke has developed strong ties to the POSSE Scholar community and looks forward to mentoring incoming freshmen during a STEM immersion experience later this summer.

Due to his extracurricular involvement and ongoing commitment to serving as an advisor for a community service initiative in his hometown, Luke received Texas A&M’s Freshman Class Star Award for Leadership. Additionally, Luke, a member of the Engineering Honors program, was recently selected as a University Scholar. He has been designated as one of 15 college students in the nation to serve on an advisory board for Pearson Higher Education, where he hopes to improve modern educational technologies by focusing his passions for sociology and academic empowerment. Prior to attending Texas A&M, Luke was recognized as a National Merit Scholar, a National AP Scholar, and the valedictorian of his high school in Troy, Ohio. He is pursuing a minor in sociology.

Ashley and Luke join Mikayla Barry ’17, a current Beckman Scholar in biomedical engineering, as well as Scholars Gabby Lessen ’18 in biochemistry, Jennifer Tran ’18 in biochemistry and genetics, and Brooke Versaw ’18 in chemistry.

University Scholars Exploration Series – Transportation

Each semester, the University Scholars enroll in small-group, discussion-based seminars. Brooke Versaw ’18, a chemistry major and Beckman Scholar, participated in the Transportation seminar this spring. Here, she recounts the class’s topics and guest speakers.

By Brooke Versaw

University Scholar Brooke Versaw '18
University Scholar Brooke Versaw ’18

Put simply, transportation takes us places – down the block, across the country, and (for a select few) into space. With over 4,000,000 miles of public and privately held roadways in the United States, the prominence and influence of transportation can hardly be overstated. Consequently, 5 University Scholars spent the Spring 2016 semester exploring the subject of transportation at length.

Early in the semester, Dr. Brian Rouleau discussed the First Transcontinental Railroad and the expansion of the American West, and Dr. Shelley Wachsmann, professor of Biblical Archaeology and expert in nautical archaeology, shared his research on the Sea of Galilee boat, a small fishing vessel from the 1st century A.D. recovered on the Israeli coast in the late 1980s. His recollections on the painstaking twelve-day process of recovering and restoring the boat and insights on the expert craftsmanship and attention to design featured in the boat’s construction quickly made clear that transportation, particularly in seafaring communities, can serve as a cultural institution on par with music and art.

We later met with archival librarians Greg Bailey and Bill Page at Cushing Library to discuss the significance of transportation in a far more personal context – the development of Texas A&M University. The history of transportation in Aggieland begins in 1876 with a single dirt road connecting a small cluster of buildings to the town of Bryan and continues today with a bustling campus that grows increasingly connected with each semester. The events that transpired in between are as much a history of this university as a history of the state of Texas on the whole. Between the opening of the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas and the present day, our campus witnessed the arrival of passenger and freight rail lines and the introduction of a small trolley route that bore an early resemblance to the on-campus bus system we recognize today.

The Transportation seminar further explored developments in transportation on campus through visits from Mike McInturff ’73, a professional engineer currently employed in pedestrian safety and efficiency improvements to University Drive, and Melisa Finley, a Texas A&M Transportation Institute engineer researching countermeasures for wrong-way drivers. We also enjoyed a visit from Madeline Dillard, assistant director for Transportation Services. She spoke with us about the impressive logistics of managing the university’s 90-member fleet of Aggie Spirit buses and shared details of the extensive planning required to accommodate football games, career fairs, and Ring Days – all evidence of the quiet dedication required from Texas A&M staff to keep a university of our size and scope running for the students it serves.

Finally, we examined possibilities in transportation for the future. We began with a lively discussion of Google’s advances towards commercialization of the driverless car.  The economic ramifications of a car that removes the hassle (and joy) of driving and the ethical consequences of a car making its own decisions for pedestrian and rider safety were well worth considering. We then spoke with Dr. John Junkins about the politics of space debris and joined Dr. Nick Suntzeff for a discussion of space and time travel. From the information Dr. Suntzeff conveyed about recent developments in the scientific community’s understanding of physics and astronomy, interstellar travel is possible in theory – and might be closer to reality than previously expected.

Freshmen are recruited each spring to join the University Scholars program. To learn more, please see: http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars

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.