Tag Archives: Biomedical Engineering

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.

First Co-Op – Farhan Rob

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Farhan Rob ’18 reflects on his co-op experience.

Starting from January 2016 all the way to current day, I have worked as a co-op in the R&D division of St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division. This division of the major medical device company deals specifically with implantable medical devices for the brain and spinal cord in efforts to suppress debilitating movement disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and tremors. Sounds pretty cool already right? I have worked here for a total of seven months and will be ending my term August 19th for a total of eight months and some change working here. This is longer than the traditional co-op (six months) and I am extremely grateful for the extra time here. From start to finish, there was no dull moment experienced in this co-op and I gained experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.

I have had no prior internships or co-ops to this one so I was a little nervous coming in on my first day as I had no idea what to expect. This was my first experience in the corporate world, much less the engineering world. However, the engineers that I would soon call my team helped me out every step of the way from figuring out the routes of the building to familiarizing myself with SJM policies. The first couple of weeks were largely uneventful since I was working on trainings and policy reviews. After that, I started to get my first tasks which in hindsight, were pretty small but they definitely left a lasting impact on me. The other engineers would help me every step of the way in the beginning and dealt with my constant questions in a very helpful manner. The best training was actually working on R&D tasks hands-on and getting familiar with how the team operates and what my role on the team was. I helped other engineers with their projects, I did small lab tasks, I wrote simple technical reports, the works. All of this is considered the woodworks of the engineering world, but nevertheless crucial in product development & innovation. This continued for several weeks as I started to get more and more comfortable with this new lifestyle.

Farhan Rob '18
Farhan Rob ’18

To read more of Farhan’s reflection, visit his ePortfolio: https://sites.google.com/site/farhanrob95/blog.

Back in the States – Blake Smith

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Blake Smith ’18 reflects on his time in Germany.

Blake Smith '18 (center)
Blake Smith ’18 (center)

One habit I picked up while abroad is calling the US The States instead. Somehow it just seemed more natural while in Europe. I am back now, and I don’t think there is as much of an adjustment period as people made me think there would be. Things don’t feel weird now that I am back in Texas. Its a little hot, which unfortunate because I don’t like the heat at all, but this has been my “normal” for my entire life, so spending a few months in a strange environment isn’t going to make my normal feel any different to me. All that is going to happen (and did happen) is me getting used to the strange environment I landed in back in January when I flew across the ocean to Germany.

When I woke up in Germany I rode the bus into a completely foreign city (although it became familiar). I took classes in a small classroom of 20 or less students. I would go eat and be faced with odd foods and cooks/cashiers who do not speak my language. I would either get by with rudimentary German or they would get the clue from my blank stare and respond in English if they could. When I was not in class or eating, I walked around a town with buildings older than the existence of my country. There were bakeries on every corner, and somehow German’s not obese (the German people must have some secret that allows them to eat copious amounts of bread without gaining weight). When I was done in the city I would take the bus back to a home that was not my own. I ate dinner with a family of strangers who were nice enough to let me stay in their house. They fed me great food, but it was all very different than what I would eat at home. In many ways it was better, but sometimes I would yearn for the comfort of familiar foods. This feeling or desiring familiarity changed though. The feeling of being out of place when surrounded by a foreign environment, people, language and food soon changed. These things never actually stopped being strange to me. What was foreign when I landed in Germany was still foreign when I boarded the plane back home. Instead these things changing, I changed. I became accustomed to the feeling of being out of place.

Part of me is happy that I am back in my normal, but part of me isn’t. Germany was such an adventure and there was always something going on at all times. I feel like this aspect is going to be really missing now that I am back home, but I am sure I will stop missing this over time. I am glad to be back and able to see family and friends. I have missed them a lot and its been good to see them and tell them all about my experiences. People always talk about how hard it is to answer the question of how studying abroad went, and I can understand that now. There were so many different adventures, feelings, and environments experienced that anything short of telling it all would not do it justice.

To read more of Blake’s posts from the Germany Biosciences Semester abroad, visit https://plus.google.com/100826743652176272947/posts.

Jay Garza – Pre-Flight

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Jay Garza ’18 shares some of the anxiety he had approaching his study abroad experience, as well as his rationale for pursuing experience abroad.

– By Jay Garza

It is only hours before my flight which will take me thousands of miles away. I’m fumbling around with my passport and ticket at DFW Airport Security. Holding up the line, I try to speed up. When a TSA worker asked me, “Staying or Going?” My mind went blank when i attempted to think of a response. Unable to answer the worker, I look up at the man with a dumbfounded stare as I walk through the X-ray machine and collect my things.

Situated at my gate, I began to realize that I have not put much—if any—thought at all into this trip. I did not learn any German. I did not pack any school supplies. I started to panic. Did I leave anything important? Are my friends going back home to forget about me? What will I do if my host family hates me? What am I going to do if my host family only eats beets?! I HATE beets! Who the hell signed me up for this trip?! Oh crap! That was me. What was I thinking?

Calmed down by a few deep breaths and some rational thoughts, I knew these worries were just a bit of pre-trip anxiety. Still though, I felt unprepared to embark on this journey, especially since this trip would be my first time traveling alone. Then I began to think of why I wanted to come in the first place.

I knew growing up where I did and going to school at Texas A&M, I was part of a bubble, unaffected by the changing world around it. Going to Germany would be an opportunity to burst that bubble and really explore an entirely different world outside my own small one. All I have to do is talk to the people. Coming to Germany would give me a chance to travel alone for the first time in my life. Knowing that I could single-handedly navigate myself through international borders not only gave me an incredible feeling of independence, but also gave me an enormous amount of confidence.

To read more from Jay’s study abroad blog entries, visit https://plus.google.com/104900538495037609337/posts.

Jay Garza '17 listens intently to an audioguide.
Jay Garza ’17 (center) listens intently to an audioguide.

 

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.

Two Aggies Honored in Goldwater Competition

LAUNCH: National Fellowships is delighted to announce the recognition of two outstanding students in this year’s Goldwater Scholarship competition. 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.

Maura Cadigan '17, 2016 Goldwater Scholar
Maura Cadigan ’17, 2016 Goldwater Scholar

Maura Cadigan ’17, a junior aerospace engineering major, was selected as a Goldwater Scholar. Maura has previously conducted research under Dr. Rodney Bowersox on the Supersonic High-Reynold’s wind tunnel at the National Aerothermochemistry Laboratory. She is also the first Aggie to be selected for the Stanford U.S. Russia Forum, a collaborative research effort between the two countries that examines competition between aircraft manufacturers, with a particular focus on China. As the team’s technical consultant, Maura researches the technical requirements of Chinese markets. Maura’s work on gold-plated nanorods with the Warner Research Group at LSU resulted in her co-authorship on a publication in the Journal of Materials Chemistry. Additionally, Maura is the mechanical team lead on a VEX Robotics team, participates in Student Engineers’ Council and the Society of Women Engineers, and has interned at United Launch Alliance and the Paris Air Show. She intends to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering, researching advanced space propulsion systems, and then work for NASA or a national laboratory.

Kendal Ezell '18, 2016 Goldwater Honorable Mention
Kendal Ezell ’18, 2016 Goldwater Honorable Mention

Kendal Ezell ’18, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, received an Honorable Mention. She has recently served as a research assistant, examining the locations of memory processes, to Dr. Mark Packard in the Institute of Neuroscience. Kendal also researches shape memory polymers in the Biomedical Device Laboratory with Dr. Duncan Maitland and is co-author on a publication based on this work. Kendal’s involvement at Texas A&M includes sorority Kappa Alpha Theta, Student Engineers’ Council, the University and Engineering Honors programs, and biomedical engineering honor society Alpha Eta Mu Beta. She plans to pursue a MD-PhD and become a clinical researcher, studying tissue regeneration and biomaterial engineering.

Texas A&M has a long history of success with the Goldwater Scholarship. Previous Goldwater Scholars include Daniel Miller ’13 (electrical engineering & applied mathematical science), Nicholas Mondrik ’15 (physics), Erica Gacasan ’16 (biomedical engineering), and Aaron Griffin ’16 (biochemistry & genetics). If you are a STEM student invested in research and would like to learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship, please contact National Fellowships coordinator Adelia Humme at arhumme@tamu.edu or visit our website.

Two Notable Students Nominated for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarship

By Macy Moore

Mikayla Barry ’17 and Maura Cadigan ’17 have been selected as the Texas A&M nominees for the 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarship. Both students were nominated for the Goldwater scholarship earlier this year, and they will now compete for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Scholarship with other candidates from institutions such as Georgia Tech, MIT, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan.

In 1984, the six surviving members of the Mercury 7 mission created the scholarship to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors. Awarding $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars over the last 32 years, the ASF program members include astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs.

Mikayla Barry '17, 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Nominee
Mikayla Barry ’17, 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Nominee

Junior biomedical engineering major Mikayla Barry is Texas A&M’s first Beckman Scholar, serves as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, conducts research in Dr. Melissa Grunlan’s Polymeric Biomaterials lab, and volunteers at the Chemistry Open House, the Physics & Engineering Festival, and SEE Math Camps. Mikayla is particularly passionate about gender imbalance in engineering fields.

“I know we have come a long way since women started venturing out from their expected roles, and I expect that, with time, the workplace environment in STEM fields will become more balanced,” Barry says. “A&M’s Biomedical Engineering department has pretty close to 50 percent female students and a much greater diversity in heritage than I could have predicted. The primary reason I realize gender imbalance is an issue results from the experiences of other engineering friends, mostly in the workforce. I really want them to be able to enjoy the sense of belonging I’ve been able to experience thus far.”

Barry’s focus is to improve STEM participation and integration in education, believing that outreach to under-represented groups, specifically minorities and women, is one of the largest ways to make an impact.

“I personally looked up to women who were not only involved in these fields, but made significant advances, reminding me that I can do the same.” Barry considers Marie Curie a role model as Curie “was esteemed by her peers because of her breakthroughs in understanding radioactivity, and her gender was of no significance.”

Barry intends to earn her Ph.D. in Materials Science, and then join the faculty of a research university. She also aspires to organize STEM outreach for middle school and high school students.

“As a faculty sponsor, I want to encourage collaboration among students of different backgrounds,” Barry says, “and in doing so help them learn to see beyond each others’ differences, effectively preparing them for the environment they will likely see when they become practicing engineers or scientists.”

Maura Cadigan '17, 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Nominee
Maura Cadigan ’17, 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Nominee

Junior aerospace engineering major Maura Cadigan is the first Aggie to be selected for the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum where she serves as a technical consultant on a multinational research team. She is also the mechanical team lead for the Women in Engineering’s first VEX robotics team and is very active in the Student Engineers Council. Cadigan is passionate about studying the effect of international public policy on multinational collaborations in industrial research.

“The more work experience I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized just how much policy affects the ability of researchers to collaborate and what they can collaborate on,” Cadigan says. “In my opinion, researchers are too restrained by policies for the sake of politics that don’t matter to them. In the future, I want to advocate on behalf of researchers to inform policy.”

When it comes to the ASF astronaut scholarship, Cadigan says she would love to follow in the footsteps of those who have previously been awarded.

“Winning an Astronaut Scholarship would be incredible! It would open so many doors and allow me to join a list of students who went on to do well in their future education and in their careers.”

Following graduation, Cadigan plans to earn a Ph.D. at a top technical school, such as Georgia Tech. After that, she dreams of pursuing a career with NASA or in a government lab such as the Sandia National Laboratories.

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.