The Wells Fargo Honors Faculty Mentor Award recognizes and rewards Honors faculty members whose dedication and commitment to excellence in education is truly outstanding. These faculty members encourage a spirit of inquiry in their students, are thoughtful teachers, and exhibit the strongest desire to train a new generation of thinkers and creators. This award is of special significance because recipients are nominated and selected by Honors Students. The 2017 Wells Fargo Faculty Mentor Award goes to Dr. Daniel Singleton.
Dr. Singleton earned his B.S. degree in chemistry with highest honors from Case Western Reserve University and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Singleton is a professor of chemistry, and holds the Davidson Chair in Science. His research involves organic, organometallic, and bioorganic reaction mechanisms, and is aimed at revising fundamental understanding of reactivity and selectivity in organic chemistry. Dr. Singleton has been a member of the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry faculty since 1998, and has been selected for numerous awards including the Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award in 1995 and again in 2015, as a University Faculty Fellow, the Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching from Texas A&M, and with the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society.
The student who nominated Dr. Singleton writes, “[he] undeniably checks all the boxes any teacher must: he knows his subject, and conveys that knowledge effectively, concisely, and truthfully (truth is unusually scarce in chemistry). Moreover, he has invested at least 12 hours in me personally through supplemental problem and tutoring sessions so far this term. He often shares tales of green flames, metallic bubbles, and unexpected explosions, bringing the human elements of excitement, wonder, and terror to this science of puzzles.
“Everything I listed above could be accomplished by any personable and good-humored expert. Dr. Singleton is more. He truly cares about me and my fellow students. He knows and calls us by name. Early in our teacher-student relationship, he asked after my dreams, as opposed to the common question of how my interests relate to his class. He attended the ring dunk of a former student just last week. It is clear to me that he is personally invested in the wellbeing of his students.
“Dr. Singleton deserves the Wells Fargo Faculty Mentor Award because he is relatable, interesting, informative, and caring. He is teaching me how to be a better scientist, and showing me how to guide and grow people by guiding and growing me.”
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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit our website: http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.
Right now, your biggest concern is probably How will I make friends? You may be wondering Why do I have to live in the Honors Housing Community? Or What if I don’t like my roommate?
Worry no more. Living in Honors Housing is one of the best experiences you can have at Texas A&M. It’s one thing for me, as an Honors Advisor, to tell you that you’ll make plenty of friends. It’s another thing for me, as a former Honors student who lived in Lechner Hall for two years, to tell you that my cohort of fellow Honors students is still in contact more than a year after graduation. For Memorial Day weekend, more than a dozen former students from the University Honors program, Class of 2015, reunited in Houston. Our weekend included volleyball, bowling, swimming, two-stepping at Wild West, a crawfish boil, a visit to the planetarium, and about eight rounds of the card game Werewolf. We also put our college educations to the test at Escape the Room Texas, where we solved puzzles and searched for clues to find keys and open combo locks in order to “escape.” You’ll be delighted to hear that Honors pays off: we got out with one minute to spare on the one-hour time limit!
More important than anything we did was reminiscing about our time in the Honors Housing Community, where we met as freshmen. Most of us were Sophomore Advisors (SAs) in 2012-2013; a few were “spouses,” or partners chosen by Sophomore Advisors to help mentor Honors freshmen. Living in Lechner and McFadden Halls together bonded us. We pulled all-nighters in Hobofo, Lechner’s second-floor foyer. As freshmen, we designed the greatest shack ever for Habitat for Humanity’s annual fundraiser, Shack-a-thon. It featured an enormous and detailed Nazgul for our Lord of the Rings theme. As SAs, we painted ourselves blue for free food at Blue Baker and hosted our own Hunger Games for the freshmen, arming them with pool noodles and flour-filled socks. We opened the annual talent show with our own rendition of “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. And even after we moved out of HHC, we volunteered for Big Event, attended Muster, celebrated Ring Day, and dressed up for Ring Dance together.
The Aggie spirit is still strong in our hearts, and we still hold to our identity as Honors students. So if you’re afraid that you’re going to be alone in college, I hope I can reassure you. Living in the Honors Housing Community, I felt that I had found people who spoke not only my language but my dialect. My fellow Honors students liked what I liked; we watched the same sci-fi TV shows and knew the same geek culture references. You’ll make connections, like we did. You’ll make memories, like we did. You might meet your future spouse (no pressure!). And you very well could have a one-year reunion of your own in 2021.
Oh, and I haven’t forgotten your second worry, which is probably What’s my plan? What am I going to do after college? Not knowing the answer right now is okay! You have plenty of time (and plenty of guidance within Honors) to help you figure it out. We were there, too, and we made it. Here’s what we’re doing now:
Alyssa Bennett is pursuing a PhD in naval architecture at the University of Michigan. She majored in ocean engineering and graduated with Foundation Honors. Alyssa was a Sophomore Advisor and a Junior Advisor.
Sam Carey is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech through the Critical Skills Master’s Program at Sandia National Laboratories. Sam spends his summers working for Sandia in Albuquerque, NM. He majored in electrical engineering and graduated with University Honors and an Honors Minor in mathematics. Sam was a Sophomore Advisor.
Mallory Carson is a PhD student studying medical physics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She is working on methods to detect and correct errors in dose calculations to improve the quality of radiation therapy. Mallory majored in radiological health engineering and minored in mathematics. She was a Sophomore Advisor and an Undergraduate Research Scholar.
Danielle Cope is a planning/project engineer for ExxonMobil at the Baytown Olefins Plant. She majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors and Foundation Honors. Danielle was Pj’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.
Pj Downey is a systems engineer for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He majored in aerospace engineering and was a Sophomore Advisor. Pj graduated with certificates in engineering project management and engineering business management.
Jacob Glenn is a healthcare consultant at Apogee Consulting Group in Houston. He majored in economics and was an Undergraduate Research Scholar and Sophomore Advisor.
April Holland is a business consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Houston. She double-majored in business honors and supply chain management. April was a Sophomore Advisor and graduated with Business Honors.
Edward Ji is in the Baylor College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program in Houston and continues performing as a violinist with the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra. He majored in biomedical sciences with a minor in psychology.
Taylor Peterson is an administrative assistant with Switched Over Consulting and plans a career with Texas Parks and Wildlife. She is majoring in wildlife & fisheries sciences and was a Sophomore Advisor.
Lauren Roverse is a second-year student at the University of Houston College of Optometry, where she is pursuing a Doctor of Optometry degree. Lauren majored in biology and was a Sophomore Advisor.
Eric Vavra is a chemical engineering PhD student at Rice University, where he is investigating foam flow dynamics in porous media. He majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors. Eric was a Sophomore Advisor.
Trey Whitaker works as a developer for the Advance Technology Division of AmRisc, LLC. Trey majored in computer science and was April’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.
As for me, I’m currently an Honors Advisor and the program coordinator for National Fellowships and University Scholars at Texas A&M, but I’ll soon be moving to Boston to begin graduate school at Emerson College. Leaving College Station after five years feels like the end of an era because Texas A&M, and particularly the Honors community, has been my second home. I hope you find that same sense of belonging, security, and no-holds-barred fun when you arrive.
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
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.
LAUNCH: National Fellowships congratulates our five 2015 nominees for the Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell Scholarships for post-graduate study!
Each of these applicants has devoted time to self-reflection and goal development as they revised their essays, requested letters of recommendation, and poured over detailed application instructions. We are equally proud of their perseverance in the fellowship process and of their outstanding accomplishments throughout their college careers.
Mariah Bastin ’14, who double-majored in German and international studies – politics and diplomacy, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship and hopes to obtain a PhD in International Relations. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2013 with Honors Fellows and Undergraduate Research Scholars distinctions, as well as National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Eta Sigma National Society, Phi Beta Kappa and Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi honors cords. In 2015, Mariah graduated from the George Bush School of Government & Public Service with a Master of International Affairs. She received the Dean’s Certificate in Leadership. She also served as the President of the German Club and was elected as an International Affairs Representative for the Class of 2015. Fluent in German and French, Mariah has previously worked on the Military Staff Committee of the US Mission to the United Nations and as a German instructor for the Bush School. She is currently employed as an editorial fellow by GovLoop in Washington DC.
Andy Baxter ’16, a Physics and mathematics double major with a business administration minor, has been nominated for the Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell Scholarships. He hopes to combine a business education with studies in aerospace physics and engineering in preparation for a management career in aerospace innovation. Additionally, if selected for a scholarship at the University of Oxford, Andy plans to join the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics to apply his studies in physics and business to his Christian faith. Andy’s primary involvement at Texas A&M has been through Freshmen Leaders in Christ, in which he served as a director. He has also been a Muster Host for the past two years, founded a discussion group for Christian physicists, served as an Impact counselor, assisted with a “Five for Yell” campaign, played in many intramural sports, and is currently serving as treasurer for the Society of Physics Students. During his summers as a college student, Andy has participated in research on superconducting magnets at the Texas A&M Accelerator Research Laboratory, studied abroad through the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program, and interned at the IT Alliance for Public Sector in Washington DC through the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program.
Hunter Hampton ’16, seeking degrees in economics and international studies, with a minor in German, has been nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship with the goal of studying international relations at Oxford University. Hunter is a University Scholar, an Undergraduate Research Scholar, and a member of the Cornerstone Liberal Arts Honors Program, University Honors, and Phi Beta Kappa. As a junior, Hunter wrote his undergraduate thesis on entrepreneurship and conflict resolution in Palestine, and now as a senior, he works in the A&M Economics Research Laboratory on a project about the effects of mandated volunteering on total volunteering. Along with his academic pursuits, Hunter interned at the Institut für Europäische Politik in Berlin, Germany, and spent three years as a member of the Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA), rising to Chief of Staff in his final year. Outside of academics, Hunter enjoys biking, playing the erhu poorly, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
Molly Huff ’16, a Chemistry major with a minor in mathematics, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to pursue a Masters of Philosophy in chemistry at a UK university. She is an active undergraduate researcher, working in the Polymer Nanocomposites Laboratory for two years and presenting her two publications at an American Chemical Society national conference. Currently, Molly is writing an Undergraduate Research Scholar thesis in physical organic chemistry, studying heavy-atom tunneling both experimentally and computationally. This summer, she completed an internship at OXEA in Bay City where she worked on research and development of a new homogeneous catalyst for the plant. She has also been actively involved in Aggie Sisters for Christ and as a tutor for all levels of chemistry courses. Molly has traveled around the world and hopes to one day live in a foreign country to enhance global chemistry research.
Annie Melton ‘16, an anthropology and classics double major with a minor in geoinformatics, has been nominated for the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. Annie, a University Scholar and Undergraduate Research Ambassador, has been heavily involved in archaeological research, beginning her freshman year in the research lab of Dr. Mike Waters. Several of these projects, including her senior honors thesis under the direction of Dr. Kelly Graf, were presented at national and regional conferences. Annie has taken part in archaeological projects in Alaska, Israel, and Portugal, while also analyzing stone tool assemblages from sites in Kentucky and Tennessee, all of which date to differing time periods in the archaeological record. Following graduate school, where she will pursue a PhD in archaeology and focus on the emergence of early modern humans, she hopes to pursue a career in which she can juggle her research passions while teaching the next generation of archaeologists.
The Rhodes Scholarship is for graduate study at Oxford University, the Marshall Scholarship is for graduate study at any UK university, and the George J. Mitchell Scholarship is for graduate study at any university in Ireland. Nominees will soon be notified whether they have been chosen to advance to the interview round of selection. We wish them the best of luck!
LAUNCH: National Fellowships is grateful to the Association of Former Students for their generous support, which applicants benefit from through our programs as well as support for travel to interviews.
The TAMU College of Science recently highlighted four of the seven Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs active this summer in the college. The highlighted programs include the Cyclotron Institute, Chemistry, Mathematical Modeling in Biology, and Astronomical Research and Instrumentation programs, all of which are designed to mentor young scholars and help them decide if they are interested in a career in research.