Tag Archives: Engineering Honors

Student Voices: Morgan Chapman, Literature about Science

Students in LAUNCH programs are encouraged to stretch themselves and appreciate a broader context for the knowledge of their chosen disciplines. For students in the College of Liberal Arts or Mays Business School, this might mean digging into the intersection of their interests with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). For students in STEM fields, this might mean seeking to understand the social, artistic, and philosophical impacts of the work they are doing.In the post below, sophomore chemical engineering and microbiology double-major, Engineering Honors student and Undergraduate Research Ambassador Morgan Chapman ’20 discusses how he makes these kinds of connections through literature that digs into scientific themes.

– by Morgan Chapman

My favorite field of science is genetics. I love the intricate patterns, the delicate balance of products, the ballet of enzymes, proteins, and chemicals flowing and interlocking like the gears of a watch. If I am to be completely honest, I am hopelessly in love with all science, even when I hate learning about SN2 reactions or selective factors. I adore science because it creates a puzzle that is the universe with each piece being a puzzle in itself, each piece having a story.

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Morgan Chapman ‘20, Photo credit: Elliott Amato

These stories are no ordinary stories, they are the greatest of all time, deciphering the human genome, discovering radiation, creating ammonia. These stories are about us and what we have accomplished as a human race across the centuries. These tales of insight and creativity put me in the shoes of the original trailblazers: Marie Curie, Gregor Mendel, Pierre Pastuer, Ernst Haber. I get to think what they thought and make discoveries by their sides. Although entertaining and insightful, these stories gave me more than just an appreciation and a history of the fields, I gained the mentality needed to succeed in the fields.

The Violinist’s Thumb opened the doors for me to the world of evolution and genetics, I Contain Multitudes to microbiology, and The Disappearing Spoon to my love-hate relationship with chemistry.

The more I read, the more I connect with science, finding tidbits and enjoying the theories. What is more interesting is that I am able to connect with the knowledge I learn in these books to excel in my classes, helping me study indirectly, guiding me to think differently and predict answers before I am taught them in class.

These stories have provided me a new education, working in synergy with the one I get with my professors, in the end granting me with a fundamental understanding and enjoyment of the subjects I spend so much time studying. Although they may not be as enticing as a new episode of The Office these books do have something: they offer the greatest murders ever witnessed, the most daring rescues ever performed, even a few love stories sprinkled in the mix—in some cases, even a few study tips. For those seeking the truth, or those seeking a B on this next exam, I dare you to look no farther than scientific literature.

Chapman also provided a list of recommended reading for those who want to explore this genre further:

Want to share how you are making your learning broader, deeper, or more complex? Contact us at honors@tamu.edu to share your insights.

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Honors Former Student Spotlight – Justin Montgomery

Honors Former Student Justin Montgomery ’13 from McKinney, TX is a Ph.D. candidate in computational science and engineering at MIT. His research findings on U.S. oil output forecasts were featured in a story at Bloomberg* in December 2017 and he was invited to give a talk at the Energy Information Administration’s Energy Forecasting Forum in January 2018.

Honors Former Student Justin Montgomery ’13 at his invited talk for the Department of Energy

Montgomery graduated with university-level Honors distinctions, Engineering Honors, and as an Undergraduate Research Scholar in May 2013. He took a degree in mechanical engineering and a philosophy minor. We recently asked Montgomery to share about his experiences to help provide some context for how these experiences in Honors at Texas A&M have helped prepare him to contribute to the national discussion on energy.

Q: How did you end up at Texas A&M?

I had the honor of being selected for the Brown Foundation scholarship through the Honors Program. After my meeting with Craig Brown, the Aggie sponsoring this scholarship, I visited campus and met with staff and faculty in the Honors Program, the Mechanical Engineering department, and the College of Engineering. Through all of these meetings, particularly the one with Craig Brown, I felt a strong sense of community and of caring deeply about others. These values really stood out to me as a key part of Texas A&M’s culture that I wanted to be a part of and I did not feel this same emphasis on people and relationships at other large state universities (ahem…). Additionally, I felt that A&M and the Honors Program would provide me with many tremendous and unique opportunities as a student—which certainly turned out to be true! Although I had grown up in a very UT-Austin-centric family and always thought I wanted to attend there, after discovering these things about A&M I had no doubt that it was where I wanted to attend and the best place for me to spend those four years.

Q: What were you involved in while at A&M?

The group I was most involved with throughout my time at A&M was the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), in which I served as Vice President and Events Chair and made several close friends. I also played music throughout my time at Texas A&M with brief stints in a local rock group called The Jeremiahs (TAMU Battle of the Bands winner in 2012!) and in the TAMU Jazz Ensemble. I practiced and competed several times with the Triathlon Club team and held a few leadership roles in the Memorial Student Center. I was very busy and active on campus during those four years! I definitely recommend for students to try many things out and find ways to get involved while at Texas A&M because I think it is both an important and very fun part of the college experience.

Q: What are your favorite memories of the Honors Program?

My favorite memory is without a doubt the Champe Fitzhugh trip to Italy. It was my first time traveling abroad so the entire experience was really memorable and special. I formed some really great friendships and I think the program helped me to go into my time at A&M with the right mentality to get the most out of it. In high school I had been a bit of a nerd about the Renaissance so getting to learn about and see Renaissance art and architecture in person was also amazing. And the food…così buono!

More generally though, my experience in the University Scholars program was very memorable. It was an incredible community to be a part of and I really valued the relationships and experiences I formed through this. The University Scholar seminars were academically and creatively stimulating and it was great to have these close interactions with other students and the faculty. I certainly have fond memories from some of these seminars—podcasting for Invisible Jungle, learning to paint, and diving deep into the cultural complexities of iconoclasm. These classes, and the other Honors classes I took as well, made my curriculum much more varied and interesting than if I had just taken the standard set of classes in Mechanical Engineering. It was important for me to have this breadth in my studies and the Honors Program allowed me to shape my time at A&M in this way. Another example of this was the undergraduate research I did through the honors program combining engineering design with my minor in philosophy which made for a really interesting, challenging, and creative experience during my last few semesters.

Q: How did your Honors experience help prepare you for graduate school?

In so many ways. The honors undergraduate research that I did was really what led me to the decision to go to graduate school actually. Although I got a fantastic education in mechanical engineering, it was the interdisciplinary experiences I had in the honors program that really led me to the work I am doing today which I am very passionate about—using data science and machine learning to understand unconventional oil and gas resources and the technology of extraction. The honors classes I took were very academically challenging and I think more representative of graduate school coursework which I appreciate now. Finally, the honors program puts significant responsibility on you as a student to plan your academic career and consider what you want out of your academic career. This is one of the most important aspects of being a graduate student in my opinion.

Q: What advice can you offer Honors students as they prepare for an uncertain future?

Look at your education as an opportunity to invest in yourself and expose yourself to new ideas rather than as a set of requirements to satisfy for the next stage in life. Learn to code—regardless of the field you’re in, take a philosophy class or two, read books outside of your coursework, and read The Economist. Also, take every opportunity you get to travel somewhere new and when you do, try to learn as much as you can and immerse yourself in the culture and experience.

Q: Other thoughts/advice?

Your time at Texas A&M will go by very fast so stay busy, enjoy the ride, and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone!

*Check out a video of Justin’s interview with Bloomberg!

We love to share news and success stories from our Honors Former Students! If you have something to share with our current, former, and prospective students and their families, please contact honors@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.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Science Foundation 2016 Graduate Research Fellowship Awardees:

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

Honorable Mention:

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

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

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

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.

Dr. Kenith Meissner Selected for 2014 Director’s Award

The Director’s Award for Outstanding Service to Honors
Programs was created in 2010 to recognize significant contribution
to and support of the efforts of the University Honors Program on
campus.

2014 Director's Award Plaque
2014 Director’s Award Plaque

The 2014 recipient of the Director’s Award is Dr. Kenith Meissner.

To see a list of previous recipients, visit the TAMU HUR Faculty Awards page.

Dr. Suma Datta presents the 2014 Director's Award to Dr. Ken Meissner
Dr. Suma Datta presents the 2014 Director’s Award to Dr. Ken Meissner

Bio

Dr. Ken Meissner, 2014 Director's Award recipient
Dr. Ken Meissner, 2014 Director’s Award recipient

Dr. Meissner is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the director of the Engineering Honors program. Dr. Meissner has been actively involved with Engineering Honors since shortly after his arrival at Texas A&M. He served as departmental coordinator from 2005-2010 and has served as Director since 2010.

Dr. Meissner earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Lehigh University and received his doctorate from the University of Arizona in 1994.

Dr. Meissner’s Nanomaterials and Biophotonics Lab focuses on using nanostructured materials and optical techniques for biomedical imaging and sensing applications.