Tag Archives: Explorations

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.


2015 Astronaut Scholars Announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seventeen Aggies Chosen as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows for 2015

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prestigious awards to support graduate students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Over 16,000 applications were submitted for the 2015 NSF Fellowship competition, resulting in 2,000 award offers. This spring, 17 former Texas A&M University students were selected as 2015 NSF Graduate Fellows, while 9 were named Honorable Mention. Most of these students participated in Honors and Undergraduate Research programs while undergraduates, including 13 who completed an undergraduate research thesis as an Undergraduate Research Scholar, 8 who graduated with Honors distinctions, 2 Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, and 3 Authors for Explorations, the undergraduate journal.

2015 NSF Graduate Fellow Dillon Amaya is a first year PhD student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego. While a Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences major and Oceanography minor at Texas A&M Amaya studied paleoclimate, physical oceanography, and climate change with faculty in the Department of Oceanography as well as the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Amaya, a Summa Cum Laude graduate, was the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Astronaut Foundation Scholarship. A member of the inaugural cohort of Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, he holds a strong interest in communicating science to the public.

In response to his selection Amaya said “I am honored to have been chosen for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. This kind of Fellowship gives me the funding and the freedom to do the exciting and innovative research that interests me the most. None of it would be possible, however, without having participated in substantial undergraduate research at Texas A&M. The experience I gained as an undergraduate made my NSF reviewers sit up and take notice. Every single NSF review I received cited my undergraduate research experience at A&M as the primary reason for my nomination for the award. For this reason, I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me during my undergraduate career.”

Dillon Amaya, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences ‘14, shows oceanographic instruments to 5th graders on a tour of the research pier at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
Dillon Amaya, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences ‘14, shows oceanographic instruments to 5th graders on a tour of the research pier at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Alejandro Azocar, another 2015 NSF Graduate Fellow, graduated Summa Cum Laude with University and Aerospace Engineering Honors. During his time at Texas A&M Azocar completed five cooperative education tours at NASA Johnson Space Center, working in three different research labs. As an Undergraduate Research Scholar, he won two best paper awards from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region IV Conference for his work in unmanned aircraft simulation (2013) and electromyographically-controlled quadrotors (2015).

Azocar also was the recipient of the 2015 Ammon S. Andes National Award from Sigma Gamma Tau, the national aerospace engineering honor society. This award recognized him as the top aerospace engineering student in the United States based upon his academic, service, and extracurricular accomplishments. Azocar credits his mentors and peers at Texas A&M for his success, saying, “Texas A&M surrounded me with incredible people and opportunities, and allowed me to grow as a researcher, leader, and communicator.” This fall Azocar will begin his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. He will be working at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago with a research focus on either bionics or brain-machine interfaces. With NSF support he hopes to develop prosthetic arms, legs, and exoskeletons that can be controlled through the user’s neural signals.

In his spare time Alejandro Azocar, Aerospace Engineering ’15, served as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat.
In his spare time Alejandro Azocar, Aerospace Engineering ’15, served as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat.

Honors and Undergraduate Research would like to congratulate the Aggie 2015 National Science Foundation Fellows and Honorable Mentions and acknowledge their valuable contributions to HUR programs!

National Science Foundation 2015 Research Fellowship Awardees:

  • Dillon Amaya, Geosciences, Climate and Large-Scale Atmospheric Dynamics. Undergraduate Research Ambassador and Astronaut Foundation Scholarship recipient
  • Alejandro Azocar, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Scholar, and University Honors
  • Ryan Brito, Nuclear Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Foundation Honors, University Honors
  • Christopher Chini, Civil Engineering. Foundation Honors
  • Andrea Delgado, Particle Physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Keith Krenek, Electrical Engineering. University Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Timothy Kroeger, Mechanical Engineering. University Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Anna Means, Materials Engineering
  • Andrew Moehlman, Developmental Biology
  • Lakshmi Nathan, Chemical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Christopher Pannier, Mechanical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • William Scholten, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Jeremy Seidel, Chemical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Ambassador
  • Zachary Steelman, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Honors Fellows, Explorations author
  • Jeffrey Swofford, Social Sciences, Sustainability
  • Jason Szafron, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Explorations author and Editorial Board
  • William Whitten, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Explorations author

Honorable Mention:

  • Christopher Akers, Theoretical Physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Shelby Bieritz, Biomedical Engineering. Fulbright Award Grantee, Whitaker Fellowship recipient
  • Charles Giattino, Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Dion Hubble, Materials Engineering
  • Kelli Humbird, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Kristin Nichols, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Foundation Honors, University Honors
  • Jesse Pyle, Microbial Biology
  • Nicholas Rinkenberger,   Microbial Biology. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Michael Whitely, Biomedical Engineering

Three TAMU Students Recognized in Goldwater Competition

The Goldwater Scholarship is a competitive National Fellowship that recognizes students with outstanding potential who wish to pursue careers in STEM research and rewards them with a maximum of a $7500 scholarship to be used in the coming academic year. The 2015 Goldwater Scholars were selected from a pool of 1206 math, science and engineering majors nominated by faculty at top academic institutions for their outstanding academic achievement and research potential.

Three Texas A&M Students were recognized this past March for their outstanding academic achievements in biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and mathematics by the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation. Erica Gacasan, a ’16 biomedical engineering major, and Aaron Griffin, a ’16 biochemistry major, have been selected as Goldwater Scholars and William Linz, a ‘16 mathematics major, has been named a Goldwater Honorable Mention.

Female student with long dark hair in a maroon and white t-shirt
2015 Goldwater Scholar Erica Gacasan ’16

Gacasan, who has been developing artificial scaffolds for regenerating bone and cartilage with Dr. Melissa Grunlan in the department of Biomedical Engineering, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. Gacasan’s outstanding research and academic strength, including her role as a team leader for the Aggie Research Scholars Program, led to her selection as one of only 16 students to join the 2015 Biomedical Engineering Summer Internship Program at the National Institutes of Health. Gacasan’s remarkable research acumen and communication abilities resulted in her being chosen to represent TAMU undergraduate research at Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Austin and as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador here on campus. Gacasan has also participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.

2015 Goldwater Scholar Aaron Griffin '16
2015 Goldwater Scholar Aaron Griffin ’16

Griffin, who has been researching the mechanisms of mitochondrial disease with Dr. Vishal Gohil in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, plans to pursue an M.D. and a Ph.D. in cancer cell biology after graduation. Griffin’s research activities and academic excellence, including his participation in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, led to his being selected for the 2014 Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Undergraduate Research for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Griffin has also taken on leadership positions as as the Co-Chair of the Explorations Executive Board where he oversees the process of proposal solicitation, article review and selection, editing, layout and publication of TAMU’s Undergraduate Journal and a 2015-2016 Undergraduate Research Ambassador where he will spread the word about the excitement of undergraduate research .

Male student with short dark hair and glasses, wearing a maroon polo shirt.
2015 Goldwater Honorable Mention William Linz ’16

Linz, who has been investigating the use of mathematics to model searching strategies through large volumes of data with Dr. Catherine Yan in the Department of Mathematics, plans to pursue a Ph. D. in mathematics. Linz’s unusual and complex insight into combinatorics has led to a publication in a professional peer-reviewed mathematics journal and successful completion of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. His leadership and desire to communicate a love of science in general and mathematics in particular have been honed through his service as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and a member of the Explorations Executive Board.

Current freshman and sophomores interested in applying for the 2016 Goldwater Scholarship should contact Jamaica Pouncy, Program Coordinator, National Fellowships and Honors Academic Advisor, jamaica.pouncy@tamu.edu.

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Nominee Will Linz

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Nominee, Will Linz '16
Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Nominee, Will Linz ’16

HUR is forwarding the packets of three outstanding students as the TAMU nominees for the 2015 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation competition. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was started by six of the original Mercury 7 astronauts to aid the United States in retaining world leadership in the development of cutting edge science and technology. Since its inception in 1984, the Mercury 7 have been joined by astronauts who have served on other Mercury missions as well as the Apollo, Gemini, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs. The $10,000 ASF Scholarship is the largest award presented to STEM majors based purely on merit, as demonstrated by initiative, creativity and productivity in research as well as excellence in coursework and dedication to leadership in their fields. Application for the Astronaut Scholarship is open to sophomores and juniors in all STEM fields starting in late December and culminating in early February with the selection of the TAMU nominees. Meet the first of our 2015 nominees!

What makes an Astronaut Scholar nominee? Academic excellence and passion for research are a given, but 2015 TAMU Nominee Will Linz ’16 has something more—an extraordinary talent for mathematics and the strong desire to communicate the elegance of a mathematical proof and the powerful implications of new branches of mathematics to non-mathematicians. Linz is in the University Honors and Math Honors program, majoring in mathematics with a minor in German from Temple, Texas. He will graduate with both a BS and MS in Mathematics in Spring 2016.

In addition to his heavy course load of undergraduate and graduate courses, Linz has pursued his passion for research starting freshman year with an aptitude that resulted in Fall 2013 in his becoming one of the very few sophomore Undergraduate Research Scholars ever. And when theses were evaluated in the Spring of 2014, Linz’ was on the short list for best thesis. The research discussed in his thesis, which analyzes ways of calculating how to sort and handle objects arranged in many different ways, has been submitted for publication at a top mathematics journal. Linz has continued his research on combinatorics, which is the base for theoretical computer science, with Dr. Catherine Yan during the academic year and participated in an REU on Chemical Graph theory at the University of Texas-Tyler this past summer. He has presented his research at numerous meetings including the 2015 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio, Texas, MathFest in Portland, Oregon and multiple research expos here at Texas A&M including Student Research Week, where he was awarded first place in the Mathematics and Computer Science oral division.

Linz has also followed his desire to mentor and communicate about research in general and math in particular since his freshman year. As an incoming freshman, Linz was chosen as the youngest ever member of the Editorial Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. His incisive comments and astute reviews are greatly respected, and led to his promotion to the Executive Board in 2013. Linz further honed his skills in communication upon being selected as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in 2014. This allowed him to receive additional training in presentations and to discuss undergraduate research and his own experiences with mathematics to audiences as disparate as parents and community members, prospective students, current students, graduate students and faculty.

Linz is acutely aware of how impenetrable cutting-edge mathematics seems to non-mathematicians, even to researchers in other STEM fields who are most likely to appreciate and apply the novel insights he and others are uncovering. Linz hopes to leverage both his increasing mathematical expertise and his communication skills to “translate” mathematical discoveries to the world of computer science and logic to enable faster integration of mathematical insights such as breakthroughs in combinatorics into technological advances in areas such as complex data queries and web searching algorithms.

Beckman Scholar Mikalya Barry Featured For Research

The research that Texas A&M’s first-ever Beckman Scholar, Mikayla Barry, is doing with Dr. Melissa Grunlan on biomaterials has been profiled by the College of Engineering and featured in Texas A&M Today.

Mikayla Barry '17, first TAMU Beckman Scholar
Mikayla Barry ’17, first TAMU Beckman Scholar

From the article:

Mikayla Barry always knew she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, but the undergraduate biomedical engineering major had no idea she would be helping develop a potentially life-saving technology so soon after embarking upon her academic career at Texas A&M University.

Merely a year into the pursuit of her degree, the 20-year-old Barry is working to develop a coating for medical devices that prevents clotting as well as infection. She’s part of a research team led by Associate Professor Melissa Grunlan, an authority on biomaterials and regenerative therapies from the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Read the whole profile here.

HUR Staff Spotlight: Tammis Sherman

Honors and Undergraduate Research presents Tammis Sherman. Sherman serves as Program Coordinator for the Undergraduate Research Scholars program, and coordinates support and enrichment for undergraduates engaged in summer research projects at Texas A&M, such as the Aggie Research Scholars and the many campus REUs.

Tammis Sherman
Tammis Sherman, HUR Program Coordinator

Sherman grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and has had a horse or pony for as long as she can remember. She had a small buckboard wagon she would hitch up and give friends rides around her rural home. Sherman was in 4-H and developed a great love for exploring. It was that sense of adventure that took Sherman from New England to Texas, with a couple of years spent living in Oahu, Hawaii, swimming with her daughter at Waikiki.

With a background in finance, Sherman spent 30 years working with people doing estate and retirement planning. With so much energy and enthusiasm, Sherman could not stay retired. She began working with the Texas A&M Research Foundation, and then under the Vice-President for Research, Dr. Robert Webb, and Dr. Suma Datta, who was serving as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research. When Dr. Datta was selected as Executive Director and tasked with combining the University Honors Program and Undergraduate Research Scholars program, Sherman made the move with her.

Sherman lives on a small farm and enjoys time with her many animals, which included horses, cows, cats, dogs, and the occasional bull. An accomplished baker, Shermans’ cupcakes and muffins are the highlight of office gatherings, especially when she is trying out a new recipe. Sherman is also a gifted artist and often shares inspiring photographs taken on her farm. She also paints, and her fantastic animals not only adorn her office wall, but also the custom cards she gives each year at the holidays.

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