Tag Archives: Melissa Grunlan

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 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.

 

 

Four Top STEM Students Nominated for Goldwater Scholarship

LAUNCH: National Fellowships is proud to announce four nominees for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program: junior biomedical engineering major with emphasis on biomaterials Mikayla Barry ’17, junior aerospace engineering major Maura Cadigan ‘17,  sophomore biomedical engineering major and neuroscience minor Kendal Ezell ’18, and sophomore biochemistry major Gabrielle Lessen ’18 .

The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes sophomores and juniors who are planning careers in STEM research. Fewer than 300 Goldwater Scholars are chosen from across the nation each year, so the scholarship is both prestigious and highly competitive. Candidates must demonstrate strong research experience, clear vision for a research career, and academic excellence in STEM coursework.

Mikayla Barry '17, 2016 Goldwater Nominee
Mikayla Barry ’17, 2016 Goldwater Nominee

Mikayla Barry is the first member of Texas A&M’s Beckman Scholars program. She conducts research in Dr. Melissa Grunlan’s Polymeric Biomaterials lab, developing coatings for silicone to prevent blood clots. This project could allow devices like catheters to remain implanted longer with a lower risk of infection and clot formation. Barry serves as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and volunteers at events like the Chemistry Open House, the Physics & Engineering Festival, and SEE Math Camps. She also plays piccolo in A&M’s Wind Symphony, creates stained glass, and runs long-distance. Barry intends to pursue a PhD in materials science and mentor undergraduates as a faculty member at a research university.

Barry explains that her proposed research project, as articulated in a detailed application essay, “would enhance the lifetime of extended wear contact lenses while reducing swelling and infections.” On the benefits of applying for the Goldwater Scholarship, she remarks, “The application process has helped me grow in my knowledge and motivation for learning.” Maura Cadigan, a fellow nominee, feels that the Goldwater “serves to recognize the hard work of students who have gone above and beyond what is required.”

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

Cadigan currently serves as a technical consultant on a multinational research team as part of the Stanford U.S. Russia Forum. She is the first Aggie to be accepted into the program. Maura is also active in the Student Engineers Council, co-coordinating the Spring 2016 career fair, and is the mechanical team lead for the Women in Engineering’s first VEX robotics team. She works as a teaching assistant for ENGR 112 and hopes to pursue a graduate degree at a top technical school like Georgia Tech.

Kendal Ezell '18, 2016 Goldwater Nominee
Kendal Ezell ’18, 2016 Goldwater Nominee

For Kendal Ezell, the Goldwater Scholarship represents an opportunity to thank and give back to “the people who helped her to get to that point by providing opportunities and guidance.” Ezell has participated in Dr. Duncan Maitland’s Biomedical Device Laboratory since her second semester at Texas A&M. Her work in the lab has focused on cold plasma surface modifications of shape memory polymer devices and materials characterization, resulting in presentations at three research symposiums across the state and a second place award at the Pathways Symposium at Texas A&M – Corpus Christi. During the fall of 2015, Ezell joined Dr. Mark Packard in the Institute for Neuroscience to study memory in rats. Currently, Ezell is working with biotechnology companies in Germany during her study abroad there. In addition to her research, Ezell is an involved member of Kappa Alpha Theta, the Student Engineers’ Council, the American Medical Student Association, and Alpha Eta Mu Beta. She plans to pursue an MD/PhD in order to perform clinical research on neurotissue degradation and medical device design.

Gabrielle Lessen '18, 2016 Goldwater Nominee
Gabrielle Lessen ’18, 2016 Goldwater Nominee

Gabrielle Lessen is also nominated for the Goldwater Scholarship. She began research with the Michael E. DeBakey Undergraduate Research Scholars Program as a freshman, working under Dr. Christopher Quick and Dr. Thomas Stiles to model renal fluid dynamics. In spring 2015, Lessen was named a Beckman Research Scholar for Texas A&M, and through this program, she is currently conducting an independent research project on telomere biology in Dr. Dorothy Shippen’s lab. Lessen serves as an ambassador for the University Honors Program as one of the University Scholars, is involved in the Biochemistry and Genetics Society and National Aggie Scholar Ambassadors, and currently acts as the Development Director for the MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness. She plans to pursue an MD/PhD and conduct cancer research.

Each of the nominees has greatly benefited from the support of dedicated faculty, research advisors, recommendation writers, and National Fellowships staff. Lessen, for example, extends a special thank you to Dr. Dorothy Shippen, Dr. Sumana Datta, Dr. Thomas Stiles, Dr. Ana Suescun, Adelia Humme, and Jamaica Pouncy. The National Fellowships program depends on faculty and staff to serve on nomination committees and to provide feedback on applications, and we appreciate all that they do to help us.

Since 2000, Texas A&M has produced 26 Goldwater Scholars. In the 2015 competition, genetics and biochemistry double-major Aaron Griffin ‘16 and biology major Erica Gacasan ‘16 were selected as Goldwater Scholars and Will Linz ’16 was named a Goldwater Honorable Mention. Other notable Aggie Goldwater Scholars include Rhodes Scholarship finalist Andrew Matteson ’08, Hertz Foundation Fellow Luke Hunter ’08, and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipients Brian Sedio ’07 and Agustin Mohedas ‘07.

Best of luck to Mikayla, Maura, Kendal, and Gabby in the national Goldwater Scholarship competition!

If you would like to learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship, please see http://natlfellows.tamu.edu/National-Fellowships/About-National-Fellowships/Barry-Goldwater-Scholarship, or email natlfellows@tamu.edu for additional information about fellowship opportunities.

 

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.

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.

2014 Beckman Scholar – Mikayla Barry

Biomedical Engineering major Mikayla Barry, ’17 has been chosen as Texas A&M University’s first Beckman Scholar. Barry was chosen as a second semester freshman in Spring 2014 through an intensive written application and interview process that probed her goals, values and commitment to a career in scientific research and community service. Barry impressed the faculty, staff and student reviewers and interviewers with her broad range of interests, her academic success, the depth of her self-knowledge and her dedication to learning and personal development.

Early in her academic career she had already taken on leadership roles in the Texas A&M Wind Symphony and Advocates for Christ Today, a church-based social justice organization, while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPR and her status as an Honors student in the College of Engineering Honors Program. Barry was able to speak knowledgeably and coherently to the interview panel about her desire to create artificial organs and the issues the field will have to solve to make this goal a reality.

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

As part of the selection process, Barry interviewed with potential faculty research mentors and chose to join Dr. Melissa Grunlan’s laboratory in Biomedical Engineering starting in summer of 2014. In Dr. Grunlan’s group, Barry has been developing new coatings for medical devices to prevent blood clotting and infection following implantation. Barry has made considerable progress on the project over the summer, learning how to synthesize new coating materials and test them in a variety of ways to establish their properties. She is continuing her research this semester and anticipates being able to contribute to the understanding of the properties exhibited by different types of coatings.

Barry with research mentor Dr. Melissa Grunlan
Barry with research mentor Dr. Melissa Grunlan

In August Barry and her advisor Dr. Grunlan attended the Beckman Symposium in Newport Beach to meet with other Beckman Scholars and mentors and hear talks from prominent scientists from across the nation. They enjoyed presentations by luminaries such as Dr. Richard Zare of Stanford, an expert on laser chemistry, and Dr. Adam Feinberg of Carnegie Mellon University, who is developing strategies to use 3-D scaffolds to build heart tissues. Barry and Grunlan also had the opportunity to view the Arnold Beckman exhibit, which showcases Dr. Beckman’s stunning achievements in invention, technology and philanthropy that revolutionized scientific research.

Barry at the Arnold Beckman Exhibit
Barry at the Arnold Beckman Exhibit

Now deep into the first semester of her sophomore year at Texas A&M, Barry is continuing her research with Dr. Grunlan and engaging in additional activities as part of her Beckman Scholars Program. She is part of the first year University Scholars seminar where she is further developing her leadership skills, thinking deeply about her goals and cultivating her curiosity and innovation. She meets periodically with the Executive and Editorial Boards of Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal to discover how review and publication decisions are made and preparing applications for several National Fellowships in STEM areas. As she moves forward in her time here at Texas A&M, we look forward to finding out to what heights our first Beckman Scholar will climb!