Tag Archives: MSC Champe-Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar

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.


Jamaica Pouncy: On Travel, Personal & Professional Development, Part 1

Jamaica Pouncy was the National Fellowships Coordinator in LAUNCH and advisor for University Scholars from 2012-2016, and continued to work with our office on a part time basis through 2017. In the post below (part 1 of 2), she reflects on how travel and reflection on her professional goals led her to pursue a career abroad.

By Jamaica Pouncy –

My intention in writing this piece is twofold: first, I want to tell my story because I hope that it can inspire and help others and because it is immensely gratifying to work with those who believe my experiences are worth hearing about (thank you, Dr. Kotinek!).

My first international trip was technically as a baby. My parents were leaving a military base in Germany and they brought me on the plane where my mother tells me I slept…. well, like a baby, for the entire journey. Hardly worth mentioning except that I really like the story my parents tell about my birth and trip to the U.S.  And since it fit with my theme of international travel I thought, ‘why not?’ However, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this trip doesn’t really count, at least in my opinion, as international travel. I wasn’t required to navigate the complicated bureaucracy and paperwork related to visas and passports; repack my suitcase three or four times; or figure out how to ask for the bathroom when the person I’m talking to doesn’t speak English and I don’t know the word for bathroom in any other language. So I think my story of international travel and what it has taught me should really begin with my time at A&M.

Jamaica Pouncy (right) with students on the MSC Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership trip.

I had been in the LAUNCH office (Honors and Undergraduate Research at the time) for about 6 months when Dr. Datta and Dr. Kotinek approached me about co-leading the Champe Fitzhugh trip in Italy. I jumped at the opportunity to have my first “real” international trip. I learned a lot in that initial experience; much of it before I even left Texas. I had never been through the passport process or attempted to convert currency or had to decide what to pack when you couldn’t be guaranteed a quick trip to the corner store to pick up anything you forgot.  In some weird way I didn’t really believe I was going to go. And that feeling persisted until the plane actually left the runway. Honestly, even while I was in the air it didn’t feel real. But several hours later we touched down in Germany for our layover and I was walking through customs (where I had a fascinating conversation about my inability to speak German despite having Germany listed as my place of birth on my passport).

The Champe Fitzhugh trip was everything you could want for your first international trip; Italy was beautiful, my traveling companions were delightful, and we had few mishaps. I think, for many people and certainly for me, international travel holds equal parts fascination and fear. There is the desire to see other parts of the world combined with the idea that, somehow, something might go wrong and you will simply be out of your element and incapable of functioning. That trip taught me not to be fearful of the international landscape and I left Italy hooked on international travel and thinking about where I might go next. As it turns out, my next international trip was also related to my work in the LAUNCH office.

It was during my first year as fellowships coordinator that I was able to recognize a large gap in my professional understanding. I was working with students as they applied to awards that would fund graduate study in the UK and Ireland. Naturally we would talk about the British and Irish educational systems; the best programs; and the appropriate fit for each student. Except I really had no experience with either educational system. The information I was providing could really have been found online and I felt superfluous. I spoke to Dr. Datta and she suggested that I submit a proposal detailing my ideas for changing that situation.

The proposal, which asked the university to fund a trip to the UK and Ireland, was my first experience with grant writing. And that experience was transformative. I didn’t really expect the proposal to be successful. I was there to do a job for the university, why would any of the upper administration be interested in my inability to do that job except as it relates to my employability? But, they were interested. Not only were they interested in what was best for the students but they were interested in helping me cultivate and refine my skillset. They agreed, Dr. Datta said, because they saw something worthwhile in me; something that was worth investing in. So I packed my bags and headed off to the UK and Ireland.

My mother was much more worried about my trip to the UK and Ireland than I was. It was after all my first international trip completely alone. I would be responsible for myself and there would be no one to lean on if something went wrong. But it was Great Britain. An English-speaking, first world country. I assured her I’d be fine and the worst thing that would happen would be spending Thanksgiving in a hotel instead of at home with family. I boarded my flight with no problems and relaxed into my seat where I slept for the majority of the 6 hours. I landed in Heathrow and sailed through customs. I strolled through the airport to pick up my luggage and approached the carousel to grab my bag. Only to discover that my luggage had been damaged on the trip. And not just a few bumps and scrapes, it was absolutely, completely, destroyed and clearly couldn’t fly anymore. Heck it couldn’t even roll anymore. I couldn’t lug that thing around a foreign country for 4 weeks!

Oh well. It was getting late and dark and I decided to tackle the problem in the morning. I figured there was nothing to be done about it then so I went to the information desk to ask about a shuttle to my hotel. I walked up, asked about the shuttle, and the desk attendant smiled and started to speak…. And I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Was that really English? It was so fast and…. different. Cue my first (of many) international freak-outs. I’m proud to say that, after several opportunities to practice and hone the ability over the years, I’ve now mastered the art of the internal freak-out. No need to disturb (and terrify) everyone around you when the entire episode can happen in your head! I asked him to repeat the information (twice!) and finally figured out that I needed to buy a shuttle ticket. I went to the ATM to pull out money and discovered that all of my cards were frozen for international use. A word to the wise: always remember to tell your banks when you plan to travel out of the country, my friends. So, there I was, in the airport as night descended with a busted suitcase and no money.

Luckily the shuttle agent took pity on me and let me ride to my hotel for free where, after a night of sleep, I was able to straighten things out. I like to think that by frontloading all of my issues into the first day at the airport I managed to avoid having constant mishaps throughout my journey. Apart from getting lost and wandering the oddly deserted streets of Edinburgh for a few hours, the rest of my trip went off without a hitch. I think I will always feel that my time in the UK and Ireland struck a perfect balance between the acquisition of professional knowledge and personal confidence. I learned a lot about the UK and Irish education systems (which, of course, was the goal after all). But I also learned that when things do go wrong (as they often do) I am capable of finding solutions and pushing forward. It’s a lesson I have been able to take and apply to all parts of my life.

Continue to Part 2


Today’s Honors Welcome recognized twelve new students joining the University Scholars program. University Scholars is a personal and professional development program for high-achieving students who serve as ambassadors for the University Honors program. Each spring, ten to twelve freshmen are selected for the Scholars program through an intensive application and interview process. The program seeks students who are intellectually curious and who demonstrate critical thinking, self-awareness, poise, and maturity. Scholars are able to engage in rigorous conversation and to defend their ideas. They’re also highly accomplished and motivated students who love learning for the sake of learning.

University Scholars Class of 2020: (left to right) Immanuel Ponminissery, Hannah Lehman, Loan Do, Seth Reine, Sydney Tejml, Caleb Allison, Tessa Williams, Alex Sharma, Sarah Swift, Jon Williamson, Katherine Miller

These new Scholars will join their twenty upperclassman peers in the Exploration Series, seminar courses offered to Scholars each semester. Previous Exploration Series have delved into transportation, education, television, comedy, and animal conservation; this coming fall will feature seminars on Aggie History and Food and the Sacred. Sophomores new to the program participate in a personal statement writing seminar, “Futuring Yourself,” together.

Throughout the program, University Scholars seek intellectual challenge and share their unique perspectives from an array of academic and cultural backgrounds. We are excited for twelve new University Scholars to grow in this program during the next three years and look forward to seeing their future accomplishments both at Texas A&M and in the world!

Caleb Allison ’20, University Scholar

Caleb Allison

Caleb Allison is a sophomore business major from Argyle, TX. Allison is an outdoorsman and adventurer, and he loves anything to do with mountains, snow, and conservation. He was a member of MSC ALOT as a freshman and will be on staff as a Group Leader for his sophomore year. He is also a member of the University Disciplinary Appeals Panel and Discovery Church. Allison went abroad to Italy the summer before his freshman year as part of the Champe Fitzhugh Honors Freshman International Leadership seminar.

Loan Do ’20, University Scholar

Loan Do

Loan Do is an allied health major from Houston, TX, who plans to go to Nursing School. Do is interested in studying either neonatal medicine or oncology for her specialization someday. She is a member of the Regents’ Scholars Orientation Planning Board and Texas A&M University’s Texas Emergency Care Team (TAMECT).

Hannah Lehman ’20, University Scholar

Hannah Lehman

Hannah Lehman is an aerospace engineering major and mathematics minor from Austin, Texas. Lehman is interested in one day combining air and spacecraft with more advanced artificial intelligence. She loves sculpture and martial arts and is a certified Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is involved in Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), Virtual Reality Club, and the Honors community.

Larry Liu ’20, University Scholar

Larry Liu

Larry Liu is an economics major from Alpharetta, Georgia. Liu has always been interested in history and human expression through the arts. He enjoys literature and films, and he is particularly interested in the story and the human struggle in these. Liu is an avid runner, and is often seen running with the Corps early in the morning. He has made Dean’s List, is a recipient of the Sul Ross Corps Scholarship, and serves as the Scholastics Sergeant for his outfit in the Corps.

Katherine Miller ’20, University Scholar

Katherine Miller

Katherine Miller is a biology major and Latin minor from Denver, Colorado. She is a recipient of the President’s Endowed Scholarship and National Merit Semi-Finalist. In her free time Miller enjoys reading fiction, studying languages, and communing with the great outdoors. When she is not studying, Miller is involved in Venture Crew, a co-ed organization of the Boy Scouts of America.

Immanuel Ponminissery ’20, University Scholar

Immanuel Ponminissery

Immanuel Ponminissery is a mechanical engineering major and economics minor from Thrissur, India. Technology and its benefits never fail to excite him, especially developments in his major. Ponminissery also enjoys reading the news, monitoring stock prices, and occasionally getting deeply philosophical. Another passion of his is immersing himself in different cultures. Ponminissery was briefly involved with Model United Nations at Texas A&M and currently serve as Treasurer of the Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honor Society.

Seth Reine ’20, University Scholar

Seth Reine

Seth Reine is a biomedical engineering major from Arlington, TX. Reine is interested in the applications of shape memory polymer biomaterials, increasing medical care across different cultures, and service as a disciple of God. Besides the University Honors program, he is involved with Engineering Honors, Class Councils, Residence Life, and research in the Biomedical Device Laboratory under Dr. Duncan Maitland. Reine is also a Plum Family Endowed Scholar and a President’s Endowed Scholar. He enjoys amateur weightlifting and learning to cook. While away from A&M, Seth works at Camp Thurman as a Christian youth outreach counselor.

Alex Sharma ’20, University Scholar

Eikagra “Alex” Sharma

Alex Sharma is a computer science major and mathematics minor from Bareilly, India. Sharma is currently working at the Energy Systems Laboratory, TEES to improve the software platform for engineering efficiency in buildings. He wants to work in the field of Sustainable Energy Production. Sharma is a member of the Christian Engineering Leaders organization, and is active in volunteering and community service. He is motivated to learn new cultures and skills, and is also passionate about mathematics. Sharma contributes Calculus problems for an e-book as part of the MYMathApps project and is also conducting research under Dr. Philip Yasskin on improving a parser that converts math input to Sage code.

Sarah Swift ’20, University Scholar

Sarah Swift

Sarah Swift is a biomedical engineering major and philosophy minor from Magnolia, TX, where she graduated from Magnolia High School as Valedictorian. She is a National Merit Scholar and Brown Foundation Scholar. Swift’s academic interests lie in medical technology innovation, medical care in underdeveloped countries, and the ethical implications of engineering research. Her personal interests include dance, writing, travel, and spending time outdoors. In the summer of 2016, Swift attended the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. She is a volunteer for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership seminar and is passionate about empowering the youth. During her freshman year at Texas A&M, Swift served as a staff member for The Big Event, as a member of the TEDxTAMU committee of MSC Aggie Leaders of Tomorrow, and a delegate for the Gilbert Leadership Conference. She is also an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta.

Sydeny Tejml ’20, University Scholar

Sydney Tejml

Sydney Tejml is a biomedical sciences and animal sciences double-major with a minor in psychology from Hutto, Texas. Academically, Tejml is interested in veterinary medicine and disease pathology and epidemiology. Her personal interests include travel, camping, and hunting. She loves backpacking, canoeing, snorkeling, and scuba diving! She is involved in ASPIRE, the Terry Foundation, and Pre-Vet Society on campus. Her achievements at Texas A&M include becoming a member of Phi Eta Sigma and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and making the Dean’s List for both semesters of her freshman year.

Tessa Williams ’20, University Scholar

Tessa Williams

Tessa Williams is a business major and psychology minor from Friendswood, TX. She is interested in psychology, especially neuroscience and abnormal and forensic psychology, as well as literature and political science. Outside of school, Williams enjoys reading, hiking, and exploring new places, whether foreign or local. This past year, she was a member of Memorial Student Center Freshman Leadership International, in which she was able to develop leadership and communication skills while putting on educational programs and developing relationships with an amazing group of peers.

Jon Williamson ’20, University Scholar

Jon Williamson

Jon Williamson is a mechanical engineering major from Centennial, CO, he also plans on adding a computer science major and mathematics minor. Throughout his childhood, he was fascinated with math, science, and space exploration. Williamson is a President’s Endowed Scholaras well as a Craig and Galen Brown Foundation Scholar. Outside of academics, he is extremely involved in MSC Aggie Leaders of Tomorrow and is the TEDxTAMU Executive for the 2018 conference. Williamson is an avid sports fan, especially for the Denver Broncos. In his free time, he enjoys reading, working out, and playing basketball.

Freshmen interested in applying for the University Scholars program can learn more by attending information sessions in November or the recruitment mixer in December. The application will open in January 2018. See our website at http://launch.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.

Luke Altendorf and Catharine West ’95 Selected for 2017 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. The 2017 recipients of the Director’s Award are Mr. Luke Altendorf and Ms. Catharine West ‘95.

Luke Altendorf, 2017 Director’s Award Recipient

Mr. Altendorf the Director of the Memorial Student Center (MSC).  He has served in this role since December of 2006 and is responsible for oversight of the MSC’s leadership development programs and its fine arts series, lecture series, and concert series. Mr. Altendorf received his undergraduate degree in Journalism/Public Relations and his Master of Science Degree in Counseling and Student Personnel Administration.  He is active in the Association of College Unions International and has served in many leadership roles in this professional organization.

Catharine West ’95, 2017 Director’s Award Recipient

Ms. West is the Development Relations Coordinator for the Memorial Student Center. She coordinates fundraising for the department, advises the MSC Business Associates of Development, coordinates the Stark Northeast Trip for future law and MBA students and the Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership Seminar. Ms. West, the daughter of a mechanical engineering professor, was raised in College Station, and graduated with an undergraduate degree in marketing from Texas A&M.

Both Mr. Altendorf and Ms. West have been instrumental in helping to create a culture of excellence in the Honors community on campus by leading the Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership Seminar for incoming National Merit freshmen. Affectionately referred to as the “Italy Trip,” the seminar is a partnership between the MSC and Honors that has helped students realize the interconnections between culture and progress and to step into leadership roles across campus to help achieve these goals at Texas A&M. In addition to this important work, Mr. Altendorf and Ms. West are being recognized for helping to establish and strengthen connections between the MSC and the University Honors Program by making access to the enriching programs of the MSC a benefit of participation in Honors.

Texas A&M Nominates Three for 2017 Udall Scholarship Competition

Nominating outstanding students for nationally-competitive scholarships and fellowships is one way to showcase the world-class undergraduate experience at Texas A&M. Not only do the winners in these competitions receive valuable support for their educational expenses, but they also join professional networks that will continue to open doors throughout their careers. But a student does not have to win a competition to realize the value of the national fellowships application process. The applications for these awards ask students to reflect on their ambitions and how they are building knowledge, skills, and experience related to following their dreams. Students report that the application is a truly clarifying experience.

One of the awards that LAUNCH: National Fellowships serves as a nominating official for is the Udall Scholarship. This award, from the Morris K. & Stuart L. Udall Foundation, recognizes top students planning careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Students who are selected will receive scholarships of up to $7000 and join a community of scholars whose dedication to sustainable public policy honors the legacy of the Arizona congressmen.

We are proud to announce the nomination of three TAMU students for the 2017 Udall Scholarship competition: Charlie Arnold, Grace Cunningham, and Jasmine Wang.

2017 Udall Nominee Charlie Arnold ’19

Charlie Arnold ’19 is a mechanical engineering undergraduate in the university and engineering honors programs. He spends his spare time designing solar lighting shelters with Give Water Give Life to be used in rural communities in Burkina Faso Africa, and is the vice president of the cycling team. Arnold became interested in the environment through his cycling. His cycling throughout the country opened Arnold’s eyes to the environment and impacts of climate change occurring in the world today. His interest in engineering and energy spurred Arnold to become interested in renewable energy. After completion of his undergraduate mechanical engineering degree, Arnold plans on working for renewable energy companies before following his goal of starting his own net zero energy home company.

2017 Udall Nominee Grace Cunningham ’18

Grace Cunningham ’18 is a junior bioenvironmental science major pursuing minors in Spanish and business. Cunningham hopes to unite professionals from varied disciplines—including science, business, planning, and design—across government, academia, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses from around the world to work together to solve environmental problems in a more holistic way. A member of the University Honors Program, she served as a Sophomore Advisor and was inducted as a University Scholar in 2015. Cunningham has worked as an intern with the City of Dallas Trinity Watershed Management, conducted undergraduate research in Dr. Brian Shaw’s fungal biology lab. She has participated in a variety of study-abroad opportunities that include conducting tropical and field biology research on endemic species in the Commonwealth of Dominica, instructing a seminar in Italy as an MSC Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership Seminar student leader, and participating in a student leadership exchange to Qatar in the Persian Gulf Coast; in 2017, she will be studying Spanish language and culture in Barcelona as well as conducting research on sustaining human societies and the natural environment in Antarctica. Cunningham is also a member of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega. After graduating from A&M, Cunningham hopes to pursue a masters degree in environmental management.

2017 Udall Nominee Jasmine Wang ’19

Jasmine Wang ‘19 is a sophomore political science major and sociology minor from Houston, TX. Wang is involved in and currently serves as a Student Senator and Chair of Diversity & Inclusion and the Chair of Sustainability through the Texas A&M Student Senate, Aggie Belles, a women’s leadership development and service organization, as well as multiple university-wide committees spanning a wide array of subject matter. Wang also serves as an intern through Texas A&M’s Office of Sustainability, a university institution devoted to fostering a culture of preservation and respect for environmental, social, and economic resources on campus. Just recently, she was a recipient of the prestigious Buck Weirus Spirit Award. Following her completion of an accelerated undergraduate program, Wang plans to attend law school in pursuit of a Juris Doctor with a focus on environmental and energy law and advocacy.

Since 1996, Texas A&M has had seven Udall Scholars and two Honorable Mentions. The most recent Udall Scholar was Victoria Easton ‘15, who was the first TAMU Udall Scholar selected in the Tribal Public Policy category.

For more information about the Udall Scholarship see http://udall.gov.

To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Udall Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.

2015 Beckman Scholar – Jennifer Tran

Female student with long dark hair and glasses, wearing a black jacket
2015 Beckman Scholar Jennifer Tran ’18

Biochemistry and genetics double major Jennifer Tran ‘18 from Carrollton, Texas, is the third of our three new Beckman Scholars from Texas A&M University. Tran impressed the faculty, staff, and student application reviewers and interview panel with her ability to view issues from multiple angles, her appreciation of a “eureka” moment earlier this year that changed her view of the world and her enthusiasm for problem solving. While Tran’s description of herself as “independent” and “involved” was clearly demonstrated by her many activities, the critical self-knowledge and self-deprecating humor demonstrated in her application essays made quite an impact on the application readers.

Tran is a University Honors freshman and member of the Biochemistry and Genetics Society. She began research her first semester at TAMU with the Aggie Research Scholars helping to build a self-regulating pressure pump and then moved to the laboratory of Dr. Vishal Gohil in the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics to study mitochondrial copper transport. Tran started her leadership development early through the MSC Champe-Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar the summer before matriculating at TAMU and has continued as a member of the Freshman Leadership Experience Service committee. Even while in her first semester at TAMU, Tran continued community service she began in the Dallas area, such as her volunteer work with the Dallas Marathon.

In June, Tran will begin her research as a Beckman Scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Ry Young, the first Director of the Center for Phage Technology, looking for ways to identify and adapt phage particles for use as a new paradigm for antibiotic function.

2015 Beckman Scholar – Gabrielle Lessen

Female student with long blond hair wearing a green jacket with black trim.
2015 Beckman Scholar Gabrielle Lessen ’18

Biochemistry major Gabrielle Lessen ’18 from Alexandria, Louisiana, has been chosen as one of three new Beckman Scholars from Texas A&M University. Lessen impressed the faculty, staff, and student application reviewers and interview panel with her obvious intelligence, drive, passion for knowledge and research, and her excellent communication skills. These attributes were a perfect fit for Lessen’s description of herself in her application as “hard-working” and “friendly”. Lessen has spent her first year in Aggieland as a member of the University Honors program and the Honors Housing Community. Her interest in research led her to join the DeBakey Undergraduate Research Program as a first semester freshman, working with a team that models the flow of fluid through the kidneys.

Lessen also got an early start on leadership development as a participant in the MSC Champe-Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar the summer before matriculating at TAMU and continued her development as a member of the MSC Freshmen Leadership Organization “Freshmen in Service and Hosting” or FISH. Lessen has a long history of community service and told our interview panel that if she can choose a route that will help more people, she would choose it “in an instant”. Her interest in cancer research nicely combines her talent for science and research with her desire to help a large number of people. Lessen has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPR while acting as a National Aggie Scholar Ambassador and as a member of the Biochemistry and Genetics Society, as well as being active in her church.

In June Lessen will start her journey as a Beckman Scholar with a research project in the laboratory of Dr. Dorothy Shippen studying plant telomeres, the specific structures at the ends of chromosomes that keep them from unraveling. Telomeres have been implicated in aging and cancer as well as in diseases linked to chromosome instability, making telomere studies an excellent match for Lessen’s interests.