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.
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, 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:
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.”
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.
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
Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) has nominated nine students for National Fellowships including the George C. Marshall Scholarship, the George Mitchell Scholarship, and the American Rhodes Scholarship!
The Marshall Scholarship finances up to 40 young Americans of high ability to study for a graduate degree in any field of study in the United Kingdom. The selected scholars’ direct engagement with Britain through its best academic programs contributes to their ultimate personal success.
The Mitchell Scholarship is a nationally competitive award sponsored by the US-Ireland Alliance. It was named in honor of former U.S. Senator Mitchell’s contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and designed to introduce upcoming future American leaders to Ireland, while fostering scholarship, leadership, and community commitment.
The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest international fellowship awards around the world. 32 young Americans are selected each year as Rhodes Scholars from 300 American colleges and universities. These scholars are chosen for outstanding scholarly achievements along with character, commitment to others, and for their potential leadership in their career aspirations. The Rhodes Trust, honoring Cecil J. Rhodes, provides full support for Rhodes Scholars to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
HUR’s 2013 nominees for these prestigious fellowships include:
Chris Akers, a physics student pursuing minor degrees in both math and philosophy, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces at the Imperial College London or Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, along with his nomination for the Rhodes Scholarship. Akers is the co-founder and Vice President of the revamped Society of Physics Students at Texas A&M in which he invented Physics Phamilies groups and transformed the leadership structure. He was a Fish Camp Co-chairperson from November 2012 to September 2013, and he assists Dr. Tatiana Erukhimova in her presentations of her famous physics show to children in grade school. Akers has also made three research symposium presentations including his work “Assembly Database for the VIRUS Project” at the TAMU Astronomy Symposium. He is a President’s Endowed Scholar at Texas A&M and was awarded the “Mechanics Scholar” title for his excellent score on Texas A&M’s Mechanics Scholar test. Akers is a runner, plays chess, and trains in Crossfit.
Dillon Amaya, a meteorology student pursuing a minor degree in oceanography, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton or Polar Studies at the University of Cambridge, along with his nomination for the Rhodes Scholarship. An advocate for exercise, Amaya is a member of the Texas A&M Club Racquetball Team and several intramural teams. He is heavily involved with the College of Geosciences Undergraduate Recruitment Team and has given tours to high school seniors interested in the program for the past three years. Amaya was also the Vice President of the Texas A&M Student Chapter of the American Meteorology Society. He aspires to be a professor of climate sciences or physical oceanography at a Tier 1 research university in either the US or the UK.
Shelby Bieritz, a biomedical engineering student pursuing a minor degree in mathematics, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Biomedical Engineering at Aston University or Biomedical Research at University College of London. Bieritz has widely spread interests, from engineering to musical performance. She was a member of MSC Town Hall at Texas A&M where she served as the Advertising Executive for the 2011-2012 academic year. Bieritz also organized a regional conference for the National Association of Engineering Student Councils while she was a member of the Texas A&M University Student Engineers’ Council. In the future, the senior hopes to complete a PhD in biomedical engineering with a focus on total artificial heart development in order to create a pediatric heart that can be specialized to a child’s needs and conditions. To accomplish this, Bieritz hopes to manage a laboratory and adapt a heart pump to a variety of congenital heart conditions.
Emily Boster, an aerospace engineering student, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Engineering Design at the University of Bath or Aerospace Engineering and Management at the University of Glasglow, along with her nomination for the Mitchell Scholarship. Boster interned at Lockheed Martin Space Systems for 12 weeks in summer 2013 and at Space X for 10 weeks in summer 2010. She also works in Texas A&M University’s Astronomical Instrumentation lab. Boster enjoys playing guitar and composing her own music and lyrics, and she recently started playing along with her church’s band in College Station. Throughout her high school and undergraduate education, Boster was awarded with the Astronaut Scholarship, the AIAA Foundation Scholarship, the President’s Endowed Scholarship, and the Aggieland Bound Scholarship. For the past year, the senior also started fostering retired racing greyhounds and has been working on extending the reach of this Austin-based organization to the Bryan/College Station area.
Daniel Miller, an electrical and computer engineering (ECEN) and applied mathematics (APMS) double major, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either Advanced Computer Science at the University of Cambridge or Machine Learning at the University College of London. Miller holds a perfect 4.0 GPA at Texas A&M University and has done programming work for both Lincoln Laboratory and Silicon Laboratory. As an Undergraduate Research Scholar, Miller created an energy model for residential solar water heated in which he designed and implemented a data logging and system control board. He is continuing to work on implementing statistical forecasting and predictive control methods to his model. Miller also intends to build a plasma speaker, a Gauss gun and an automated laser flyswatter in his free time. The engineer has been a swimmer since age five and has recently picked up hobbies in running, hiking, and rock climbing. In the future, Miller intends to pursue a Master’s degree in Machine Learning and a Doctorate focusing on renewable energy systems. His overall goal is to improve the global environment, and to address the issues caused by an increasing energy demand.
Stephen O’Shea, an English student with a focus in creative writing, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study creative writing at either City University of Kingston University, along with his nomination for the Mitchell Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarship. O’Shea has worked as a writing consultant with the Texas A&M University Writing Center. He also presented a research project on creative writers in the Writing Center at a conference in Corpus Christi and implemented a university-wide Creative Writing Workshop that began in spring 2013. O’Shea’s work has been published by both “Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal” and “The Eckleburg Project: the Literary Magazine of Texas A&M University.” The creative writing student was selected as an executive for Aggie Leaders of Tomorrow (A LOT) during his sophomore year. He participated in the Texas A&M Jazz Band as Lead Tenor Saxophone and played alto saxophone at Aggie home basketball games with the Hullabaloo Band. O’Shea hopes to be an author of research-based fiction, first by completing and publishing his “From the Land of Genesis” collection, and later he hopes to become a professor.
Andy Sanchez, a chemical engineering student pursuing minor degrees in chemistry and creative writing, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to obtain either a Masters in Advanced Chemical Engineering or a Masters in Catalysis at the Imperial College of London, along with his nomination for the Rhodes Scholarship. Sanchez is a screener and editor for the Callaloo Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters. He has also worked as a Catalyst Developer with ExxonMobil Process Research doing supplemental projects in catalyst synthesis and modeling. Sanchez is the Corporate Relations Chair of the Student Engineers’ Council (SEC), an organization which seeks to increase engineering awareness and promote professional development of students. He is also a member of the Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honors Fraternity, and he acted as a Sophomore Honors Advisor. The chemical engineering student has been recognized as a University Scholar, a 2013 Craig Brown Outstanding Senior English Engineer, and an American Chemical Society Scholar. In the future, he plans to pursue research with a focus in petrochemical catalysis, and to ultimately rise to a technical management position to coordinate this research.
Kindall Stephens, an environmental design student, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study Architecture at either the Architectural Association or London Metropolitan University. Stephens worked for LaMarr Womack & Associates Architects as an architectural intern in summer 2013 and has attended four national conferences for the American Institute of Architecture Students. Stephens was a Fish Camp counselor at Texas A&M University, and she has served as Career Fair Coordinator and President for the university’s chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students for the past two years. She is an active member of Habitat for Humanity at Texas A&M and is on the founding committee for a new campus wide service organization called BUILD. She was a member of the Best Overall Team at Design Workshop’s Design Week, a National Winner of AIAS and SAGEW Foundation Renewing Home Student Design Competition, and AIA Brazos Scholarship Recipient. In the future, the architecture student plans to obtain her architectural license and to work as both an architect and a professor.
Philip “Dane” Warren, an economics student pursuing a minor in art & architecture history, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to study either International Public Policy at the University College of London or Global Environment, Politics, and Society at the University of Edinburgh, along with his nomination for the Mitchell Scholarship. Warren has worked for Camp Invention during most summers, but spent this past summer interning with Clean Water Action. Warren was also a Teaching Assistant for the course Energy, Resources, and their Use and Importance to Society. Next semester he will be a Section Instructor, teaching students about the energy industry and writing skills. Warrens work with partner Mariah Lord “Cap and Trade and Global Compromise” was published in Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. He is currently working on a project to evaluate the effectiveness of residential water utility pricing programs and is the Chair of the Aggie Green Fund Advisory Committee. He is also a Team Leader in Texas A&M’s The Big Event, a student-led volunteering project. Warren presented his research at an academic conference in Hiroshima, Japan and has been recognized as a Texas A&M University Honors Student and Undergraduate Research Scholar.
HUR would like to congratulate all of these outstanding nominees and wish them luck in the selection process for the Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes Scholarships! We are so proud of your hard work!