Tag Archives: STEM

Texas A&M Undergraduates Nominated for the 2018 Astronaut Scholarship

Texas A&M undergraduates Oscar Gonzalez ‘20, Ashley Hayden ‘19, Ashley Holt ‘20, and Quinton Lawton ’19 have been nominated for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s 2018 Astronaut Scholarship.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) seeks to support the brightest scholars in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) while commemorating the legacy of America’s pioneering astronauts. The ASF has supported undergraduate students across the nation in pursuing their education for more than 30 years. The Astronaut Scholarship is one of the most significant merit-based scholarships in STEM fields that can be awarded to an undergraduate. Students must be nominated by faculty based on achievements in their chosen field. Out of a pool of 42 Universities, ASF typically chooses one recipient from each school. However, Texas A&M undergraduate students have proved themselves to be incredibly strong candidates and ASF has awarded multiple of our students in the past.

Texas A&M University has had 30 honorees since the scholarship was established in 1984 by the surviving Mercury 7 astronauts. More than 100 astronauts have contributed to the cause, resulting in over $4 million in scholarships.

The LAUNCH office wishes all four of the 2018 nominees all the best while final selections are being made.

Ashley Holt '19 posing for a portrait
Ashley Holt ’19, Biomedical Engineering

Ashley Holt ‘20

Ashley Holt, a biomedical engineering major from Kingswood, Texas, researches bacteriophages, the viruses of bacteria, and how new antibiotic strategies can help build defense against bacterial disease. Ms. Holt says “[her] short-term professional goal is to pursue a MD/PhD after [her] undergraduate degree. In the long-term, [she] want[s] to use clinical research to confront a global threat: antibiotic resistance.” She hopes to pursue a MD/Ph.D. and further develop her career in clinical research. She is a Beckman Scholar, a University Scholar, and was most recently awarded the 2018 Goldwater Scholarship.

Ashley Hayden '19 posing for a portrait
Ashley Hayden ’19, Biology

Ashley Hayden ‘19

Ashley Hayden, a biology major and bioinformatics and psychology minor from Friendswood, Texas, researches the monarch butterfly’s ability to sense magnetic fields. Her work could become the model system for identifying the yet unknown magnetoreceptor molecule(s). Along with participating in multiple Honors programs within the University, Ms. Hayden is also a University Scholar, a Biology Honors Program Ambassador, and was most recently accepted as a LAUNCH Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Ms. Hayden’s long-term goals include to one day “teach in academia, lead a research lab, and if given the opportunity, even lead an honors program.”

Oscar Gonzalez '20 posing for a portrait
Oscar Gonzalez ’20, Chemistry

Oscar Gonzalez ‘20

Oscar Gonzalez, a chemistry major and physics and mathematics minor from San Juan, Texas, focuses on solving technological problems and hopes to one day become a professor. Mr. Gonzales works in two research projects, both done at Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee’s lab. He synthesizes hematite films for photoelectrochemical water splitting and creates ways to push the deposition process towards higher film quality and higher water splitting efficiency. He is a Century Scholars Program mentor, facilitating the transition of high school seniors into their freshman year at Texas A&M. Mr. Gonzalez is also a Science Leadership Scholar and an active member of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Quinton Lawton '19 posing for a portrait
Quinton Lawton ’19, Meteorology

Quinton Lawton ‘19

Quinton Lawton, a meteorology major and oceanography minor from Houston, Texas, researches the relation between tropical cyclone behavior and global climate change and is a LAUNCH Undergraduate Research Ambassador. “This position [as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador] lets me share my passion with others and encourage them to deepen their involvement in research. […] I don’t just participate but lead, while inspiring others to do the same”, says Mr. Lawton. Undergraduate Research Ambassadors strive to expand and enrich student engagement in undergraduate research. In long-term, Mr. Lawton “[hopes] to carve a new path forward and serve as an example for others long into the future.”

The recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship will be announced at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Ceremony on September 20, 2018 at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.

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.

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Two Aggie Students Honored by Barry M. Goldwater Foundation

The LAUNCH office at Texas A&M University congratulates Ashley Holt ’19 and Oscar Gonzalez ’20 in being recognized for their outstanding academic achievements by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Ms. Holt, a biomedical engineering major from Kingwood, Texas, was selected as the 2018 Goldwater Scholarship recipient, and Mr. Gonzalez, a chemistry major from San Juan, Texas, has been named a Goldwater Honorable Mention.

Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to exceptional sophomore or junior undergraduates who intend to pursue a research careers in mathematics, natural sciences, or engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

The Goldwater Foundation gave its first award in 1989 and has bestowed more than $40 million worth of scholarships. Hundreds of scholarships are awarded each academic year to students who have impressive academic qualifications and merit, as the average awardee has a 3.9 GPA. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Texas A&M University has produced 36 Goldwater Scholars since 1991.

Ashley Holt '19 posing for a portrait
Ashley Holt ’19, Biomedical Engineering

Ms. Ashley Holt was nominated by Texas A&M University as part of a pool of thousands of applicants from colleges and universities nationwide. In 2016, Ms. Holt began working with Dr. Ry Young, named Distinguished Professor in March 2018, to discover the mechanism by which a specific virus destroys the outer membrane of its host cell. Ms. Holt’s research focused on how a phage, or virus, that infects E. coli releases harmful toxins and destroys bacterial cells during an outbreak. The results of her research will shine new light into treatment options for bacterial infections through her identification of a novel antibiotic mechanism. Ms. Holt has already published two papers based on her work in the Young Lab, directly reflecting the success of her research. She says that “[her] foundation in phage biology has impacted the evolution of [her] own career and guided [her] toward achieving a long-term goal: building defenses against bacterial disease by creating new antibiotic strategies.”

Among many of her other achievements, Ms. Holt was selected as a Beckman Scholar and a University Scholar in 2016. She is currently completing her Undergraduate Research Scholars thesis as part of her Capstone experience for the University Honors Program.

Ms. Holt is also the treasurer of Texas A&M’s chapter of Engineering World Health (EWH), where engineers are encouraged to solve health challenges occurring in the developing world. “I study ways to bring together science, mathematics, and engineering to improve human health,” says Ms. Holt. While her short-term goal is to pursue a MD/PhD after graduation, she plans to continue to do research on antibiotic resistance and hopes “to stand at the intersection of medicine, engineering, and scientific innovation.”

Oscar Gonzalez '20 posing for portrait
Oscar Gonzalez ’20, Chemistry

Mr. Oscar Gonzalez ‘20, a chemistry major, began working with Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee in 2017 investigating ways to control the dimensions of magnesium nanowires through the development of a coating that inhibits corrosion of the material. These studies are critical for the development of magnesium batteries which have the potential to be more shelf-stable and storage-efficient than current lithium batteries. He hopes to continue his research and complete graduate school so that he may teach his own research students about problems that inhibit further technological advancements.

Mr. Gonzalez serves as a peer mentor for the Century Scholars learning community. Mr. Gonzalez says that “being a mentor has helped [him] improve [his] presentation, leadership, and time management skills while at the same time helping freshmen make the transition from high-school to Texas A&M University.” As a result of those strong communication skills, Mr. Gonzalez has been recently selected as a 2018-2019 Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Ambassadors work to inspire broader engagement in undergraduate research by educating and serving the Texas A&M University community. They Represent LAUNCH at research, recruiting, and outreach events, give presentations to student organizations and meet with administrators, faculty, and prospective students. “I want to share and use everything I have learned with the rest of the world,” said Mr. Gonzalez. With an extensive research resume along with co-curricular and community activities, Mr. Gonzales personifies the expectations held by the Goldwater Foundation as a nominee.

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

 

Student Voices: Morgan Chapman, Literature about Science

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

– by Morgan Chapman

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

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Morgan Chapman ‘20, Photo credit: Elliott Amato

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations Ecaroh Jackson, Black and Proud Scholarship Recipient!

In this post from University Scholar Ecaroh Jackson ’19 describes how her experience in the University Scholar Exploration Groups helped prepare her to apply for the Black and Proud Corporation Scholarship.

Howdy! My name is Ecaroh Jackson and I am a junior math/science education major.  Earlier this semester I had the privilege of receiving the first annual scholarship from the Black and Proud Corporation.  The Black and Proud Corporation is a nonprofit company established in 2016 to promote educational, economic, and cultural development in the African American community.

University Scholar Ecaroh Jackson ’19

This scholarship application process was a time for self-exploration – something I’ve had a lot of practice with in the last 3 semesters due to the University Scholars Exploration series.  I have participated in the “Futuring Yourself,” “Controversy,” and “Conspiracy Theories” classes.  As I prepared to write my essays for the scholarship, I reflected over the many lessons I learned while in those classes.

In “Futuring Yourself,” I learned that to advance your future, it is necessary to address your past.  As a future driven individual, I often look upon the past with disdain.  Why look back when the future is much brighter?  Avoiding the past hinders you from discovering your strengths and weaknesses, and without being knowledgeable about them, hinders you from improving.  With each week’s reflections, I learned more about myself.  I learned about my true interests, what inspires me, and most importantly, who I am.

“Controversy” retaught me that it is okay to openly disagree.  Variations in opinions allow us to shape well-rounded solutions to divisive problems.  Before college, I wasn’t one to back down from an argument, but after coming to A&M, I have struggled with my desire to voice my perspectives to known dissenters.  Conflict is healthy, and shouldn’t be neglected.  Being in a class of nine students gave me the opportunity to slowly integrate my input in a supportive, but challenging manner.

In “Conspiracy Theories,” I learned that anything is possible.  Our universe’s ultimate truth (if there is such a thing) has yet to be discovered, meaning that our current possibilities are endless.  Knowing this allowed me to not only formulate, but refine my ideas.  Social movements, such as the movement that the Black and Proud Corporation supports, don’t usually achieve their ultimate objective without drawbacks that require them to modify their plans.  Learning about conspiracy theories and their history gave me the tools needed to devise plans that include a variety of different scenarios.

All of my exploration classes have helped me develop my thought process in a way that I didn’t think was possible before.  I am now able to develop responses to divisive questions.  These responses allowed me to write a successful application to the Black and Proud Corporation and ultimately allowed me to receive the scholarship.

Freshmen interested in applying for the University Scholars program can learn more by going to our website at http://launch.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.  The application will open in January 2018.

Three Aggies Selected for Goldwater Honorable Mention

LAUNCH: National Fellowships is delighted to announce the recognition of three outstanding students in this year’s Goldwater Scholarship competition. Kendal Ezell ‘18, Kanika Gakhar ‘18, and Brooke Versaw ’18 were all selected for Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention.

Kanika says of the honor that “Receiving the Goldwater Honorable Mention has been a humbling reminder of the appreciation the research community has for projects like mine. By encouraging young undergraduate researchers like me to pursue topics of interest in the field of science and technology, the Goldwater Scholarship committee is truly doing a remarkable job at helping students recognize their passions and the significance of their work in a global research community. I am very grateful to LAUNCH for introducing me to this opportunity and giving me a chance to refine and present my research proposal to the prestigious Goldwater Committee. “

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program seeks 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. Students selected as Goldwater Scholars receive a $7,500 scholarship for the next academic year.

Goldwater Honorable Mention, Kendall Ezell ’18

Kendal Ezell ’18 is a junior biomedical engineering major from Corpus Christi, TX. Ezell’s extensive involvement at Texas A&M has included Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Student Engineers’ Council, American Medical Student Association, and the University Honors Program and Engineering Honors. She has been selected for numerous honors and awards including as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Fellowship, as the 2017 Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior for the College of Engineering, Southerland Aggie Leader Scholar, and Peter Chaplinsky Memorial Scholar.

Ezell currently works in the Biomedical Device Laboratory with Dr. Duncan Maitland, researching biomaterials and material characterization. She plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and conduct research in a clinical setting to develop new medical technologies for practice. Her primary interest is treatment and prevention of tissue degradation in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Ezell’s extensive undergraduate research will result in two first-author publications on independent projects as well as other publications by the time she graduates.

Goldwater Honorable Mention Kanika Gakhar ’18

Kanika Gakhar ’18 is a junior aerospace engineering major from Faridabad, Haryana, India. She has extensive leadership experience from her involvement in in Lambda Sigma Honor Society, the Memorial Student Center, Maroon & White Leadership Fellows, and Undergraduate Research Ambassadors. Gakhar has been selected as a University Scholar, for the TAMU Academic Excellence Award, the Larry J. McQuien ’76 “Take Flight Award,” and was part of a design team selected to present at the SpaceX Hyperloop Design Weekend.

Gakhar is currently working in the Advanced Vertical Flight Laboratory with Dr. Moble Benedict. Her Undergraduate Research Scholar thesis is on a robotic hummingbird project that seeks to revolutionize the field micro-aerial vehicles by improving efficiency of flapping-wing mechanisms through mimicry of insects and birds. Gakhar is also working with a team of mechanical, electrical, and aerospace engineering students on an Aggie Challenge Project focused on preventing railroad accidents and train derailments. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and conduct research in biomimicry and nature-inspired design to revolutionize atmospheric and space flight. Gakhar’s research has resulted in multiple publications, including one for which she is first author.

Goldwater Honorable Mention Brooke Versaw ’18

Brooke Versaw ’18 is a junior chemistry major from College Station, TX. Versaw has served in leadership roles with the American Chemical Society and Aggie Honor Council, and has been active as a member of the MSC Visual Arts Committee and as a National Scholar Ambassador. Versaw was selected as a University Scholar, Beckman Scholar, Undergraduate Research Ambassador, and a Robert A. Welch Foundation Scholarship, and is proficient in Spanish.

Versaw has extensive experience in undergraduate research, having worked in Dr. Junha Jeon’s synthetic organic lab, with Dr. Steve Lockless’s protein chemistry group, and in Dr. Karen Wooley’s polymers and functional macromolecules laboratory. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry and have an academic career conducting research on polymer synthesis and materials characterization. Versaw’s research has resulted in multiple first-author publications.

Texas A&M has a long history of success with the Goldwater Scholarship. Previous Goldwater Scholars include Nicholas Mondrik ’15 (physics), Erica Gacasan ’16 (biomedical engineering), Aaron Griffin ’16 (biochemistry & genetics), and Maura Cadigan ’17 (aerospace engineering). If you are a STEM student invested in research and would like to learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship, please contact National Fellowships coordinator Benjamin Simington (natlfellows@tamu.edu) or visit our website: http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Science Foundation 2016 Graduate Research Fellowship Awardees:

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

Honorable Mention:

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

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

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

2016 Best Thesis Awards

The Undergraduate Research Scholars program is LAUNCH’s longest-standing and largest capstone program, with 227 Scholars completing the distinction this year. Research Scholars undertake the yearlong process of conducting research with a faculty mentor and writing an undergraduate thesis. Each spring, two Scholars are honored with the Outstanding Thesis Award, which is offered in two categories: Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and Social Studies & Humanities.

The 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Thesis Award in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics is senior David LaCroix ’16, and Engineering Honors student and computer science major. Describing his work, David writes, “The goal of this research project is to characterize the most effective data architecture in terms of locally or remote hosted for a given Internet-of-things workload.” He explains that neither the research nor industry communities have guidelines for handling data in applications on Internet-of-things devices. The goal of David’s thesis, titled “Data Services for Internet of Things,” is to provide information to developers about issues – including security, efficiency, and accessibility – involved in choosing the best host for data repositories. David undertook this study with the support of his research advisor, Dr. Dilma Da Silva in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

STEM Best Thesis winner David LaCroix (center), with Dr. Duncan MacKenzie (left) and Dr. Dilma Da Silva (right).
STEM Best Thesis winner David LaCroix (center), with Dr. Duncan MacKenzie (left) and Dr. Dilma Da Silva (right).

The 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Thesis Award in Social Studies & Humanities is senior John T. Davis ’16, an Honors Fellows student and double major in international studies and French. Working with his research advisor, Dr. Dinah Hannaford in the Department of International Studies, John explored the question Does helping hurt?, an examination of the connections between Christian mission work and international development. Studying the shift from faith-based aid to a more global and modern approach to social change, John sought to address questions regarding the role of faith in motivating positive change. “By understanding this issue,” John writes, “the institutions that make decisions regarding international development, religious or not, will have a clearer understanding of how their motivations and objectives affect the progress and quality of international development.” John’s thesis is titled “The Historical Impact of Christian Missions on International Development and its Effects on Contemporary Practices.”

John Davis
Social Studies & Humanities Best Thesis winner John Davis (center) with Dr. Duncan MacKenzie (left) and Dr. Dinah Hannaford (right).

David’s and John’s achievements were recognized at the LAUNCH Recognition Ceremony on May 12, 2016, in the Bethancourt Ballroom in the MSC. All Undergraduate Research Scholars receive a medallion to wear at graduation, and the Research Scholars distinction is indicated in their graduation programs and on their transcripts. The 2015-2016 cohort of Research Scholars was the largest ever.

Students interested in participating in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program should contact ugr@tamu.edu. Eligibility requirements include a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above and 60 hours of undergraduate coursework, 24 of which must be completed at TAMU.