Tag Archives: summer

Julia Garcia takes on Canada!

By Hayley Cox

Julia Garcia, Class of 2014
Julia Garcia, Class of 2014
Senior English student Julia Garcia traveled to the Canadian Sociological Association Conference in Victoria, Canada in June 2013. She was a member of a team, along with students Devita Gunawan and Vennessa Jreij, studying the effects of education on economic development in primary, secondary, and university education systems.

Although her teammates were unable to make the summer trip, Garcia traveled to Victoria along with the team’s advisor, professor of sociology Dr. Samuel Cohn. Dr. Cohn had been working on a project in research towards eradicating poverty, and needed a team of research assistants. The previous summer, Garcia traveled to Austin, Texas to gather census data at the University Library at the University of Texas in correlation with Dr. Cohn’s research efforts. Her team would ultimately gather census data for over 40 countries, including The United States, Canada, and England. Garcia’s background as an English major influenced her role as writer and large concept framer for Dr. Cohn’s research.

After Garcia completed the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program with teammates Gunawan and Jreij, Dr. Cohn encouraged the team to apply for the Canadian Sociological Association Conference, and the team was accepted. Garcia applied for and was awarded with an Undergraduate Research Travel Award, giving her the privilege to spend nine days in Victoria, four of which she would spend at the conference.

Victoria, Canada
Victoria, Canada
Garcia expressed her appreciation for the beautiful sites she saw on her trip, beginning with a ferry ride from Seattle to Victoria. She was impressed by the progressive nature and awareness level at the University of Victoria. She said, “It’s interesting because at the University of Victoria, global warming IS a thing. It is not a debate, but instead an issue to which people are working to make a change.”

At the conference, Garcia heard presentations which were mostly political discussions dealing with poverty, sanitation, and water. She said it was a great learning experience to be in the same room with incredibly successful professors from all over the United States and Canada. Her favorite presentation was made by a man who purchased a golf membership in India in order to observe class differences between elite members, caddies, and staff. He lived in India for six months, attending the golf course each day, interviewing and observing these individuals.

Julia's presentation group. Dr. Cohn is pictured Row 1 far right and Julia Garcia right behind.
Julia’s presentation group. Dr. Cohn is pictured Row 1 far right and Julia Garcia right behind.
Also at the conference, Garcia presented the team’s thesis “The Influence of Education on Economic Development,” along with Dr. Cohn. She said this was her first opportunity to fully experience the research process. Garcia said the statistical analysis segment of the project was time consuming and somewhat frustrating, but overall she wouldn’t have changed much that the team did throughout their work. She encouraged students to take part in undergraduate research and to create relationships with professors. Garcia said, “Why wouldn’t you be a part of a great experience with the opportunity to take a fully paid trip to Canada?”

IMG_1375The senior will be graduating in May 2014, and hopes to travel as a part of her many post-graduate aspirations. She is considering law school or a graduate degree in public policy or comparative literature, but intends to take a year off of school to live in Washington, D.C. or Austin, or to travel the world. Through research, Garcia saw many inevitable problems in society which tied into her already present humanitarian interests. She said should would definitely consider living in another country where she would find a humbling experience.

Honors and Undergraduate Research is very proud of Julia Garcia, along with her research teammates Devita Gunawan and Vennessa Jreij. Congratulations to the team and Dr. Cohn in all of their research accomplishments and their acceptance to travel to the Canadian Sociological Association Conference in Victoria!


Congratulations to the Summer Class of Public Policy Interns!

By Hayley Cox

The Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) is an academic service to Texas A&M University students, providing out-of-classroom opportunities and helping students build on and enhance coursework they have undertaken during collegiate education. As Texas A&M recognizes internships as an integral part of an Aggie education, PPIP helps students to find these hands-on internships and move beyond their classroom knowledge.

public policyPPIP was established in 1999 by Texas A&M President Dr. Ray Bowen and since then approximately 500 Aggies have interned in Washington, D.C., Austin, and Paris. More recently, PPIP has expanded to London and other European Union cities such as Nice, Brussels, and Berlin. The internship program is coordinated by the Texas A&M office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies.

Students selected for PPIP’s Washington, D.C. internships (offered throughout the fall, spring, and summer) are chosen for their communication skills, initiative, potential, diligence, and personal integrity. While students must have excellent grades, but they must also be poised to take full advantage of the program. Prospective PPIP Washington, D.C. interns undergo an application and interview process.

Five Texas A&M University Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) students have joined the crop of summer PPIP interns in Washington, D.C.!

Sarah Armstrong – Senior Editor and Layout Designer for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal
Gus Blessing – University Scholar
Sophia Makris – University Honors
Alex Masucci – University Honors
Amanda Streetman – Undergraduate Research Scholar

Sophia Makris - University Honors - PPIP Intern
Sophia Makris – University Honors – PPIP Intern
PPIP intern for Summer 2013 Sophia Makris ‘14 has been selected to intern with the Texas A&M System Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C. Makris wrote a research essay, submitted a cover letter and letters of recommendation, and completed an interview process en route to her selection. She said, “Overall, the application process was a learning opportunity in itself and I greatly enjoyed my experience.”

Makris, a history major, has had the opportunity to attend meetings and learn about the higher education policy process since arriving in D.C. in late May. She said she loves getting to see so much of the work that impacts her university. The current PPIP intern said, “I have a very unique opportunity to experience this city for three months and I am looking forward to everything I will learn from my interactions here… Having the opportunity to live and work in D.C. as a college student is unbeatable! ”

Alex Masucci - University Honors - PPIP Intern
Alex Masucci – University Honors – PPIP Intern
Economics student Alex Masucci ’15 has also been selected as a PPIP Washington, D.C. summer intern. Since he arrived in late May, he has been tracking legislation and attending hearings on human services programs such as Medicaid and Head Start. He said his main duties are to report critical changes on these programs to state and local administrators of human services, relay their feedback to Congressional staff, and write weekly articles on particularly important items.

Masucci expects to gain professional experience from participating in the legislative process during his time as a PPIP intern this summer. He said, “I have never been to D.C., so I’m excited to explore everything that it has to offer over the course of the summer!”

The Honors and Undergraduate Research Department would like to congratulate the 2013 PPIP Washington, D.C. summer interns – Sarah Armstrong, Gus Blessing, Sophia Makris, Alex Masucci, and Amanda Streetman!

Explorations Cover Art Contest is Underway—First, A Flashback to Fall!

By Hayley Cox

Explorations Cover Fall 2012
Explorations Cover Fall 2012

Explorations is a student-run journal guided by faculty and administrators that selects and publishes student-authored articles of general interest in any area. Recently published articles have been from a wide range of academic fields: music, creative poetry, forensics, cancer biology, astrophysics, nanomedicine, computer algorithms, business, geosciences, sociology, aerospace engineering, and cultural anthropology.

Each summer, a Cover Art contest is hosted by Explorations in which students are invited to submit their creative cover ideas for the following edition. The Fall 2012 cover of Explorations was created by Bailey Jones ’13. At the time, Jones was a senior biochemistry and genetics major, pursuing a minor in chemistry. She hoped to “portray the courage and wonder of discovery” in her art. Jones said her artwork was inspired by Christopher Davis’s article Finding New Subatomic Particles and the “excitement of uncovering unknowns just waiting to be found.”

 Sharpie Shoes - David Ehlig - Explorations
“Sharpie Shoes” – David Ehlig – Explorations 2012

Inside the Fall 2012 edition were: Using a Worm to Understand the Human Brain, Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse, and Powering Your Water Heater with Solar Energy, amongst many other student written articles. David Ehlig’s creative and eye-catching “Sharpie Shoes” were also featured in this fourth volume of Explorations.

2012 Cover Artist Bailey Jones contributed art to the Agape Art Auction each year during her undergraduate career at Texas A&M. She said she had seen the “call for cover art” many times and realized she shouldn’t put off submitting a cover for Explorations any longer. Jones said, “It had kind of been on my college bucket list.”

Bailey Jones - Cover Art Contest Winner Fall 2012
Bailey Jones – Cover Art Contest Winner Fall 2012

Jones graduated from Texas A&M University this spring with plans to attend pharmacy school. The graduate said she does not plan to pursue art “in the serious sense,” but she said, “It is a large part of my life—painting and planning composition and color helped to keep me sane in the midst of studying.” Jones was very close to attending a college in pursuit of an art degree, but instead decided to make art a hobby and chose the field of biochemistry for a career.

The now-graduated artist said upon seeing her cover on the fourth edition of Explorations, she felt “very honored and happy to have contributed to A&M from a creative side.” This was an opportunity she didn’t know she would receive.

The Department of Honors and Undergraduate Research would like to again congratulate Bailey Jones on her cover’s selection for the fourth edition of Explorations in Fall 2012!

The cover art contest for the fifth edition of Explorations is currently underway, with submissions due Monday, July 1st. All submissions must have a white tiger motif and all TAMU students are invited to submit.

More information can be found at explorations.tamu.edu and questions should be sent to explorations@tamu.edu.

Three Texas A&M Honors students receive Critical Language Scholarships by U.S. Department of State

The U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program has awarded three Texas A&M Honors students the opportunity to participate in language programs around the world this summer.  This scholarship program was developed to give undergraduate and graduate students overseas study experience in foreign languages of critical need to the country.

This year Jonathan Christ, senior international studies major, Dominique Gallagher-Gonzales, senior international studies major, and Christine Jones, senior genetics major, received CLS awards. Christ was awarded to study Japanese while Jones and Gallagher-Gonzales were awarded to study Russian.

For 7-10 weeks students will travel to foreign countries to study their language of interest by being fully immersed through group-based intensive language instruction.   After the program CLS students are expected to continue their studies in the critical languages and later apply their knowledge to their professional careers. 

“The main interest of the program is that its participants plan to continue studying their target language until mastery and want to use it in their professions,” said Gallagher-Gonzales.  She has already studied abroad this past spring and will continue achieving her goal of mastery of the Russian language this summer with her CLS experience in Vladimir, Russia.  “I’m going into the experience with no expectations, except of myself and that is to be as disciplined and enthusiastic in my studies as I always was in any Russian-related course at A&M,” she said.

Jones, another Russian CLS student, hopes this experience will help her reach her goal of working in international public health.  “It is my firm belief that only genuine and sustained contact with other cultures can affect change on a global scale, and if I want to help form global health policies or practices, I must expose myself to such cultures accordingly,” she said.

Christ, Japanese CLS student, believes that living and studying in Japan will be the key to understanding the subtleties in Japanese culture.  “Good intercultural communication will be essential in any kind of interaction I may have with the country in the future, in business or political contexts,” he said.  Christ hopes to pursue either a business or political career after graduation in December.

These students join two past Aggie CLS students, Andrew Roblyer, who studied Arabic, and Joseph Lenox, who studied Korean, in receiving this impressive scholarship and representing HUR at Texas A&M in the CLS program.

By Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

Looking to the stars

For three Physics/Astronomy students star-gazing will be more than just a pastime, it will be their research.   There is a rare opportunity this summer for students to become closely involved in a research project on campus with Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) support from Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR).  The program in Astronomical Instrumentation at Texas A&M’s Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation Laboratory is designed to allow students a one of a kind chance to build and learn about astronomical instruments. Student researchers will interact with astronomers from around the world to understand how progress in scientific research is made.

For the summer, three undergraduate students will have the chance to work alongside astronomical instrumentation faculty, research staff and senior engineers to design, construct, test and deploy a variety of instruments to be used at astronomical observatories around the world.  This is an important program due to the lack of young people being trained in astronomical instrumentation.  “Texas A&M has a very unique opportunity to train young scientists and engineers in instrumentation now, so that future telescopes and instrumentation can be designed and maintained by these young people,” wrote Jennifer L. Marshall, Associate Research Scientist in the Physics and Astronomy Department and program leader for this SPUR program, in her proposal. 

Students participating in this program will work with Marshall and Dr. Daren DePoy, Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, in the Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation Lab to assist in the design and construction of astronomical instruments.  Additionally, these students will be provided with the opportunity to visit the McDonald Observatory in West Texas, discuss their research with astronomy faculty and other students at weekly meetings, and present their research at a scientific poster session at the end of the summer. Students may also travel to the field to deploy the instruments they help design. 

Programs in undergraduate research allow students to develop their skills and passion for their field of study.  “The impact this kind of summer undergraduate research can have on a student’s undergraduate experience is immeasurable.  When students engage in academic research as undergraduates they have the opportunity of learning a lot about themselves – what they’re good at, what they like and dislike to work on, what they have really learned in their classes – and as a result are better able to make decisions about their future careers,” said Marshall.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

Crouching tiger, hidden disorders

Links between tiger coat color patterns and genetic disorders will be investigated this summer through Honors and Undergraduate Research’s (HUR) Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR).  Students will be provided with the chance to make meaningful contributions to the world of genetic research by participating in a project entitled “Deciphering Genomic Factors Contributing to the Development of Important Phenotypes and Associated Physical Abnormalities in Tigers” supported by the SPUR program. 

Jan Janecka, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, will lead the program this summer.  He and his students will analyze genetic material from tigers in an attempt to discover links between their coat color and associated disorders such as crossed eyes, cleft palates, spinal and facial abnormalities.

Throughout the summer, student researchers will perform tasks such as DNA extraction and sequencing.  They hope to discover the genes responsible for white coat color in tigers and determine how they might be related to the cause of genetic diseases.

“White tigers are popular and frequently exhibited by zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Unfortunately there are several physical disorders that occur in white tigers.  Research is needed to resolve the molecular mechanism behind white coat color in tigers and its associated disorders,” wrote Janecka in his program proposal. Research in this area may have applications not only to tiger health and conservations, but to human disease as well by providing a better understanding of how genes involved in coat coloration also impact development.

With tigers being the most common big cat in captivity, and white tigers among the most valuable, the program hopes to provide answers to breeders’ questions about the health of these exotic animals.  Undergraduate students who participate in this program will play a vital role in the search for these answers.

Student findings will be documented and reported at the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) poster session at the end of the summer.  The students will also have the opportunity to share their findings with tiger facilities across Texas. This program hopes to stimulate the minds of young researchers and continue their interest in this project beyond the summer.  Students involved in this project will participate in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program this upcoming fall and spring, which will provide them with the opportunity to expand their research projects into formal undergraduate theses.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

Book-worms in the Cushing Library

For two English Honors students this summer brings the chance to get lost among the shelves of the Cushing Library.  The summer of 2012 offers an exclusive opportunity for undergraduates to become involved in a research project by participating in the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR).  The Summer Special Collections Research Pilot Project will offer two English honors students the chance to experience hands-on archival research.

The purpose of this program is for student participants to gain experience in archival research, through drafting “finding guides,” creating metadata for online materials, identifying, sorting and labeling literary works, working alongside curators and also researching and writing text for exhibit catalogues.  The program will also give the SPUR students a chance to cultivate ideas for their senior English Honors thesis. 

Those who participate in this pilot program will work with Dr. Larry Mitchell, Interim Director of the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives and Professor in the Department of English, on a weekly basis discussing their experience in the special collections research pilot project and possible research topics of their own. 

“Our hope is that by the end of the summer our students will have new, original ideas for their own theses.  They will have access to documents no one else has seen, touched or read.  The opportunity to work with primary sources is special and very different from online research,” said Mitchell.

This program also intends for the SPUR participants to mentor new English Honors students in the fall of 2012.  “We would like the Honors students in the fall to hear from our SPUR participants about their experiences doing archival research to get a student’s perspective on research and writing a thesis,” said Cecelia Hawkins, Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of English.

The SPUR award will assist the student researchers with their tuition for the summer session.  At the end of the summer, the SPUR students will present a possible topic for their honors thesis at a poster session sponsored by Honors and Undergraduate Research in late July.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu