Tag Archives: TAMU Galveston

Two Students Nominated for Carnegie Junior Fellows Program

The Carnegie Junior Fellows program is a post-baccalaureate fellowship with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which provides outstanding recent graduates who are serious about careers in international affairs with an opportunity to learn about and help shape policy on important international topics.

Junior Fellows work as research assistants to senior scholars whose projects include nuclear policy, democracy and rule of law, energy and climate issues, Middle East studies, Asia politics and economics, South Asian politics, Southeast Asian politics, Japan studies, and Russian and Eurasian affairs.

The fellowship provides a one-year full time position at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, D.C. during which Junior Fellows may conduct research, contribute to op-eds, papers, reports, and books, participate in meetings with high-level officials, contribute to congressional testimony and organize briefings attended by scholars, activists, journalists and government officials.

Texas A&M is one of over 400 participating schools and institutions and may nominate up to two students each year. Only 10-12 Junior Fellows will be selected, making this a highly-competitive program. Mokhtar Awad ’12 was selected as a Junior Fellow with the Middle East program in 2012.

We are pleased to announce our 2016 nominees are Fabiola Casas ‘16, who is applying to the Democracy program, and Nancy Kuri ‘15 who is applying to the Middle East program.

Fabiola Casas '16, Carnegie Junior Fellow nominee
Fabiola Casas ’16, Carnegie Junior Fellow nominee

Fabiola Casas is a senior maritime administration major with a minor in economics. Casas has been involved in maritime business research, studying the application of managerial theories and international legislation to maritime ports, as an Undergraduate Research Scholar under the instruction of Dr. Joan Mileski. For this project, she has worked as a Texas Institute of Oceanography Fellow. Casas has served Texas A&M-Galveston Campus through her founding of Student Association of Latino Leaders, the only Hispanic culture club on campus, her representation of the senior class in the Lambda Kappa Alpha Honors program, and as a writer for The Nautilus student newspaper. In addition, Casas has served internships in the Macae region of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and at the International Maritime Organization in London, England. After attending law school, Fabiola hopes to pursue a legal career working for a non-profit organization.

Nancy Kuri '15, Carnegie Junior Fellow nominee
Nancy Kuri ’15, Carnegie Junior Fellow nominee

Nancy Kuri ’15 is a recent graduate from Texas A&M University with a degree in international studies and a minor in Arabic studies. A native from South Texas, she is a fluent Spanish speaker and seeks fluency in Arabic. Interested in cultural and foreign affairs, Kuri interned abroad as a foreign language instructor in China and studied abroad in Morocco. Throughout university she served as president of Delta Xi Nu Multicultural Sorority, Inc., where she contributed to the establishment of an annual multicultural art exhibition that donates to families living with HIV/AIDS, and co-founded a Global Brigades Human Rights chapter, which prepares students for volunteer brigades handling civil cases in Panama. Before assuming her positions as assistant to the editor at Callaloo, a journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters and as an educational program assistant at The Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley, Kuri enjoyed volunteering as an English teacher for non-native speakers. She is excited for the opportunity to add to her professional and cultural experiences this spring as a Public Policy Intern in Washington, D.C. Kuri plans a federal career working on improving diplomatic relations in the Middle East.

Congratulations to our nominees! If you are interested in applying to the Carnegie Junior Fellows program or another nationally-competitive scholarship or fellowship, please visit http://natlfellows.tamu.edu/National-Fellowships/About-National-Fellowships.


Ocean Sciences Convention – Rachel McMahon

By Hayley Cox

2014 Galveston Undergraduate Research Scholar and Sea Aggie Scholar, Rachel McMahon, was given the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for an Ocean Sciences Convention from February 23-28, 2014.

Rachel McMahon
Rachel McMahon

She was pleased to tell about her experiences in the report below:

“Thanks to funding from Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR), with generous support from the Association of Former Students and Sea Grant, I was given the chance to attend one of the largest Ocean Sciences meetings to date, with approximately 6000 attendees, 4000 posters and 500 presentations. The meeting trumped any of its type that has ever been held by Ocean sciences. Thousands of new discoveries, on going research and massive cultivation of minds came together at an overflowing convention center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“The convention center was a site in itself, with its impressive, eco-friendly design. The building was almost completely open-air, allowing the Hawaii breeze to flow through the convention. Huge fans circulated the air with little to no effort and the three-story building handled the crowds rather well.

View from Rachel's hotel in Hawaii.
View from Rachel’s hotel in Hawaii.

“I was able to share a top floor hotel room less than one block from the convention center at the Ala Moana Hotel, where I had quite the view from my balcony. I shared my hotel with three international Ocean Sciences students; one came all the way from Australia, and another had traveled from Germany. Through my relationships with these three, I was able to make  many interesting connections, including a possible source for future research in Denmark and Scandinavia.

“The most impressive part about my visit to Hawaii was the knowledge I was able to take away. I listened to a lecture on nitrogen levels in Oxygen minimum zones in the ocean, as well as information on GEOTRACES (geological trace elements) research. I was able to meet NASA scientists who are stationed out of Houston. One of my favorite moments occurred while I was sitting in front of a 60-inch television screen, watching a modeled map of the Southern oscillation waves in a modeled projection.

“These scientists had taken satellite imagery and physical oceanography and combined it into an almost picture-perfect projection of the oceans surface currents circulation. The resolution was spot on; every surface spiral, and even the gulf stream could be seen with incredible detail that will allow future scientists to understand the movement of animals’ nutrients, and perhaps even mapping the movement of oil spills that occur offshore.

“On the last day of my visit came the most important reason for my attendance at the Ocean Sciences Meeting — presenting. I came to the Ocean Sciences convention to share the results and future routes of the research Dr. Karl Kaiser and I had accomplished during my undergraduate studies. I presented my undergraduate masterpiece in a convention hall full of 500-plus posters. Although our research results were far from complete, my findings were enough to draw the interest of many others, including Dr. Rodger Harvey from Old Dominion and a professor from university of Massachusetts and MIT, as attendees from Japan and Germany.

“I received my fair shares of both criticism and praise, but most importantly I was given outsiders’ perspectives that I had never considered. Questions from the audience gave me the ability to look further into my research, and for that alone I am grateful. I would like to thank Honors and Undergraduate Research, the Association of Former Students, and Sea Grant for the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for the Ocean Sciences convention and I am so glad to have walked away with new connections in my field and a new curiosity towards the work of my fellow Oceanographers.

Much More than Just a Fish in the Sea!

By Hayley Cox

sea grant

Texas A&M University was designated as a Sea Grant College in 1971 with a mission to improve the understanding and use of Texas coastal and marine resources. Texas Sea Grant Director Dr. Pamela Plotkin developed the idea for a scholars program in order to engage undergraduate students. The Texas Sea Grant Scholars Program sent three representatives from its initial class to present to Texas Legislators at Undergraduate Research Day on April 26th at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas.

Cyrenea Millberry, a senior studying Wildlife and Fisheries at Texas A&M University, presented research on how river discharges and changes in tides affect populations of shrimp on the Texas coastline. Texas A&M University at Galveston students Josh Carter and Raven Walker also presented at Undergraduate Research Day.

Cyrenea Piper (Millberry), Texas Sea Grant Scholars Program Class of 2013
Cyrenea Piper (Millberry), Texas Sea Grant Scholars Program Class of 2013

Could you explain your research topic and findings?

I looked at how Brown Shrimp and White Shrimp populations are affected by tide levels and river discharge in the Gulf of Mexico. We used statistical analysis to look for associations between fluctuations in shrimp populations (the quantity of shrimp) and environmental data between 1987 and 2010. Based on past research, we expected higher tide levels, which give shrimp greater access to marsh edges in estuaries during the post-larval stages, to increase shrimp abundance. We expected greater quantities of discharge from rivers to cause declines in populations due to decreased salinity and temperatures, which we expected would then cause declines in shrimp abundance. Our research found that there are significant associations between tide and discharge and shrimp populations. We are still looking at our data to identify trends etc.

How did you become involved with Texas Sea Grant?

I was hired by my research adviser, Dr. Masami Fujiwara, to collect data. After being hired, we decided that I should use the data we were collecting to write a thesis. I wrote a proposal and submitted it to the Undergraduate Research Scholars program. After being accepted into the program, Dr. Fujiwara suggested I submit a research proposal to Texas Sea Grant in order to fund my research further, so I could go to Galveston to collaborate with NOAA researchers and so I could present my research.

What did you gain most from this experience?

I believe this research, the collaboration with professors and professionals, and the creation of a thesis has helped take me from student to professional. This research, and working directly with such a great mentor, has allowed me to apply the things I have learned in my classes to real original work and has probably prepared me to actually work in Wildlife Biology better than anything else.

What would be your piece of advice for success to students involved in research?

Make a plan and a schedule and find a professor who you can work well with. Every week, I committed to 10 hours and my professor made himself available for questions and oftentimes lessons in statistics every week as well. We made progress goals regularly and we stuck to them. Writing a thesis seemed like an impossible undertaking when I first started, especially being an undergrad – but I took it just a step at a time, and it was done before I knew it. Now I am preparing my research for publication and figuring out what to write my Master’s thesis on.

Millberry, who was married in the spring and became Mrs. Cyrenea Piper, will graduate in December 2013 with her BS in Wildlife and Fisheries. She plans to continue her research with Dr. Fujiwara as a Masters student and eventually hopes to work for U.S. Fish and Wildlife as a wildlife biologist.

Undergraduate Research spotlight, Sarah Horn

Sarah HornSarah Horn ’13 transformed her passion for science and marine life into an Undergraduate Research project, this year.  From conception to presentation Horn was knee-deep in sea turtle research.  After completing her research and present her work at a national meeting, I contacted Horn to learn more about her experience and plans for the future.


What is your major?

I am currently a senior studying Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston.

How did you get started in Undergraduate Research?

I got involved in undergraduate research with the guidance of Dr. Kimberly Reich.  I knew I wanted to do a 491 research course with her as my advisor, and wanted the project to relate to human dimensions of sea turtle conservation.  After solidifying my project idea, Dr. Reich informed me of the Undergraduate Research Scholars program, and I knew I wanted to participate.

What is your current research studying?

This project is a survey based study to assess the knowledge of Galveston Island beachgoers to the presence of and threats to sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.  We were specifically interested in: 1) participant awareness of threats to sea turtles in various life history stages and habitats; 2) people understanding their own role in mitigating these threats; and 3) their willingness to support programs that: work to protect and conserve sea turtle habitats, promote education and outreach, and promote legislation designed to facilitate the conservation of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.  Surveys were conducted from July to October of 2012.  The results of this survey identified which demographics of individuals to keep in mind when refining outreach materials.  Results also identified where to concentrate outreach material in order to reach the largest number of people.  Finally, the results clarified what visitors and residents are unaware of, thus providing a foundation of topics and concepts for future education and outreach.

How has this project changed or solidified your views of the importance of Undergraduate Research?

This project has solidified my views on the importance of undergraduate research because it provides students with research experience they can apply to something they are very interested in.  Students get to take full responsibility of a project and conduct most of the leg work themselves under the guidance of an experienced advisor.  In a way, the project becomes very personal because it is your contribution to the scientific community. The additional experience gained by participating in undergraduate research is very helpful when applying for jobs and graduate school, as well.

Have you presented your research project anywhere?

I was very fortunate to present my project at the 33rd Annual International Sea Turtle Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland, this February.  The experience was invaluable.  Attending the symposium provided me with the opportunity to present my research within a community with the same interests as myself.  I was able to get feedback and advice from researchers from all over the world who have made studying sea turtles their life’s work.  By presenting, I felt I was able to make a contribution to sea turtle conservation and to the sea turtle research community.  I could not ask for a greater learning experience.

What are your future plans?

I anticipate attending graduate school in the Fall of 2013 studying the human dimensions of conservation and biology.  After graduate school, I hope to work for a program that fosters research-based conservation and human dimensions of conservation of marine animals, specifically sea turtles.


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

Undergraduate Sea Grant Scholar looks to microalgae as alternative fuel source

As gas prices rise the search for alternative fuels has become an important area of research for the industry, and even university students.  Marcella Nunez, a senior Marine Sciences major, is one of these students from Texas A&M University in Galveston who has turned her attention to the valuable resources found in the ocean.

Nunez is one of five Undergraduate Research Scholars designated as 2012-2013 Sea Grant Scholars.  With funds generously provided by the Texas Sea Grant Program, Sea Grant Scholars are recognized for the quality of their undergraduate research on the marine environment. Nunez’s project focuses on microalgae use of sodium bicarbonate and nitrogen from sea water to create complex carbon compounds. This research could help determine if these marine microalgae can be used as an alternative fuel. Biofuels are taking a leap onto center stage of alternative fuels research because they cause less pollution and are biodegradable. Through her research Nunez is also determining if these microalgae are a cost-effective source of fuel.

Nunez started her undergraduate research career by participating in a summer research project as a NSF REU (National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates ) student directed by Dr. Antonietta Quigg, Associate Vice President for Research Development and Associate Professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University in Galveston and her postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Yuelu Jiang. During her work on the summer project Nunez realized she wanted to continue undergraduate research with Dr. Quigg during the regular semester, resulting in her Sea Grant project.  As a non-traditional student, Nunez found it easier to approach professors and seek out research opportunities.  “Sometimes [traditional] freshman find it hard to talk to their professors.  Since I was a little older I wasn’t afraid to talk and ask questions.  I think this helped me find a project to pursue,” said Nunez.

Both Quigg and Nunez believe programs such as Undergraduate Research Scholars and Texas Sea Grant give undergraduates the experience they need to become more competitive in the job and academic market.  “I like [Sea Grant Scholars] because it gives students confidence and affirmation that their research is valuable and valued by a broad community,” said Quigg.  Quigg also liked the freedom the Texas Sea Grant support let her and Nunez have on their project.  They were able to use the Sea Grant funds to send Nunez to the Texas Agrilife Algal Biofuels Research facility in Pecos, Texas to process her samples and have in-house experts help her analyze the results.

After graduation, Nunez hopes to attend graduate school and study oceanography or chemistry, or jump into industry and continue research.  Her experience as a Texas Sea Grant Scholar and undergraduate researcher has prepared her for what post-graduate life will be like.

Quigg advises students who want to get involved in research to model Nunez’s attitude and be ambitious, driven, imaginative, and work hard because it will take them places. Nunez says, “Undergraduate research can give you a leg up on other students going into graduate school.  I started to write and research [as an undergraduate], when most people don’t until graduate school.”  Dr. Duncan MacKenzie, Associate Director of Honors and Undergraduate Research and Chairman of the Graduate Interdisciplinary Degree Program in Marine Biology, agrees, saying “The Texas Sea Grant Scholars program provides a great opportunity to recognize and reward our outstanding undergraduate researchers in marine science.  We expect that it will help propel our best student researchers into careers that will have a positive impact on the world’s oceans.”

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