Tag Archives: TAMU

Announcement of Texas A&M University’s Goldwater Scholarship Winner and Honorable Mention!

By Honors and Undergraduate Research

Two Texas A&M students have been recognized for their outstanding academic achievements in physics and environmental geosciences by the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation. Nick Mondrik, a junior physics major, has been selected as a Goldwater Scholar and Amelie Berger, a junior environmental geoscience major, has been named a Goldwater Honorable Mention.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established in 1986 in honor of US Senator and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes college students nationwide in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, selecting approximately 300 sophomore and junior students each year. Scholarship recipients are selected based on academic excellence, research experience, and future potential.

Nick Mondrik - Goldwater Scholarship Winner, 2014
Nick Mondrik – Goldwater Scholarship Winner, 2014

Goldwater Scholarship Winner, Nick Mondrik, is from Belton, Texas. He has worked in Dr. Lin Shao’s Ions and Materials Facility in the Nuclear Engineering Department and for Dr. Darren Depoy in the Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation Lab. Currently, he is working on heat transfer simulation for the VIRUS project (Visible Integral-Field Replicable Unit Spectrographs) and on preliminary data from the Dark Energy Survey underway in Cerro Tololo, Chile.

Mondrik came across the Goldwater Scholarship when he was looking at websites with information on graduate school profiles and decided to check it out. He wrote his Goldwater essay on looking for outliers and variable stars in the Dark Energy Survey data. The junior physics major said, “The ideal candidate is one who devotes significant time and effort not only in the classroom, but also in the lab where acquired research tools are put into practice.”

On campus, Mondrik is also a Society of Physics Students tutor for underclassmen. He was also a National Merit Scholar coming out of high school. His future pursuits include attending graduate school at Princeton, Caltech, Cambridge, or Harvard for astronomy or astrophysics.

Amelie Berger - Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention, 2014
Amelie Berger – Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention, 2014

Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention, Amelie Berger, is a junior from Paris, France. Berger is pursuing a degree in Environmental Geoscience with minors in both meteorology and oceanography. She is involved in the Honors Fellows Program and the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program where she wrote her thesis on characterizing throughfall heterogeneity in a tropical pre-montane cloud forest in Costa Rica.

Berger has conducted research with the Oceanography department, the Geosciences department, and as an REU Intern in Costa Rica. She is a member of the American Association of Geographers, the Environmental Issues Committee, and a volunteer at the Oceanography Institute of Paris. In the future, she plans to pursue a Master’s degree and PhD. in climate science and sustainability, and to conduct research and teach at the university level.

Texas A&M Honors and Undergraduate Research commends the outstanding achievements of Nick Mondrik and Amelie Berger. All of their hard work continues to pay off!

Undergraduate Research Scholar Spotlight: Daniel Revier

By Hayley Cox

Former Undergraduate Research Scholar, Daniel Revier ‘12, participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars (UGRS) Program during his senior year under Dr. Gregory Huff. At the time, Revier, a native of Katy, Texas, was studying to obtain his undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering (ECE). During his final semester at Texas A&M University, Revier worked for Dr. Duncan Mackenzie, writing the LaTex thesis template for the thesis submission process. His name is currently on the example template provided to the UGRS LaTex writers.

During his undergraduate career, the ECE student was also a member of the Student Engineers’ Council (SEC), President of Mosher Hall during his freshman year, a Visitor Center Tour Guide, and performed undergraduate research prior to and after being under the UGRS program.

 Image

Daniel Revier took some time to respond to our questions about his experience as an Undergraduate Research Scholar at Texas A&M, and how his experience has contributed to his transition to graduate school at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.


 

How did you become an Undergraduate Research Scholar (UGRS)? Did anyone mentor you in the process?

I had already been performing research aiding a PhD candidate with his dissertation work when I approached my advisor about performing my own work. Dr. Huff had several ideas and we narrowed one down that I could pitch and work on throughout my senior year instead of the standard capstone project.

What was your favorite part of the UGRS program?

My favorite part of the UGRS program was learning about everyone else’s research. There were many different ideas floating around and it was interesting to hear about all of them.

The best experience?

I would say that the best experience though was that it opened my eyes to how difficult research can be. Maddeningly, you may hit a wall and not know where to go next. Many nights I sat at my computer dumbfounded as to what to do. It is at those points, if you persevere, that you begin to understand how to use your education to approach problems. In that case, I would have to say the best experience was also the most challenging.

How did experience as an UGRS help you prepare for your current graduate program?

UGRS helped prepare me for my current program by exposing me to LaTeX and providing an avenue for me to use some of the computational tools that are standard in my field. Being surrounded by people who were genuinely curious about the world was energizing and inspiring.

Could you tell me a little about the program you are in now?

Currently, I work full time for the Georgia Tech Research Institute (think the MIT Lincoln Labs of Georgia Tech) while simultaneously pursuing my PhD in electrical engineering. My current setup allows me to attend Georgia Tech for free while also maintaining a very nice salary, far beyond what I could have hoped for solely as a graduate student. I would like to stress this is not a TA or GRA [teaching assistant or graduate research assistant] position, I am a full-fledged employee for Georgia Tech while attending school on the side. A very unconventional route but nonetheless it has offered me a great experience. Simultaneously working as an engineer and attending engineering school offers a few benefits:

1) I make contacts in both realms, academic and industry. My connections in industry allow me to procure materials and supplies that would normally be unavailable to me if I were just a student. Furthermore, my connections in the academic world allow me to collaborate more freely with researchers across the world without worrying too much about IP or business matters.

2) My practical knowledge has increased 10x since working in the industry. University will give you the guidelines but the actual application in the real world is a completely different method. In turn, my practical knowledge influences how I think about theoretical work in a very useful way. When you can actually see and make something that works it takes it from being abstract into a reality and allows your intuition to kick in.

What are your future goals/plans?

My goal is to obtain my PhD from the ECE department at Georgia Tech, specifically researching 3D printed antennas and passive devices. Currently, my work has been focused on inkjet printing of the same; however, with 3D printers becoming cheaper and printing many different materials, there is an avenue to look into this type of additive manufacturing. Eventually, I would like to work in industry full-time to gather some more experience and then begin my own start up manufacturing inkjet and 3D printed antennas, etc.

Is there anything you would have done differently before moving on to graduate school?

I would have started performing undergraduate research much, much earlier. As a sophomore I knew I wanted to do research; however, I thought that I would wait until my junior year when I would “know more.” As it turned out I never really learned enough and still don’t know enough, but that is the point. Don’t let your ego get in the way of starting your research. I also would have taken harder classes as an undergraduate. It’s the hard classes are where you learn the most. The very best class I ever took was Dr. Steven Wright’s Magnetic Resonance Engineering course. Easily the most time consuming class I ever had; however, I also learned the very most from that class. It is setup in a way where you don’t just learn about MRE but you learn about systems engineering as well. This ties back to what I said in question 5 about the practical knowledge influencing the theoretical. I also maybe would have double majored in physics to expand on the theoretical side of everything as well.

Do you have any advice for other research scholars or those pursuing graduate degrees in the future?

UGRS was useful for me in the sense that it helped me understand the research process in a structured environment. Research requires a mentality of curiosity that is not learned overnight. It is just now where I feel as if I am coming up with original ideas and UGRS is already 2 years behind me. Stick with it and always ask questions. Be the kind of person that ALWAYS goes up to your professor after class to ask for more details about a topic. And as your professors lecture, ask questions. Too often lectures become a force-feeding of information that students have no time to think in class and can only react by taking down notes. I would challenge you to take less notes (or record the lectures on your phone at least) and ask questions to yourself as your professor speaks. Also, I would recommend finding a few advisers and/or other mentors (Professors, TAs, GRAs) who will let bother them incessantly. There are many people for me at work and at school that I can approach to ask a question whether it is theoretical or practical. Developing this team is CRITICAL to your success. Finally, accept the fact that you don’t know anything (probably) and that is OK. Tying back to finding a good mentor team, if they are good they will help you build the tools to then question and determine things on your own without them.

 

University Scholar elected 65th MSC President/CEO

For many students, being “pre-med” is an all-encompassing role—keeping the GPR high, fitting in the research, the shadowing, the volunteer service and studying for the MCAT takes all their time and seemingly every breath. For University Scholar and newly elected MSC President Ryan Trantham, that is just the beginning.

Ryan Trantham, University Scholar, Texas A&M University
Ryan Trantham, University Scholar, Texas A&M University
Trantham’s connection to the MSC began even before he started at Texas A&M when he was chosen for the Champe Fitzhugh Jr. International Leadership Seminar co-sponsored by Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) and the MSC the summer before his freshman year. This intensive two and a half week experience in Tuscany with 25 other top incoming freshmen gave Trantham the opportunity to bond and grow with the other “Italy fish”, but more importantly introduced him to two juniors who were peer leaders for the trip—Eric Blackman representing the MSC and Chris Davis representing HUR. Watching Eric and Chris handle their responsibilities gave Trantham insight into the attributes he wanted to emulate and embody as a person and a leader. Two years later, Trantham was back in Tuscany as the MSC peer leader for the Champe Fitzhugh seminar and as a role model for a new generation of Italy fish.

Being a role model comes naturally to Trantham, but is also the result of thoughtful choices and synergistic experiences. His application and interview for a position in the University Scholars program the spring semester of his freshman year was outstanding, and one of the “no-brainer” decisions made by the committee as they selected a mere ten students from the freshman class for this intensive Honors program. Being a University Scholar challenged Trantham to think in new ways and more broadly and deeply than ever before. The emphasis on intellectual exploration where it is “OK” not to have the answer has allowed Trantham to take a closer look at his own goals and plans and exposed him to ideas and issues he might not have experienced otherwise. His involvement with the MSC has given him a different perspective—working with 2000 student members to develop and produce programming requires a much more “corporate” attitude with timely concrete answers, specific logistical frameworks and critical risk assessment and containment the order of the day.

In combination with programming by the Jordan Institute and Wiley Lecture Series at the MSC, where he is currently VP of Educational Exploration programming, Trantham delved deeply into the knotty problems of public health policy and the political aspects of healthcare. These discussions led to a new long term personal goal: medical practice in pursuit of credibility to affect the national and international conversation about healthcare, and a new short term goal: a Business minor so that he can understand the business side of healthcare as well as the science. Trantham’s goals also made applying for the position of MSC President a natural fit as he learns to balance different voices in public conversations and lead complex organizations.

So how does Trantham view his Honors experience and how it will contribute to his presidency? “Being involved in Honors at Texas A&M has put me in situations through which I was challenged to assess my beliefs, perspective, and knowledge of the world at large.” Trantham says, “Doing so has helped me grow as a leader, student, and critical thinker – three roles that I will play every day during my term as MSC President.” Congratulations Mr. President!

Congratulations to the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Nominees!

By Hayley Cox

Four Texas A&M University students have been nominated for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program were established in 1986 in honor of US Senator and republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes college students nationwide in the science, mathematics, and engineering fields, selecting approximately 300 junior and senior students each year. Scholarship recipients are selected based on a criteria composed of reference letters, personal essays, and research experience. Universities can nominate up to four students for the Goldwater Scholarship per academic year.

Jack Reid
Jack Reid

2014 Goldwater nominee, Jack Reid ’15, is a junior mechanical engineering and philosophy student from Austin, Texas. Reid was recommended by Honors and Undergraduate Research’s (HUR) Jamaica Pouncy and was also nominated during his sophomore year after he became a University Scholar. He wrote his research proposal about non-thermal plasma research under Dr. David Stack and Dr. Maria King, and this proposal was then reviewed a national committee. In Reid’s words, the committee is looking for aptitude, along with a “genuine interest in research and a drive to follow through on it.”

Reid is a member of the weekly microbiology news program Invisible Jungle, a local project lead for Engineer Without Borders, and practices a form of martial arts called Aikido. Upon completion of his undergraduate career, Reid plans to attend graduate school with a technical focus. He said that after a Master’s degree in technical research, he intends to pursue a PhD. But as a junior, he hasn’t narrowed down the remainder of his future plans.

If selected as a 2014 Goldwater Scholarship recipient, Reid said the first word to come to mind would be “vindication.” He said, “It would be a wonderful confirmation that I am doing something right… The best part would just be knowing that I am a Goldwater Scholar.” In addition to the Goldwater Scholarship, Reid just submitted his application for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation nomination, in which he will find out if he continues later this month.

Nick Mondrik
Nick Mondrik

Another Goldwater nominee, Nick Mondrik, is a junior physics student from Belton, Texas. He has worked in Dr. Lin Shao’s Ions and Materials Facility in the Nuclear Engineering Department and for Dr. Darren Depoy in the Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation Lab. Currently, he is working on heat transfer simulation for the VIRUS project (Visible Integral-Field Replicable Unit Spectrographs) and on preliminary data from the Dark Energy Survey underway in Cerro Tololo, Chile.

Mondrik came across the Goldwater Scholarship when he was looking at websites with information on graduate school profiles and decided to check it out. He wrote his research proposal on looking for outliers and variable stars in the Dark Energy Survey data. The nominee said, “The ideal candidate is one who devotes significant time and effort not only in the classroom, but also in the lab where acquired research tools are put into practice.”

On campus, Mondrik is also a Society of Physics Students tutor for underclassmen. He was also a National Merit Scholar coming out of high school. His future pursuits include attending graduate school at Princeton, Caltech, Cambridge, or Harvard for astronomy or astrophysics. If selected as a 2014 Goldwater Scholarship recipient, Mondrik said the first word to come to mind would be “ecstatic.” He said, “To have all my hard work over these past three years would mean a lot…” Mondrik continued, “It’s one thing to say that hard work is its own reward, but a little recognition goes a long way.”

Amelie Berger
Amelie Berger

Goldwater nominee Amelie Berger is a junior environmental geoscience student from Paris, France. Berger is pursuing a degree in Environmental Geoscience with minors in both meteorology and oceanography. She is involved in the Honors Fellows Program and the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program where she wrote her thesis on characterizing throughfall heterogeneity in a tropical pre-montane cloud forest in Costa Rica.

Berger has conducted research with the Oceanography department, the Geosciences department, and as an REU Intern in Costa Rica. She is a member of the American Association of Geographers, the Environmental Issues Committee, and a volunteer at the Oceanography Institute of Paris. In the future, she plans to pursue a Master’s degree and PhD. in climate science and sustainability, and to conduct research and teach at the university level.

Berger wanted to thank the professors who have contributed to her Goldwater application and now nomination process. She said, I am so thankful for Dr. Frauenfeld, Dr. Cahill, Dr. Thomas, Dr. Biggs, and Dr. Garcia for their supporting letters. I probably would not have even applied without Dr. Biggs telling me I should consider it, and Dr. Frauenfeld selflessly took the time to help me make my application competitive. I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by supportive and dedicated faculty members!”

The final Goldwater nominee, William Linz, is a mathematics student from Temple, Texas. Linz is a University Honors Student and Undergraduate Research Scholar at Texas A&M. Linz has been following national scholarships since his high school academic career and consistently found Goldwater to be an excellent opportunity for math, science, and engineering students like himself. He began with an online application and an expository essay detailing his research work before submitting to a national Goldwater representative.

Linz is also an executive board member of Explorations, the Undergraduate Research Journal of Texas A&M University, and he is President of Aggie Quiz Bowl. In the future, he plans to continue his research work at Texas A&M and to attend graduate school for mathematics. If Linz were to be chosen as a Goldwater Scholar he said he would be extremely pleased. He said, “I would thank all who have helped me up to this point, and I would use the scholarship as an impetus to work even harder in research mathematics.”

Honors and Undergraduate Research is extremely proud of Jack Reid, Nick Mondrik, Amelie Berger, and William Linz for all of their outstand achievements as nominees for the Goldwater Scholarship. We wish them the best of luck through out the remainder of the selection process!

Lauralee Valverde Presents Her Research at MAES Symposium

By Hayley Cox

During the Fall 2013 semester, Texas A&M University senior Lauralee Valverde attended the Latinos in Science and Engineering Symposium organized by the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES) in Houston, Texas. Valverde is a member of Texas A&M’s chapter of the MAES national organization. The symposium is one of the largest events held by MAES, which includes a research competition.

Lauralee Valverde at the MAES Symposium in Houston, Texas.
Lauralee Valverde at the MAES Symposium in Houston, Texas.
The MAES Symposium brings together hundreds of students and employees seeking advancement. It is a “gateway to a network of professionals, students, and recruiters – The MAES Familia.” (http://mymaes.org/program-item/symposium/)

Valverde, an industrial engineering student from San Antonio, is a 2014 Undergraduate Research Scholar and 2014 Undergraduate Research Travel Award recipient. She invested considerable time into submitting an abstract and preparing her poster prior to the symposium. Her research was based upon Computer-Aided Design (CAD) as a critical tool in the development of modern products. She investigated the modeling of a 2-dimensional drawing versus the modeling of a 3-dimensional artifact, and screen captured this data to analyze the time usage of each respective modeling program.

Members of MAES after presenting their research at the symposium.
Members of MAES after presenting their research at the symposium.
At the MAES Symposium, Valdverde said her favorite part was being able to see her friends from the local Texas A&M MAES chapter in a different light as they presented their research. After experiencing this event with members of her chapter, she found that practice is key. Valverde said, “Practicing what you are going to say before hand gives you confidence when it comes time to engage the judges.” The best advice that she has for students involved in science and engineering research is to write everything down. She said, “It is very easy to forget the details, and in some cases the smallest details are the ones that cause your research to work and make sense.”

The next MAES Symposium will be held in San Diego, California from October 15-18, 2014. Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) is proud of students such as Lauralee Valverde for their outstanding accomplishments in research and looks forward to supporting future students’ travel to professional meetings. These students improve their chances of obtaining employment in industry or admission to prominent graduate programs, while at the same time represent our outstanding undergraduate research programs on a national stage.

Angelyn Hilton “Plants” Herself a Spot at the American Phytopathological Society Conference!

By Hayley Cox

Angelyn Hilton - Bioenvironmental Sciences as an Undergraduate
Angelyn Hilton – Bioenvironmental Sciences as an Undergraduate
Angelyn Hilton, currently a first year Master’s student in the Plant Pathology and Microbiology Deptartment at Texas A&M University, participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. She was a student in Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) during her undergraduate career in Bioenvironmental Sciences

Hilton heard about the American Phytopathalogical Society (APS) Conference through the professors in the plant pathology and microbiology department who were also attending. She was given the opportunity to attend the conference in Austin, Texas from August 10th-14th after she was granted the HUR Travel Scholarship.

According to the APS website (apsnet.org), the 2013 APS Conference was the first time that the Mycological Society of America and the APS held a joint meeting since 2006. “This year’s Special Sessions consist[ed] of invited speakers and topics chosen by the Annual Meeting Board under the guidance of Director Scott Adkins and 2013 APS President-Elect George Abawi.” APS MSA Joint Meeting Special Sessions included the topics of The World of Fungi, Food Safety and Biosecurity, Crop Protection Tools, Education and Outreach, Viruses, Tree Diseases and Stresses, Cell Biology and Plant Symbiosis, and Bacteria.

The APS Conference serves as a means to bring phytopathologists together from around the world. Researchers can present their findings and establish networks with others in their field of study. Hilton said, “A typical day would include attending a number of seminars on different topics, including mycology, bacteriology, virology, and agriculture.” She said, “The end of the day usually consists of poster sessions and mixers. It was not only informative and a great learning experience, but also tons of fun.”

BESC Poster Symposium Winners - Angelyn Hilton Pictured on Far Right (http://plantpathology.tamu.edu/besc-poster-symposium-award-winners/)
BESC Poster Symposium Winners – Angelyn Hilton Pictured on Far Right
(http://plantpathology.tamu.edu/besc-poster-symposium-award-winners/)

Hilton is now continuing onto study plant diseases in graduate school at Texas A&M, and she plans to attend the next annual APS meeting in 2014. Hilton said it is still too soon to know where she will be in 10-15 years, but she would like to continue research in an agricultural-related field. She said the APS Conference was a “fabulous opportunity.” She said, “I was able to do it with the help of HUR and TAMU professors and staff. I would recommend HUR to any high-achieving student at TAMU.”

Our Astronaut Scholars are Out of this World!

By Hayley Cox

Last Monday, October 28th, space shuttle astronaut and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana presented students Dillon Amaya and Amanda Couch with the 2013 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) scholarship during a ceremony at Texas A&M University. Our 2012 ASP scholarship recipient and member of the Class of 2013 Emily Boster was in the audience for the presentation.

Emily Boster - Class of 2013
Emily Boster – Class of 2013
Emily Boster has come full circle in the year since she was selected. Boster was notified of her selection in summer 2012, and Captain James Lovell of Apollo 13 presented her with the Astronaut Scholarship in September 2012.

As Captain Lovell announced last year: “Today, in accordance with its mission to aid the United States in retaining its leadership in science and technology, ASF makes 28 Astronaut Scholarships available to college students who exhibit leadership, imagination and exceptional performance in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). These $10,000 scholarships are the highest monetary awards disbursed to undergraduate STEM students based solely on merit in the U.S. To date, the foundation has awarded over $3.7 million in scholarships to deserving students nationwide.” (http://astronautscholarship.org/about/)

2012 Hall of Fame Inductees
2012 Hall of Fame Inductees
Fortunately for Boster, the experience with ASF didn’t end with the presentation last September. Boster was invited to attend a conference at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cocoa Beach that enables all current and previous ASF scholarship recipients to network among each other. The aerospace engineering student said, “The convention really feels like a big family reunion.” She was present for the Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and loved staying at a hotel with other brilliant ASF scholars and astronauts. Former ASF recipients such as 1980s scholar, Lisa Schott, continue to attend the conference every year.

Boster's group at the Astronaut Scholars Conference
Boster’s group at the Astronaut Scholars Conference
At the four-day conference, around 40 scholars from across America presented research from a wide array of majors including chemistry, geography, physics and aerospace engineering.

Boster became interested in this field during her first encounters with the Astronomic Instrumentation Lab on the Texas A&M University campus, where she has been working on a project called VIRUS since her freshman year of her undergraduate career. Approximately 15 students and professors are working on VIRUS, a project in collaboration with schools such as The University of Texas, Penn State, Oxford, and many others around the world. Lab Manager Dr. Jennifer Marshall hired Boster during her freshman year and has acted as her mentor ever since.

Astronaut Scholars Conference
Astronaut Scholars Conference
Boster is now officially an alumnus of the ASF, and she plans to attend the conference every year if possible. “The conference is such a great opportunity” she said, “I want to stay involved, give back in funds, and help the next generation of scholars.”

The aerospace engineering student is currently a nominee for both the Marshall Scholarship and the Mitchell Scholarship, two national fellowships which will proceed to interviews during the month of November.

Boster interned with the Mars lander at Lockheed Martin in summer 2013, and plans to pursue a career in aerospace engineering when she graduates in December. She has a passion for international collaboration and plans to travel in order to further collaborative relationships between different countries in order to unify their uses of aerospace engineering.

Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) would like to congratulate Emily Boster on the 2012 ASF scholarship and wish her the best after her graduation in December. We are so proud of our students’ hard work. It definitely pays off!