Check out this great story about Honors Students Omar Wyman and Bailey J. Woods representing TAMU Undergraduate Research at the state capitol!
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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit our website: http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.
The post below comes from Joshua Fuller, an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, former President of Honors Student Council, former Junior Advisor and Sophomore Advisor for the Honors Housing Community. Fuller is a senior psychology and Spanish double-major, with a minor in neuroscience. You can find his ePortfolio at http://joshuafuller.weebly.com.
– By Joshua Fuller ’17
Exhilarating. Intimidating. Inspiring.
These three words explain my four-day long journey at my first national research conference, the 36th National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) annual meeting.
Applying to NAN 2016 was admittingly somewhat of a last-minute endeavor. I remembered my research mentor, Dr. Steve Balsis, talking about his experience at NAN 2015 in Austin, Texas, and thought NAN 2016 would be a great forum to present my most recent work, a first-author publication on the nature of neuropsychiatric symptom presentation in Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, we caught the abstract deadline two weeks before it passed (which still blows my mind since the abstract deadline was in February and the conference was in October). As an undergraduate interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on neuropsychology, or the assessment of neurological conditions, this conference was an obvious place to submit my work.
As a seasoned undergraduate Alzheimer’s researcher and an aspiring neuropsychologist, I was simultaneously excited and timid as I exited my cab and walked into the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle, the site of NAN 2016. Sure, I had presented my lab’s work before at the Texas A&M Student Research Week (and even took home an award), but this was clearly a whole different ball game. Instead of answering A&M student or faculty members’ questions about my work, I was going to be fielding questions from actual real-life neuropsychologists (some of whom are faculty at the Ph.D. programs I am currently applying to, so that was also terrifying).
I attended two long lectures the morning of my poster presentation, the first on neuroimaging and the second on diversity in clinical practice. Following the lectures, I immediately went to the exhibit hall where I hung my poster and talked to passerby for two hours. In the mix of visitors, two judges came by my poster and seemed to be very impressed by the quality of my work (especially because I was an undergrad among a sea of graduate students and post-docs). I had also networked some via email with Dr. Laura Lacritz, the President of our conference, because she studies Alzheimer’s disease is a professor at the UT Southwestern Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program (one of the Ph.D. programs I applied to this application cycle). Well… if there’s one thing I have learned by now it is that networking sometimes can really pay off! Dr. Lacritz stopped by my poster, talked to me for about fifteen minutes, and as we parted ways she complimented my research me that if I ever have any questions or would like to collaborate she’s just an email away.
After my poster presentation, I had the chance to listen to other world-renown Alzheimer’s experts, like Dr. Yaakov Stern of Columbia and Dr. Dorene Retnz of Harvard, give lectures on their inspirational research. I also had a chance to go to a few events for students where I met many graduate students (including a large plethora from UT Southwestern) who talked to me about their experiences and their research, giving me more encouragement during my Ph.D. application season.
I was sad that I had to leave the conference early to get back to College Station for a fundraiser, as I was truly in nerd-heaven. Before I left, a new graduate student friend told me to be on the lookout for the student poster award recipients (as I was going to miss the award ceremony). I knew I had a nice poster and that I gave an excellent presentation, but my poster was one of several hundred at the conference eligible for five awards. Surely I was not going to win a student poster award…
Well, I did… and I am still surprised and humbled to this day. Honestly, though, receiving such an honor is not a testament to my ability, but rather the time and energy that Dr. Balsis and so many other mentors have poured into me throughout my undergraduate research career. Being among the top poster presentations at the conference was an amazing way to close my first ever national research conference.
When I left College Station for Seattle, I felt anxious. When I returned, I was inspired. Undergraduate research has been a winding (and sometimes cyclical) journey for me, but I am so proud of the relationships I’ve built and the projects that I’ve been a part of over the years. As someone who was cynical about research before coming to A&M, I encourage you to keep an open mind! There are so many different questions that need to be answered, and you have an incredibly unique opportunity to explore alongside some of the world’s most talented research faculty. If I got involved in research (and have now won multiple awards and first-authored a publication currently in review) simply because I asked my professor about research opportunities in the Alzheimer’s arena, so can you! Get started today by visiting the LAUNCH website and talking with your professors about topics you would like to research.
By Macy Moore –
One of the most gratifying elements of being an undergraduate student at Texas A&M is the opportunity to be nominated for various scholarships and fellowships. Receiving a scholarship or fellowship is financially fulfilling and opens doors for professional networking, but even the simple nomination is rewarding in itself. The application process allows students to reflect on their career ambitions, skills, and dreams for the future and has been proven to be an illuminating experience for many.
The Udall Foundation recognizes studious undergraduate students who are pursuing a career related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Awarding scholarships, fellowships, and internships to exceptional students, the foundation was established in 1992 to honor Morris K. and Stuart L. Udall’s influence on America’s environment, public lands, and natural resources, as well as their support for the rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Students selected for the Udall Scholarship will obtain scholarships up to $5,000 and an invaluable connection with the community of other dedicated public policy scholars.
This year, we are proud to announce the four Texas A&M students nominated for the 2016 Udall Scholarship competition: Omar Elhassan, Phillip Hammond, Jaclyn Guz, and Alyson Miranda, .
Omar Elhassan ’17 is currently a junior environmental soil science major and bioenvironmental sciences minor in honors program of the Soil and Crop Sciences Department. Both a Cargill Global Scholar and Golden Opportunity Scholar, he has conducted undergraduate research in Dr. Gentry’s Soil and Aquatic Microbiology lab investigating the effects of urban wastewater treatment plants on increasing antibiotic resistance in the environment. Aside from academics, Elhassan also works as the Sustainability Officer with the student run nonprofit Just4Water, which aims to provide self-sustainable water solutions to developing nations. He works to develop partnerships with NGOs, nonprofit, and businesses to assess the needs of rural communities to design site-specific water solutions such as drilling water wells, designing water distribution systems, and installing latrines for waste management. Following his undergraduate career, Elhassan plans to enlist in the Peace Corps to gain real world experience in the realm of international development, then intend to pursue a master’s degree in international development at Cornell University to become a driving force for sustainable development in emerging nations.
Jaclyn Guz ’17 is a junior environmental studies major with a minor in geographic information systems. Guz has previously conducted undergraduate research as part of the Michael E. DeBakey Undergraduate Research program in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She worked in the Cairns lab studying the tree line in Northern Sweden, which research formed the basis of her Undergraduate Research Scholars thesis. She also serves as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for the TAMU Academic Success Center. Guz completed a water quality analysis internship through a summer research program at the University of Vermont in Summer 2014, and served on the EPA Science Advisory Board as part of her participation in the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) in Fall 2014. She worked as a writing intern for Geography.com in Summer 2015, and is a 2015-16 Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Guz is currently completing a second capstone with the Undergraduate Leadership Scholars program working toward promoting undergraduate research opportunities in the College of Geosciences. After pursuing a dual master’s program in public policy and environmental studies in Washington, D.C., Guz plans a career using sound data analysis to craft economic and legal incentives to promote sustainable practices.
Phillip Hammond ’17 is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture with minors in urban & regional planning and sustainable architecture & regional planning. He dedicates his spare time to the student chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects as the active Vice President for the departmental organization. Phillip also serves as a University Scholar in the University Honors program after being inducted in 2014. His love of nature, architectural design, and philosophy has led him to aspire for a career designing sustainable communities following his certification as a registered Landscape Architect. After he receives his undergraduate degree, Phillip plans to complete a master’s degree in land and property development, then will follow his ambition of changing the way people live with designs that will improve transportation alternatives and provide better ecological infrastructure.
Alyson Miranda ‘17 is a bioenvironmental sciences major and business minor from Missouri City, TX. Her environmental interests were spurred by her first experiences as a restaurant employee and her first national park experience (as a trip leader for TAMU Alternative Spring Break). Then, as an A&M Conservation Scholar, Miranda engaged in marine species risk research for the marine biodiversity lab at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Her research focused on current literature on Gulf of Mexico bonyfishes, as well as assessment review for other regional projects in the Global Marine Species Assessment (https://sci.odu.edu/gmsa/). Last fall, Miranda completed a separate internship at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. where she explored the connection between public policy, federal agencies, and science. Upon returning this semester, she joined the Environmental Issues Committee where she is excited to work on programs to educate students about sustainability and marine environmental issues. Outside of being a current University Scholar, Miranda is a musician in the TAMU Symphonic Winds and at her church, and she loves volunteering at the sustainable Howdy Farm on campus. This summer, she will serve as a business consultant for disadvantaged entrepreneurs in Cape Town, South Africa. Ultimately, Aly would like to work as a marine/wetland researcher or consultant to help people use land and marine resources in an environmentally and responsible way.
As of 1996, seven Udall Scholars and two Honorable Mentions have emerged from Texas A&M University. Most recently, Victoria Easton was selected as a Udall Scholar, making her the first Texas A&M Udall Scholar selected in the Tribal Public Policy category.
For more information about the Udall Scholarship see http://udall.gov.
To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Udall Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://natlfellows.tamu.edu.
LAUNCH: National Fellowships congratulates our five 2015 nominees for the Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell Scholarships for post-graduate study!
Each of these applicants has devoted time to self-reflection and goal development as they revised their essays, requested letters of recommendation, and poured over detailed application instructions. We are equally proud of their perseverance in the fellowship process and of their outstanding accomplishments throughout their college careers.
Mariah Bastin ’14, who double-majored in German and international studies – politics and diplomacy, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship and hopes to obtain a PhD in International Relations. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2013 with Honors Fellows and Undergraduate Research Scholars distinctions, as well as National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Eta Sigma National Society, Phi Beta Kappa and Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi honors cords. In 2015, Mariah graduated from the George Bush School of Government & Public Service with a Master of International Affairs. She received the Dean’s Certificate in Leadership. She also served as the President of the German Club and was elected as an International Affairs Representative for the Class of 2015. Fluent in German and French, Mariah has previously worked on the Military Staff Committee of the US Mission to the United Nations and as a German instructor for the Bush School. She is currently employed as an editorial fellow by GovLoop in Washington DC.
Andy Baxter ’16, a Physics and mathematics double major with a business administration minor, has been nominated for the Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell Scholarships. He hopes to combine a business education with studies in aerospace physics and engineering in preparation for a management career in aerospace innovation. Additionally, if selected for a scholarship at the University of Oxford, Andy plans to join the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics to apply his studies in physics and business to his Christian faith. Andy’s primary involvement at Texas A&M has been through Freshmen Leaders in Christ, in which he served as a director. He has also been a Muster Host for the past two years, founded a discussion group for Christian physicists, served as an Impact counselor, assisted with a “Five for Yell” campaign, played in many intramural sports, and is currently serving as treasurer for the Society of Physics Students. During his summers as a college student, Andy has participated in research on superconducting magnets at the Texas A&M Accelerator Research Laboratory, studied abroad through the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program, and interned at the IT Alliance for Public Sector in Washington DC through the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program.
Hunter Hampton ’16, seeking degrees in economics and international studies, with a minor in German, has been nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship with the goal of studying international relations at Oxford University. Hunter is a University Scholar, an Undergraduate Research Scholar, and a member of the Cornerstone Liberal Arts Honors Program, University Honors, and Phi Beta Kappa. As a junior, Hunter wrote his undergraduate thesis on entrepreneurship and conflict resolution in Palestine, and now as a senior, he works in the A&M Economics Research Laboratory on a project about the effects of mandated volunteering on total volunteering. Along with his academic pursuits, Hunter interned at the Institut für Europäische Politik in Berlin, Germany, and spent three years as a member of the Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA), rising to Chief of Staff in his final year. Outside of academics, Hunter enjoys biking, playing the erhu poorly, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
Molly Huff ’16, a Chemistry major with a minor in mathematics, has been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship to pursue a Masters of Philosophy in chemistry at a UK university. She is an active undergraduate researcher, working in the Polymer Nanocomposites Laboratory for two years and presenting her two publications at an American Chemical Society national conference. Currently, Molly is writing an Undergraduate Research Scholar thesis in physical organic chemistry, studying heavy-atom tunneling both experimentally and computationally. This summer, she completed an internship at OXEA in Bay City where she worked on research and development of a new homogeneous catalyst for the plant. She has also been actively involved in Aggie Sisters for Christ and as a tutor for all levels of chemistry courses. Molly has traveled around the world and hopes to one day live in a foreign country to enhance global chemistry research.
Annie Melton ‘16, an anthropology and classics double major with a minor in geoinformatics, has been nominated for the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. Annie, a University Scholar and Undergraduate Research Ambassador, has been heavily involved in archaeological research, beginning her freshman year in the research lab of Dr. Mike Waters. Several of these projects, including her senior honors thesis under the direction of Dr. Kelly Graf, were presented at national and regional conferences. Annie has taken part in archaeological projects in Alaska, Israel, and Portugal, while also analyzing stone tool assemblages from sites in Kentucky and Tennessee, all of which date to differing time periods in the archaeological record. Following graduate school, where she will pursue a PhD in archaeology and focus on the emergence of early modern humans, she hopes to pursue a career in which she can juggle her research passions while teaching the next generation of archaeologists.
The Rhodes Scholarship is for graduate study at Oxford University, the Marshall Scholarship is for graduate study at any UK university, and the George J. Mitchell Scholarship is for graduate study at any university in Ireland. Nominees will soon be notified whether they have been chosen to advance to the interview round of selection. We wish them the best of luck!
LAUNCH: National Fellowships is grateful to the Association of Former Students for their generous support, which applicants benefit from through our programs as well as support for travel to interviews.
Texas A&M is fortunate to announce the designation of two 2015 Astronaut Scholars, Kirstin Maulding ‘16 and Will Linz ‘16. This is the second time that two of our nominees have been selected to receive this prestigious award from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which seeks to recognize outstanding undergraduates working in STEM fields who will have the potential to be next-generation leaders.
Maulding is an Honors Student from Spring Branch, Texas majoring in molecular and cell biology with minors in genetics and neuroscience. She has been working in biological research since high school and has continued her commitment to research as an undergraduate, both in the lab of Dr. Bruce Riley and as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Maulding’s combination of ability, creativity, and work ethic resulted in her publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal by her sophomore year. Her career goals include pursuing research related to neurological diseases such as Alzheimers. Read Maulding’s nomination profile here.
Linz is an Honors Student from Temple, Texas majoring in mathematics with a minor in German. When he graduates in May 2016, he will have completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. Linz got involved in undergraduate research as a first-semester freshman, completed his undergraduate thesis as a sophomore, and continues to do research with Dr. Catherine Yan in combinatorics. He has presented his research at professional meetings and campus research expos, and has submitted his work for publication in a top mathematics journal. Linz currently serves on the Executive Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal and is also an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. He is planning a career in mathematical discovery and serving as a liaison to help mathematicians and computer scientists develop mathematical tools for practical use in computer science and technology. Read Linz’s nomination profile here.
The campus community is invited to a public lecture and award presentation on Tuesday, October 6 at 10:30 AM with Former Astronaut Charlie Duke (Brigadier General, USAF, Retired) to honor Maulding and Linz and present each of them with a $10,000 scholarship. Following the award presentation, Mr. Duke will give a lecture about his experiences as an astronaut on the Apollo 16 mission and as Capcom on the Apollo 11 mission.
The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for entry and are available through the Memorial Student Center Box Office.
HUR is forwarding the packets of three outstanding students as the TAMU nominees for the 2015 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation competition. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was started by six of the original Mercury 7 astronauts to aid the United States in retaining world leadership in the development of cutting edge science and technology. Since its inception in 1984, the Mercury 7 have been joined by astronauts who have served on other Mercury missions as well as the Apollo, Gemini, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs. The $10,000 ASF Scholarship is the largest award presented to STEM majors based purely on merit, as demonstrated by initiative, creativity and productivity in research as well as excellence in coursework and dedication to leadership in their fields. Application for the Astronaut Scholarship is open to sophomores and juniors in all STEM fields starting in late December and culminating in early February with the selection of the TAMU nominees. Meet the first of our 2015 nominees!
What makes an Astronaut Scholar nominee? Academic excellence and passion for research are a given, but 2015 TAMU Nominee Will Linz ’16 has something more—an extraordinary talent for mathematics and the strong desire to communicate the elegance of a mathematical proof and the powerful implications of new branches of mathematics to non-mathematicians. Linz is in the University Honors and Math Honors program, majoring in mathematics with a minor in German from Temple, Texas. He will graduate with both a BS and MS in Mathematics in Spring 2016.
In addition to his heavy course load of undergraduate and graduate courses, Linz has pursued his passion for research starting freshman year with an aptitude that resulted in Fall 2013 in his becoming one of the very few sophomore Undergraduate Research Scholars ever. And when theses were evaluated in the Spring of 2014, Linz’ was on the short list for best thesis. The research discussed in his thesis, which analyzes ways of calculating how to sort and handle objects arranged in many different ways, has been submitted for publication at a top mathematics journal. Linz has continued his research on combinatorics, which is the base for theoretical computer science, with Dr. Catherine Yan during the academic year and participated in an REU on Chemical Graph theory at the University of Texas-Tyler this past summer. He has presented his research at numerous meetings including the 2015 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio, Texas, MathFest in Portland, Oregon and multiple research expos here at Texas A&M including Student Research Week, where he was awarded first place in the Mathematics and Computer Science oral division.
Linz has also followed his desire to mentor and communicate about research in general and math in particular since his freshman year. As an incoming freshman, Linz was chosen as the youngest ever member of the Editorial Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. His incisive comments and astute reviews are greatly respected, and led to his promotion to the Executive Board in 2013. Linz further honed his skills in communication upon being selected as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in 2014. This allowed him to receive additional training in presentations and to discuss undergraduate research and his own experiences with mathematics to audiences as disparate as parents and community members, prospective students, current students, graduate students and faculty.
Linz is acutely aware of how impenetrable cutting-edge mathematics seems to non-mathematicians, even to researchers in other STEM fields who are most likely to appreciate and apply the novel insights he and others are uncovering. Linz hopes to leverage both his increasing mathematical expertise and his communication skills to “translate” mathematical discoveries to the world of computer science and logic to enable faster integration of mathematical insights such as breakthroughs in combinatorics into technological advances in areas such as complex data queries and web searching algorithms.