Tag Archives: Undergraduate Research Ambassadors

Texas A&M Undergraduates Nominated for the 2018 Astronaut Scholarship

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Holt ‘20

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

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

Ashley Hayden ‘19

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

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

Oscar Gonzalez ‘20

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

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

Quinton Lawton ‘19

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

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

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

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Two Aggie Students Honored by Barry M. Goldwater Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Student Voices: Morgan Chapman, Literature about Science

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

– by Morgan Chapman

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

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Morgan Chapman ‘20, Photo credit: Elliott Amato

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honors Benefits: SBSLC 2018

The benefits of participating in the University Honors Program include some things that may be considered more abstract such as our interdisciplinary emphasis, strong community, and focus on personal, professional and intellectual development (see this link: https://goo.gl/TjIxOL).

Other benefits are more concrete, such as our partnership with other programs on campus that provide special access to campus conferences that assist our students in their personal, professional, and intellectual development.

This year LAUNCH: Honors was proud to support registration for three of our students to attend the annual Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSCLC). Now in its 30th year, SBSLC provides students with important perspective and encouragement to grow into leaders of character dedicated to the greater good (http://sbslc.tamu.edu/about/). Read below for reflections from our students on their experience this year.

Ecaroh Jackson ’19 (left) and Nicole Guenztel ’19 (right) at SBSLC 2018

Ecaroh Jackson ’19
University Scholar and interdisciplinary studies major from Caldwell, TX

This January, I was fortunate in receiving the opportunity to attend the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC) for a second time. The topic this year was “A Legacy in Living Color”.

I was able to attend three workshops that gave me new insights on current issues and provided me with tools to use when going about life. My favorite workshop was one that used a nontraditional approach for its platform. The speaker divided the room in half and gave each side a topic. One side of the room was designated “for” and the other side was assigned “against”. By this point, the room was up in arms. The topic was one that was unanimously agreed on, so by making some of us argue in support of such a sensitive topic, emotions ran high and cooperation ran low. During the activity, the “for” side started to change their opinions and came up with really good points that opposed some of their own beliefs. After the conclusion of the debate, the speaker asked us how it felt to argue the other side’s opinion. At first it was distressing, but after a few rounds, we started to understand why the “for” side supported the opinion that they held, although we still didn’t change our viewpoints. The goal of this was to show us that to truly become influential, you have to understand and be able to argue both sides of an issue. Whether you are right or not, if you can’t come up with educated rebuttals, you will not only lose an argument, but additionally lose a chance at educating someone about a topic that means a lot to you.

My favorite part of the conference as a whole was the speech given by Amanda Seales during the closing banquet. She spoke about many things, but the thing I found to be most pertinent was her viewpoint on opportunities. As an actress, she had been turned down many times before finding her way onto the hit TV show “Insecure”. While others may have been discouraged, Seales was determined to make it in the industry. When asked if she was disappointed about not getting chosen for certain occasions, she emphasized that she was not deterred, because it just wasn’t her time or opportunity. Timing is key and you have to realize that while not everything is meant for you, something is, and it will only come when the time is right.

As a future educator, it is very important that I understand different cultures and how to maneuver a diverse climate. Attending the SBSLC has allowed me to interact with groups of people that don’t I normal have the chance to talk to. Hearing different ideas has allowed me to expand my knowledge about others and become more prepared for a career that isn’t a stranger to diversity.

This conference is so powerful in the way that it highlights a group that may not commonly receive a platform like this to discuss current issues. I encourage all students to attend a conference similar to this whether it be the SBSLC, SCOLA, or SCONA. I challenge you to broaden your horizons and see the world from different perspectives. Step out of your comfort zone and embrace the variety of experiences that A&M has to offer.

Karissa Yamaguchi ’19
Undergraduate Research Ambassador and biochemistry and genetics double major from Phoenix, AZ

This conference provided many professional and personal development workshops. Notably, the “Face Your Fears and Frame your success” workshop provided me with valuable insights into how to embrace success. This workshop also pinpointed implicit fears I have allowed to hinder my development in leadership and academics.

I aim to be a physician, a career dependent on leadership skills and the ability to connect with people of all backgrounds. This experience allowed me to expand my comfort zone and provided a venue for me to practice these skills. As an Asian American woman in STEM and who’s primary leadership engagements are in research and ministry, this was a fantastic opportunity to do just that. I was able to learn from the perspectives of leaders with an alternative ethnic identity on issues such as leadership, failure, social justice and what people wished they had learned before they were 25. The workshops not only challenged me to think deeper, but broadened my awareness to viewpoints of people with a different ethnic and socioeconomic background.

Do not be shy. I jumped at the opportunity to attend a leadership conference financed by the honors program. After reading more information about the conference, I was nervous to be a minority and stick out. However, once I attended I realized my fears of rejection and alienation were unfounded. Even if you do not identify as “black” or “student” or “leader”, please attend this conference. Everyone was also extremely welcoming and engaging. But more importantly, stretch yourself to experience the more diverse perspectives you can. I was able to learn the unique perspective of people of a different ethnicity and better define my own cultural influence on my leadership style. The responsibility of a leader is to be sensitive to and aware of the needs of his or her community. SBSLC allowed me to listen to the leaders of another minority and gain some awareness of the issues faced by my peers.

Nicole Guenztel ’19 (center) with LAUNCH staff Benjamin Simington (left) and Dustin Kemp (right) at SBSLC 2018

Nicole Guentzel ’19
Honors Housing Community Junior Advisor and biology major from Beach City, TX

The Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC) is a yearly conference that empowers students to be successful leaders by providing workshops and keynote speakers that teach students financial responsibility, how to create a positive impact, and how to overcome various challenges. The theme of this conference was a Legacy in Living Color.

One reason I attended this conference as a white female is because I find it very important to step out of my comfort zone and be the minority every once in a while, whether this is going to a country that does not speak English, or going to a conference where people look different than me. I enjoy learning new perspectives. It was uncomfortable at times since many of the students had faced discrimination from mostly white individuals. In fact, the only time discrimination from another race was acknowledged was during a question the last speaker answered. It brought into perspective how much of a problem racial discrimination is in just daily life.

The first Keynote speaker, Dr. Wickliff, was my favorite presenter. He graduated with a PhD at the age of 25, thus accomplishing one of his lifelong goals. It was very inspiring to hear how he overcame challenges because it was very similar to how I approach obstacles. When people do not believe in us we both strive to prove them wrong. Recently, I have been trying to console myself that if I do not achieve my goal, I am not a failure. Although, this would be true, it is not a healthy mindset because it is taking away my motivation to complete my goal. The speaker re-inspired me to pursue my goal and he also made sure that everyone present knew that they were enough- that we all have the potential to accomplish our goals.

My advice is to attend this conference no matter your racial identity. Come with an open mind and really listen to the workshop presenters. I learned many skills that will help me become a more independent adult and a more effective leader in the workforce. I also recommend meeting new people and not just staying with the people from your same university the whole time because I met wonderful people from all over the nation that I would not have met if I just stayed with the Texas A&M students.

I would like to thank the LAUNCH office for sponsoring me to attend this conference.

 

 

Ezell and Versaw to Receive Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Awards Thursday

Kendal Ezell ‘18 and Brooke Versaw ‘18 have been selected to receive 2017 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarship awards. Both students previously received Honorable Mention recognition in the 2017 Goldwater scholarship competition.

In 1984, the six surviving members of the Mercury 7 mission created the scholarship to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors. Today the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) program members include astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs. Over the last 33 years the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has awarded over $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars over the last 32 years. This year only 45 students nationwide are being honored with this prestigious scholarship.

2017 Astronaut Scholar, Kendal Ezell ’18

Kendal Ezell is a senior biomedical engineering student minoring in neuroscience. She was honored in 2017 as the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior for Texas A&M after being selected as the Outstanding Junior from the College of Engineering. As noted above, Ezell was selected for Honorable Mention in the 2017 Goldwater Scholarship competition, and is a member of both the University Honors Program and the Engineering Honors program. Ezell was an Undergraduate Research Scholar, completing her undergraduate thesis on shape-memory polymer foam devices for the treatment of brain aneurysms with Dr. Duncan Maitland in the Biomedical Device Lab. She has also conducted research on the relationship between emotions and learning memory with Dr. Mark Packard in the Institute of Neuroscience, and on biotech device design with Dr. Jeremy Wasser in the Germany Biosciences Study Abroad Program. Ezell’s research has resulted in three publications, including one in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Journal for Design of Medical Devices Conference for which she is first author. She also was awarded a Gilman scholarship for international study and has gained inventorship on provisional patent applications.

Ezell plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. dual degree and work in medical device development and treatment and prevention of tissue degradation in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Ezell’s grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s sparked her passion in this direction. “Before my grandmother’s passing,” she says, “medicine was my chosen field, but her illness gave me further direction into a research career. I realized that I want to do more than just treat patients; I want to conduct research so that I can develop new ways to help and treat patients like my grandmother. The fields of neurology and tissue engineering interest me. It is at the intersections of these fields where I hope to apply interdisciplinary strategies to solve problems in unique ways.”

2017 Astronaut Scholar, Brooke Versaw ’18

Brooke Versaw is a senior chemistry student with a minor in business administration. Versaw was selected as a Beckman Scholar and University Scholar in 2015, and has served in multiple leadership capacities within the University Honors Program Honors Housing Community and Honors Student Council. Versaw also has extensive research experience. The summer before her senior year in high school, she worked with Dr. Junha Jeon at the University of Texas at Arlington as a Welch Foundation Summer Scholar. The summer before her freshman year at Texas A&M, she worked with Dr. Steve Lockless in the Department of Biology to study intracellular signaling. Most recently, Versaw has worked with her Beckman Scholar mentor, Dr. Karen Wooley, as an Undergraduate Research Scholar. Her thesis examined the development of a novel class of degradable polycarbonate materials to create environmentally-responsible plastics. In addition to conducting original research, Versaw is also invested in extolling the virtues of scientific research.

“While my research experience has undoubtedly informed and inspired my desire for a career in scientific research,” Versaw says, “it has also made me an enthusiastic advocate for science outreach. As an Undergraduate Research Ambassador for Texas A&M University, a volunteer for the annual Chemistry Open House, and a workshop leader for Expanding Your Horizons, a STEM initiative for 6th grade girls, I discovered that I enjoy both conducting research and communicating its findings. Moreover, I enjoy serving as a role model and a source of encouragement for younger students.”

Following graduation, Versaw plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry and a career as a polymer chemist on the faculty of a Tier-1 research institution, where she can impact both her field of polymer and materials synthesis, and help cultivate future generations of scientists.

Ezell and Versaw will be presented their ASF awards at a special ceremony on Thursday, October 26, by former astronaut Fred Gregory.

2017 ASF Award Presentation, Reach for the Stars, with astronaut Fred Gregory. Gregory will present awards to Ezell and Versaw before making public comments.

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

Three Aggies Selected for Goldwater Honorable Mention

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

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

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program seeks sophomores and juniors who are planning careers in STEM research. Fewer than 300 Goldwater Scholars are chosen from across the nation each year, so the scholarship is both prestigious and highly competitive. Candidates must demonstrate strong research experience, clear vision for a research career, and academic excellence in STEM coursework. Students selected as Goldwater Scholars receive a $7,500 scholarship for the next academic year.

Goldwater Honorable Mention, Kendall Ezell ’18

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

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

Goldwater Honorable Mention Kanika Gakhar ’18

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

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

Goldwater Honorable Mention Brooke Versaw ’18

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

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

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