Tag Archives: Undergraduate Research Scholars

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.

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2016 Best Thesis Awards

The Undergraduate Research Scholars program is LAUNCH’s longest-standing and largest capstone program, with 227 Scholars completing the distinction this year. Research Scholars undertake the yearlong process of conducting research with a faculty mentor and writing an undergraduate thesis. Each spring, two Scholars are honored with the Outstanding Thesis Award, which is offered in two categories: Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and Social Studies & Humanities.

The 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Thesis Award in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics is senior David LaCroix ’16, and Engineering Honors student and computer science major. Describing his work, David writes, “The goal of this research project is to characterize the most effective data architecture in terms of locally or remote hosted for a given Internet-of-things workload.” He explains that neither the research nor industry communities have guidelines for handling data in applications on Internet-of-things devices. The goal of David’s thesis, titled “Data Services for Internet of Things,” is to provide information to developers about issues – including security, efficiency, and accessibility – involved in choosing the best host for data repositories. David undertook this study with the support of his research advisor, Dr. Dilma Da Silva in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

STEM Best Thesis winner David LaCroix (center), with Dr. Duncan MacKenzie (left) and Dr. Dilma Da Silva (right).
STEM Best Thesis winner David LaCroix (center), with Dr. Duncan MacKenzie (left) and Dr. Dilma Da Silva (right).

The 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Thesis Award in Social Studies & Humanities is senior John T. Davis ’16, an Honors Fellows student and double major in international studies and French. Working with his research advisor, Dr. Dinah Hannaford in the Department of International Studies, John explored the question Does helping hurt?, an examination of the connections between Christian mission work and international development. Studying the shift from faith-based aid to a more global and modern approach to social change, John sought to address questions regarding the role of faith in motivating positive change. “By understanding this issue,” John writes, “the institutions that make decisions regarding international development, religious or not, will have a clearer understanding of how their motivations and objectives affect the progress and quality of international development.” John’s thesis is titled “The Historical Impact of Christian Missions on International Development and its Effects on Contemporary Practices.”

John Davis
Social Studies & Humanities Best Thesis winner John Davis (center) with Dr. Duncan MacKenzie (left) and Dr. Dinah Hannaford (right).

David’s and John’s achievements were recognized at the LAUNCH Recognition Ceremony on May 12, 2016, in the Bethancourt Ballroom in the MSC. All Undergraduate Research Scholars receive a medallion to wear at graduation, and the Research Scholars distinction is indicated in their graduation programs and on their transcripts. The 2015-2016 cohort of Research Scholars was the largest ever.

Students interested in participating in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program should contact ugr@tamu.edu. Eligibility requirements include a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above and 60 hours of undergraduate coursework, 24 of which must be completed at TAMU.

Four Outstanding Students Nominated for the 2016 Udall Scholarship

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, 2016 Udall Nominee
Omar Elhassan ’17, 2016 Udall Nominee

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, 2016 Udall Nominee
Jaclyn Guz ’17, 2016 Udall Nominee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, 2016 Udall Nominee
Phillip Hammond ’17, 2016 Udall Nominee

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.

Aly Miranda '17, 2016 Udall Nominee
Aly Miranda ’17, 2016 Udall Nominee

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.

Two Students Nominated for Carnegie Junior Fellows Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alejandro Azocar Named Top Aerospace Engineering Student in the U.S.

Congratulations to recent graduate, Alejandro Azocar ’14,  who was named the top aerospace engineering student in the United States! Azocar participated in our programs as a University Scholar and Undergraduate Research Scholar.

Click the link below for the full story on the Dwight Look College of Engineering site:

Aerospace undergraduate student receives awards | 12 | 05 | 2015 | News & Events | College of Engineering.

Three TAMU Students Recognized in Goldwater Competition

The Goldwater Scholarship is a competitive National Fellowship that recognizes students with outstanding potential who wish to pursue careers in STEM research and rewards them with a maximum of a $7500 scholarship to be used in the coming academic year. The 2015 Goldwater Scholars were selected from a pool of 1206 math, science and engineering majors nominated by faculty at top academic institutions for their outstanding academic achievement and research potential.

Three Texas A&M Students were recognized this past March for their outstanding academic achievements in biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and mathematics by the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation. Erica Gacasan, a ’16 biomedical engineering major, and Aaron Griffin, a ’16 biochemistry major, have been selected as Goldwater Scholars and William Linz, a ‘16 mathematics major, has been named a Goldwater Honorable Mention.

Female student with long dark hair in a maroon and white t-shirt
2015 Goldwater Scholar Erica Gacasan ’16

Gacasan, who has been developing artificial scaffolds for regenerating bone and cartilage with Dr. Melissa Grunlan in the department of Biomedical Engineering, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. Gacasan’s outstanding research and academic strength, including her role as a team leader for the Aggie Research Scholars Program, led to her selection as one of only 16 students to join the 2015 Biomedical Engineering Summer Internship Program at the National Institutes of Health. Gacasan’s remarkable research acumen and communication abilities resulted in her being chosen to represent TAMU undergraduate research at Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Austin and as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador here on campus. Gacasan has also participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.

2015 Goldwater Scholar Aaron Griffin '16
2015 Goldwater Scholar Aaron Griffin ’16

Griffin, who has been researching the mechanisms of mitochondrial disease with Dr. Vishal Gohil in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, plans to pursue an M.D. and a Ph.D. in cancer cell biology after graduation. Griffin’s research activities and academic excellence, including his participation in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, led to his being selected for the 2014 Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Undergraduate Research for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Griffin has also taken on leadership positions as as the Co-Chair of the Explorations Executive Board where he oversees the process of proposal solicitation, article review and selection, editing, layout and publication of TAMU’s Undergraduate Journal and a 2015-2016 Undergraduate Research Ambassador where he will spread the word about the excitement of undergraduate research .

Male student with short dark hair and glasses, wearing a maroon polo shirt.
2015 Goldwater Honorable Mention William Linz ’16

Linz, who has been investigating the use of mathematics to model searching strategies through large volumes of data with Dr. Catherine Yan in the Department of Mathematics, plans to pursue a Ph. D. in mathematics. Linz’s unusual and complex insight into combinatorics has led to a publication in a professional peer-reviewed mathematics journal and successful completion of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. His leadership and desire to communicate a love of science in general and mathematics in particular have been honed through his service as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and a member of the Explorations Executive Board.

Current freshman and sophomores interested in applying for the 2016 Goldwater Scholarship should contact Jamaica Pouncy, Program Coordinator, National Fellowships and Honors Academic Advisor, jamaica.pouncy@tamu.edu.

Undergraduate Research Scholars Best Thesis Awards

Last month 170 students completed the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. This Capstone program is open to any TAMU student with a GPR of 3.0 or better who is interested in undertaking a research project under the mentorship of a TAMU faculty member over the course of consecutive Fall and Spring semesters. Undergraduate Research Scholars submit a proposal and timeline for their project in early Fall, attend a series of events and workshops designed to support their progress over the two semesters, present their work publicly at TAMU Student Research Week or a professional conference in their field, and submit a final scholarly piece (most commonly a thesis) by early April. The majority of award winners at Student Research Week are Undergraduate Research Scholars. Since the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program is an official Honors distinction, students who finish the program are designated Undergraduate Research Scholars in their graduation program and on their transcript, and receive a beautiful medallion commemorating their achievement at the Honors and Undergraduate Research Recognition Ceremony in May of each year. Honors and Undergraduate Research staff evaluate student engagement and accomplishment to select two best thesis award winners—one in Humanities/Arts/Social Science and one in Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics disciplines.

Humanities/Arts/Social Sciences 2015 Best Thesis  winner Susannah Barr '15 (left) with her research mentor Dr. Cynthia Werner (right).
Humanities/Arts/Social Sciences 2015 Best Thesis winner Susannah Barr ’15 (left) with her research mentor Dr. Cynthia Werner (right).

Our best thesis winner for the Humanities/Arts/Social Sciences is Susannah Barr, a class of 2015 graduating senior majoring in anthropology and minoring in Spanish and economics. Susannah did her research under the mentorship of Dr. Cynthia Werner, Head of the Department of Anthropology. Susannah chose to focus her studies on the Sunflower Project, a small aid organization dedicated to children’s health and nutrition in the rural Dominican Republic, which Susannah and three friends founded in May 2013. Susannah’s engagement with the Sunflower Project led her to the realization that the group had begun aid programming without understanding the needs and desires of the community they were working in. Her thesis project aimed to address this problem by performing a needs assessment that took into account wealth, income inequality, proximity to markets, current diet, preferred diet, and obstacles to dietary change. Susannah’s studies demonstrated that while some of the Sunflower Project’s assumptions were wrong, many of the initiatives undertaken by the project were appropriate for the community. More importantly, the information uncovered through her research allowed Susannah to make concrete suggestions for different or additional programming that will have a major and welcome impact on the diet and health of the community the Sunflower Project serves.

STEM 2015 Best Thesis winner Connor Aimone '15 (left) with HUR Executive Director Dr. Suma Datta (middle), and his research mentor Dr. Le Xie (right).
STEM 2015 Best Thesis winner Connor Aimone ’15 (left) with HUR Executive Director Dr. Suma Datta (middle), and his research mentor Dr. Le Xie (right).

Our best thesis winner for the STEM fields is Connor Aimone, a class of 2015 senior majoring in electrical engineering and minoring in mathematics. Connor completed his thesis work under the mentorship of Dr. Le Xie, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. Connor chose to focus on developing and testing mathematical models for voltage source converter based DC lines for transmission and distribution of power. The motivation behind this work revolved around finding an improved method for integrating renewable resources, such as wind or solar power. Improper connection of these energy sources into the nation’s power system has the potential to cause stability issues that would “crash” the power grid and leave large swaths of the community without electricity. Connor’s sophisticated mathematical representations allowed him to generate a detailed model that operators will be able to use to better understand the capabilities and limits of a particular system. He was also able to generate a simplified model that is easier and faster to use, allowing for modeling of systems over time. Both of his models are capable of standalone simulation or coupling with preexisting power system models.