Tag Archives: Undergraduate Research

Honors Reunion (A Letter to Honors Freshmen)

By Adelia Humme ’15

Dear Honors freshmen,

Right now, your biggest concern is probably How will I make friends? You may be wondering Why do I have to live in the Honors Housing Community? Or What if I don’t like my roommate?

Worry no more. Living in Honors Housing is one of the best experiences you can have at Texas A&M. It’s one thing for me, as an Honors Advisor, to tell you that you’ll make plenty of friends. It’s another thing for me, as a former Honors student who lived in Lechner Hall for two years, to tell you that my cohort of fellow Honors students is still in contact more than a year after graduation. For Memorial Day weekend, more than a dozen former students from the University Honors program, Class of 2015, reunited in Houston. Our weekend included volleyball, bowling, swimming, two-stepping at Wild West, a crawfish boil, a visit to the planetarium, and about eight rounds of the card game Werewolf. We also put our college educations to the test at Escape the Room Texas, where we solved puzzles and searched for clues to find keys and open combo locks in order to “escape.” You’ll be delighted to hear that Honors pays off: we got out with one minute to spare on the one-hour time limit!

escape room
Honors Former Students Conquered the room!
Sam & Edward patriotism
Sam & Edward are patriotic!

More important than anything we did was reminiscing about our time in the Honors Housing Community, where we met as freshmen. Most of us were Sophomore Advisors (SAs) in 2012-2013; a few were “spouses,” or partners chosen by Sophomore Advisors to help mentor Honors freshmen. Living in Lechner and McFadden Halls together bonded us. We pulled all-nighters in Hobofo, Lechner’s second-floor foyer. As freshmen, we designed the greatest shack ever for Habitat for Humanity’s annual fundraiser, Shack-a-thon. It featured an enormous and detailed Nazgul for our Lord of the Rings theme. As SAs, we painted ourselves blue for free food at Blue Baker and hosted our own Hunger Games for the freshmen, arming them with pool noodles and flour-filled socks. We opened the annual talent show with our own rendition of “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. And even after we moved out of HHC, we volunteered for Big Event, attended Muster, celebrated Ring Day, and dressed up for Ring Dance together.

Nerd Shack 2012
Nerd Shack 2012

The Aggie spirit is still strong in our hearts, and we still hold to our identity as Honors students. So if you’re afraid that you’re going to be alone in college, I hope I can reassure you. Living in the Honors Housing Community, I felt that I had found people who spoke not only my language but my dialect. My fellow Honors students liked what I liked; we watched the same sci-fi TV shows and knew the same geek culture references. You’ll make connections, like we did. You’ll make memories, like we did. You might meet your future spouse (no pressure!). And you very well could have a one-year reunion of your own in 2021.

crawfish boil better
Honors Former Students enjoy a crawfish boil

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten your second worry, which is probably What’s my plan? What am I going to do after college? Not knowing the answer right now is okay! You have plenty of time (and plenty of guidance within Honors) to help you figure it out. We were there, too, and we made it. Here’s what we’re doing now:

  • Alyssa Bennett is pursuing a PhD in naval architecture at the University of Michigan. She majored in ocean engineering and graduated with Foundation Honors. Alyssa was a Sophomore Advisor and a Junior Advisor.
  • Sam Carey is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech through the Critical Skills Master’s Program at Sandia National Laboratories. Sam spends his summers working for Sandia in Albuquerque, NM. He majored in electrical engineering and graduated with University Honors and an Honors Minor in mathematics. Sam was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Mallory Carson is a PhD student studying medical physics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She is working on methods to detect and correct errors in dose calculations to improve the quality of radiation therapy. Mallory majored in radiological health engineering and minored in mathematics. She was a Sophomore Advisor and an Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Danielle Cope is a planning/project engineer for ExxonMobil at the Baytown Olefins Plant. She majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors and Foundation Honors. Danielle was Pj’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.
  • Pj Downey is a systems engineer for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He majored in aerospace engineering and was a Sophomore Advisor. Pj graduated with certificates in engineering project management and engineering business management.
  • Jacob Glenn is a healthcare consultant at Apogee Consulting Group in Houston. He majored in economics and was an Undergraduate Research Scholar and Sophomore Advisor.
  • April Holland is a business consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Houston. She double-majored in business honors and supply chain management. April was a Sophomore Advisor and graduated with Business Honors.
  • Edward Ji is in the Baylor College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program in Houston and continues performing as a violinist with the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra. He majored in biomedical sciences with a minor in psychology.
  • Taylor Peterson is an administrative assistant with Switched Over Consulting and plans a career with Texas Parks and Wildlife. She is majoring in wildlife & fisheries sciences and was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Lauren Roverse is a second-year student at the University of Houston College of Optometry, where she is pursuing a Doctor of Optometry degree. Lauren majored in biology and was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Eric Vavra is a chemical engineering PhD student at Rice University, where he is investigating foam flow dynamics in porous media. He majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors. Eric was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Trey Whitaker works as a developer for the Advance Technology Division of AmRisc, LLC. Trey majored in computer science and was April’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.

As for me, I’m currently an Honors Advisor and the program coordinator for National Fellowships and University Scholars at Texas A&M, but I’ll soon be moving to Boston to begin graduate school at Emerson College. Leaving College Station after five years feels like the end of an era because Texas A&M, and particularly the Honors community, has been my second home. I hope you find that same sense of belonging, security, and no-holds-barred fun when you arrive.

Best of luck, and gig ’em!


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.

Dr. Sarah Misemer Selected for 2016 Unterberger Award

In 2004, the Betty M. Unterberger Award for Outstanding Service to Honors Education was created and presented to Dr. Unterberger in recognition of her many years of service and significant contribution to the growth and development of high-impact education at Texas A&M.

The 2016 recipient of the Unterberger Award is Dr.Sarah Misemer.

Dr. Sarah Misemer 2016 Unterberger Award Recipient
Dr. Sarah Misemer 2016 Unterberger Award Recipient

LAUNCH: Honors extends a warm thank-you to Dr. Misemer for her contributions to Undergraduate Research and her support of students in the humanities! Dr. Misemer was recognized by Dr. Sumana Datta, executive director of LAUNCH, at the LAUNCH Recognition Ceremony in the MSC on Thursday, May 12th. Says Dr. Datta, “Dr. Misemer’s contributions to and support of Undergraduate Research as an administrator and her initiative in promoting and developing the Glasscock Undergraduate Summer Scholars program are changing the perceptions of how Humanities students can successfully experience these life-changing activities. Her care for our student’s well-being and their education is obvious and much appreciated.”

To see a list of previous recipients, visit the TAMU HUR Faculty Awards page.


Dr. Sarah M. Misemer is an associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Studies and the 2016 recipient of the Betty M. Unterberger Award for Outstanding Service to Honors Education, which celebrates a faculty member’s commitment to Undergraduate Research. In 2004, the Unterberger Award was created and presented to Dr. Unterberger in recognition of her many years of service and significant contribution to the growth and development of honors education at Texas A&M.

Dr. Misemer has impacted research in the humanities at Texas A&M by establishing the Glasscock Undergraduate Summer Scholars program. Through this program, a tenured faculty member leads a two-week seminar on a specific topic, and students in the seminar develop a research question to study under the faculty member’s mentorship during the following eight weeks. In this second half of the program, students engage in peer writing activities at the Glasscock Center and in writing studios custom-designed for the program by the University Writing Center. The final outcome is students’ public presentations of their written proposals for future research through the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. The faculty mentor meets with students every two weeks throughout the summer to guide the development of the project and then serves as the research advisor for students’ participation in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program the following year.

In addition to serving as the associate director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Dr. Misemer is the author of Secular Saints: Performing Frida Kahlo, Carlos Gardel, Eva Perón, and Selena (Tamesis, 2008) and Moving Forward, Looking Back: Trains, Literature, and the Arts in the River Plate (Bucknell UP, 2010). Her publications on contemporary River Plate, Mexican, Spanish, and Latino theater have appeared in the journals Latin American Theatre Review, Gestos, Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Languages, and Hispanic Poetry Review, among many others. Additionally, Dr. Misemer’s work with the Latin American Theatre Review includes serving as the editor of its book series and on the editorial board of its journal. She is the past president and vice president of the Asociación Internacional de Literatura y Cultura Femenina Hispánica. Dr. Misemer holds a PhD in Spanish from the University of Kansas and has been a professor at Texas A&M since 2004.

Undergraduate Research Expo 2015

Thank you! Undergraduate Research Expo 2015

The 2015 Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Expo held on Wednesday, September 30 was a huge success. Over 300 undergraduates across all colleges visited the expo and learned about research opportunities available in the 30+ programs represented.

For a list of the participating programs and more information about the expo, visit http://tx.ag/ugrexpo2015.

LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research is grateful to all of the faculty, staff, and students that made this event a success! If you have comments, suggestions for next year’s expo, or want to share a great story about getting connected to research, please contact ugr@tamu.edu.

2015 Astronaut Scholars Announced

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.

2015 Astronaut Scholar Kirstin Maulding '16
2015 Astronaut Scholar Kirstin Maulding ’16

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.

2015 Astronaut Scholar, Will Linz '16
2015 Astronaut Scholar, Will Linz ’16

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.

digitalevite_charlieduke_LGRelated: See post honoring Maulding & Linz on the TAMU College of Science Blog

Undergraduate Research: Find your Fit!

Texas A&M University provides undergraduate students with valuable opportunities to expand their interests and learn about their intended career fields through participation in the cutting-edge research being conducted by our world-class faculty. We are often asked, “how early can I get started in research?” and the answer is “as early as you like!” The stories shared below come from two students who learned about and began pursuing research opportunities in their first year as Honors Students.

“A couple months after I first began college, I realized that there were a nearly infinite number of paths my life could take, but there was only one path my life will take. This realization was somewhat scary because not only was I continuously learning about myself as a person, but also I knew very little about the industry I was entering. My love for learning turned my attention to research, and through research I found a path in life that I can enthusiastically follow.

“I began research in Dr. Berna Hascakir’s Heavy Oil, Oil shales, Oil sands, & Carbonate Analysis and Recovery Methods (HOCAM) research group in Fall [of my sophomore year]. I started by assisting graduate students in conducting viscosity and density experiments. As I became more comfortable in the lab setting, I focused more on my own experiments and analysis in in-situ combustion. Dr. Hascakir and I eventually narrowed my topic of research to the burning behavior of heavy oil and oil-sand mixtures. My depth of analysis and knowledge of the topic developed, and I published two conference papers with my colleagues and mentor this past summer. I will be presenting both of these papers in Fall 2015, one in Utah and the other in Ecuador.

“This research experience has made an incredible impact on my life. Research gave me something to be passionate about in the industry, and this helped me to focus on my education and future career. The HOCAM research group is a cooperative, supportive, and hard-working set of students. We are constantly challenging ourselves to further our analysis, and with Dr. Hascakir’s guidance, we have conducted significant studies in the field of thermal recovery.” – Kristina Klock

Petroleum engineering majors Kristina Klock '16 and Matthew Williamson '16 in Dr. Berna Hascakir's lab.
Petroleum engineering majors Kristina Klock ’16 and Matthew Williamson ’16 in Dr. Berna Hascakir’s lab.

“My undergraduate research actually began the very first week of my freshman year, when I introduced myself to one of my petroleum professors after class and he invited me to attend his research teams’ weekly meetings. My first semester I was tasked with a lot of test tube cleaning and lab maintenance but I got to be a small part of all the ongoing research our of our lab. My research professor retired later that year and, at his suggestion, I moved to his colleague’s research group.

“Dr. Berna Hascakir took me under her supervision and allowed me to help out on several graduate projects in the fall semester, and then was even willing to give me class credit and compensation for my work in the spring semester. By the end of the semester we had a research abstract that was accepted for a conference presentation in Medellin, Colombia! We finalized the paper that summer and Dr. Hascakir presented it in September of 2014.” – Mathew Williamson

As these anecdotes suggest, finding the right research opportunity requires that you make an effort, but that effort can have life-changing payoff. Don’t miss your opportunity to find the right fit. Mark your calendar to join us for the Undergraduate Research Expo on September 30!


Aggies Commit to Practicing Personal and Social Responsibility

An op-ed piece by Marvin Krislov and Stephen S. Volk in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Apr. 7, 2014) titled “College is Still for Creating Citizens,” highlights a crucial role played by the undergraduate education in crafting leaders who are thoughtful about “what kind of life might be meaningful, productive and rewarding.” This is a concept which dates (at least) to Aristotle and up through the history of civic participation in the United States. Krislov & Volk demonstrate that a broad set of competencies key to a liberal education—and which are reflected in the TAMU Undergraduate Learning Outcomes—remain in high value and demand relative to job-specific skills.

Among these competencies, the TAMU Undergraduate Outcomes lists the practice of personal and social responsibility, including ethical leadership, the application of rational decision-making to ethical dilemmas, awareness and attention to the consequences of one’s actions, and engaging in civic activity. The University Honors Program encourages our students to practice personal and social responsibility by considering how their values, goals, and talents intersect, and making intentional choices to pursue careers that allow them to make significant contributions in the areas they care about most.

Victoria Easton '15, 2014 Udall Scholar
Victoria Easton ’15, 2014 Udall Scholar

One student who exemplifies this commitment to practicing personal and social responsibility is Victoria Easton ’15 from Tomball, TX, who recently graduated with a double major in history and philosophy. In addition to participating in the University Honors Program, Liberal Arts Honors, and the Cornerstone Learning Community, Easton was an officer for FREE, an anti-trafficking organization, and was the founder and president of the American Indian Student Association. Easton was also a National Merit Scholar and President’s Endowed Scholarship recipient, and was awarded the History Undergraduate Scholarly Activities Grant to support her independent research.

The University Honors Program encourages our students to practice personal and social responsibility by considering how their values, goals, and talents intersect, and making intentional choices to pursue careers that allow them to make significant contributions in the areas they care about most.

Easton said that she decided to start the American Indian Student Organization because, while Texas A&M is a diverse institution, she found, “no place for Native students to build connections with one another or promote the role of the distinguished Native alumni in our university’s history.” Easton found that her cultural heritage and professional interests intersect in an important way. Describing an internship with the Center to End the Trafficking and Exploitation of Children (CTEC), she noted that ads aimed at exploiting women used, “Indian heritage as effective selling point.” This experience has helped push Easton into exploring the issue of exploitation and violence against women in Native American communities.

In 2014 Easton was selected for the prestigious Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Scholarship, which annually awards 50 scholarships to students pursuing careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Easton was selected based on her work studying historical notions of law, justice, and gender in Muscogee communities and plans to complete a senior thesis on the topic next spring through the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Easton’s research mentor, Dr. Angela Hudson, noted that it is rare to see a student combine their civic commitments and scholarly interests as well as Easton has. “In combining these concerns [violence and exploitation of Native women], she has crafted a career trajectory that is not only reflective of her scholarly work but also demonstrates her commitment to engaged community activism, with a maturity and confidence rare in students of her age.” After attending law school, Easton plans a career advocating for human trafficking and domestic abuse victims.