Tag Archives: University Scholars

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.

Introducing the Class of 2019 University Scholars

The Honors Welcome on Friday, August 26, recognized twelve new students joining the University Scholars program. University Scholars is a personal and professional development program for high-achieving students who serve as ambassadors for the University Honors program. Each spring, ten to twelve freshmen are selected for the Scholars program through an intensive application and interview process. The program seeks students who are intellectually curious and who demonstrate critical thinking, self-awareness, poise, and maturity. Scholars are able to engage in rigorous conversation and to defend their ideas. They’re also highly accomplished and motivated students who love learning for the sake of learning.

Class of 2019 University Scholars
Class of 2019 University Scholars

These new Scholars will join their twenty-one peers in the Exploration Series, seminar courses offered to Scholars each semester. Previous Exploration Series have delved into transportation, education, television, comedy, and animal conservation, among many other topics. Sophomores new to the program participate in a personal statement writing seminar, “Futuring Yourself,” together.

Throughout the program, University Scholars seek intellectual challenge and share their unique perspectives from an array of academic and cultural backgrounds. We are excited for twelve new University Scholars to grow in this program during the next three years and look forward to seeing their future accomplishments both at Texas A&M and in the world!

Mustafa Al Nomani
University Scholar Mustafa Al-Nomani ’19

Mustafa Al-Nomani is a philosophy major from Houston, Texas. He is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Phi Eta Sigma. Mustafa is pursuing the Liberal Arts Honors program and has been a bus driver for the Aggie Spirit campus buses. He is also a Regents’ Scholar.

Matthew Curtis '19
University Scholar Matthew Curtis ’19

Matthew Curtis is a mechanical engineering major from Spokane, Washington. Matthew completed one deployment with Dog Company, First Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and two training deployments with Animal Company, First Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment to the Kingdom of Jordan. In summer 2013, he was recognized as second in class at the Advanced Assault Course in Camp Pendleton, California. He is a recipient of the Lou and CC Burton ’42 scholarship and the Joseph and Patty P. Mueller scholarship. Matthew volunteers as a Peer Advisor for Veteran Education through the Veteran Resource & Support Center.

Ashley Hayden '19
University Scholar Ashley Hayden ’19

Ashley Hayden is a biology major from Friendswood, Texas. She is the vice president of Health Occupational Students of America, a new, national organization for premedical students. Ashley will serve as a supplemental instructor for chemistry or biology this year and is involved in the American Medical Student Association and the Texas A&M chapter of the American Red Cross. This past summer, Ashley shadowed a pediatric ICU pediatrician for over fifty hours. She has also volunteered for more than a hundred hours. Ashley is pursuing a minor in art, as well as the honors programs in the College of Science and the Department of Biology.

Victoria Hicks '19
University Scholar Victoria Hicks ’19

Victoria Hicks is a chemical engineering major from Plainfield, Illinois. She is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Engineering Honors program. Victoria conducts research on dispersed nanomaterials in Dr. Micah Green’s lab, the “Green Group”. This past summer, she interned at Essentium Materials, a company of materials scientists and engineers. During a previous internship at Environmental Solutions in 2015, Victoria was responsible for sales calls and placing purchase orders. She has been a member of Students in Physics, Women in Engineering, and DEEP (Discover, Enjoy, and Explore Physics and Engineering).

Ashley Holt '19
University Scholar Ashley Holt ’19

Ashley Holt is a biomedical engineering major from Kingwood, Texas. As a Beckman Scholar, she joined Dr. Young’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry, where she studies phage lysis proteins and nature’s antibiotic agents. Ashley is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society. As a freshman, she was awarded second place in Texas A&M’s Freshman Sophomore Math Contest and presented a demo at the annual Physics & Engineering Festival as part of the Discover, Enjoy, and Explore Physics and Engineering program. She also participated in John 15, the freshman organization at St. Mary’s Student Center.

Ecaroh Jackson '19
University Scholar Ecaroh Jackson ’19

Ecaroh Jackson, from Caldwell, Texas, is an interdisciplinary studies major specializing in math and science. She volunteers at Camp Dreamcatcher, which serves children with cancer, and is an AP Scholar and a member of Phi Eta Sigma. As a freshman, Ecaroh participated in the Lohman Learning Community and was a member of a panel for the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture’s open classroom.

Joy Koonin '19
University Scholar Joy Koonin ’19

Joy Koonin, from Concord, California, is an international studies major specializing in international politics and diplomacy. She is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Association of Cornerstone Students. Joy has attended the Hasbara Fellowship in Israel and the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. She is an active member of Aggie Students Supporting Israel, the Texas A&M chapter of the Lone Survivor Foundation, and Aggies Support United Service Organizations. In her spare time, Joy runs a costuming and alterations business called Joy’s Dresserie, which specializes in historical clothing. She is pursuing a minor in Chinese.

Luke Oaks '19
University Scholar Luke Oaks ’19

Luke Oaks is a biomedical engineering major from Troy, Ohio, who serves as a Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassador, a resident advisor for the Startup Living Learning Community, and an editorial board member for Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. As a Beckman Scholar, Luke is developing technology for lung cancer detection in Dr. Gerard Coté’s bioinstrumentation lab. Luke received the Class Star Award for Leadership and was selected as one of fifteen scholars in the nation to serve on the Pearson Student Advisory Board, through which he will improve educational technologies. Luke is the vice president of A&M’s club tennis team and a mentor to the Posse Scholar community. He is pursuing a minor in sociology.

Keith Phillips '19
University Scholar Keith Phillips ’19

Keith Phillips is an electrical engineering major from Flint, Texas. As a member of Engineers Serving the Community, he contributed to an interactive exhibit about water tables and runoff for the Brazos Valley Fair Water Demo. For the past several summers, he has interned as a programmer and IT technician at KP Evolutions, a company that designs automated systems. Keith is a President’s Endowed Scholar and will serve as a Sophomore Advisor this year. He also participates in Student Bonfire. Keith is licensed as an apprentice electrician in the state of Texas and is pursuing a minor in Business Administration.

Alex Skwarczynski '19
University Scholar Alex Skwarczynski ’19

Alex Skwarczynski is a computer science major from Knoxville, Tennessee. He conducts aerospace research with Dr. Raktim Bhattacharya to predict possible orbital collisions. This summer, Alex interned with a tech startup. During a previous internship at Oak Ridge National Lab in 2015, Alex helped develop the concept for an improved neutron imaging instrument. He has participated in the Society of Flight Test Engineers, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Engineering Honors Program. Alex is a Brown Foundation Scholar, a President’s Endowed Scholar, and a National Merit Scholar and is pursuing a minor in business administration.

Ashley Taylor '19
University Scholar Ashley Taylor ’19

Ashley Taylor is an aerospace engineering major from Austin, Texas, and has recently returned from a summer of study abroad in Doha, Qatar. Ashley is a member of the Engineering Honors Program and the Society of Flight Test Engineers. She is also a general engineering representative of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This year, Ashley will serve as a Sophomore Advisor; she was previously a Resident Advisor in Lechner Hall. As a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar in 2014, Ashley researched bioregenerative life support systems. She is a recipient of the Peter Hunter Dunham ’74 Scholarship.

Taylor Welch '19
University Scholar Taylor Welch ’19

Taylor Welch is a business honors major from Houston, Texas, and a member of MSC Business Associates, the Mays Business Honors Program, and Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassadors. Last summer, she attended the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. As a freshman, Taylor served as a member of MSC Freshmen in Service and Hosting and the MSC Wiley Lecture Series, receiving the MSC First Year Involvement Award and the MSC Diversity of Involvement Award. She continues as a member of the MSC LT Jordan Institute for International Awareness, where she will serve as the Internship and Living Abroad Programs Director this year. Additionally, Taylor sits on the University Disciplinary Appeals Panel. She is a National Merit Scholar, a President’s Endowed Scholar, and a Craig and Galen Brown Foundation Scholar.

Freshmen interested in applying for the University Scholars program can learn more by attending information sessions in November or the recruitment mixer in December. The application will open in January 2017. See our website at http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.

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
sports
Sports!

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!

 

University Scholars Exploration Series – The Psychology of Superheroes

Each semester, the University Scholars enroll in small-group, discussion-based seminars. In Spring 2016, recently graduated Scholar Amy Arndt ’16 taught the seminar “Psychology of Superheroes,” using the medium of comic books as an introduction to psychology. One of her students, landscape architecture major Phillip Hammond ’17, reflects on the class’s debates and fun.

By Phillip Hammond ’17

University Scholar Phillip Hammond '17
University Scholar Phillip Hammond ’17

After a studio dinner of popcorn or the stereotypical microwave mac n’ cheese, I would have to inform my remaining studio-mates left working on projects that I will be leaving briefly to attend my Monday night class for Honors. As they lament for me, saying “Phillip, what awful class must meet after 6 P.M. on a Monday?!” I just chuckle to myself, because this was not any old Honors class. THIS was Psychology of Superheroes!

Psych of Supes, as I like to abbreviate it for my own amusement and efficiency, was a University Scholar class in which I expected to learn – hmm, I don’t know – possibly something nerdy and fun but, more importantly, distinct and engaging!! Whether psychoanalyzing the stress-induced trauma that a vigilante faces from their nightly “hobby” or receiving education on the factors and behaviors of common social disorders with identification through well-known comic book heroes, I would most certainly have to relate this class to a similar phenomenon that occurs with the recent Marvel franchise: entering in with the knowledge that it is going to be excellent, but leaving with an even greater sense of reward and intense need for another one!

As we may know, the University Scholars tend to represent a population with little to no displays of violence. However, had there been the option, I believe that gladiatorial combat would not have been out of the question for a seat in Amy Arndt’s seminar. Luckily, just barely achieving priority for the class, I was honored, elated, and ready to start the semester, expecting that we would likely be reading comics and going through each and every popular superhero, like Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, or Superman, to pick their brains for intriguing psychological characteristics. While Amy made certain to perfectly incorporate all the aforementioned fun, she managed to add even more, all the while revealing to us the functions within the human brain responsible for both sociological and psychological behaviors.

Along the way, we were brought on a journey through several different studies on the human psyche, which explained in a tangible manner the importance of identity in a reality shaped by our own perception, finding or relating to realistic experiences in fiction, representation through our heroes, and how good and evil cannot be simply trained into or isolated within an individual’s mind. The theories and scientific studies sparked several intense discussions on societal issues, such as the application of justice for criminals with psychological disorders or the complications of gender, ethnic, and sexual representation in media for token appeal versus proper relatability for the audience. Needless to say, we had a plethora of superheroes and supervillains to use as examples for these discussions and all our hypothetical situations.

All in all, after creating my own superhero, identifying myself as a superhero, learning which superheroes my fellow University Scholars view me as, taking the time to enjoy a few comic books more, and critically reviewing the most recent Superman movie as an official part of the seminar, I would most certainly say that my Monday nights were excellently spent in Psych of Supes. Now, I can’t wait for the next superhero University Scholar seminar, hint hint!

 Freshmen are recruited each spring to join the University Scholars program. To learn more, please see: http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.

Ashley Holt and Luke Oaks Selected as 2016 Beckman Scholars

LAUNCH congratulates biomedical engineering majors Ashley Holt ’19 and Luke Oaks ’19 on their selection as 2016 Beckman Scholars. In 2013, Texas A&M was invited to be one of twelve institutions participating in the Beckman Scholars program, which supports undergraduate research in chemistry, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and genetics. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, in conjunction with the TAMU office of the Vice President for Research, provides a scholarship for the Scholars, who are chosen at A&M through a rigorous application and interview process. A&M’s Beckman Scholars begin research with their Beckman faculty mentors during the summer after their freshman year and continue this research until graduation.

2016 Beckman Scholar Ashley Holt
2016 Beckman Scholar Ashley Holt

This summer, Ashley will join Dr. Ry Young’s lab to begin her work as a Beckman Scholar. She will be working to discover the mechanism by which a specific bacteriophage, or virus that infects bacteria, destroys the outer membrane of its host cell. The phage that she will be studying infects a type of E. coli and, in outbreaks, has been causing the release of harmful toxins along with the destruction of the bacterial cells. The outcome of this research could lead to methods of treatment for these particular outbreaks and, with a better understanding of the workings of phages, could lead to new antibiotic agents.

This will be Ashley’s first research lab experience, and she looks forward to learning and developing as a researcher and scientist. Ashley is excited to have the opportunity to work outside of her department and to gain some interdisciplinary knowledge. Overall, in her research career, she would like to work toward the accomplishment of one of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges: Engineering Better Medicine. Specifically, Ashley hopes to help create new and better antibiotics in order to combat the growing problem of multidrug resistant bacteria.

During her time at A&M, Ashley has joined the Biomedical Engineering Society and Discover, Explore, and Enjoy Physics and Engineering (DEEP), as well as John 15 and Transformers Bible Study. She is a Women in Engineering Ambassador and a member of both the Engineering Honors and University Honors programs. Ashley was also recently selected as a University Scholar. Before beginning her freshman year at A&M, Ashley was recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction and as the valedictorian at her high school, where she served as president of both National Honor Society and the choir. Ashley is from Kingwood, Texas.

2016 Beckman Scholar Luke Oaks
2016 Beckman Scholar Luke Oaks

Luke, son of Todd and Michele Oaks, is an undergraduate research assistant in the Grunlan Polymeric Biomaterials Lab, where he contributes to the development of an implantable glucose biosensor. During his first semester at Texas A&M, Luke was an experimental researcher for the DeBakey Undergraduate Research Scholars program, studying the relationship between radiation therapy and lymphatic failure. Additionally, in the summer before his freshman year, he was contracted as a Wright Scholars Research Assistant for the Air Force Research Lab in southwestern Ohio to work with heart rate sensors. Luke will begin his career as a Beckman Scholar this summer in Dr. Gerard Coté’s bioinstrumentation lab, where he will be initiating an independent project to develop a novel biomarker platform technology that uses surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy for lung cancer diagnosis.

In addition to his research endeavors, Luke has heavily involved himself in a variety of campus activities, including serving as a Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassador as well as joining the Editorial Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. He has also participated in three design competitions through Aggies Invent, represents the club tennis team – for which he is Vice President – at the national level, and was a delegate to the Gilbert Leadership Conference. After attending the POSSE+ Retreat earlier in the spring semester, Luke has developed strong ties to the POSSE Scholar community and looks forward to mentoring incoming freshmen during a STEM immersion experience later this summer.

Due to his extracurricular involvement and ongoing commitment to serving as an advisor for a community service initiative in his hometown, Luke received Texas A&M’s Freshman Class Star Award for Leadership. Additionally, Luke, a member of the Engineering Honors program, was recently selected as a University Scholar. He has been designated as one of 15 college students in the nation to serve on an advisory board for Pearson Higher Education, where he hopes to improve modern educational technologies by focusing his passions for sociology and academic empowerment. Prior to attending Texas A&M, Luke was recognized as a National Merit Scholar, a National AP Scholar, and the valedictorian of his high school in Troy, Ohio. He is pursuing a minor in sociology.

Ashley and Luke join Mikayla Barry ’17, a current Beckman Scholar in biomedical engineering, as well as Scholars Gabby Lessen ’18 in biochemistry, Jennifer Tran ’18 in biochemistry and genetics, and Brooke Versaw ’18 in chemistry.

University Scholars Exploration Series – Transportation

Each semester, the University Scholars enroll in small-group, discussion-based seminars. Brooke Versaw ’18, a chemistry major and Beckman Scholar, participated in the Transportation seminar this spring. Here, she recounts the class’s topics and guest speakers.

By Brooke Versaw

University Scholar Brooke Versaw '18
University Scholar Brooke Versaw ’18

Put simply, transportation takes us places – down the block, across the country, and (for a select few) into space. With over 4,000,000 miles of public and privately held roadways in the United States, the prominence and influence of transportation can hardly be overstated. Consequently, 5 University Scholars spent the Spring 2016 semester exploring the subject of transportation at length.

Early in the semester, Dr. Brian Rouleau discussed the First Transcontinental Railroad and the expansion of the American West, and Dr. Shelley Wachsmann, professor of Biblical Archaeology and expert in nautical archaeology, shared his research on the Sea of Galilee boat, a small fishing vessel from the 1st century A.D. recovered on the Israeli coast in the late 1980s. His recollections on the painstaking twelve-day process of recovering and restoring the boat and insights on the expert craftsmanship and attention to design featured in the boat’s construction quickly made clear that transportation, particularly in seafaring communities, can serve as a cultural institution on par with music and art.

We later met with archival librarians Greg Bailey and Bill Page at Cushing Library to discuss the significance of transportation in a far more personal context – the development of Texas A&M University. The history of transportation in Aggieland begins in 1876 with a single dirt road connecting a small cluster of buildings to the town of Bryan and continues today with a bustling campus that grows increasingly connected with each semester. The events that transpired in between are as much a history of this university as a history of the state of Texas on the whole. Between the opening of the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas and the present day, our campus witnessed the arrival of passenger and freight rail lines and the introduction of a small trolley route that bore an early resemblance to the on-campus bus system we recognize today.

The Transportation seminar further explored developments in transportation on campus through visits from Mike McInturff ’73, a professional engineer currently employed in pedestrian safety and efficiency improvements to University Drive, and Melisa Finley, a Texas A&M Transportation Institute engineer researching countermeasures for wrong-way drivers. We also enjoyed a visit from Madeline Dillard, assistant director for Transportation Services. She spoke with us about the impressive logistics of managing the university’s 90-member fleet of Aggie Spirit buses and shared details of the extensive planning required to accommodate football games, career fairs, and Ring Days – all evidence of the quiet dedication required from Texas A&M staff to keep a university of our size and scope running for the students it serves.

Finally, we examined possibilities in transportation for the future. We began with a lively discussion of Google’s advances towards commercialization of the driverless car.  The economic ramifications of a car that removes the hassle (and joy) of driving and the ethical consequences of a car making its own decisions for pedestrian and rider safety were well worth considering. We then spoke with Dr. John Junkins about the politics of space debris and joined Dr. Nick Suntzeff for a discussion of space and time travel. From the information Dr. Suntzeff conveyed about recent developments in the scientific community’s understanding of physics and astronomy, interstellar travel is possible in theory – and might be closer to reality than previously expected.

Freshmen are recruited each spring to join the University Scholars program. To learn more, please see: http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars

University Scholars Exploration Series – Influential Equations

Each semester, the University Scholars enroll in small-group, discussion-based seminars. In Spring 2016, Scholar Chloe Dixon ’17 taught the seminar “Exploring Influential Equations” as her Undergraduate Teacher Scholars capstone project. One of her students, computer science major Steven Leal ’18, reflects on the class and a few lessons learned.

University Scholar Steven Leal '18
University Scholar Steven Leal ’18

By Steven Leal

“What” is a simple question. It’s typical that the majority of modern society is equipped to handle this inquiry. Simple requests for knowledge are normally met with programmed responses.

Take for instance, “What’s the distance from London to Paris?” Instinctively, many of us reach into our pockets and answer, “I don’t know, let me ask google…”

What’s the best series on Netflix to binge?” We’d follow with an opinion from Rotten Tomatoes.

What’s the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

As a collective, humanity has painstakingly timed the migrations of most birds species and rattled off about their favorite shows long enough to prepare a safety net of information we can rely on for our most common shared experiences.

But how about “why?” It’s a simple word, one less letter than “what,” but the syllable requires so many words in return. “Why do we fall back down when we jump? Why is the sky blue? Why is there an unexpected item in the bagging area?” Throughout history, we have always struggled to tie our simple experiences of the past together to explain the present and even predict the future.

Thankfully, there are and have been a few among us with crazy hair, crazy ideas, and that are crazy enough themselves to become offerings to the epiphany gods in our stead. They get these notions in their heads that wonderful phenomena are reproducible, that our natural world is governed by a set of rules we can understand and that answering tiresome questions like “why” can help widen the safety net for the rest of us common folk.

Over the spring semester, our Influential Equations seminar took it upon ourselves to find those with the craziest hair, the craziest ideas, and who were just crazy enough themselves to examine how reasoned insight can change our understanding of the world around us. From the simplicity of the Pythagorean Theorem to the echelons of Schrodinger’s wave equation, we discussed the derivation of these famous formulas, their widespread applications in today’s society, and how many women you must court before you can develop general relativity (and it was quite a few to say the least).

Toward the beginning of the semester, our class tackled our heroes of the past that developed the building blocks of calculation using, for example, the quadratic formula and the fundamental theorem of calculus. With more advanced methods of calculation, mathematicians such as Leonhard Euler could find common relationships in geometry that would later lead to uses in advanced computer rendering algorithms and applications far beyond expectations of the past.

Complex numbers, thermodynamics, and Maxwell’s equations all found their way into our discussions nearing the end of the school year. The applications of magnetism with bullet trains, rail guns, MRI machines, and many other advancements were among the multitude of other formulas we examined to understand just what became of us as a society after a few eureka moments.

The summation of our experience participating in this seminar boils down to a few important points. Firstly, if you are ever recognized for your profound contribution to aiding in the comprehension of the known universe, make sure you get your portrait painted with either an impressive hairdo or a towel on your head to compensate for your lack thereof (we’re looking at you, Euler). Secondly, you can make wonderful discoveries for humanity after coming from any background, as long as you have an obsession for knowledge or a personal rivalry you take a bit too far. It seems historically proven that a little bit of crazy can get you a little closer to answering “why” if you mix in a pen, paper and a little math.

Freshmen are recruited each spring to join the University Scholars program. To learn more, please see: http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.

A class activity had Augustus Ellis ’17, Garrett Goble ’16, and James Felderhoff ’17 smash cups to demonstrate the second law of thermodynamics, that entropy always increases.
A class activity had Augustus Ellis ’17, Garrett Goble ’16, and James Felderhoff ’17 smash cups to demonstrate the second law of thermodynamics, that entropy always increases.