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2016-2017 UGR Ambassadors

If you would like to contact an Undergraduate Research Ambassador for advice about obtaining a research position or to ask them to speak to your group, email ugr@tamu.edu.

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Centura Anbarasu

I am a junior from Coppell, Texas pursuing a major in Biomedical Sciences and a minor in Business Administration. I am also in the University Honors Program and will be graduating in May of 2017, after which I hope to attend medical school. Currently, I am an instructor for an organization called Emergency Care Team, which teaches students first aid and CPR and gives them the opportunity to volunteer as first responders alongside paramedics and EMT’s. Additionally, I am the secretary of Lambda Sigma, a sophomore national honor society, and a member of AMSA, the American Medical Student Association. One of my biggest passions is volunteering and therefore, I volunteer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bryan, TX during the school year and at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX whenever I am at home. In my spare time, I enjoy baking, reading, and biking.
 
I started research at the beginning of my freshman year in Dr. Louise Abbott’s developmental neurotoxicology lab. We are studying the effects of various toxins such as methylmercury and zinc on the developing central nervous systems of zebrafish embryos, and I will be continuing with this project in the fall. Additionally, this past summer, I participated in an internship with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute where I was able to research the effects of epigenetic regulation on lung cancer progression and lung stem cells in Dr. Carla Kim’s lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. These research experiences have been very rewarding and have enriched my critical thinking and presentation skills, helping me become a better student overall.

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Matt Ballard

I am a senior from Houston, Texas studying geographic information science and technology.  I am also pursuing minors in geology and oceanography.  Following graduation, I am leaning towards pursuing a graduate degree in geography or geology.  I am a member of Company E-2 and Parsons Mounted Cavalry in the Corps of Cadets.  In past summers, I have worked at the International Ocean Discovery Program as well as at Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.  I enjoy fishing, skiing, travelling, and watching movies.
 
I became involved in research under the advising of Dr. Ewing in the College of Geosciences.  My first project involved digitizing dunes on the surface of Titan, a moon of Saturn.  Next, I assisted on a project measuring the wavelength of dune ripples on Mars.  These ripples vary in wavelength across the widely ranging elevation of Mars, reflecting current atmospheric air pressure.  These measurements were used to make estimates of air pressure from approximately 3.7 billion years ago based on observations made by Curiosity of an ancient aeolian deposit.  It was determined that the atmospheric was likely very thin, much like today, during that time period.  As a part of this project, I was privileged to be listed as an author on the article, which was published in the magazine Science.  I have also done research abroad in Costa Rica at the Soltis Center, where I studied CO2 fluxes from tropical soils.  My undergraduate research experiences have shaped me into the person I am today and have helped me find direction in my studies.

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Mikayla Barry
I am a senior Biomedical Engineering major from Bryan, Texas. While my curriculum is largely science-focused, I’ve realized how much I enjoy musical performance and currently play piccolo for Texas A&M’s Wind Symphony. When I am not studying or practicing, I like to spend my time running long-distance, creating stained glass artwork, reading, and solving various types of logic puzzles. However, the largest portion of my time is spent in the lab. I was originally introduced to research when I became Texas A&M’s first member of the Beckman Scholars Program, which is designed to offer a meaningful research experience to promising undergraduate student, and I have enjoyed the lab experience so much that I hope to remain in academia as a university professor.
 
I currently work in Dr. Melissa Grunlan’s Polymeric Biomaterials lab, where I develop silicone coatings that prevent blood from clotting after contacting the material surface. These would allow silicone devices (like catheters) to remain implanted for longer periods of time, as is required for patients undergoing dialysis. By pairing my love of learning with my desire to make a lasting difference, research has become the highlight of my undergraduate career.\

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Chandler BowerSox
Howdy! I am a senior College Station native majoring in Psychology and minoring in Art. After graduation, I hope to pursue a PhD in clinical or counseling psychology. I would like to have my own private practice one day, along with becoming a professor and continuing research. When I’m not busy with research or class, I love to make art. I paint and draw whenever I get the chance. I also love music, and play the guitar, especially classic rock. I also have a cute little black bunny named Ozzy that I love to spoil.
  
 I became involved in research during my sophomore year at TAMU. I began pursuing an independent research experiment named Mood and Personality Predictors of Art Preference. I hope to use my findings in my future practice, because art therapy is something that I would like to specialize in. I completed my research and had the opportunity to present a poster of my findings at Texas A&M’s Student Research Week, and I presented my findings at the South Eastern Psychological Association’s annual conference. In addition, I have participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program and completed a written thesis on this independent research.  I am also one of Texas A&M’s Social Science Research Fellows.  We work to enhance research in our fields and learn more about methods to make our research as streamlined as possible. I have also worked in the psychology department’s Infant Cognition Laboratory, where I learned how to collect and analyze data. In addition, I used experimental machinery such as a TOBI eye tracker and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) headgear, and experienced working with a research team. After stumbling upon research my sophomore year, I developed a deep love for experimentation. Inquiry about the world we live in is something that has become a natural part of my psyche.  I cannot think of my future without research being a part of it.

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Melissa Brumley

I am a senior from Austin, Texas, majoring in Biomedical Science with a minor in Neuroscience. I am heavily involved in research both as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and an Undergraduate Research Scholar, but I always save time for my favorite hobbies, which include reading, weight-lifting, and video-games. I volunteer regularly for Habitat for Humanity, but otherwise I consider myself to be more of a home-body. Getting involved in research has given me a sense of independence and enthusiasm for my own education that I would have never anticipated, and my goal as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador is to open the eyes of prospective students to the world of undergraduate research.

I became involved in research in Dr. Jim Grau’s lab at the beginning of my sophomore year, and I have loved every minute. My project right now is investigating the progression of secondary injury following spinal cord injuries, as well as potential therapeutic techniques that could improve the recovery of motor function.  So far, my favorite part about being in undergraduate research is collaborating and working alongside Dr. Grau’s brilliant team of researchers, who are as patient as they are clever. The personal and professional skills I have acquired working in research will follow me as I pursue medical school, and hopefully for years to come.

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Andrea Darrh

I am a junior geophysics major pursuing minors in mathematics and geology originally from Clay, New York. I am a University Scholar, a member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, a former Sophomore Advisor within the honors dorms, and one of three Junior Advisors for the 2016-2017 Honors program. I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in geophysics and specialize in electromagnetic geophysics. Stereotypically, I do own a large rock collection, and when I am not studying or doing field work I love listening to classic rock (Steve Miller Band, Rush, and The Eagles are my favorite bands) and reading any books I can get my hands on.

I joined Dr. Mark Everett’s research team in the Fall of 2014. I have been involved in several projects including projects at Camptown Cemetery in my freshman year and at the meteorite crater in Odessa, Texas in my sophomore year. At Camptown, a neglected cemetery in Brenham, Texas, we used near-surface geophysical imaging to look for the remains of African American Civil War soldiers. The ongoing project in Odessa involves the use of geophysical methods to image the structure of a meteorite crater with the purpose of predicting the initial crater size of the impact before weathering and deposition of overlying sediments. My current research is focused on looking at the structure of Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park, Utah and the influence that salt had on the formation of the structure. I am currently using software developed from electromagnetics data to model what the correct subsurface conditions would be for a meteorite impact to cause the formation of the present day structure. One of my biggest passions is the undergraduate research that I do and I firmly believe that the best way to find your research project is to ask yourself what you love to do! The more passionate you are, the more fun you will have in your career, and the further you will go!

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Joshua Fuller
I am a senior from Flagstaff, Arizona, and I am currently pursuing a double major in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Neuroscience. I will graduate in the spring of 2017, and I hope to pursue a joint Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and a Masters of Public Health (M.P.H.) with a specific focus on the assessment and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease). In the arena of public health, I am presently working part-time for the Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Through this role, I am involved in educating the community about Alzheimer’s disease and coordinating our large annual fundraising event, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. As an out-of-state student, I found my home away from home at Texas A&M among my peers in the Honors Housing Community in the LechFadden dorms. Since then, I served as both a Sophomore and Junior Advisor in the Honors Housing community. I also served as a Fish Camp counselor in Camp Sullins in the summer of 2014. My passion for research and high impact experiences led me to serve as the President of the Honors Student Council in the 2015-2016 year. As I move into my final year at Texas A&M, I will serve as the Chairman of the Student Affairs Fee Advisory Board (SAFAB), which is charged with representing students in the allocation of the $17 million University Advancement Fee. I will also be involved in the launch of two new student organizations at Texas A&M University: Christian Healthcare Leaders (CHL) and Texas Aggies Fighting Alzheimer’s (TAFA).
 
During my time at Texas A&M, I have conducted research about Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the lab of Dr. Steve Balsis. Through the use of large databases that track AD biomarkers, such as brain volume and cerebral spinal fluid, I have worked with Dr. Balsis to create statistical models of AD pathogenesis that can be used by researchers and clinicians in the fight against the disease. Our work has produced a model of temporal lobe sub-region neurodegeneration in AD and a model of the clinical relevance of various neuropsychiatric symptoms in AD. During the summer of 2016, I mentored five novice undergraduates in our lab during a summer-long research projected funded and supported by the Michael E. Debakey Research Intensive Community for Undergraduates program. Presently, I am working as the lead author on a project that examines the relationship between neuropsychiatric symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety) and Alzheimer’s disease-related cognitive dysfunction. I also will be joining the lab of Dr. MacNamara this semester to gain hands-on experience as we work to use brain and psychophysiological measures like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and skin conductance response to study emotions in psychiatric conditions. As comorbidity between neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s) and psychiatric conditions (e.g., anxiety and depression) is common, I am excited to mold my current interests from the Balsis lab with an opportunity to work with actual participants (and not just the data) in MacNamara’s lab. I have received several accolades for my work, including the titles of Undergraduate Research Scholar and Social Science Undergraduate Research Fellow, as well as 1st place in the graduate-level poster competition at the 2016 Texas A&M Student Research Week (despite being an undergraduate). In the summer of 2015, I also studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador where I volunteered at the FundaciĆ³n TASE Alzheimer’s Center for 135 contact hours, gaining valuable clinical experience through my work with dementia patients and clinic staff.
 
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Anthony Gacasan

I am a sophomore Biomedical Sciences major with a minor in Business from Round Rock, Texas. I am planning on pursuing a career in medicine, with the ultimate goal of practicing as a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. When I’m not in the lab or the “Mouse House,” you may find me on a run around town, playing the piano in the All Faiths Chapel, singing in the St. Mary’s Choir, dabbling in a bit of painting, or volunteering at Family Promise of BCS, which serves to benefit homeless children and their families to achieve sustainable independence. Outside of research and academics, I’ve also had the opportunity to participate in organizations such as the Honors Student Council, MSC Freshman Leadership International, University Honors, the Biomedical Sciences Association, the Texas A&M Singing Cadets and hold one of nine seats on the Student Affairs Fee Advisory Board at Texas A&M.

I began my research experience the fall semester of my freshman year under the direction of Dr. David Threadgill in the department of Veterinary Pathobiology. My research focuses on the influence of diet and genetic background on the gut microbiome composition, which in turn is associated with health status looking specifically at colorectal cancer and its proliferation or prevention in a unique mouse model. I am currently working on a causal study in relation to the aforementioned research project, which will be the basis for my undergraduate research thesis. My experience in research has solidified and amplified my passion for science. It has allowed me the opportunity to learn a variety of skills and collaborate with a plethora of different specialties such as with a toxicology lab under the direction of Dr. Ivan Rusyn, with whom I worked with on a collaborative study over the summer. I am excited to be able to share my passion with others as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and I hope to inspire them to join in the incredibly fun, educational, and sociable experiences that research has to offer everyone.

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Kanika Gakhar

I am a junior Aerospace Engineering Aggie from India. I am a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Aero Design Team as a part of which I get to design and build a radio-controlled aircraft and compete in an international competition annually. Last year, I competed in the SpaceX Hyperloop Design Competition as well. I am also an Executive Leader for Council of Undergraduate Research in Engineering. As a passionate seeker of leadership, I have served as President of Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honor Society, Director of Focus Groups for the MSC Fall Leadership Conference, Undergraduate Leadership Scholar, and Maroon & White Leadership Fellow. Apart from academics, leadership, and research, I love to dance. I have been dancing since the age of five and learned a variety of dance forms ranging from Indian Classical and Bollywood to Hip-Hop and B-Boying. I am currently a member of the TAMU Belly Dance Association. I work as a volunteer column writer for a non-profit organization called iNEducation and serve as a volunteer workshop leader at Krause Children Center. I am also very passionate about literature, art and craft, and social activism.

I started doing research my freshman year by joining a group project focused on designing deployable solar panels for a CubeSat with the help of Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs). As a part of this project, I had the opportunity to co-author a conference paper and work with industry advisors from Boeing, NASA, and General Motors. This summer, I participated in the Undergraduate Summer Research Grant (USRG) Program by joining the Advanced Vertical Flight Laboratory and working on improving the efficiency of a Robotic Hummingbird. I have always wondered why airplanes, drones, helicopters, etc. do not resemble birds and insects. Thus, as soon as I found out that Texas A&M has its very own Robotic Hummingbird, I knew that I wanted to work on analyzing how nature and technology can intermingle and lead to the creation of a bio-inspired aerial vehicle. Engaging in undergraduate research has definitely widened my perspective and given me room to exercise my creativity in a field that loves scientific formulae and numbers. Moreover, it has helped me overcome my fear of trying new things and encouraged me to keep working on expanding my boundaries.

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Anna Gould
I am a Psychology major and Women’s and Gender Studies minor originally from Sydney, Australia. Following my graduation from A&M, I hope to return to Australia to pursue a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and work as a psychologist in a hospital setting. Beyond psychology, I enjoy watching soap operas and romantic comedies. I am a volunteer for the Student Counseling Helpline, a University Scholar, and a member of the University Honors, Liberal Arts Honors, and Psychology Honors programs.
 
I have done research in Dr. Woods’ lab since my freshman year, including during the summer. The lab studies Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors, a class of disorders such as Hair Pulling Disorder (Trichotillomania) and Skin Picking Syndrome that fall under the larger category of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Spectrum Disorders. These disorders all involve impulsive behaviors directed towards the self as a way of regulating negative emotions, such as frustration, boredom, and anxiety. I traveled with my lab to present research at a national conference in Chicago in Fall 2015. My research specifically has involved the interactions between self esteem and these disorders, and I am currently working on a thesis project on this topic. Working in the lab has allowed me to develop immensely as a student, professional, and person, and I am so grateful to research at Texas A&M for allowing me to become more confident, invigorating my spirit, and encouraging me to see myself as worthy of pursuing the impossible.


Jaclyn Guz
I am a junior Environmental Studies major with a minor in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) from San Antonio, Texas. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school in Washington D.C.  I want to pursue a dual masters program in Public Policy and Environmental Studies with a focus in remote sensing. Some of my extra-curricular commitments include playing clarinet in the Texas A&M concert band and going camping with Texas A&M Student Serving Scouting. I have participated in the EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) at the University of Vermont where I worked in the Department of Plant and Soil Science on using “rain gardens” to absorb and treat stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces where I helped investigate the mechanisms influencing sediment, nutrient retention, and greenhouse gas emission within eight storm water bioretention cells. Additionally, I completed an individual project that focused on the relationship between Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and Flow Rate, which I will be presenting on in April at the Vermont EPSCoR Student Research Symposium. During the fall semester of 2014 I participated in the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP). My internship assignment was the Environmental Protection Agency, Science Advisory Board (SAB) in Washington D.C. The experience taught me about how research is used to create and implement national policies.  

I am currently involved in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. I am completing a project on tree ring samples of sapling birch trees, compiling them to create a master chronology. I will compare the master chronology to records of climate change and reindeer population data from Northern Sweden. This inquiry is important because the reindeer populations tend to graze near the tree line where birch trees are sprouting. By finding a trend in the growth of the trees, I may be able to predict where the reindeer will go in the future. This work has given me the opportunity to learn about an environment far different from my own.  I have also had the opportunity to expand my knowledge of dendrology and am pleased to learn that the findings from the study have relevance to the reindeer economy in the Scandinavian mountains.


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Howdy! My name is Mae Hinson, I am a senior Ocean and Coastal Resources Major, with a minor in Diving Technologies and Methods. I am a third generation Aggie, raised in the great city of Austin, Texas.  But most importantly, I am the loudest and proudest member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie, Class of 2017 (A-WHOOP). I am currently a Maroon Delegate, Student Ambassador, Dive Master Candidate, Orientation Leader, SALT Camp Counselor, member of Texas Academy of Science (TAS) and a student worker at the Jack K. Williams Library, at the Galveston branch campus.
 
I started my research the summer going into my junior year, after completing Tropical Marine Ecology, which is a study abroad course in Akumal Mexico. I was amazed seeing the beautiful corals, but also torn by the obvious impact of the various anthropogenic effects on the coral ecosystem. I got with my research advisor, Dr. Meri Davlasheridze, and decided on my final topic on Water Quality and Health of Coral Reefs. I completed my thesis my junior year, and submitted it April of 2016. Undergraduate research has opened many doors and opportunities for me such as presenting at an International Coral Reef Conference this summer in Hawaii! I’m excited to guide Galveston students in their research endeavors this upcoming year as an UGR Ambassador.

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Dillon "Danger" Jones

I am a junior Wildlife and Fisheries major with a minor in Psychology from Rendon, Texas. My passion lies with animals and I have worked alongside a wide assortment of species for various educational and outreach programs, breeding projects, and public or private displays. I believe that there is a growing disconnect between the natural and the human world and I hope to bridge that gap in order to inspire the next generation to get involved with protecting our planet and its animals. After graduation, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior, focusing on reptilian cognition and social behavior. This current school year I am the Vice President of the Texas A&M Zoological Society, President of the Aggie Behavior Network, and am volunteering with The Urban Interface. Outside of school I love to cook, exercise/do yoga with my dog, and play guitar.

I became involved in research as soon as I got to A&M. I was originally doing small projects underneath Dr. David Baumgardner while taking care of his reptile teaching collection. While there I looked into the growth and reproductive behavior of Agama agama lizards, and served as an assistant to Panama to collect mouth parasite from native snakes. I then did a project while under a course contract for Dr. Kimberly Kattari’s class, History of Rock and Roll, wherein I peered into using music as way to classify animal communication. Currently I am working on setting up a few experiments with Dr. Jessica Yorzinski to test cognition in the genera Varanus and Salvator. These are large, mostly carnivorous lizards that display a high level of intelligence, however their cognitive ability has hardly, if at all been tested. I am hoping that my work into this subject will reveal that there is more than meets the eye to reptilian intelligence.

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Katherina Kang

I am a senior Forensic and Investigative Science Major with a minor in Chemistry from Lewisville, Texas. I am also the President of the Aggies Forensic and Investigative Science Organization and work closely within the Entomology department as a representative scholar. Fortunately, both positions allow me the opportunity to meet with new students both in and out of the FIVS major and to introduce them to the diverse field of forensics. After graduation, I plan to continue my research and pursue a PhD in forensic soil chemistry and microbiology. In my free time, I enjoy fun workouts, reading mystery and thrillers, playing video games, and sewing.

My first research opportunity was with Dr. Tomberlin’s Forensic Laboratory of Investigative Entomological Science working for PhD student Chong Chin Heo. The project focused on studying the effects of decomposing carrion on the surrounding ecosystem to help improve on the current techniques used in forensic investigations and more accurately predict time and location of death. In the spring of 2016, I joined Dr. Jacqueline Peterson on my own project focusing on the aspect of soil chemistry in determining postmortem interval (PMI) of human cadavers. I hope to continue with this study and develop a new method of forensic soil analysis that can be used to determine the age of skeletal remains when insect populations are no longer available. Through my experience, I’ve gained a large respect for the research community and all the ways in which they provide the information needed to work in the field of forensics and hope to one day contribute my own findings.


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Gabrielle Lessen

I am a Biochemistry major from Alexandria, Louisiana, and a proud member of the fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2018! While I do put a lot of time into my scientific studies, I love learning about many other topics and expanding my perspective. During my time at Texas A&M, I have been involved with the University Honors Program, MSC Freshmen in Service and Hosting (FISH), and MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness. I am also a University Scholar, a member of the Biochemistry and Genetics Society, and a volunteer at the Aggieland Humane Society. I enjoy watching Netflix, playing video games, reading and writing fictional stories, or chilling in local coffee shops with my friends!

As a freshman, I became involved in Undergraduate Research as a member of the Michael E. DeBakey Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. I worked on a team led by Dr. Thomas Stiles and Dr. Christopher Quick that studied renal fluid dynamics and aimed to develop a mathematical model that could be used clinically to show how different factors affect renal function. At the end of my freshman year, I was chosen as a Beckman Scholar, and through this program, I currently lead an independent research project as a member of Dr. Dorothy Shippen’s lab researching telomere biology. Telomeres are repeating sequences of nucleotides and associated proteins found on the end of DNA chromosomes. They protect chromosome ends from being perceived as damaged DNA and thus preserve the chromosome as a whole, much like aglets (the plastic tips of shoelaces) protect the ends of shoelaces from fraying and shortening. The goal of my project is to investigate the individual roles of telomere-associated proteins, and to advance understanding of how telomeres provide stability for chromosomes. I look forward to serving as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador this year and to sharing my passion and knowledge about research with the Texas A&M community!

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Sarah Mack
I am a junior Industrial and Systems Engineering major with a minor in Applied Mathematics and Project Management, from Longview, Texas. I am emphasizing in Human Factors, as I love leaning about how people work in and interact with the systems they are placed. During my time at Texas A&M, I have been heavily involved in my sorority, Delta Delta Delta, and I am a Host for the Tell Your Story Leadership Forum. This past summer I worked at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to help integrate patient experience into technology. When I am not stuck in ETB studying, I am spending time with my friends or making videos with my Go Pro.

I have hands on experience working in the Human Factors and Cognitive Systems Laboratory with Dr. Thomas Ferris and Dr. Farzan Sasangohar. My research has been focused around general aviation and how pilots receive weather related alerts. By studying the reaction times of pilots, the method of alerts (such as a tablet or a smart watch) can be modified so that pilots continue to be aware of their surroundings while also making the best decision for the situation they are in. Through this research, I have picked up on many methods in which humans interact with systems and/or layouts of the environment they are in. My experience in research has made me a more well-rounded and interactive student while learning to constantly be thinking of creative ideas to solve the problems that I am presented with.

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Joshua Murley

I am a senior Chemical Engineering major from Austin, Texas with minors in Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering. I am particularly interested in using chemical, mechanical, and thermodynamic processing techniques to develop custom materials for a variety of applications. In my free time I play racquetball, fish, read, or watch football. I am an active member in the Navigators campus ministry and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

During my second semester at Texas A&M I started my research with Dr. Patrick Shamberger in the Materials Science and Engineering Department. My project focused on characterizing and modeling Heusler alloys as used in magnetic refrigeration applications. During this project I worked on developing entropy measurement techniques and used a parametric model to predict magnetic refrigeration capability of a Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese-Indium alloy. During the summer of 2015 I participated in the USRG program where I worked with Dr. Ji Ma and Dr. Ibrahim Karaman in the Materials Science and Engineering Department to investigate how different mechanical and chemical processing techniques affect room temperature precipitation and strain induced phase transformation in Titanium-Niobium alloys. Control of these properties would allow superior orthopedic implants with customizable properties. This fall I am working with Dr. Lutkenhaus in the Chemical Engineering Department on developing a polymer and graphene based flexible supercapcitor.

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Trevor Nelligan

I am a Senior from The Woodlands, Texas, majoring in Computer Engineering. Aside from research, I like to hang out with friends, lift weights, work on fun software projects, and learn new things!

My research career began freshman year under Dr. Dylan Shell, and in the area of Artificial Intelligence. Our work specifically involved multiple robot systems and path planning algorithms. The summer after freshman year, I began work with Dr. Tracy Hammond in the Sketch Recognition Lab, with whom I am still working. My work has been in the area of Human-Computer Interaction, particularly in educational systems that feature sketch recognition. I have been part of three projects in this area: Mechanix, PerSketchTivity, and CourseSketch. All of these programs have been used in university classrooms, and I have had the opportunity to present my work on theses projects in several conferences and publications. I have had an amazing experience so far doing research at A&M, and I hope to help others have similarly fantastic experiences as well.


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Kelly Nieto

I am a junior Chemistry major from Houston, Texas. I’m also working towards a minor in mathematics and materials science and engineering. After graduation I am gearing towards graduate school to obtain my PhD but my other option is to look for a job in industry as an inorganic chemist to help reduce our carbon footprint by increasing energy efficiency while decreasing carbon emissions by creating alternative fuels. I am very involved in the chemistry department, as I am a part of the American Chemical Society, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, and the Organization for Cultural Diversity in Chemistry, as well as working in the Organic Stock Room in the chemistry department and doing research. Although my love for chemistry is a big part of my life I love to curl up on my couch and watch Netflix or play video games like the true couch potato that I am. I also love to volunteer and you can always find me volunteering at the chemistry open house, performing chemistry demos for younger kids in grade school and working CARPOOL on the weekends.
 
My undergraduate research experience began the summer after my freshman year as I was accepted in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program the Chemistry Department holds along side the TAMU Chemistry REU. I had the privilege to work under Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee. My project that summer focused on integrating CdS quantum dots with vanadium dioxide for charge transfer. On this project I fell in love with inorganic chemistry. Since that summer I have continued to work under Dr. Banerjee on another on going project concerning “Smart” windows which once completed would regulate the temperature inside of homes with minimal aid of air conditioners. I’ve also had the amazing opportunity to intern in a chemical laboratory in Germany this past summer where I focused on mesoporous metal oxides for photocatalysis. The memories and experiences I have gained form research are definitely things I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
 

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Vanessa Page

Howdy! I was born in Denver, Colorado but have lived in Austin, Texas for 19 years. I am studying Biomedical Engineering with a focus in biomaterials, planning to graduate in May 2017. I am passionate about traveling and have had the opportunity to go to many places around the world, such as Japan, Russia, Africa, and study abroad in Germany. I love to learn about different cultures and how people with different backgrounds have unique perspectives.
 
I started participating in research in Dr. Melissa Grunlan’s lab during the summer between my sophomore and junior year. I initially worked on a project to develop clot-resistant coatings for blood-contacting medical devices based on novel amphiphilic polyethylene oxide-silanes. I am now working on a project to repair bone defects with Shape Memory Polymers by creating porous scaffolds with novel biomaterial combinations. I enjoy working with the graduate students in the lab and participating in meetings with my principle investigator. I especially appreciate every opportunity to explain what we do in the lab to anyone who will listen.
 
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Hannah Pearce

I am a senior Biomedical Engineering major from Sugar Land, Texas and although I love research, in my free time I also enjoy reading, yoga, Indie rock music, and really good dessert.  My first exposure to research was the summer after my freshman year of college and during my experience that summer, I felt that I had found my passion and I was determined to make Biomedical Engineering research my life work.  Since then, I have had the opportunity of participating in research in the Biomedical Engineering department at Texas A&M University in Dr. Elizabeth Cosgriff-Hernandez’s lab where I participated in bone-tissue engineering research, and beginning in June 2015 as a recipient of the Undergraduate Summer Research Grant, I have been a member of Dr. Daniel Alge’s lab where I have worked to develop a click hydrogel platform for chemo-optical glucose sensing.  I also participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program in Dr. Alge’s group where I continued my work on the click hydrogel glucose monitoring system, and wrote an undergraduate thesis summarizing my findings.  Most recently, as a participant in the UCLA Amgen Scholars Program from June-August 2016, I worked in the lab of Dr. Jacob Schmidt to optimize single protein identification and discrimination using nanopores.
 
In addition to my own love of science and discovery, I am passionate about encouraging others interested in the sciences, and as a result I have served as the Outreach Coordinator for the Texas A&M chapter of the Society for Biomaterials for over two years now.  As the coordinator, I have expanded our outreach to lead the Science Clubs at both of the middle schools in College Station.  I also initiated our society’s participation in the annual Physics and Engineering Festival and the Chemistry Open House at Texas A&M in order to demonstrate the use of biomaterials in sensing, tissue engineering, and drug delivery.  Following the completion of my undergraduate degree in May 2017, I plan to earn my Ph.D. and pursue a career in academia where I can continue to not only be involved in research, but teach and mentor students as well to encourage the next generation of scientists.

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Devyn Rice

I am a sophomore from Palestine, Texas majoring in Applied Mathematics with an emphasis in ‘Actuarial Science. When I am not studying I spend my time as an ASPIRE Mentor, on the archery range, of working at Aggie STEM. Away from campus I enjoy crafting and being a mom to my kitten.

I began working for Drs. Robert and Mary Margaret Capraro at the beginning of my freshman year as an Undergraduate Research Assistant.  I have worked on projects from several different fields within STEM.  My first few projects, including my Student Research Week presentation, dealt with Spatial Drawing and the communication needed to accomplish a drawing task.  One of my most interesting projects was my presentation for Climate Matters 2016.  This presentation showed the diversity of students and teachers who attend Aggie STEM Summer Camps and why diversity is important in a classroom setting.  I am currently working with a diverse variety of research at Aggie STEM.

My research experience at Texas A&M has been amazing.  I have met many wonderful people along the way.  My mentors have helped guide me not only in research but in many of my college decisions.  I would never change my decision to become involved in research and encourage everyone I can to take the leap into research.

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Jennifer Tran

I am a Biochemistry and Genetics double major with a minor in Classics from Carrollton, Texas. I am a Beckman Scholar, an officer for the Biochemistry and Genetics Society, and an active volunteer for Aggieland Humane Society. After graduation, I plan to pursue a PhD in either Biochemistry or Microbiology. Outside of school and research, I am an avid music-listener, foodie, and aspiring traveler. I can also be found reading Latin literature, playing the piano, or searching for random bits of trivia on the internet.

I started research with Dr. Vishal Gohil in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics before moving to Dr. Ry Young’s Lab as a Beckman Scholar. My current project focuses on single-stranded RNA bacteriophages, which are a specific type of virus that infects bacteria. Because antibiotic-resistant pathogens have become a serious issue, we hope to find new antibiotic strategies by studying these phages and how they kill bacteria. I hope to continue this research through my senior year and intend to participate in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program this upcoming year. Research has truly become a large part of my undergraduate experience and has helped me solidify my plans for the future, so I definitely want to encourage other students to get involved.

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Brooke Versaw

I am a Chemistry major, Business Administration minor, and proud member of the Class of 2018 from College Station, Texas. In addition to Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, I represent Texas A&M as a University Scholar and Beckman Scholar. While my favorite pastimes include hammocking and watching reruns of The West Wing, I’m proud to say that a considerable portion of my free time is spent in lab. After graduation, I plan to pursue my interests in polymer chemistry and materials science through a Ph.D. and eventual career in chemical research. 
 
I began work in Dr. Karen Wooley’s group in April 2015. My current project explores the development of natural product-based engineering polymers with tunable thermal and mechanical properties for use in a broad spectrum of biomedical and industrial applications. Though growing up around Texas A&M lent me an early introduction to the possibility of undergraduate research, participating myself allowed for far more. My time in the Wooley lab has cultivated a sense of ownership in my studies and an enthusiasm for research that I plan to share through my work as an Ambassador. 

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Colton Wayne
I am a Senior from Arlington, Texas majoring in Zoology with a minor in History. I am a member of the Aggie Class of 2017 and a President’s Endowed Scholar as well as a National Hispanic Merit Scholar. I am a brother of the Texas Tau chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, in which I have held numerous executive positions. I have served on the Interfraternity Council Board in multiple roles, and currently hold office as President. I have had the opportunity to spend many of my school holidays shadowing physicians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and upon graduation I plan to attend medical school to pursue a career in Pediatrics.
 
I have been involved in Genetics research in the Veterinary Integrative Biosciences department at Texas A&M University over the past year. I work under Dr. William Murphy and his team examining different genetic traits and medical conditions in various feline species. I have assisted on a few projects, including a search for the genetic mutation responsible for the grizzled fur phenotype in housecats, and a sequencing effort for the housecat X and Y chromosomes. Furthermore, I have been privileged to act as lead research assistant for a project investigating the genetic mutation responsible for cataracts in the Russian Blue cat species, discovery of which will help breeders screen for and avoid further transmission of the cataracts gene. My experiences in research have helped me to develop many useful skills, from the importance of professional conduct when interacting with research professors to proper experimentation etiquette and procedures. I hope to share this knowledge with other students and reveal the opportunities undergraduate research has to offer.

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Sean Whitney
I am a senior Aerospace Engineering major pursuing a minor in Mathematics from Frisco, Texas. Currently, I anticipate graduating in Spring 2017 with both Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering. Upon graduation, I will commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, where I hope to eventually combine my dream of flight, passion for engineering, and taste for curiosity as an experimental test pilot and flight test engineer. To that end, I am privileged to serve in Texas A&M’s uniformed student body, the Corps of Cadets, as the Commanding Officer for Squadron One in the coming year.
 
In November of 2013, I began as a research assistant to Dr. Cable Kurwitz in the Nuclear Power Institute on a NASA-funded compressive sensing and reconstructive imaging solution tailored to the stringent mass, power, volume, and financial constraints associated with modern CubeSAT systems. To date, the project has involved creatively developing methods to reduce the amount of light captured, and thus power required, during the image acquisition process while maintaining picture quality and resolution using consumer-of-the-shelf technology. During the late Summer of 2014, I began another research assignment as a Flight Observer in the Unmanned Flight section of the Vehicle Systems and Control Laboratory under Dr. John Valasek. More recently, I have studied the inlet unstart phenomena in hypersonic glide vehicles and assisted in efforts to control post-unstart behavior. In June 2015, I began an internship with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (NNSA, DOE) in Livermore, California simulating the deflection and disruption of planetary bodies using the world-class high-performance computing capabilities available. Throughout my extracurricular and academic involvement at Texas A&M, I have maintained that well-rounded character is paramount, and attempt to pass on the formative wisdom passed down to me through mentoring others.

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Bailey Woods

I am a senior English and Classics major from Fort Worth, Texas. In my time at Texas A&M University, I have involved myself in numerous activities and organizations under the Honors and Undergraduate Research umbrella. My freshman year, I joined Explorations: The Texas A&M University Undergraduate Journal, as an Editorial Board Member; since then, I have been an Executive Board Member, Scribe, and am currently serving as Co-Chair. I am also a 2015-2016 Undergraduate Research Scholar. In my free time, I am often reading, writing, or hiking.

I began my research my freshman year in the Spring of 2014 studying voyage literature and the juxtaposition of sanctity and insanity in monastic pilgrimages. My project is a creative thesis which consists of a lengthy short story that is influenced by my research followed by a critical apparatus. My research specifically follows monastic practices from the seventh century that involved peregrinatio (self-imposed exile and wandering for the love of God). Using what I have learned about voyage literature from stories as old as Homer’s The Odyssey to ones as modern as Life of Pi by Yann Martel, I have created a fictional telling of the Irish monk, Saint Cormac, and his pilgrimage that pushed him far into the Northern seas of the Arctic. Accounts of this journey are vague, thus giving me room to explore the art of voyage writing while pulling from techniques of modern and classic authors of the genre. The final product will ask a question similar to Yann Martel’s “Which do you believe?” as the reader is pulled between two different accounts of the journey.


Omar Wyman
I’m a senior Biomedical Engineering major from Cypress, Texas. Aside from academics I enjoy spending my free time playing on a soccer intermural team, reading, and working on various recreational computer and robotics projects. I greatly enjoy playing music from the Classical and Romantic periods on the piano, which has been one of my favorite pasttimes for the past twelve years.
 
I began my research work as a freshman under the direction of Dr. Christopher Quick in the Micheal E. Debakey Institute at Texas A&M.  My work in cardiovascular research has been centered around pulsatile hemodynamics and its effects on the vasculature system. Currently my research project consists of mock circulation loops for cardiovascular-assist devices and cardiovascular scaling laws. By combining established critical parameters common to hydrodynamic scaling approaches with conventional pulsatile hemodynamic scaling approaches, a novel method to scaling mock circulation loops that maintain mammalian biomechanical properties can be accomplished.

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Karissa Yamaguchi

I am a sophomore double majoring in Biochemistry and Genetics from Phoenix, Arizona, hoping to attend medical school upon my graduation from Texas A&M. In addition to research, I enjoy shooting archery for the United States Archery Team and the university archery program. I also serve as a small group leader for Asian American Intervarsity student ministries.

My current research is under Dr. Zhiye Wang and Dr. Xiuren Zhang in the Biochemistry Department. We are currently studying mechanisms of microRNA gene regulation by transforming mustard plants to produce a glowing protein and microRNA. By randomly mutating these plants and observing the relative bioluminescence, we can track the production of the protein and determine which mutations cause changes in gene expression. As the study continues, we will continue to seek the relationship between the genes discovered to change the production of the glowing protein and the biochemical pathways governing this process. Eventually, we hope that learning these mechanisms will allow us to better treat disease and benefit crop production and human health.
I love the people in my lab, and I find real value in my research. Research has allowed me to learn material prior to my upper level classes, affirmed my interest in genetics and allowed me to contribute to the scientific community. My gained understanding of genetics will also help jumpstart my career as I pursue oncology and other genetic medicine. Due to my research experience, this summer I have been given the opportunity to work in the pediatric department of MD Anderson Cancer Center as a participant in the center’s Summer Externship program.