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2013-2014 UGR Ambassadors

Dillon Amaya
I am a senior Meteorology major and Oceanography minor from Kansas City, MO. My research interests include paleoclimate, physical oceanography, and climate change studies. I also have a strong passion for the communication of research to the public. In general, researchers have poor real world communication skills. They get so caught up in their technical jargon that they aren’t sure how to bring it down to a lower level and still get their point across. I aim to remedy this by improving the communication skills of undergraduate researchers here at Texas A&M.

As a freshman I began my research experience by assisting Dr. Russ Schumacher in compiling data for major flash flooding events. My current research project with Dr. Debbie Thomas involves reconstructing the dust accumulation record for the South Pacific Ocean during the Earth’s last major greenhouse interval. I have also studied the current micrometeorological conditions of the planet’s Prandtl Boundary Layer with Dr. Gerhard Kramm at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. During this Research Experience for Undergraduates program, I derived a more efficient similarity law for free convective conditions. The following winter, I spent 37 days at sea on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel Ronald H. Brown collecting over 300 water and salinity samples en route to servicing an array of moored buoys along the equatorial Atlantic. This research experience was capped off by studying the teleconnections of El Nino Modoki on the tropical Atlantic at the Atlantic Meteorological and Oceanographic Laboratory in Miami, FL this past summer.
Carli Domenico
 I am a junior from Boerne, Texas. My major is University Studies: Honors with a focus on Neuroscience, and I am minoring in Psychology and Philosophy.  After graduating in the spring of 2015 I plan to attend graduate school to attain my doctorate. I am currently a co-executive of an organization called the Invisible Jungle, which broadcasts from the local NPR affiliate station regarding recent microbial research. I am also a University Scholar in the Honors program and a member of Maggies, a woman’s leadership organization. I enjoy yoga, bouldering, golf, soccer, and anything outdoors. 

 At the beginning of my sophomore year at A&M I began research in Dr. Mary Meagher’s lab. I have been a research assistant for several projects particularly one involving the effects of traumatic history on the pain response, perceptually and mechanistically. I am working on a project for the Undergraduate Research Scholars program investigating the anti-hyperalgesic potential of a natural supplement as well as its effect on neurogenic inflammation. While I’ve been very involved in many activities at A&M, I believe nothing is as rewarding as research throughout one’s undergraduate experience.

Victoria Ehlinger
I am a senior Chemical Engineering major from Dallas, Texas.   My research investigates the feasibility of a shale gas to methanol process.   I participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program in 2013 and published an undergraduate thesis titled “Process Design and Integration of Shale Gas to Methanol.”  This work also served as the basis for an oral presentation I gave at the 3rd International Conference on Sustainable Chemical Product and Processing Engineering in Dalian, China in May 2013.  I have also worked internships for Texas Instruments and INEOS Olefins & Polymers USA.  I am a National Merit Scholar and studying Spanish as a minor.
I began my research work as a junior under the direction of Dr. Mahmoud El-Halwagi in Chemical Engineering.  My work has centered around exploring applications for newly discovered shale gas resources in the chemical industry.  For my undergraduate thesis work I developed a process to convert shale gas feedstocks to liquid methanol and applied integration methods to optimize the use of heat in the system.  Additionally, I performed and an economic analysis to determine that the new process would be profitable and competitive.
Katie Elmer
I am a senior Kinesiology major who plans to become a physical therapist. I am actively involved in the applied exercise physiology program, where I teach FitLife weight training classes. I am currently serving as Executive Director of a freshman leadership organization start-up for first-year students in the College of Education and Human Development, and am vice-president of the National Aggie Scholar Ambassadors. I spent my last summer on a study abroad trip to Sydney, Australia, where I learned about Australian sport, studied exercise biomechanics, and took surf lessons.  I enjoy spending time outdoors with my lovable (and mischievous) pup, Watson.
I began working in the Bone Biology Laboratory in the summer of 2011. During my junior year, I spearheaded a research project in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program studying the effects of simulated galactic cosmic radiation on the ability of mouse lumbar spine bones to respond to resistance exercise during a period of recovery from reduced weightbearing. I have presented at both state and local conferences, and plan to include my data in a collaborative publication. Information from this study will not only benefit astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight missions, but has clinical applications for sedentary populations as well.

Neddie Ann French
I am a junior English major with a minor in Communications from Katy, Texas. Throughout my career at A&M I have focused my time and attention on my two major areas of passion: research and travel. The summer before my freshman year at A&M I had the privilege of exploring Italy as a part of the Champe-Fitzhugh Leadership Seminar. Through this experience I became involved in the MSC LT Jordan Institute, helping to organize study abroad opportunities for other Aggies and promoting global awareness. I have also been involved in two research projects, the most recent of which was conducted at Cushing Memorial Library and involved archiving and investigating the provenance of books using the art of ex libris.  I hope to turn this research project into an online database for students and visitors to peruse and enjoy.
In the Fall of 2012, I began working on a research project under Dr. Marian Eide of the English department which I will develop into my Undergraduate Research Scholars thesis. My research combines the study of linguistics, literature, and narrative in order to examine the various uses and effects of second-person “you” in war narratives. Specifically, my study focuses on the ability of the second-person to manipulate the relationship between the reader and the narrator, allowing for a level of witnessing and recognition not usually accessible when relating stories of trauma.  Throughout my work on this project I have taken part in a series of interviews with war veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and was even able to travel to New York City in order to meet with several soldiers at Columbia University.
Vivek Karun
I am a senior majoring in Biomedical Sciences and pursuing a minor in Music. I entered Texas A&M knowing from the bottom of my heart that I wanted to become a doctor. Over the years, while enjoying my pre-medical studies, I have participated in clubs such as UNICEF through which I have been able to engage in activities that allow me to serve the underprivileged community around me. Aside from pursuing medicine, I have passionately enjoyed playing the piano as part of small ensemble bands in the Bryan/College Station area and participating in many competitive sports, especially basketball.
I became involved in research in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences under Dr. Louise Abbott from the second semester of my freshman year and participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program as a junior. I have been investigating the changes in neuronal structure and function in mice with genetic mutations that cause them to exhibit epileptic symptoms. These mice are proven to serve as models for studying human epilepsies. By studying them I hope to uncover groundbreaking information about seizures that can be applied clinically to improve the treatment of human seizures.   I have come to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy making new discoveries through biomedical research.

Samir Lakdawala
I am a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering with a distinction in Engineering Honors.  I spent this past summer interning for Chevron Corporation and the previous summer for Anadarko Petroleum Company. At my two internships I developed applications which helped improve global oil exploration techniques. I also completed the Undergraduate Research Scholars program in 2013.  I also serve on the Editorial Board of the undergraduate journal Explorations and during my free time I love to cook, paint, and spend time with family and friends.
I began high energy particle physics research as a freshman with Dr. Alexei Safonov. My research concerned the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) which is one of two flagship experiments in particle physics operating at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. CMS has been built to search for signatures of Higgs bosons and other possible new phenomena. The upcoming accelerator upgrade will push the detector systems beyond their current capabilities. As my Undergraduate Research Scholars project in 2013 I designed and built an electronics test stand to determine the feasibility of electronics solutions being considered for the new muon detection systems.
Madeline Matthews
Howdy! I am a senior Psychology major with minors in Economics and Neuroscience from Boerne, Texas. I am the current President of the student organization Invisible Jungle, which broadcasts from the local NPR affiliate station on breaking research in the field of microbiology.   I serve on the editorial board for Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal, which publishes the scholarly work of students here on campus. I previously held a seat on the Honors and Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee as student representative of the Undergraduate Research Program.
I began my involvement with research here Texas A&M by participating in a bioenvironmental science research group headed by Dr. Paul de Figueiredo in Plant Pathology during my sophomore year. My junior year I completed the Undergraduate Research Scholars program under Dr. Yamauchi in the Psychology department with my research partner, Ruth Moreno. Our thesis looked into honing modern methods of emotion elicitation which is ubiquitously used in cognitive science research. I am currently doing research under Dr. James Grau of the Faculty of Neuroscience. Dr. Grau’s lab is researching spinal plasticity and is working on defining the independent role of the spinal cord in the neurological memory-learning interface.
Matt McMahon
I am a geology major working on a minor in Spanish and a certificate in diversity. In my career at A&M I have competed as a member of the Texas A&M University Archery Club, and have been active in numerous career-related and volunteer organizations focused on areas such as environmentalism, languages and cultures, and entrepreneurship.  In my sophomore year I also became involved in the Academy for Future International Leaders and the Explorations undergraduate research journal as an Editor.  In my free time I’m often swimming, running, or singing as a member of a small church choir.
I began research in the spring of 2012 on a project in oceanographic and atmospheric sciences studying the effects of cyanobacteria in the atmosphere on ice nucleation in clouds. In the summer of 2012 I led a project researching the impact of the invasive lionfish in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve in Southern Belize. My current research involves studying the characterization of forest fires after they have occurred using mineralogy. With this model of analysis, I hope to make a significant contribution to the field of fire science, which has not seen a major scientific breakthrough in 50 years.
Victoria Pilcher
I am a double major in History and English with a focus on Colonial American studies and Literature. I began undergraduate research during my junior year working with Dr. Thomas Dunlap on a project focusing on the study of President Teddy Roosevelt. This was a significant starting point for me. With the exception of my Senior Seminar class, this was the first time I was provided an opportunity to create a project of my own and stand on my own two feet.  This encouraged me to continue undergraduate research.
I am working on my current project with Dr. Cynthia Bouton.  It focuses on the concept of sovereignty during the Atlantic revolutions and the individuals that led the call for revolution in North America, France, Haiti, and Spanish America.  I am examining the effect of education during the age of revolution and enlightenment, including the result of revolution for those who lacked classical education.  Despite differences in education, enlightenment ideals had the capacity to reach each of the zones of revolution.  I expect that the form of education and strength of enlightenment ideals directly affected the way that post-revolutionary constitutions addressed ideas of sovereignty.

Javier Santiago
Howdy! I’m a senior Molecular and Cell Biology major with a Neuroscience minor from San Antonio. Aside from academics, my time on campus is spent participating in research and being president of a men’s organization, TAMU GENTS. When away from campus I keep myself sane by reading, writing, swimming, and playing tennis and golf. I greatly enjoy travelling and aside from annual family trips to Puerto Rico, where my parents are from, I have had the opportunity to travel though Western Europe and spent the summer of 2012 living in Madrid, Spain. I am currently applying to medical school and am excited to pursue a medical degree after college.
I began working in the lab of Dr. Jianrong Li the fall of my sophomore year, and it has been an incredible learning experience. Most of my first year was spent learning staining, tissue, and animal-related techniques, in addition to collecting data on expression of Sphingosine-1-Phosphate (S1P) receptors in the brains of developing mice. My junior year I began work on neonatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury and the role of S1P receptors in the pathology. This investigation has been very rewarding, in great part due to the challenge of inducing ischemia by performing surgery to cauterize the carotid artery of post-natal day six mice. I completed a thesis for the Undergraduate Research Scholars program in March of 2013, and will continue my research project until I graduate in May of 2014.
Jeremy Seidel
I am a Chemical Engineering major working on a minor in Economics.  I have competed at nationals with the A&M Fencing Club.  I have worked on two internships, one with BASF and one with Texas Instruments.  In my free time I enjoy a wide variety of activities on- and off-campus including rock climbing, mountain biking, racquetball and badminton. 
I began my research on biofuels in the summer of 2011 under the supervision of Dr. Mark Holtzapple.  I have worked continuously on a number of projects focused towards one goal: recovering carboxylic acids from a microbial fermentation broth.  Although my research is primarily experimental in nature, I have also employed computational and economic analysis to help guide my investigation.  With continued progress, I hope to obtain a process patent for the recovery and processing of carboxylic acids into biofuel.  During the 2013-2014 academic year I will be mentoring three new undergraduate researchers in the Holtzapple lab.