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2014-2015 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.

Interested in getting to know the people behind the journal? Read our student Board Members' bios for a look into what makes Explorations possible and why they do it!

Carli Domenico
I am a senior 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 soccer, yoga, bouldering, golf, 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 recently completed the University Research Scholars capstone, which involved a poster and thesis on a project investigating the anti-hyperalgesic potential of a natural supplement as well as its effect on neurogenic inflammation. I am still currently running this study with the recent incorporation of a placebo. I also had an internship in the Behavioral Health and Performance division at NASA's Johnson Space Center. My research projects involved actigraphy validation, environmental psychology, habitability evaluation of the Human Exploration Research Analog, and literature reviews of sleep architecture in space flight as well as implications of space flight variables on the glymphatic system.  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.

Anna De la Garza

I am a senior and a bilingual education major from Brownsville, Texas. As a member of the Bilingual Education Student Organization I was able to serve on its 2013-2014 board as a public relations representative. I also belong to the Association for Childhood Education (A.C.E.) and volunteer at ChildreNiƱos, a local daycare in College Station. During my junior year I had the opportunity to attend the National Conference for Bilingual Education in San Diego where I was able to participate not only as a volunteer, but was able to interact with one of the leading authors of textbooks for bilingual educators. My sophomore year at TAMU I went on a study abroad trip to Russia and was a Peer Mentor, where I was able to create a liaison between incoming freshmen and the professors in Teaching, Learning, and Culture. As a freshman I was a member of the Lohman Learning Community. I enjoy working with children as well as baking and listening to music.

As an undergraduate in the College of Education my junior year I had a great opportunity to be part of a research team. I worked alongside faculty members to determine how well the writing intensive courses offered at Texas A & M are preparing pre-service teachers and how comfortable they feel with teaching the material. The project focused on the self-efficacy of the pre-service teachers’ writing. We developed observation instruments which we utilized during our observations of the students and the faculty involved in the study. The study provided a very valuable perception on how writing intensive courses are being taught as well as how well prepared the pre-service teachers are to teach writing

Neddie Ann French

I am a senior English major (with a minor in Communications) from Katy, Texas. Throughout her career at A&M, she has focused her time and attention on her two major areas of passion: research and travel. The summer before her freshman year at A&M, she had the privilege of exploring Italy with the honors department as a part of the Champe-Fitzhugh Leadership Seminar. Through this experience, she became involved in the MSC LT Jordan Institute, helping to organize study abroad opportunities for other Aggies and promoting global awareness. Neddie Ann has 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. She hopes to one day (sooner rather than later) turn this research project into an online database for students and visitors to peruse and enjoy.

In the Fall of 2012, she began working on a research project under Dr. Marian Eide of the English department. Her research combines the study linguistics, literature, and narrative in order to examine the various uses and effects of second-person “you” in war narratives. Specifically, her 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 her work on this project, Neddie Ann has 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.

Erica Gascasan
I am a junior Biomedical Engineering major with a minor in Chemistry from Round Rock, Texas. If I’m not in the lab, in class, or studying you can probably find me curled up on the couch with a good book, Netflix, or some knitting needles. In the past year I worked with a specialty chemicals company in Philadelphia helping to develop “greener” chemistries related to hydraulic fracturing and participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program submitting my thesis entitled “PDMSstar-PEG Hydrogels for Osteochondral Tissue Engineering”.
I began working with Dr. Melissa Grunlan on the repair of osteochondral tissues through hydrogel materials in the Spring of 2013. Through modulating the topography, chemistry, and mechanical properties of such materials, cell behavior can be directed in a specific geometry, such as the osteochondral interface of the body’s joints.  Undergraduate research has been an incredibly impactful experience for me. By exercising my presentation and investigative skills I have become a more well-rounded and confident student, traits I hope will lead me to graduate studies and beyond.

Olivia George
I am a senior studying biomedical engineering and mathematics. My broad research interest is in polymer science. I’m particularly fascinated by the chemistry that gives rise to various material properties. I began working on my current project with Professor Melissa Grunlan in the fall of 2012. This project aims to develop a shape memory polymer scaffold capable of “self-fitting” into an irregular bone defect, enabling new bone tissue formation and healing of the defect. This would be an alternative strategy to using biological autografts or synthetic bone putties, which are associated with significant clinical problems. I’m currently working on modifying the chemistry of the scaffold to enhance its capacity to degrade (i.e. be resorbed) by the body such that only newly formed bone tissue would remain.

In my free time I enjoy reading, running, unicycling and trying new things. I could not have anticipated the profound impact that undergraduate research has had on my life. I want to help other undergraduates find the same excitement that I’ve found in research and look forward to being a research Ambassador this year!

Andrea Gerberding
I’m a junior Genetics and Biochemistry double major with a minor in Neuroscience from Corpus Christi, Texas. I am the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department representative on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Council, and am involved in volunteering with the Lion’s Club and with Texas A&M Physicians. My aspiration is to become a physician with the United States Navy and assist in their global medical outreaches to war-torn areas and regions affected by natural disasters. Whenever I’m not studying at the library or a random coffee shop, I enjoy running, swimming, and watching action movies.

I became involved in research at the beginning of my sophomore year with Dr. Bruce Riley of the Biology Department. My project focuses on the development of the neurons of the statoacoustic ganglion in the zebrafish inner ear, and how a couple of specific genes affect the process. In researching this field I hope to learn about how zebrafish are able to regenerate and innervate hair cells in their inner ears, which is an ability humans do not possess. With this knowledge age-related hearing loss and certain forms of deafness could be prevented and possibly even corrected in humans. My experience in research has taught me to think critically and creatively and to approach problems from different angles, which has benefited me both inside and outside the lab.

Samantha Guz
I am a Senior Psychology and Sociology major from San Antonio, Texas. Last year I completed my Undergraduate Research Scholar's thesis with the Special Education Department. I worked with Dr. Mandy Rispoli's research team on autism research, specifically focusing on the building of receptive communication skills in preschool aged children diagnosed with autism. I was a teaching assistant for Dr. Edward Murguia in the Sociology department last semester and together we submitted a manuscript regarding the Sociology of modern mental health care. Last year also I began doing applied research with Dr. Rick Peterson in the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. My senior year at Texas A&M I plan on continuing all of these research projects and hope to complete another undergraduate thesis. 
I began undergraduate research my first semester at Texas A&M in the Sociology Department. The first research meeting I attended was dynamite. Soon afterward I began pursuing undergraduate research and have made it the focus of my experience at Texas A&M.

William Linz
I am a junior pursuing a BS/MS in Mathematics and a minor in German from Temple, Texas. I serve as a member of the Executive Board of Explorations, the Undergraduate Journal of Texas A&M, which publishes research, scholarly and creative works. I became involved with Explorations as a freshman. I have served as the President of Aggie Quizbowl for two years, participating both as a competitor challenging other colleges in Texas and Louisiana and as a volunteer reading questions at local high school quizbowl tournaments. This year I will serve as Vice President of the Math Club. This position is responsible for organizing the student Problem Solving Contest. In my spare time I enjoy reading and have recently taken an interest in running and strength training.

My undergraduate research experience began in the spring of my freshman year, working under the direction of Dr. Catherine Yan in Mathematics at Texas A&M. My research focused on the enumerative properties of derangements on a particular mathematical structure known as a Ferrers Board. This work was the subject of my Undergraduate Research Scholars thesis in the academic year 2013-2014. I had the opportunity to present my research findings at local and national conferences and I submitted a manuscript to a mathematics research journal this past summer. I am interested in extending this work by looking at other properties of permutations on Ferrers boards. This past summer I also participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Texas at Tyler, where I worked on a project in chemical graph theory, specifically in the enumeration of fullerene patches. I will present a poster over this work with my research team at the annual Joint Mathematics Meeting national conference in San Antonio this January.

Matthew McMahon
I am a senior geology major working on a minor in Mathematics 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; I have now been Co-Chair of the journal for three semesters.  In my free time I’m often swimming, running, or studying languages.

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 geological research in my sophomore and junior years involved studying the characterization of forest fires after they have occurred using mineralogy. At present I am developing microelectronic and anti-flammability coatings in Dr. Jaime Grunlan’s Polymer Nanocomposite Laboratory.

Katherine Park
I am senior from College Station, Texas, majoring in Biochemistry and Genetics with a minor in French. In addition to my research I play the double bass with the Texas A&M University Orchestra and I spent the Fall 2013 semester doing a language-intensive study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence, France. I am a University Scholar in the Honors program and spent this past summer as a team leader for the Aggie Research Scholars program where I mentored five undergraduates on a project studying two bacteriophages active against pathogenic E. coli.

In the spring of my freshman year I began studying bacteriophage genomics in the laboratory of Dr. Ryland Young. I was able to isolate and name my own bacteriophages and study phage proteins. I am continuing this work in the laboratory of Dr. Jason Gill where I am studying potential invertible regions in the genomes of two bacteriophages of the host Burkholderia cepacia.

Ramsey Randolph
I am a Senior from Austin, Texas, majoring in Economics with minors in Sports Management and Business Administration. I am interested in pursuing graduate school in the near future and I value using research as an avenue for condensing large data sets and producing meaningful information. Aside from research and academic coursework I enjoy long-distance running and staying up-to-date on all professional sporting news.

My current research is in the Wildlife and Policy Conservation Group, and my most recent work has been the NSF funded Smart Grid: Socio-Political Context for Energy Technology project. Here, I have studied socio-technical transitions and their impacts from media, policy, and sustainability standpoints. I have also investigated the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and energy systems media. This research experience has complemented my academic coursework substantially. I’ve gained a further insight into economic and social impacts of new energy technologies and plan to incorporate my learning throughout my involvement with the Texas A&M Economics Society. Research is a key element to success and innovation and I am excited to expand my research initiatives throughout my undergraduate studies at A&M and beyond.

Jack Reid
I am a senior from Austin, Texas, seeking a Mechanical Engineering and Philosophy dual degree. In the course of this I am getting a minor in Mathematics as well. After the final year of my undergraduate career I intend to pursue a graduate degree in design method. My extracurricular activities at A&M have included serving as a local project lead for Engineers Without Borders and, like some other current and former UGR Ambassadors, being a member of the Invisible Jungle team.

My first involvement with research was during the spring of my freshman year, studying two-phase flow for the Nuclear Engineering Department. This was followed during my sophomore year by working as part of an interdisciplinary AggiE-Challenge team to model and predict human arm movement based off of electrical nerve signals. My most recent research work has been in the Plasma Engineering and Diagnostics Laboratory under Dr. David Staack where I have worked on minimizing tactile pain due to nonthermal argon plasmas as well as developing and testing a plasma-based bioaerosal sterilizer. I have recently returned from studying abroad in Qatar and Spain and am picking up these topics again for my senior year.

Saumia Thomas
I am a senior double major in Biology and Psychology pursuing a minor in Neuroscience from Mesquite, Texas.  For the past five years I have taught adolescents at summer Vacation Bible School camps in Dallas, Austin, and Oklahoma, where I learned I possess a passion and  gift to communicate with and teach young children. With my interests in medicine and pediatrics I plan to attend medical school. I am currently the Co-Chief Student Leader of the South Asian Intervarsity Christian Fellowship called Thrive where I participate in sharing the gospel with fellow Aggies, leading worship, and leading a women’s small group. I have also participated in the fundraising chair for Ags for Orphans, an organization focused on building a loving community and providing shelter for the fatherless in Haiti. In my spare time I enjoy photography, longboarding, and playing the guitar.
I began research my sophomore year in the field of Cognitive Psychology with Dr. Terry Barnhardt. We studied the effects of different types of study tasks on implicit and explicit memory. My junior year I started research in Dr. Mary Meagher’s Pain and Affective Neuroscience lab. As a research assistant I helped execute an experiment that evaluated the effects of cognitive tasks, such as anagrams, on experimental pain induced by topical capsaicin. I hope to incorporate what I have learned through these experiments on pain in future clinical settings. I will be continuing my undergraduate research with this lab in the Fall.

Sean Whitney
I am a junior 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, courtesy of the department “Fast Track” program. 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 First Sergeant for Squadron One in the coming year, as well as in other capacities, such as my delegacy in the Nichols Rising Leaders Conference and Engineering Learning Community Chair within the O.R. Simpson Corps Honor Society.
In November of 2013, I began as a research assistant in Dr. Cable Kurwitz’s Interphase Transport Phenomena Laboratory on a NASA-funded project tailored to finding solutions to the stringent mass, power, volume, and financial constraints associated with modern satellite systems. To date the project has involved creatively developing methods to reduce the amount of light captured, and thus power required, during image acquisition while maintaining picture quality and resolution using off-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. Throughout my extracurricular and academic involvement at Texas A&M I have maintained that a well-rounded character is paramount to success, and through mentoring others, I hope to spread that success.

Omar Wyman
I’m a sophomore 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.