Each year, the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M University recognizes up to 15 graduate students to receive Distinguished Graduate Student Awards in one of three categories: Excellence in Research-Doctoral, Excellence in Research-Master’s, and Excellence in Teaching. The students are nominated by their faculty advisors or their departments, and to be nominated is truly an honor and an accomplishment in itself, due to the strenuous eligibility requirements. The award recipients are chosen by a panel of reviewers, which includes faculty and administrators.Top row, left to right: Michael Grubb, Jeremy Beus, Scott Crawford Middle row, left to right: McKinzie Craig, Amelia Romoser, Kelly Lemmons Bottom row, left to right: Kelly Winsco, Ashley Kroon Van Diest, Chen Xu, John Tyler Jr.
AFS Distinguished Graduate Student Awards
Jeremy Beus is a PhD student in the Department of Psychology. His high quality research in the field of organizational psychology helps to expand our understanding of the reciprocal relationship between safety climate and workplace injuries. He is first author on four out of 7 papers published in the top journals in his field, making significant contributions to the research literature on safety climate. Jeremy also successfully obtained external funding for his research through collaborating on a grant awarded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Dr. Beus has accepted a tenure-track position in the Psychology Department at the University of Central Florida to begin in the fall of 2012.
Michael Grubb is a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and his research focus is on the reaction dynamics of the nitrate radical nitrogen oxide. Using velocity map ion imaging, Michael has successfully defined the mechanisms underlying this photodissociation reaction. One nominator notes that Michael’s work is “impressive and his sheer brilliance is evident to anyone who has the opportunity to work alongside Michael.” Michael has six manuscripts, 4 as first author, published in peer reviewed, top-tier journals. Several of his articles, according to one nominator, are already generating significant “buzz” in the research community. Michael has been recognized in the past with the Dow Chemical Graduate Scholarship Award in Chemistry and the Bruno J. Zwolinscki Award in Physical Chemistry.
Elaheh Rahbar recently graduated from Texas A&M University with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. The goal of her dissertation was to investigate and characterize the transport of lymph, using experimental animal techniques and computational models. These data laid the foundation for further lymphatic modeling in Dr. James E. Moore’s lab and a successful grant application to NIH. Elaheh has published 3 peer-reviewed publications, 2 as first author. Early in her career at A&M she won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a Texas A&M Regent’s Fellowship. One professor said, “Elaheh is truly one of the brightest students with whom I have had the pleasure of working.”
Casey Wade was honored for his research in inorganic chemistry performed during his doctoral work in the Department of Chemistry. He is now working as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. His research studies at A&M focused on assessing the binding of fluoride ions to various species of N-methyl pyridium groups. Casey’s work has resulted in advancing concepts in structure and bonding as well as molecular orbital theory of the main group elements. Casey’s motivation allowed him to quickly amass an impressive 12 publications in high-impact journals, on 10 of which Casey is first author. Casey was recently awarded the 2012 Young Investigator Award from the American Chemical Society’s Division of Inorganic Chemistry, which recognizes the top 8 inorganic PhD Students in the US.
Chen Xu is being honored for her work performed as a PhD student in the Department of Oceanography at the Texas A&M Galveston campus. There she was actively involved in two different projects supported by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate the role of natural organic matter found in soils and waters in remediating toxic radioactive iodine and plutonium at two DOE sites. Her innovative studies made important contributions to the success of subsequent applications by professors in the Departments of Marine Sciences and Oceanography, resulting in over $1.2 million of new funding from the DOE in 2011. A full 18 peer reviewed publications, 6 of which are first-authored, provide impressive evidence of her scholarly impact.
Sasha Fleary is a PhD student in the Department of Psychology. Her work in clinical psychology led to a dissertation project designing an intervention targeted to parents of young children. Through providing health literacy information in an experiential manner, families successfully implemented healthy lifestyle choices in the home. Sasha has accumulated 2 peer-reviewed publications as first author, with many more submitted. One professor stated, “Sasha is the most gifted and remarkable doctoral student I have worked with over the past 10-15 years. If I rank all the doctoral students I have mentored throughout my career, without a doubt Sasha ranks number one.” She has received numerous awards in the past, including the U.S. Senator Phil Gramm Fellowship for Research and Teaching and the Graduate Diversity Fellowship.
Amelia Romoser is a PhD student in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. Amelia’s research in nanotoxicology involved the creation of a novel experimental design that studied the effects of engineered nanomaterials to experimentally induce oxidative stress and inflammation. These results have important implications for autoimmune disorders and the biological response to foreign substances. Amelia has published her work in 4 peer-reviewed articles, 3 of them first-authored, in journals with high international impact and has also co-authored a book chapter. One nominator remarked, “Students like Amelia are the pride of our college and university, and are indeed models for other graduate students to follow.” She has also served as a mentor to undergraduate students conducting research in the NSF Summer Training Program.
Excellence in Research, Masters
Ashley Kroon Van Diest was honored for her work in clinical psychology. Ashley received her Master’s degree from the Department of Psychology in 2011 and began work on her PhD this year. Her research is focused on the development and prevention of eating disorders, and she will continue this line of research for her dissertation. One professor said, “Ashley demonstrates incredible professional promise as an academician and scholar…she has developed a programmatic line of research that is novel, unique, and important for prevention of eating disorders.” Ashley has been a project manager for an R03 grant from NIH and wrote a first-authored manuscript published in a peer-reviewed journal and a book chapter currently in press.
Wenlong Yang earned as M.S. degree in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, in August of 2011. His research addressed both basic optical science questions and also practical applications thereof. Wenlong is senior author on three papers and co-author on two more papers published in some of the most prestigious journals in physics, including Physical Review A. This is an outstanding accomplishment for a Master’s student. One professor said “I have supervised and advised a plethora of graduate students in my 43 years here at TAMU and I can honestly say that I have never seen a better Master’s student than Wenlong.” He is now pursuing a PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University.
Gemma Barrett was honored for her work in coastal geomorphology. She received her Master’s Degree from the Department of Geography in August of 2011 and was immediately hired as a Curatorial Specialist with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. The purpose of her graduate work was to locate rip current hotspots along Pensacola Beach in Florida. Gemma’s research clearly demonstrated that these recently identified hotspots of rip current activity are geologically forced and will develop at the same locations in the future. The results of her study will have a significant practical impact on life guarding efforts on what has been identified as the most hazardous beach in the U.S. Gemma has 4 publications in peer-reviewed journals, one of which she first-authored, and has made several national presentations.
Excellence in Teaching, Doctoral
Scott Crawford is a PhD student in the Department of Statistics where he has served as Instructor since the fall of 2007 for 3 different introductory statistics courses. One student commented, “He is possibly the best instructor I have ever had. I look forward to coming to class; he’s hilarious and class is never boring.” Scott’s enthusiasm, effort, and humor he brings to the classroom can be evidenced through the music videos Scott created that relate statistical concepts musically and visually for his students. One professor commented, “Initially, students enrolled in these introductory courses are unenthusiastic about statistics and as a result, must be ‘won over’ by the instructors…Scott’s students often exclaim in their evaluations that they not only learned the material well – they had fun doing so!”
Mr. Kelly Lemmons is a PhD student in the Department of Geography, where he has served as a lab instructor, teaching assistant, and lecturer for multiple courses in geography. In the summer of 2011, Kelly served as a graduate student mentor on a Study Abroad trip to Costa Rica, where he oversaw the cultural learning experience of undergraduate participants. One professor stated, “Kelly shows great skill in his ability to create an environment of mutual trust in the classroom. This ability is impressive on its own, even in a small class environment. To accomplish this in a class of 250 students, however, is exceptional and Kelly did just that.”
McKinzie Craig is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science and has been fully responsible for teaching six undergraduate courses on American government and constitutional law. McKenzie has three times received the highest teaching award the Department of Political Science confers for graduate student teaching based on a review of her student evaluations, syllabi, and classroom observations conducted by faculty members. McKenzie is known for engaging students through back and forth discussion rather than using a traditional lecture system in the classroom that leaves students passive. McKinzie’s dedication to student development is further evidenced by her involvement with the Moot Court and the Legal Education Group for Aggie Law Students, two organizations that provide undergraduate students with active learning environments and opportunities to participate in national competitions.
John Tyler, Jr. is a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy. Before returning to Texas A&M to pursue his doctorate, John attended law school at Southern Methodist University and has nearly 30 years of legal experience. John has taught three introductory courses and a course on philosophy of law for multiple semesters; his experience in the courtroom as an attorney has given him the exceptional ability to communicate complicated matters effectively to his students. One of Tyler’s students said, “I enjoyed Professor Tyler’s enthusiasm….we enjoyed his class discussions so much that, after class ended, many students would gather around him to discuss a multitude of issues.” A professor stated, “John’s teaching ability is unmatched by any instructor with whom I have worked during my years at Texas A&M.”
Kelly Winsco is working on a PhD degree in Animal Science with an emphasis in Equine Nutrition. Kelly served as a teaching assistant for 8 different courses before being promoted to the primary instructor for two animal science courses: Introduction to Equine Care and Equine Behavior and Training. One professor commented, “Kelly is one of the rare graduate students who is qualified to teach every course offered in our equine curriculum. Not only is she knowledgeable, but extremely approachable, personable, and relates to a variety of student personality types.” Kelly’s teaching experience has also extended beyond the typical classroom. She is actively involved in AgriLife Extension activities including workshops and judging contests, and the Youth 4-H Horse Round-Up.