Texas A&M University’s Graduate and Professional School recently awarded five dissertation fellowships as part of their Dissertation Fellowship Program. Developed in Fall 2011 by the Associate Provost for Graduate and Professional Studies, Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, the Dissertation Fellowship supports doctoral students in the late stages of degree program completion, namely final research topics analysis and dissertation writing. Eligible applicants included U.S. Citizens, permanent residents, and international doctoral students.

The following students received the Fall 2019 Dissertation Fellowships:

Zhou Chen is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture in the College of Education and Human Development. His dissertation evaluates the emergent literacy skills and home literacy environment among children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in China. Findings from his study will provide theoretical basis on how to help young immigrants and English language learners with ASD in the English-speaking context. Additionally, this study paves the way for future intervention studies to support language and literacy development of children with ASD. 

Jiayi Huang is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering. His dissertation explores the opportunities, challenges and viable solutions to design efficient interconnection networks for high-performance computer architectures. He proposes a power-gating mechanism to reduce the overhead of control and to minimize the performance penalty with a best-effort minimal routing algorithm. This research helps to advance the artificial intelligence (AI) movement by providing better computational infrastructure. Also, creating more energy-efficient systems promotes progression towards a green society in the future.

Kelly McNamara is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts. Her dissertation focuses on how organizations impact female labor experiences across racial and socioeconomic lines. Specifically, she aims to understand how organizational characteristics (i.e. ownership status, size, and financial measures) affect patient experiences at the micro level (mode of delivery, patient care, etc). Her research seeks to provide women with the necessary information to make well-informed decisions about their labor and birth experiences. Additionally, Kelly hopes to shape labor and birth policy through the documentation of discrimination and pressure to undergo medical procedures during labor and birth included in her dissertation.

Stephanie Ortiz is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts. Her dissertation examines the dimensions and implications of identity-based online harassment. This qualitative study explores how individuals’ social identities relate to their experiences and coping strategies in dealing with harassment. She seeks to understand how individuals conceptualize harassment, including what constitutes harassment and why. This research will present the opportunity to develop a valid instrument to measure the multiple dimensions of online harassment and provide understanding to create university and civil policies that combat this issue.

Shawanee Patrick is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering. Her research focuses on optimizing the design of mobility assistive devices through user-centered design which includes the desired user at every stage of the design process. Her dissertation analyzes the biomechanical output of two assistive devices and investigates whether the new system enhances gait biomechanics. She aims to produce more efficient mobility assistive devices at a lower cost overall. The advances proposed in this dissertation will provide design process knowledge and better access to mobility for mobility-impaired populations.

Leila Siciliano-Martina is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the Interdisciplinary Degree Program. Her research involves a meta-analysis to understand the morphology of captive animals. She examines the nature of changes between wild and captive canids to help determine the factors, mechanisms, and consequences of these differences in reintroducing species into the wild. Her research will inform husbandry, conservation, and future reintroduction attempts for canids, specifically for reintroducing swift foxes (Vulpes velox) Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi), and red wolves (Canis rufus) into Texas. More broadly, her research will help determine the impact of captivity to aid in the reintroduction and preservation of species long-term.

Elina Tachkova is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts. Her research focuses on the concept of scansis, the intersection between organizational crisis and scandal, and the moral component of crisis communication. Her dissertation examines and tracks the development of the field of crisis communication, describes the extant work on scandals including how this applies to the corporate context, and proposes experimental designs to investigate how the concept of scansis can contribute to theory development by explaining some of the anomalies in current crisis communication research. This research helps provide understanding of how organizations can avoid stigmatization following a scansis through effective communication.

Huyen Van is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development in the College of Education and Human Development. Her dissertation centers on the role of employee engagement (EE) mediating the relationships between organizational learning, organizational perceived support and employee performance in Vietnamese small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Huyen’s research investigates the perspectives of Vietnamese SME employees regarding how engagement connects learning and support at the organizational level. This study contributes to raising SME organizations’ awareness of workplace learning. Huyen seeks to further workforce engagement in Vietnam which will contribute to economic benefits for companies and the country broadly.

Raven Walker-Blakeway is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Marine Biology in the Interdisciplinary Degree Program. Her dissertation addresses the invasion of lionfish and its resulting threat to biodiversity by proposing a lionfish fishery model that balances native reef-fish recovery, lionfish population suppression, and economic viability for commercial fishermen. This management plan draws from two case studies in Aruba and Texas and addresses issues including diversification of fisheries; market-based solutions for long-term control of invasive species; food security for local consumers; income for local fishermen; and broadly reduced stress to degraded marine environments. Her research holds the potential to reshape the structure of current fishery management approaches in the United States and aid in managing lionfish as an invasive species worldwide.

Huaqing Wang is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning in the College of Architecture. Her dissertation seeks to explore the relationship between urban greenspace distribution and human health. Huaqing compares landscape metrics in seven major U.S. cities with mortality and the prevalence of leading chronic diseases. This research offers guidelines for optimal spatial arrangements of greenspaces, and thus contributes to highly economical new design projects. If the results are applied, this research will promote social equity in health promotion for those without medical health resources, such as older adults and less-educated individuals. Additionally, the application of these results can promote reduced air pollution and healthy city development policy by encouraging optimal greenspace.

Sinan Zhong is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning in the College of Architecture. Her research aims to explore both social and environmental approaches to creating intergenerational communities with the goal of promoting active and healthy aging in place (being able to live safely and independently at home). Sinan’s dissertation will provide evidence and strategies to apply toward designing intergenerational communities, specifically pertaining to land uses and housing options, green infrastructure and outdoor spaces, and conducive transportation systems. Her research aims to grow the empirical knowledge on the benefits and strategies of intergenerational interactions toward creating evidence-based design applications for intergenerational communities.

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