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 Spring 2017 Dissertation Fellowships:

Carla Zimmerman is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology. Her research examines ostracism – being ignored and excluded by others. She focuses on three major questions: Who experiences ostracism? How can targets cope with ostracism in a beneficial manner? And what are the consequences of acute and prolonged ostracism? Her dissertation examines a novel form of coping with ostracism – confrontation, or directly expressing displeasure with mistreatment. The design of her study will permit her to examine whether responses towards out-group sources of ostracism differ based on whether or not the participant belongs to a dominant or minority group.

Hyunseong Min is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ocean Engineering. His dissertation focuses on the numerical code development for the dynamic responses of Floating Offshore Wind Turbine (FOWT). Recently, the element of wind energy is emerging as popular renewable energy. Currently, wind source quality and availability are lacking; because of this, recent installation of FOWT in deep water have been made, and engineers are hopeful they could serve an alternative, for the lack of their on-land cousins. With the lack of track records these installations could involve potential construction risks. It is understood that those risks can be mitigated and managed by the computer simulation and the laboratory experiment in advance. In his research, he improved the applicability and computational accuracy of the previously developed numerical code, COUPLE-FAST. The code was verified by the corresponding measurements, and the developed code was applied to the real FOWT problem. This research is expected be a valuable source to contribute to this understudied research field.         

Xuerui Gai is a doctoral student in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering. His research focuses on hydrate bearing sediments (HBS), a type of natural soil deposit that contain ice-like methane hydrates in its pore space. He also examines geo-mechanical behavior of hydrate bearing sediment which is particularly important for developing technology for gas production from HBS; as it both affects the integrity of the formation and the its stability. This study will enhance the current understanding of mechanical response of HBS during gas production, assist in developing optimal methane production strategies, and the prevention of potential hazards associated with uncontrolled hydrate dissociation and gas release from hydrate bearing sediments.

Xiyu Ma is a doctoral student in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  Xiyu’s research focuses on signal transduction and regulation in plant immunity. Plants including economically important crops are constantly challenged by pathogenic microbes. How plants sense pathogens and respond properly to adapt environments are fundamental biological questions. With Arabidopsis Thaliana as a model system, Xiyu studied a master signaling transducer BOTRYTIS INDUCED KINASE 1 (BIK1) and found its function is regulated by novel post-translational modifications. He also identified several previously unknown BIK1 substrates which relay signal from receptor complex to diverse downstream molecular events. His finding will help understand the activation and regulation of plant defense responses and facilitate strategic development of disease resistant crops in agriculture.

Michela Russo is a doctoral student in the Department of Hispanic Studies. Her current research focuses on Latin American Cultural Studies. Her dissertation inquire into the relationship between aesthetics and politics within the recent Latin American political changes, now in reflux, called “Pink Tide” or “Socialism of the 21st century.” She studies “imaginary” construction of the Bolivian Plurinational Sate during the presidency of Evo Morales (in charge since 2005), considered as one of the most radical instantiations of the “Pink Tide,” and at this point the only remaining successful one. Michaela also analyzes the production of urban/popular imaginaries that may have contributed to designing a new episteme, whether supporting or discussing State-driven discourse Given its interdisciplinary approach, my work aims to question the traditional disciplinary understanding of cultural studies, specifically Latin American’s.

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