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 2020 Dissertation Fellowships:

Caleb A. Davis is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering. His dissertation investigates the biochemical response of lymphatic endothelial cells to mechanical forces, including cyclic stretching and fluid shear stress. The goal of this research is to understand the role these cells play in regulating the contraction of lymphatic vessels under various conditions. Lymphatic vessels perform vital fluid transport functions in the body, and lymphatic dysfunction can lead to the debilitating buildup of fluid in the tissues, called edema. Therefore this research represents an effort to understand the processes behind the development of edema, which may result in more effective therapeutic strategies in the future.
Kyungtae Lee is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His research is in water resources with a specific focus on hydro-climatology and meteorological extremes such as flood events. His dissertation will focus on the analysis of extreme precipitation and climatic cycles associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The purpose of this study is to quantify the impact and contribution of five major Atlantic and Pacific Ocean based climatic cycles on extreme precipitation (return period of 100-year) and probable maximum precipitation in various climate regions of Texas during the historical period. His research aims to raise the community’s awareness of broader insights in understanding extreme meteorological events.
Jukrin Moon is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering. Her dissertation investigates how a multilayered incident management team (IMT) makes coordinated decisions as an integrated system in large-scale disasters (e.g., Hurricane Harvey). Her dissertation lays out the process of conceptualizing and validating an interaction-based modeling framework through a social network analysis and a qualitative content analysis of interactions actually observed at a high-fidelity simulator (i.e. the TEEX Emergency Operations Training Center). The model proposed in her dissertation will potentially serve as a diagnostic tool for better training and assessment of incident responders in the context of networked teams rather than each in isolation.
Huiqiao Pan is a doctoral candidate in the Molecular and Environmental Plant Sciences interdisciplinary program in the College of Agriculture and Life Science. Huiqiao’s research focuses on deciphering the interkingdom signaling pathways between plants and plant growth-promoting microorganisms (PGPMs) that aid in nutrient acquisition, as well as disease and stress tolerance. Using wheat and pheanzine-producing PGPMs as a model, she found that LuxR transcriptional regulators in PGPMs can alter the expression of genes in key bacterial pathways in response to small plant-derived molecules that serve as interkingdom signals. These findings may lead to more precise and effective applications of native and introduced phenazine-producers for plant breeding. Broadly, these transformative potentials may facilitate novel management strategies for sustainable agriculture.
Cassie Skenandore is a Biomedical Sciences doctoral candidate in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Her research focuses on mitigating inflammatory disorders caused by excessive tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) in equine. By blending anti-TNFα and stem cell therapies, her research aims to produce a recombinant receptor that will bind excessive TNFα to prevent proinflammatory signal transduction and apoptosis pathways, while also improving the viability of stem cells. Ultimately, the results from this research will provide rationale for the use of these therapies in vivo and will have a significant positive impact on equine performance and longevity.
Daniel Vecellio is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography in the College of Geosciences. His research investigates how the degradation of permafrost in Eurasia affects the surface energy balance of the region. His dissertation attempts to explain how this new energy accumulation is transferred to the atmosphere through changes in land-atmosphere interactions and large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns. His research endeavors to present a narrative on the geophysical impact of high-latitude ground thaw and, consequently, helps to guide further research into the links between Arctic and mid-latitude weather and extreme weather events.
Yu Zhang is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. His research aims to quantify the uncertainty of probable maximum flood (PMF), which derived from probable maximum precipitation (PMP). He first developed a new method of PMP, and then uses a hydrologic model to transfer PMP to PMF and quantifies all the uncertainties associated in the process. Yu’s dissertation will provide a more reliable guide on flooding control and mitigation. It will help decision makers and stakeholders better understand extreme flood risk.

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