Spring 2021 DISSERTATION FELLOWSHIP AWARD BIOGRAPHIES

Texas A&M University’s Graduate and Professional School recently awarded ten 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 2021 Dissertation Fellowship:
 
Aimèe Reyes-Elrod is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The purpose of Aimèe’s research is to look at the effects of diet and exercise on cardiovascular disease. She is looking at the effects of varying macronutrient intake in three hypocaloric diets combined with resistance exercise on low-density and high-density lipoprotein subfractions. Additionally, she will investigate the relationship between anthropometrics, visceral adipose tissue, cardiovascular fitness, insulin resistance, and blood lipids with lipoprotein subfractions to evaluate parameters essential to producing a more atheroprotective lipoprotein profile. Through her research, she hopes to contribute to the scientific literature regarding cardiovascular disease and lipid research to elucidate the ideal diet and exercise “dosage” for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
 
Amin Alizadeh is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development in the College of Education and Human Development. His dissertation expands corporate social responsibility (CSR) literature by identifying if employee trust can mediate the relationship between CSR and employee engagement. While CSR practices result in more engaged employees, the current literature does not provide a clear understanding of underlying mechanisms because most researchers have focused their attention on the direct relationship of CSR activities with employee behavior. This study aims to identify mechanisms that motivate business leaders to continue the promotion of CSR in their organizations and to help industry leaders understand the importance of employee perceptions of their CSR efforts.
 
Ehikowoicho Idoko is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Health and Kinesiology in the College of Education and Human Development. Her dissertation explores mental health literacy among Black/African American emerging adults who attend predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Ehikowoicho’s research interprets how the experience of Black/African American students in PWIs intersects with their knowledge of mental health and mental disorders, stigma toward mental disorders, and help-seeking efficacy. By highlighting mental health literacy via an Afrocentric lens and voice, this study seeks to identify salient areas of need within this student demographic. The explored areas of need derived from participants’ accounts will serve to inform college programs, policies, and structures, and ultimately better support Black/African American students to thrive while enrolled and to graduate successfully.
 
Shreedevi (Shree) Arun Kumar is a doctoral candidate in Dr. Akhilesh Gaharwar’s laboratory within the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering. Her research is focused on developing drug delivery
platforms for various biomedical applications, including vaccine delivery and cancer therapy. She successfully developed a biodegradable, injectable vaccine delivery platform that can potentially withstand the harsh transportation conditions often experienced in developing countries. This platform can also be activated upon injection by the medical staff, providing additional personalized control over the delivery of vaccines. She has published the results in peer-reviewed journals and has presented in several national conferences. Shree is currently developing another delivery platform that aims at reducing the recurrence of breast cancer after the surgical removal of tumor.
 
Alan Lewis is a doctoral candidate in the Water Management and Hydrological Science program in the College of Geosciences. His research applies a methodology for the conservation of municipal drinking water in residential landscapes and evaluates the efficacy of educational interventions developed to reduce excessive outdoor water use. The water budget methodology provides a key weather-based benchmark for determining conservation potential, measuring efficient residential water use and documenting the extent of water waste. Alan’s dissertation examines twelve years of residential water use in College Station to test the landscape water budget methodology and four years of educational interventions to assess changes in water use. His study will enable utility practitioners to more effectively use consumer education to build drought and climate change resilience into their drinking water systems.
 
Haleh Moghaddasi is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Architecture in the College of Architecture. Her research aims to explore climate change mitigation strategies in residential communities. Haleh’s dissertation will provide a modified net-zero concept that focuses on balancing power production with source energy use in building and transportation sectors on a community-level. Her research develops a scalable net-zero concept that represents the percentage of renewable energy production to total community energy use over a year. Haleh’s study aims to provide key stakeholders—including developers, engineers, building and grid designers, and researchers—with a practical net-zero model and design guidelines applicable to residential developments that are sustainable, energy-efficient, and significantly reduce the use of non-renewable energy sources, thereby promoting a healthier environment.
 
Manoj Myneni is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering. His research focuses on the influence of mechanical factors in the initiation and the propagation of a tear in the thoracic aorta of the body. This dissertation aims to evaluate the tensile and tearing properties of pig blood vessels and apply this knowledge to develop a model for the initiation of damage in the thoracic aorta of humans. Through his dissertation, Manoj intends to develop a fundamental understanding of the factors leading to aortic dissection in humans. Such an understanding would advance our ability to predict the occurrence of aortic dissection and save many lives.
 
Jordan Pratt is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts. Her dissertation research explores the lithic technology and adaptive strategies used by people as they settled into the Great Basin during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. Pratt’s research uses the analysis of stone tools to investigate the technological organization (e.g. behavioral choices, mobility, settlement, and land use strategies) employed by the people who used Western Stemmed technology and occupied sites in the Harney Basin of Oregon. Her results will contribute a significant regional dataset for future archaeological investigations. Further, Pratt’s research will be used for public outreach efforts in the Far West, where archaeological interpretations and data can add important information and perspectives to ongoing debates about heritage stewardship, land management, and conservation.
 
David Yagüe González is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Hispanic Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. His research aims to deconstruct the notions of community and masculinity within the works of Latinx authors as a part of a broader debate taking place in American literary criticism and cultural studies on the topic of heteronormativity, patriarchy, and nation building. David’s dissertation will provide transhistorical evidence and theoretical frameworks toward the understanding of race within the nation, specifically thinking about the power dynamics between dominant discourse and minorities. The goal of his research is to provide a theoretical framework on the interactions between the status quo and minorities, moving beyond the antagonistic paradigms and towards creating more inclusive understandings within the humanities.
 
Ping Yu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Horticultural Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Science. Her research focuses on using biochar (an agricultural by-product) as container substrates for plant production with the goal of reducing hard regenerable peat moss usage. Over-harvesting peatlands for peat moss has threatened the environment by destroying rare habitats and cultural heritage, affecting water management, and potentially bringing negative input for climate change. Ping found that up to 70% (by volume) biochar could be successfully incorporated into container substrates for plant production. Her research findings could guide the green industry to a more sustainable way of plant production, help entrepreneurs and growers gain profits, preserve peatland ecosystems, and ultimately slow down global climate change. 

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