2016-2017 Distinguished graduate student award winners

Each year, the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M University chooses 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. Student nominations arrive from faculty advisors or departments, and nomination represents a true honor and accomplishment in itself, due to strenuous eligibility requirements. A panel of reviewers including faculty and administrators chooses award recipients.

Standing, left to right: Mr. Marty Holmes, Zachary Schultzhaus, Nima Jalili, Rachael Muschalek, Robert Hinck, John Kainer, Rachel Curtis-Robles, Corrine Metzger(Dr. Sue Bloomfield), Dr. Karen Butler-Purry

Sitting, left to right: Landon Nash, Robyn Woollands, Elizabeth Seto, Guillermo García Ureña, Christopher Schalk, Ying-Pin Chen, Inchul Cho, Crystal Dozier

Excellence in Research - Master's

Nima Antonio Jalili | Department of Biomedical Engineering | College of Engineering

Nima Antonio Jalili received his MS from Texas A&M University in Biomedical Engineering in December 2016. His research included the design, development and bench testing of “smart” injectable Nano engineered hydrogels to be used for a more effective, on-demand and localized therapeutic delivery for biomedical applications.
Nima has three peer reviewed journal publications and one submitted publication, and his work has been presented at three local and national conferences. Along with his scholarly publications and presentations, Nima has received three academic awards and recognitions during his tenure as a graduate student; these include the Polymer Specialty Certificate from the Texas A&M Polymer Technology Center, the Business Management Certificate from the Mays Business School, and 3rd place award in his Final Business Plan Presentation at the 2015 Engineering Business Management Certificate Program Pitch Competition from the Mays Business School.
Nima works in the field of medical devices and is currently a Quality Assurance Engineer at Alcon Laboratories in Houston, TX.

Rachael Muschalek | Department of Biomedical Engineering | College of Engineering

Rachael Muschalek is a Master’s candidate at Texas A&M University in Biomedical Engineering. Her research interests analyze the effects of sterilization on the mechanical performance of a novel shape memory polymer based medical device used to treat cerebral aneurysms.  
Rachael has served as the President of Biomedical Engineering Ambassadors for the past year. She is an inventor on two patents from her work in the Biomedical Device Lab. She has assisted in the writing of a textbook chapter, and has also served as a Teaching Assistant for two laboratory classes within her department
Rachael received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from TAMU in 2015, with the honors designation of “Undergraduate Research Scholar”. Rachael received a Graduate Merit Fellowship, and an Enrichment Fellowship from the Department of Biomedical Engineering for her graduate research. This fall, Rachael will continue her education, pursing a doctorate of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. She plans to continue her research of medical devices from a clinical, end-user perspective. 

Excellence in Research - Doctoral

Christopher Schalk | Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences​

Chris Schalk received his PhD from Texas A&M University in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences in 2016. His research focused on understanding the mechanisms of amphibian community assembly across multiple spatial and temporal scales in the semi-arid Gran Chaco forests of southeastern Bolivia. In addition to conducting research in community ecology, Chris focused on building local capacity of indigenous parabiologists and park guards to monitor and manage biodiversity in Kaa-Iya National Park, one of the largest protected areas in South America.
He has extensive field experience across the US and abroad. He has conducted fieldwork in Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. His research efforts have resulted in co-authoring 16 publications and 25 editor-reviewed notes. Chris received the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and National Science Foundation’s Applied Biodiversity Science IGERT Traineeship to support his doctoral research.

Currently, Chris is working as a lecturer and post-doctoral research associate at Sam Houston State University.

Landon Daniel Nash | Department of Biomedical Engineering | College of Engineering

Landon Nash is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in Biomedical Engineering. His research focuses on developing and modifying biomaterials for more effective treatment of brain aneurysms. He uses cold plasma surface modification and developed new polymer compositions to make neurovascular medical devices easier to deliver with improved performance.
Landon is extremely passionate about his research. He continued on the doctoral track immediately following undergrad and was eager to remain in the Biomedical Device Lab, here at TAMU as a National Science Foundation GRFP Fellow and Merit Fellow.
Landon is a native of College Station, TX. He received his BS in Biomedical Engineering from TAMU, Summa Cum Laude, in 2012. Since the successful defense of his dissertation in December 2016, Landon has lived in San Jose, California where he is working on the commercialization of his graduate research.

Rachel Curtis-Robles | Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences | College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences​

Rachel Curtis-Robles received her PhD from Texas A&M University in Biomedical Science in December 2016. Her research focused on the ecology and epidemiology of Chagas disease—a parasitic disease spread by triatomine ‘kissing bug’ vectors—in Texas. In addition to studies of Chagas disease vectors, she led studies of infection prevalence’s in canine, wildlife, and human populations throughout the state.
Rachel was extremely dedicated to public outreach and education. She co-founded the TAMU Kissing Bug Citizen Science Program, which accepts kissing bug vectors from across Texas and US for acceptance to a testing and research collection. Along with her public outreach education activities, Rachel has presented at many scientific conferences and work and presentations have garnered her presentation awards at national and international conferences

Rachel was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow as well as a TAMU College of Veterinary Medicine Merit Fellow, and is now completing postdoctoral work in lab of Dr. Sarah Hamer.

Robert Hinck | Department of Communications | College of Liberal Arts​

Robert Hinck is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in Communication. His research takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding how political actors make sense of their strategic environments. His research seeks to examine the organizational rhetoric of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogues and how the two countries work together to minimize the risk of strategic distrust and attempt to build lasting identification of shared geopolitical interests.
Robert’s research has been published in a variety of formats, including journal articles, book chapters, encyclopedia essays, and conference proceedings. He has also presented over 20 research papers at local, regional, national, and international conferences. He enjoys teaching and mentors his students to present their final research papers at academic conferences.

Robert has a certificate in China Studies from the Bush School of Government and Public Service and earned his MA in Communication studies from Central Michigan University and his BA in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. He is currently serving as a research assistant for Texas A&M’s Media Monitoring System

Robyn Woollands | Department of Aerospace Engineering | College of Engineering

Robyn Woollands received her PhD from Texas A&M University in Aerospace Engineering in December 2016. Her work involved the development of software for improved satellite tracking. The software is currently in use by several industrial partners. She spent two summers while a doctoral student as an intern developing advanced numerical integration software to aid in the solution of numerous orbit problems.
She has authored many conference papers, many of which she is the first author. In addition to her academic work, Robyn served as co-president of the Aerospace Graduate Student Council for two years. In her free time, she is a private pilot and a scuba diver.
Robyn has a MS in Astronomy and BS in Physics, both from The University of Canterbury, in New Zealand. Robyn has accepted an offer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) where she will work as a Guidance and Control Engineer in the Inner Planets Mission Analysis Group.

Ying-Pin Chen | Department of Materials Science & Engineering | College of Engineering

Ying-Pin Chen received her PhD from Texas A&M University in Materials Science and Engineering. She has worked on X-ray structural determination and fundamental research of gas kinetic behaviors in Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs).
Ying-Pin has participated more than 42 projects with her skills of X-ray technology. She has been published several times. Among her publications, five of these projects are the first or co-first authored articles in premier journals including 4 JACS and 1 Acta. Crystallogr.
Ying-Pin earned two bachelor degrees in engineering, and completed her M.S. in photonics and display technique. Afterwards, she joined AU Optronics, the largest leading display manufacturer in Taiwan, as a senior integration engineer. In her representative work, she has observed the methane migration mechanism in high-uptake MOF materials by in situ synchrotron-based X-ray analysis.

Zachary Schultzhaus | Department of Plant Pathology And Microbiology | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Zach Schultzhaus is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in Plant Pathology and Microbiology. His research interests focused on understanding how fungi coordinate membrane movement inside their cells, in order to enable the rapid growth they exhibit, which is essential for their ability to cause diseases in crop plants.

Zach has performed collaborative research in laboratories in Ensenada, Mexico and Fuzhou, China, with support from TAMU and the National Science Foundation. He has also been published in the several journals, to include Molecular Microbiology and Fungal Genetics and Biology.

Zach received his B.A. in Biochemistry from Grinnell College, along with a Secondary Education teaching certification. He plans to serve as a Postdoctoral fellow at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, looking at applying methods of stress resistance employed by fungi to the mediation of several environmental stresses faced by humans.

Excellence in Research - Teaching

Corinne Metzger | Department of Health & Kinesiology | College of Education and Human Development​

Corinne was unable to join us today. Her advisor, Dr. Susan Bloomfield, will be accepting this award on her behalf.
Corinne Metzger is a PhD Candidate at Texas A&M University in Kinesiology. Her research interests have included the impact of energy restriction, disuse, and exercise on skeletal integrity. She has also focused on inflammatory bone loss - specifically, that incurred with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Currently, she and her collaborators are testing novel interventions to prevent bone loss in chronic IBD and Her research has included the impact of energy restriction, disuse, and exercise on skeletal integrity.

Corinne has presented these research results as first author at eight national meetings, including one invited oral presentation and another oral presentation at an international conference in Crete, Greece. Corinne is very passionate about teaching. She has mentored many undergraduates in research, and has instructed many sections in her department.

Corinne received her MS in Kinesiology at Texas A&M University and her BA in Dance Science from La Roche College in Pittsburgh, PA.

Crystal Dozier | Department of Anthropology | College of Liberal Arts

Crystal Dozier is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in Anthropology. Her research explores archaeological evidence of Native American feasting societies and cooking technologies in Texas prior to colonization.
Crystal, is a Registered Professional Archaeologist. She is passionate about teaching and has completed training with the Center for Teaching Excellence’s Academy for Future Faculty Fellow Program.  As a Teaching-as-Research Fellow, with the Center for the Integration for Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL@TAMU), Crystal developed and implemented a research program to understand how concepts of race and ethnicity were being taught and learned in undergraduate classrooms. Outside the role of instructor, Crystal faithfully employs her skills as a scientist to study and implement evidence-based practices to improve college-level instruction.

She received a MA in Anthropology from Texas A&M University in 2016 and a BA with Honors in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2012. She will complete a certificate in College Teaching from the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development this spring.

Elizabeth Seto | Department of Psychology | College of Liberal Arts​

Elizabeth Seto is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in Psychology. Her research explores the psychological consequences of belief in free will, factors that influence the experience of authenticity and true self-knowledge, and how people conceptualize finding meaning and purpose in their lives.
Elizabeth specializes in Social and Personality Psychology. Elizabeth is very passionate about teaching and has completed the Academy of Future Faculty Fellow Certificate Program. For the past five years, she has served as an instructor for Social Psychology and Personality Psychology and has been a teaching assistant for six laboratory sections. Elizabeth utilizes a student-focused approach to teaching and continually strives to create a stimulating learning environment for her students.
Upon graduation, Elizabeth will begin her career as an Assistant Professor of Experimental Social Psychology at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Forrest  Bowlick | Department of Geography | College of Geosciences​

Forrest was unable to join us today. Ryan Dicce will be receiving his award on his behalf.
Forrest J. Bowlick graduated with his doctorate in Geography from Texas A&M University in 2016. A native Coloradoan, he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, continuing to the University of Idaho for his Master’s of Science, also in Geography. Forrest’s dissertation research focused on the ever-changing landscape of instruction in geographic information science (GIS), especially concerning the growing fusion of computer science and programming concepts within GIS. As GIS has grown into a fundamental information technology, the knowledge, skills, and practices associated with GIS have changed.

While at A&M, Forrest first taught and developed lab materials for Physical Geography. When you see a 15-foot tethered blimp bobbing near the O&M Building, you can thank him. Over three years in teaching that course, he revised and rewrote the lab activities to include a diverse set of hands-on activities which encourage students to be active observers of their environment. In his final year on campus, he taught an introductory lecture in Human Geography, and Principles of GIS.
Currently, Forrest is a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst where he is developing a new GIS Master’s program.

Guillermo García Ureña | Department of Hispanic Studies | College of Liberal Arts 

Guillermo García Ureña is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in Hispanic Studies. His research interests explore “Converso-Marranos” people prosecuted by the Inquisition accused of being “crypto-Jews.”. His primary interest is the connection between philosophy, literature and existence, with special attention to the Luso-Hispanic Early Modern world and the Renaissance, and the Ancient Greek and Roman thought.

Guillermo serves as a Spanish instructor at TAMU. He has published multiple articles on inter-religion dialog and conversion, caesaropapism, civic humanism and republicanism through authors like Plato, Lucretius, Nicholas of Cusa, Juan de Segovia or Vasco de Quiroga.

Guillermo has earned two masters degrees. He has received a MA in Advanced Studies in Philosophy from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and a MA in Publishing from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, both of Spain. He received a BA in Philosophy from Universidad Complutense de Madrid as well.

Inchul Cho | Department of Psychology | College of Liberal Arts​

Inchul Cho is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in Psychology. His research interest explore various issues associated with performance appraisal and management in the workplace including rating errors, rater agreement, and 360-degree rating systems. He strives to understand the lack of rater agreement via changing a rater’s perspective.
Inchul specializes in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology. He is very passionate about teaching and teaches many Research Methods lab sections in his department. As further evidence of his dedication to teaching, Inchul has actively sought out and participated in a variety of teaching workshops, training, and activities in the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) workshops, the Academy for Future Faculty (AFF) seminars, and the Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC) at the Annual Conference of Academy of Management (AOM).
Inchul has received his MA and BA in Psychology from Hoseo University in South Korea.

John Kainer | Department of Sociology | College of Liberal Arts

John Kainer is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in Sociology. His research investigates the prevalence of disorders of “excessive willing” in the modern world. More particularly, where it presents as the limitless desire for more food, which contributes to health risk behaviors like obesity and bulimia. He also considers the inverse, the limitless desire to restrict what we eat as demonstrated in fad diets and the extreme form, anorexia.
John specializes in Cultural Sociology and Sociological Theory. His wide-ranging interests in sociology harmonize with the diverse courses he has taught in his department. John’s emphasis on classroom activities designed to make strong impressions gave rise to several noteworthy activities including playing Family Feud in class, random polling of students sitting outside of his classroom, and the entry of his class in the Aggies United Culture Cook-Off.
John received a BS in Sociology from Texas A&M University in 2012.

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