2018-2019 Distinguished Graduate Student Award Winners



Grace Ellen Brannon

Grace is a third-year doctoral student studying Health Communication in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University. She has taught as a recitation instructor, discussion group leader, and instructor of record in 13 different sections of Communication courses. Grace has also presented guest lectures for several classes on campus and an invited speaker on communication skills in private sector organizations. She approaches teaching with a focus on the students, community-building, and critical problem-solving skills. Grace’s research focuses on health in interpersonal relationships using mixed methods, presenting her research in several regional, national, and international outlets, winning two Top Paper awards in 2017. She has published her research in Southern Communication Journal and Iowa Journal of Communication. Her research investigates issues such as disclosure, information management, privacy issues, and health disparities. Currently, she is examining how young adults communicate about sexually transmitted infections with their romantic partner(s), as well as how people with diabetes manage privacy and disclosure of health information in the workplace and within their family. She was selected as a 2016-2017 Center on Disability and Development Leadership Training Diversity Fellow. Grace earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and her Master’s degree in Communication at the University of Texas at Arlington. She is an active volunteer and mentor within her community and the university. She is currently preparing to defend her dissertation prospectus and expects to graduate May 2019. Grace spends her free time with her husband, Jeremy, and their Schnauzer, Ewok, when not training for her next marathon. Grace is honored to be a recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Student Award and is grateful to all who have supported and mentored her throughout her journey.


Lori Michelle Costello

Lori’s genuine love for teaching agriculture was cultivated growing up on a small farm in Southwest Iowa. She graduated from Drake University in 1996, embarking on what would become a 16-year career working in marketing communications for several agricultural companies in the Midwest including NAPA Auto Parts, DuPont Pioneer, and Ag Leader Technology. In 2013, Lori left industry to pursue a career in higher education. She earned a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) from Texas A&M University in 2015. Since that time, Lori has taught many agricultural communications courses. She emphasizes the importance of strong written, verbal, and interpersonal communication skills as fundamental to all careers in agriculture and related disciplines. In 2017, Lori was a recipient of the Willie May Harris Graduate Fellowship, which is awarded to outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M. Lori is currently a doctoral candidate in ALEC. She is working on completing a dissertation comprised of three interconnected studies focused on the development of criteria specific to agricultural communications, education, extension, and leadership research methodology requiring experts. Exploring ways to communicate food safety issues is another research interest she acquired working at the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety in 2016. She is also dedicated to using a variety of theoretical perspectives and methods to contribute to scholarship in agricultural communications and marketing. Lori lives in College Station, Texas, with her “furry family.” She enjoys reading, collecting antiques, and connecting with her friends and family without fur.

Xingzhi Jia

Xingzhi is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Information and Operations Management in the Mays Business School.  His research is based on the domains of operations and supply chain management, with a focus on the complexity in an individual’s decision-making process when ethical considerations are invoked.  Xingzhi received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from Renmin University of China and Masters of Science in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.  He is a recipient of the Mays PhD Enhancement Fellowship and the Department of Information and Operations Management Fellowship.  Xingzhi has a passion for teaching and helping students succeed beyond their academics.  He has been teaching undergraduate-level core business classes since 2016.  In recognition of his teaching excellence, Xingzhi was awarded the Mays Dean’s Outstanding Teaching Award by a Doctoral Student in 2017. 

Andrew Lacanienta

Andrew is a doctoral student and senior research associate in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences.  He attended Brigham Young University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Experience Industry Management and a Master’s Degree in Youth and Family Recreation.  Andrew’s research is focused on immediate, structured experiences within the context of youth camps, 4-H clubs, tourism, consumer behavior, leadership, and education.  More specifically, his research examines how to design high quality structured experiences that provide a variety of positive outcomes such as focused attention, loss of self-consciousness, perceived value, delight, and proclivity to promote. His ongoing research projects include topics such as collaboration and co-creation, engagement, multi-sensory stimulation, and using role-playing as an educational tool.  Andrew aspires to obtain a career at a top tier research institution following his graduation in April 2019. He hopes to facilitate learning as a professor, participate in meaningful and applied research, and mentor undergraduate and graduate students. Andrew was born and raised in Saratoga Springs, Utah.  He is married and has two daughters.  In his free time he enjoys painting, cycling, cooking, and traveling.   

Carrie Murawski

Carrie is a doctoral student in the Communication and Women’s and Gender Studies department. As a feminist rhetorical critic, she investigates the intersections of gender, popular culture, and reproductive health in media. For the past four years, Carrie has served as an instructor for the Department of Communication teaching Public Speaking, Argumentation & Debate, Communication & Technology, Rhetorical Criticism, and served as a Teaching Assistant for Introduction to Communication. Additionally, she assisted in the development of Communication and Diversity, a new undergraduate course offered in the Department of Communication, and was the first to teach the class in fall of 2017. In 2016 she was awarded the Women’s and Gender Studies Program Graduate Teaching Fellowship. Carrie is scheduled to graduate with her doctorate in 2019.

Jonathan Drew Perry

Jonathan is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. He is a native Texan from Dallas. Jonathan completed a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Physics at Baylor University while conducting astrophysical research. His doctoral work, in the area of physics education research, has focused on the impact, alignment, and potential improvement of the calculus-based introductory physics sequence for engineering majors. As an instructor and researcher, Jonathan has developed a deep passion for both teaching and the development of instructors. During the past year, Jonathan has taken on two new roles. He has begun to supervise and mentor other graduate teaching assistants within his department, and he joined the Graduate Teaching Consultants program with the university’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Jonathan particularly enjoys facilitating friendly competition among teaching assistants to help maximize student learning and performance. After graduation, Jonathan hopes to become an instructional faculty at an institution yet to be determined to continue pursuing his joy of teaching.


Joshua Harris

Joshua earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering in May 2014 and Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering in December 2017, both from Texas A&M University. Harris is a 2014 National Defense, Science, and Engineering Graduate Fellowship recipient. His thesis was entitled “Nonlinear Adaptive Dynamic Inversion Control for Variable Stability Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems” and developed a novel flight control system enabling low-cost in-flight simulation to support research in flight controls and autonomy using inexpensive research aircraft. During his time at Texas A&M University, Joshua has conducted research with the Vehicle Systems & Control Laboratory in the Department of Aerospace Engineering with a focus on adaptive and intelligent flight control systems. He received multiple awards for flight dynamics and modeling work conducted as part of sponsored research programs for the Federal Aviation Administration through the PEGASAS General Aviation Center of Excellence. Additionally, he was named a U.S. Department of Transportation Student of the Year. Joshua was the lead graduate student for the Engineering Flight Simulator in the Aerospace Engineering department from 2013-2017, and additionally worked in support of Uninhabited Air Systems flight test research conducted at the RELLIS Campus, including developing open source software supporting aircraft system identification. He has presented work at the AIAA AVIATION, AIAA SciTech, and IEEE ICUAS conferences. Joshua was also the recipient of the 2017-18 Outstanding Engineering Master of Science Graduate Student Award.

Scott Wilson

Scott is currently employed as a flight control engineer with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, TX. His current research interests include adaptive and intelligent control, fault tolerant and reconfigurable control, aerodynamic stability & control, and intelligent systems. He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics (AIAA) and Astronautics and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and an associate member of the AIAA Intelligent Systems Technical Committee. Scott received his Masters of Science from Texas A&M University in Biomedical Engineering in August 2017. His research focused on bio-ink development, 3D bio-printing techniques, and synthesizing nanocomposites for tissue engineering applications. Scott has been a contributing author on two publications in high impact journals and a first author on one paper, attesting to the novelty of his research approach. He has received numerous awards including the College of Engineering’s Graduate Student Scholarship, the MS Students Scholarship, the MSF Scholarship and Fellowship, the College of Engineering Student Scholarship, and the Harland Clark Scholarship Award. Scott is currently enrolled in the Masters of Science in Finance program in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M and will graduate in May 2018. He plans on utilizing his engineering and finance degrees to work in the asset management industry focusing on biotechnology companies.


Patrick Anderson

Patrick is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at Texas A&M University. Though his home discipline is Philosophy, he holds credentials in six other disciplines across the liberal arts, including a minor in Political Science, a Bachelor’s degree in History, a Master’s degree in English, and interdisciplinary graduate certificates in Africana Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, and Film and Media Studies. Patrick’s research has been published in academic journal articles, books chapters, encyclopedia entries, book reviews, and the popular press, and he has presented at over thirty professional conferences. Inspired by the anticolonial tradition of Black Radical Thought, Patrick is developing a long-term project investigating what he calls the “colonial ontology of Empire,” which synthesizes analytical work in philosophy with empirical work in history and the social sciences to articulate a global theory of modern European imperialism. The first iteration of this project is his dissertation, Anticolonial Amerika: Resisting the Zone of Nonbeing in an Anglo-Saxon Empire. Putting his interdisciplinary training to work in the archives, Patrick has conducted research in the C. Wright Mills collection in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at University of Texas, Austin and the Eldridge Cleaver collections in both the Bancroft Library at University of California, Berkeley and the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University. This research has been supported by the Cushing-Glasscock Graduate Humanities Research Award and the Glasscock Graduate Research Fellowship. To bring his research experience to undergraduates, Patrick created a research project called “The Racial Dynamics of Neoliberalism: Free Markets and Mass Incarceration in Neoliberal America,” the first Aggie Research Leadership Project in the College of Liberal Arts. As a research mentor, he taught with five undergraduate students how to conduct interdisciplinary research in the digital age.

Dr. Gisele Cardoso de Lemos

Gisele was born in Brazil, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Portuguese Language and Literatures in 2006 at the Pontif√≠cia Universidade Cat√≥lica do Rio de Janeiro. Later, she received her Master’s Degree also in Portuguese Language and Literatures in 2009 at the same university. She was a Research Fellow at the Universidad Nacional de Rosario, in Argentina, in 2006, where she had contact with the Caribbean Literature. In order to pursue her interests in Indian Literature in English, she received a Ph.D. in Religious Studies at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil, in 2015. The title of her dissertation is: Conceptual Recreation and Post-coloniality: "Science" and "Religion" in the Works of the Indian Writer Amitav Ghosh, The Calcutta Chromosome and The Circle of Reason.” She went on to serve as a Research Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, in India, in 2013. Knowing that she would find a better environment for South Asian Studies in the United States, Gisele decided to apply for a second Ph.D. She is currently enrolled in the Department of English where she is conducting research on representations of disfigurement caused by acid attacks against women in India. To support her research she is also studying Hindi. She has produced a number of papers, published in both Portuguese and English, and has presented at several international conferences.

Crystal Dozier

Crystal defended her dissertation in the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University in spring 2018.  Her research explores the nexus of political economy, social identity, and food production in the past through archaeological science. Crystal utilizes experimental archaeology to understand the microscopic and chemical traces of food residue left on ancient artifacts. Crystal’s research has been published in a variety of formats, including journal articles, book chapters, newsletters, and conference proceedings. Her work is inspired by interdisciplinary dialogue and she has held an Adam Smith Fellowship with George Mason University for several years. Her research has been recognized through a STAR Award from the College of Liberal Arts, a P.E.O. Scholar Award from the International Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a Division of Student Affairs Award, and the Melbern G. Glasscock Humanities Award. Crystal involved undergraduates in her research as an active mentor and co-coordinator of the Graduate-Undergraduate Mentorship Program in the Department of Anthropology, with several of her mentees presenting at Student Research Week and the Anthropology Department Annual Conference. In compliment to her robust archaeological research agenda, Crystal is dedicated to active and reflective teaching practices. She also received a Distinguished Graduate Student Award in Teaching in 2017. Crystal holds a Bachelor’s degree with Honors in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and a Master’s degree in Anthropology from Texas A&M University. She has accepted an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Anthropology at Wichita State University.

William “Bill” Hamilton

Bill is a doctoral candidate in Computer Science, advised by Professor Andruid Kerne. Bill received his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M University in 2010. His research is in Human-Computer Interaction with a focus on live media design, online communities, online education, and video game design and culture. During his undergraduate studies, Bill started working as an undergraduate researcher at Kerne’s Interface Ecology Lab, supporting research investigating games for emergency response team coordination training. For this work, he was awarded the Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s Undergraduate Research Excellence Award twice. Bill’s doctoral research has focused on the emergence of online live media communities. His early work included an ethnographic investigation of the video game live streaming site Twitch. More recently, his research has investigated how new live media forms can support participation in important aspects of society including education, politics, work, and play. Bill also continues to investigate how people coordinate by sharing information and maintaining awareness in collaborative digital workspaces and games. Bill’s publication record includes multiple first author papers in high impact HCI venues, such the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) and the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST). His publication at ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for Television and Online Video was also awarded best paper in 2016. While at Texas A&M, he successfully applied for a research grant from the US National Science Foundation in collaboration with his advisor Andruid Kerne for over five hundred thousand USD to support his dissertation research investigating live media curation for online education.  Bill has also collaborated with industry researchers through internships with Microsoft Research and Motorola Mobility. Presently, Bill is seeking to continue his career through either a faculty or post-doctoral research position.

Charles Brandon Sweeney

Brandon is currently the Head of Materials R&D at Essentium and works to bring cutting edge materials technology into the Additive Manufacturing marketplace including the FlashFuse™ technology platform. Brandon is also the Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of TriFusion Devices, where he works to apply FlashFuse™ technology for the fabrication of full-strength 3D printed prosthetic and orthotic medical devices. Brandon earned his B.S. (’12) in Materials Science and Engineering (MSEN) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Ph.D. (’17) in MSEN at Texas A&M University. Brandon has worked at the Army Research Labs in the Vehicle Technology and Weapons and Materials Research Directorate as a materials research scientist developing carbon-based nanomaterials for additive manufacturing and energy harvesting applications. During his Ph.D., Brandon was invited to share his research efforts via a TEDx talk at Texas Tech University in February 2014. He was awarded a fellow in the 2016-2018 W.L. Gore Graduate Fellowship Program, and awarded the 2016 Texas A&M MSEN Entrepreneurship award. In the Spring of 2015, Brandon and Dr. Blake Teipel won the Texas A&M Raymond Ideas Challenge for their business pitch “Customizable Prostheses via 3D Printing”. They went on to win first place at the 2015 SEC Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition the 2016 Baylor New Ventures Competition, and the 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition. In addition to his academic and entrepreneurial pursuits, Brandon loves to rock climb, mountain bike, backpack, ski, and camp with his wife Lauren.

Shuai Yuan

Shuai is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry with research focused on the synthesis and functionalization of stable metal-organic frameworks for energy conversion and storage. He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Shandong University in 2012. In the same year, he then joined Prof. Hong-Cai Zhou’s research group at Texas A&M University. His achievements in research are widely recognized in academia, as proven by his number of high-quality publications. He has published 51 peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals during his graduate research. Among the 51 papers, he has 24 first-author publications, including J. Am. Chem. Soc. (impact factor: 13.8), Nat. Commun. (impact factor: 12.1), Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (impact factor: 12.0), and Adv. Mater. (impact factor: 19.8). He also serves as an independent journal reviewer and has reviewed 48 research manuscripts for Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., Chem. Mater., Inorg. Chem., Chem. Commun., J. Phys. Chem. C, etc. Because of his excellence in research, Shuai has obtained several prestigious awards, including the MRS Graduate Student Awards, Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad, Dow Chemical Company Charlene Black Miller ’79 Endowed Memorial Fellowship, Dow Chemical Company Graduate Scholar Award, and Texas A&M Energy Institute Graduate Fellowships.

Tan Zhou

Tan received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. His research interests focused on the opportunities at the intersection of remote sensing, GIS, spatial statistical models and ecology. With the aid of the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG),  his Ph.D. research centered on developing algorithms for processing big datasets such as waveform LiDAR data and photon counting LiDAR (upcoming ICESat-2 satellite), and their potential applications in forest structure characterization and biomass mapping using machine learning method, such as Random forests and Bayesian inference. Several pieces of Tan’s research have been published in top journals of the remote sensing field such as the Remote Sensing of Environment. In addition to the research, Tan’s passion for teaching is evident by his four year of service as a teaching assistant for undergraduate and graduate courses in GIS and remote sensing. Currently, Tan is a post-doc working with Dr. Sorin Popescu for the downstream of his Ph.D. work such as developing validation plans for upcoming ICESat-2 data.

Yong Zhou

Yong is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. His research is aimed at understanding how woody plant encroachment into grasslands and savannas alters spatial patterns of soil biogeochemical properties and processes at the landscape scale in the southern Great Plains. This vegetation change is occurring in the arid and semiarid regions of the world and the resulting changes in ecosystem biogeochemistry may have implications for global change. Yong has received multiple research grants and fellowships, including the NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, an Explorers Club student grant, and a COALS Tom Slick fellowship, to support his research. He has published 16 peer-reviewed articles in premier scientific journals including Global Change Biology, Ecology, Journal of Ecology, Landscape Ecology, and Soil Biology and Biochemistry. Yong has a Bachelor of Science in Ecology from Northeast Normal University and Master of Science in Ecology from Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He has accepted an offer for a post-doctoral fellowship from Yale University where he will explore impacts of woody cover increase in African savannas on ecosystem functioning and services.      

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