2014 U.S. Senator Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship Recipients

Dr. Phil Gramm spent two decades serving in the U.S. Congress and Senate, using his economic and financial expertise to create important laws and policies and to provide advice to legislators and the White House. Currently, Dr. Gramm is the Senior Partner of Gramm Partners, a public policy firm in Washington, D.C.

Graduate students make contributions to the success of the University through research and teaching. Often, doctoral students may be outstanding in one or the other, but the students who are awarded this Fellowship excel in both research and teaching – the mark of a true scholar.

Phil Gramm 2014 Award
Top row, left to right: Shannon Toney Smith, Sneha Thamotharan, Meagan Harris, Matthew Berg, Bradley Ewers, Adam Takashi Naito

Award Winners

Adam Takashi Naito

Adam Takashi Naito is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography. His research interests include biogeography, landscape ecology, environmental applications of Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing, and ecological simulation modeling. Adam’s dissertation examines the historic spatial characteristics of the conversion of tundra to shrubland on the North Slope of Alaska and its landscape-scale drivers. His work has led to two peer-reviewed publications, several nearly completed manuscripts, as well as collaborative efforts with international colleagues also researching Artic vegetation change. Adam works closely with undergraduate students who, with his training and supervision, provide data processing support for his dissertation work. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Geography from Pennsylvania State University in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Adam has taught several introductory courses in Physical Geography and Geographic Information Systems at Texas A&M. In addition to his research and teaching, Adam also serves on the Council for the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), an international and interdisciplinary organization of early-career scientists that promotes collaborative polar research and facilitates polar education and outreach efforts.

Bradley Ewers

Bradley Ewers came to Texas A&M in 2009 as a member of the Batteas Research Group in the Department of Chemistry, where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate. He earned his B.A. in Chemistry and Mathematics at Boston University in 2007 and worked briefly as an analytical chemist at DPT pharmaceuticals before joining Texas A&M. In pursuit of his Ph.D., Bradley has developed techniques utilizing atomistic simulations to understand how nanoscopic curvature and film quality impacts the chemistry, mechanics, and the ability of surface coatings to mitigate friction and wear at sliding interfaces. In addition, he has employed Scanning Probe Microscopies to investigate molecular conductivity on surfaces, and has developed methods to fabricate and investigate nanoscale molecular ensembles to understand how molecular interactions affect conductivity. Bradley has also developed and implemented experiments in the Physical Chemistry Laboratory for undergraduates, utilizing Scanning Tunneling Microscopy to image surfaces at the atomic scale and to interrogate single molecules. These experiments were published in the Journal of Chemical Education. His latest endeavors have included the integration of the Leap Motion control device to the Atomic Force Microscope, allowing individuals with no experience working at the nanoscale to fabricate nanostructures on surfaces with just the motion of their hands. Bradley expects to graduate with his Ph.D. in 2014 and hopes to pursue a career in academia, both teaching and conducting research.

Matthew Berg

Matthew Berg is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. Recruited through the USDA National Needs Fellowship Program, his research addresses large-scale causes of land use, land cover change, and their effect on water resources and erosion. In addition to finishing as runner-up in Texas A&M’s first annual Three-Minute Thesis competition, he has been recognized for excellence in teaching in his department and beyond. Matthew was invited to build a new undergraduate course from the ground up, team-teaching with Dr. Brad Wilcox. He was named his department’s Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher of the Year and was subsequently selected by the Center for Teaching Excellence as one of its Teaching Assistant Mentors for 2013-2014. Matthew was awarded the 2013 Graduate Student Policy Award by the Ecological Society of America and the 2014 Future Leaders in Science Award by the Agronomy Society of America/Crop Science Society of America/Soil Science Society of America. These awards sent Matthew to Washington, D.C. to engage members of U.S. Congress in advocating for federal investment in science research across the nation. He also coordinated the 2012 Ecological Integration Symposium and represented his department on the Graduate Student Council. Matthew aims to make a lasting impact at the intersection of science and policy.

Sneha Thamotharan

Sneha Thamotharan is a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology. Sneha’s research interests include minority health and mental health discrepancies with regard to understanding sexual health risk behaviors that occur during adolescence. Her dissertation focuses on understanding STI vulnerability in adolescents and emerging adults within a neuro-behavioral framework, specifically the role of executive functioning. She has given multiple conference presentations and written several scholarly journal publications. Sneha has also been an instructor at Texas A&M University in the Department of Psychology. She has demonstrated a vested interest in the development of undergraduate students, with one student remarking, “more professors like [Sneha] could improve the education system…Sneha made learning tangible and fun.” Sneha also spends a significant amount of time mentoring undergraduate students in research and has been noted by multiple students as having challenged and facilitated their growth as independent researchers. A student wrote, "as a role model, she inspires you to want to know more, see more, learn more and be more than you were when you started…[she] is a better mentor than anyone would know to ask for.” This coming fall, Sneha will apply for clinical internship.

Meagan Harris

Meagan Harris is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University. She received her Bachelor of Science Degrees in Applied Physics and Mathematics from Angelo State University in May 2008 and her Master of Science Degree in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University in December 2010. Her graduate research efforts include designing and constructing a portable confocal reflectance and fluorescence microscope for large area imaging of epithelial tissues for preclinical studies. During her research pursuits, Meagan has served as research mentor to 11 undergraduate students at Texas A&M University. She was also a teaching assistant for 2 AggiE-Challenge Multidisciplinary Design Teams working on global health challenges: Spectrophotometer Project and Universal Surgery Light Bulb Replacement Project. Through the Biomedical Engineering Instructional Fellowship Program, Meagan presented specific cases in BMEN 450 Biomedical Case Studies to facilitate discussion on the biomedical engineering perspective of clinically defined problems. Meagan is also a community outreach leader of optics demonstrations and lab tours. While serving as President of the Texas A&M Chapter of SPIE for ’12-’13, Meagan helped develop an optics outreach demonstration kit using low-cost, reusable materials to interactively teach optics fundamentals.

Shannon Smith

Prior to enrolling in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at TAMU, Shannon earned her B.S. in Psychology at College of Charleston and her M.A. in Clinical Adult Psychology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her primary research interest is in the investigation of disparate theoretical models of psychopathic personality (psychopathy) traits and alternative assessment approaches to conceptualizing this disorder. Shannon’s particular interest is in examining the core features of this disorder, including the assessment of psychopathic traits separate from criminal behavior. In addition to her research on psychopathy, Shannon has also conducted research on forensic psychology issues such as allegations of bias in mental health expert testimony and violence risk assessment. She has published 14 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and she has presented or co-authored 21 U.S. and international conference presentations. In addition to conducting research, Shannon has taught two undergraduate courses, Forensic Psychology and Psychology of Personality, and she has provided supervision for undergraduate and graduate students on multiple research projects. Shannon is also the recipient of the Saul Sells Research Excellence Award and the Bluebonnet Scholarship for Clinical Psychology Science. She recently accepted a clinical internship position at University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital. After completing her clinical internship, she intends to obtain a faculty position at a university so that she can continue to conduct research and mentor undergraduate and graduate students through teaching and research supervision.

Defense Announcements

Upcoming Events