2018 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.

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Award Winners

Billur Aksoy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Economics. She received her bachelor’s in Economics at Ankara University in Turkey and her master’s in Economics at the University of Southampton in the U.K. During her master’s studies, she was a Jean Monnet Scholar, funded by the European Union. Her primary field of study is Experimental and Behavioral Economics. By using lab and lab-in-the-field experiments, she studies social preferences (such as altruism and cooperation), and moral behavior (such as lying and cheating). During her doctoral tenure, she has participated in five workshops and presented her work at ten conferences (both national and international).

During her Ph.D. studies, Billur has been the recipient of various research awards and fellowships. These include the Private Enterprise Research Center Bradley Fellowship, Dr. John Van Huyck Fellowship, S. Charles Maurice Fellowship, and the College of Liberal Arts Summer Time for Advancement in Research Award. She is also the recipient of the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant in Economics ($20,055) with her co-advisor Silvana Krasteva. She has been recognized as an Outstanding Graduate Instructor in the Department of Economics.

Madeleine Durkee is a fifth year Ph.D. student in Dr. Kristen Maitland’s Biomedical Optics Lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Her dissertation research is centered on tissue optics, which is the study of how light interacts with biological materials. Using mathematical models to describe light-tissue interactions, Madeleine has helped to develop and optimize pre-clinical and clinical diagnostic tools. The primary focus of her dissertation is an optical microendoscope and imaging system that can detect low levels of disease-causing bacteria in the lung of a living animal. She is also using this computer model to predict the performance of this diagnostic tool in humans in order to help improve the diagnosis of the disease Tuberculosis in small children.

After obtaining her doctorate, Madeleine intends to achieve a post-doctoral research position to further develop her knowledge and skillset in Biomedical Imaging and Optics. Ultimately, her career goal is to become a tenure-track professor so she can continue both teaching and academic research.

Travis D. Goode is a Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate of the Texas A&M Institute for Neuroscience. Working in the Emotion and Memory Systems Laboratory of Dr. Stephen Maren, Travis’ dissertation explores the behavioral and brain factors governing the acquisition, expression and inhibition of learned fears. Through greater understanding of how the brain encodes and processes threats, Travis hopes to aid in the development of novel therapeutic interventions for mental illness. In particular, Travis has identified roles for uncertain timing of negative events with regards to the contributions of an anxiety-regulating region of the brain, known as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), to aversive learning and memory. Travis has been extremely productive in his research; he currently has ten peer-reviewed publications in highly reputable journals (Nature Neuroscience, Learning & Memory, eNeuro, etc.), with more in progress. Additionally, Travis has completed dozens of oral and poster presentations at regional, national and international conferences.

Having served as a lab instructor, guest lecturer and tutor (and having completed the Academy for Future Faculty Program through Texas A&M’s Center for Teaching Excellence), Travis has received high remarks in his teaching. Additionally, Travis has mentored a number of excellent and high-achieving high school and undergraduate students in the laboratory. Moreover, Travis has given back to his local and broader Texas A&M community through numerous service and outreach positions. For his efforts, Travis is the recipient of several accolades, including honors from Texas A&M, the Society for Neuroscience, and the National Science Foundation. In 2016, Travis successfully obtained a predoctoral grant in the form of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). After graduating, Travis will continue neuroscience research as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University.
 
Karl Gorzelnik is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Biology at James Madison University in Virginia, Karl was recruited to Texas A&M as a Regent’s Fellow. In his second year in the department, Karl won the departmental research competition, competing against graduate students who were close to defending their doctorates.  Karl received his Master’s degree and stayed on to pursue his doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Junjie Zhang. Karl’s research focuses on the assembly of single-stranded RNA viruses of bacteria, particularly how they selectively package their RNA over host RNAs. While at Texas A&M Karl has published three times in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, where his first author paper was featured on the cover. He has also co-authored a book chapter on cryo-electron microscopy for non-microscopists. Karl met his wife, Keya Mukherjee, at Texas A&M. They adopted two dogs while fostering many more dogs and cats for local animal shelters.

Nazanin Afsar Kazerooni is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She obtained her Bachelor and Master of Science in Shiraz University, where her Master’s thesis resulted in a patent of simultaneously coating of natural hydroxy-apatite and plasma electrolytic nitrocarburizing. She started her Ph.D. in 2013 with Dr. Arun Srinivasa in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Dr. John Criscione in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Her thesis involves the inelastic behavior of soft tissues, especially skin and damages that happen, for a better understating of wearable electronics, skin diseases, aging and wrinkling, etc. She has also worked on a co-op with St. Jude Medical (aka Abbott) for 5 months, on developing antimicrobial meshes and material testing for the next generation of cardiac implantable electronic devices.

During her Ph.D. she has received the Emil Buehler Aerodynamic Analog Fellowship for outstanding graduate student, awarded by Department of Mechanical Engineering. In addition to her contributions to research, she has been the instructor of record twice, teaching two courses as the winner of the Graduate Teaching Fellowship, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Currently Nazanin mentors 10 undergraduate students in the Aggie Challenge Program. She plans to complete her Ph.D. this December, and continuing her work in a post-doctoral position.

Nigel Lepianka is a PhD candidate in the Department of English. His research explores the history of data, particularly the ways literary and cultural data are inherited from the early analog catalogs and bibliographies in both content and structure. His dissertation explores the way nineteenth-century American literature was collected and read as a result of the work of the Lyle Wright American Fiction bibliography. This collection is a listing of over 10,000 titles that has become the basis for many modern digital corpora of American fiction, informing both traditional literary scholarship and large-scale computational readings. In addition to his dissertation research, Nigel served as a research assistant with the Center of Digital Humanities Research for two years on the multi-university project NovelTM: Text Mining the Novel. He has co-edited a peer-reviewed edition of H. G. Wells’s Floor Games, a manual of how to play games with miniatures, and has presented at several national conferences on the topics of editing, digital humanities, big data, and American literature. He has taught multiple courses, including the introductory composition and technical writing courses, which have allowed him to interact and teach Aggies from all across the university, as well as upper-level English courses where he can bring his enthusiasm for early American literature and what it can teach us to students. This summer he will be spending time at the Huntington Library as an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow as he completes his dissertation.

Rakesh Mallipeddi is a Ph.D. candidate in Business Administration (Department of Information and Operations Management) and anticipates graduating in May 2019. Rakesh’s research has an inter-disciplinary focus that contributes to multiple fields including operations management, information systems, and marketing. Broadly, his research interests are technology management, open innovation, social media analytics, and supply chain strategy. In 2017, Rakesh has been recognized for his research productivity by Mays Business School with the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research by a Doctoral Student. In addition to his research contribution, Rakesh has taught two sections of “Operations Management,” a core business course for undergraduates at Mays Business School. He has consistently received strong teaching evaluations, with one student noting – “The best professor I have had in the college! I am a senior.” Beyond his scholarly work at Texas A&M University, Rakesh actively participates and contributes to the research communities of information systems and operations management. He serves as the social media coordinator for Production and Operations Society (POMS). At the upcoming 2018 Annual POMS Conference and the 49th Annual Meeting of the Decision Sciences Institute, Rakesh is the chair for Finance and Operations Management track. 

Rakesh received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The Ohio State University and M.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Oakland University. Prior to starting his Ph.D., Rakesh was the Director of Business Development & Operations at Maks Group, an engineering and manufacturing firm based in India. In all, he has 10 years of business experience managing the operations of manufacturing facilities around the world.

Tara Price is a Ph.D. candidate in Nutrition within the Department of Nutrition and Food Science. She completed Bachelor of Science degrees in Animal Science and Nutritional Sciences, both from Texas A&M University. Her research interests include how dietary modulations influence gastrointestinal health, innate immunity and cardiovascular disease risks. Ms. Price’s dissertation research explores how changes in dietary protein sources (soy and dairy milk) effect gut health and lipoprotein biology. She has two published articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as several published abstracts and international conference presentations. Within the laboratory setting, Ms. Price has mentored six undergraduate students in a wide range of projects, resulting in a published paper of the research efforts. In addition to academics, Ms. Price has served as a course instructor for one class and teaching assistant for eight semesters. She has been honored with several awards and scholarships, including the Department of Nutrition’s Outstanding Graduate Award in Teaching, Southerland Aggie Leader scholarships and being recognized as a finalist for the American Society of Nutrition’s Emerging Leaders in Nutrition poster competition.

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