Spring 2012 Dissertation Fellowship Award Recipients

Texas A&M University’s Graduate and Professional School recently awarded 6 dissertation fellowships as part of their Dissertation Fellowship Program.  Developed in fall 2011 by Associate Provost for Graduate and Professional Studies Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, the Dissertation Fellowship Program supports doctoral students in the late stages of degree program completion; namely final research topic analysis and dissertation writing. Eligible applicants included U.S. citizens, permanent residents and international doctoral students. Twenty one students currently utilize the dissertation fellowship.

The following students (listed with their associated departments) received Spring 2012 dissertation fellowships:

Casie Cobos, English

Casie Cobos focuses her research on cultural rhetoric, writing and literacy.  She impacts our community through participating in the National Book Foundation’s BookUpTexas program.  BookUpTexas partners with the Boys and Girls Club of Brazos Valley to motivate middle school kids to pursue books and become lifelong readers.  Casie parlayed her understanding of literature, creative writing and embodied rhetoric into meaningful connections with fifth graders.   She helped expand the children’s literacy and knowledge base through personally relatable books.  Poised for breakthroughs in the fields of Rhetoric/Composition and Indigenous and Latina/o Studies, Casie positions Chicana/o rhetoric as originating from the Americas instead of only a Greco-Roman ancestry.  Her specific contribution to these fields is the methodology of “embodied storying.”  While this methodology started in Chicana/o rhetoric, it also speaks back to the field(s) of Rhetoric and Composition at large.  Embodied storying produces a pedagogical framework for drawing student knowledge bases into the composition classroom while also promoting interaction and cultural practices that inform writing and critical thinking.

Timothy Mann, Veterinary Pathobiology

Timothy Mann’s research strives to understand how a computer program can efficiently learn to solve new tasks, instead of relying on explicitly programmed solutions for each task that we desire it solve.   Here a task embodies a series of decisions, such as a robot vacuum deciding which room to clean next or an intelligent car deciding to stop at a traffic light.  Timothy connects with the community through multiple presentations of his research results at local poster sessions. There he forges mentoring relationships with other graduate and undergraduate students.  In the past four years, he served as a graduate mentor to three undergraduate students participating in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program here at Texas A&M University.  He also shared at poster sessions for the Department of Computer Science & Engineering and the Texas Brain and Spine Institute.

Brittany Jones, Educational Administration and Human Resource Development

Brittany Jones’ research focuses on river buffalo (Bubalus bubalis).  Approximately 160 million river buffalo (BBU) exist globally.  River buffalo possess several key characteristics which make the species superior to cattle and thus greatly important to a large global population:  a higher percentage of total milk solids (protein, fat, minerals), meat of lower saturated fat than beef/pork, more efficient use of less digestible feeds (rice straw, maize stovers, sugar cane wastes etc) and greater tolerance for wet environments. Brittany’s dissertation aims to characterize and elucidate the genetic and evolutionary profile of toll-like receptor 5 in river buffalo.   This will enable breeders and producers to create healthier populations of river buffalo.  After graduation, she will continue studying genes important to the immune system.  Brittany hopes to pursue an international career emphasizing post-conflict and poor world areas.  Genetics of immunology is key to creating a healthier and more robust population.  Brittany’s studies can potentially impact the poorest and most vulnerable global populations.

Jieli Yu, Educational Administration and Human Resource Development

Jieli Yu’s research focuses on expanding the knowledge base on faculty development leave in higher education. Through an analysis of the faculty development leave policies and practices at Texas A&M University, her research explores the values, features, and benefits of faculty development leave in the changing context of higher education. Previous research shows that faculty development provides opportunities for faculty to learn more about other fields, develop new abilities and skills for teaching and research and increase their satisfaction with their work. However, faculty development leave has become a controversial issue throughout campus with the decreasing number of grants from the state. Through qualitative and quantitative data collection, Jieli seeks to increase the understanding of faculty development leave and demonstrate its benefits to university and professional development.

Mehmet Ayar, Teaching, Learning and Culture

Mehmet Ayar’s research uses ethnographic methods to explore and document the different characteristics found in primary and secondary school science and in scientific communities. Through three ethnographic studies, he found the scientific enterprise to be an evolving field of human and material agencies reciprocally engaged in the scientific practice; that mentors, especially doctoral students, play an important role in helping newcomers adapt to interdisciplinary culture in the scientific-engineering community; and that students in the science classroom are provided opportunities to practice what they learn through simple activities organized by their teachers. Mehmet hopes to use his research to improve how science is taught in the classroom setting to create a more meaningful and engaging learning experience for students. After graduation, Mehmet plans to continue to foster ideal science learning environments for students through his research.

Jennifer Mueller, Sociology

Jennifer Mueller’s research focuses on identifying the specific social mechanisms that reproduce racial inequality from one generation to the next, and demonstrates how the micro-level actions of families serve as a critical source of information on this topic. Her research locates racial differences in family access to (and use of) different types of capital and contextualizes these differences within a larger social-structural framework to assess how institutions, such as law and public policy, foster or inhibit the intergenerational transmission of wealth and capital among families in racially disparate ways. Additionally, Jennifer’s research analyzes how families understand their successes and failures and how they communicate their histories of family wealth/capital transmission, as these narrative discourses are often patterned in ideological ways that further facilitate the social reproduction of inequalities. Jennifer’s work will have empirical, theoretical, and pedagogical implications in the field of sociology.

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