Distinguished Graduate Student Award Winners, 2014-2015

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: Jordan Ziemer, Lindsey Mehall, Loriann Garcia, Kayoung Kim, Joey Jabbour, Aashish Priye, Youxing Chen
Sitting, left to right: Representative for Marleah Dean, Ashley Yaugher, Amanda Rutherford, Amanda Hulse-Kemp, Amber Foster, Laura White

Excellence in Research

Youxing Chen | Department of Materials Science and Engineering | College of Engineering

Youxing Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and works under the supervision of Dr. Xinghang Zhang. His research focuses on the radiation damage in nanolayered and nanotwinned structures, which provides a broader view of materials design in achieving radiation tolerant materials in future nuclear reactors. Youxing has published 20 peer-reviewed articles while at Texas A&M, including 6 first-author articles on premier materials science journals such as Nature Communications and Acta Materialia. Along with his publications, Youxing has given nine presentations at international conferences during his time at Texas A&M. Upon graduation in May 2015, Youxing will work as postdoctoral research associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Marleah Dean | Department of Communication | College of Liberal Arts

Marleah Dean received her Ph.D. in Communication from Texas A&M University. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida. Marleah studies patient-provider communication in health communication, and seeks to understand the ways in which communication between providers and patients (and perceptions of communication) can influence health, well-being, and quality of life. This research interest has led Marleah to two main areas of study—ambulatory care and cancer care. For example, her current research investigates patients who are highly predisposed to breast and ovarian cancer due to the genetic mutation BRCA but have not been diagnosed with cancer. Marleah’s work has been published in Health Communication, Academic Medicine, Patient Education & Counseling, Journal of Health and Mass Communication, and Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management. Committed to giving back to her research community, Marleah is also a volunteer for Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE)—an organization committed to making sure no patient or family member goes through hereditary cancer alone. Finally, in addition to research, Marleah loves to teach. Two of her favorite classes are health communication and interpersonal communication. 

Joey Jabbour | Department of Biomedical Engineering | College of Engineering

Joey Jabbour received her Diplome D’ingenieur/Masters of Engineering in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Lebanese University in Lebanon in 2008, and she received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University in August 2014 under the guidance of Dr. Kristen Maitland. During her time as a Ph.D. candidate, she worked with multidisciplinary colleagues on the design, development and clinical testing of endoscopes employing reflectance confocal and fluorescence lifetime techniques for early oral cancer detection. She has eight peer reviewed journal publications and two conference proceedings, and her work has been presented in 19 oral and poster presentations at local, national and international conferences. Along with her scholarly publications and presentations, Joey has received numerous scholarships and awards during her time as a Ph.D. candidate; these include the 2014 George W. Kunze endowed graduate fellowship award; the 2013 SPIE Optics and Photonics Education award for her potential contribution to the field of optics; the 2013 Outstanding Chapter Officer Award from the National Biomedical Engineering Honor Society; the 2013 Texas A&M Office of Graduate and Professional Studies Research and Presentation Grant; the 2013 Texas A&M College of Engineering Graduate Climate Travel Grant; the 2012 IEEE Healthcare Innovation Conference scholarship; the 2012 Safety Liaison award in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M; and the 2011 1st prize winner in Student Research Week for overall graduate student presentations.
Joey works in the field of optical imaging for medical applications and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Tufts School of Medicine. In a collaboration between the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, she is using one photon and two photon fluorescence imaging to measure the metabolic states of mycobacteria, which has direct application in developing improved drug regimens for Tuberculosis.

Fuxiang Li | Department of Biomedical Engineering | College of Engineering 

Fuxiang Li received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University in December 2014 under the guidance of Dr. Valery Pokrovsky and is currently a Postdoc Research Associate in the Theoretical Division and Center of Nonlinear Studies at the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). His research is focused on Condensed Matter Theory, a branch of physics which covers fundamental quantum problems and directly leads to promising applications in human life. Fuxiang has published more than 13 papers in the world’s top journals in physics, including two Physics Review Letters, one Scientific Reports (Nature), one Physical Review B, and one New Journal of Physics. This publication list includes theoretical works on different fundamental problems in different subjects of condensed matter physics, such as magnetism, cold atoms, topological insulators, Bose-Einstein condensation and spin noise spectroscopy. His work has led him to collaborate with several different groups and experts from around the world. With Dr. Valery Pokrovsky and Dr. Thomas Nattermann, a professor from the University of Cologne in Germany, Fuxiang predicted a new kind of topological defect, vortex domain wall, in chiral magnets. He also explained the spontaneous coherence in room-temperature magnon Bose-Einstein condensation observed in ferromagnetic material. With Dr. Nikolai Sinitsyn from LANL, Fuxiang developed a systematic and unified theory to explain and interpret the spin noise spectroscopy, a newly developed experimental technique that optically probes the physical system without disturbing it. He has also collaborated with experimentalists from ETH Zurich and proposed a universal scaling relation, which beautifully explains the current-voltage curve obtained in the near field scanning tunneling spectroscopy.

Aashish Priye | Department of Chemical Engineering | College of Engineering

Aashish Priye defended his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University in February 2015 and received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from VIT in India on a merit-based scholarship. During his doctoral studies as part of the Victor Ugaz research group, he worked on multiple research projects where he applied both computational and experimental techniques to harness complex micro-scale flows for robust DNA replication, enhanced molecular transport, and tunable fluid particle interactions. He also expanded the development of a novel, smart-phone enabled, DNA analysis device targeted for developing countries to use for rapid detection of infectious diseases. His work has gained recognition through various journal publications, conference presentations, workshops, webinars, and a patent. He has received several awards and honors, including the Phillips 66 Fellowship for Excellence in Research ($10,000), the BASF Graduate Student Research Grant ($4,000), and several other presentation and travel awards. Upon graduation in May 2015, Aashish plans to continue his research at Sandia National Laboratory where he will apply fundamental science to advance point of care diagnostics. 

Amanda Rutherford | Department of Political Science | College of Liberal Arts

Since joining the Department of Political Science at Texas A&M University in 2011, Amanda Rutherford has written ten refereed articles, presented research at 18 national conferences, and has helped with the writing of four national grant applications.  Amanda has won university-wide and national awards, including the Bryan D. Jones Outstanding Political Science Graduate Student in the Department of Political Science, a Vision 2020 Fellowship in the College of Liberal Arts, the Southerland Aggie Leader Scholarship, the Academic Excellence Award, a graduate fellowship from the Delta Gamma Fraternity Foundation, a Scholar Award from P.E.O. International, and a Volcker Junior Scholar Research Grant from the American Political Science Association.  She serves as an editorial assistant for the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory and Journal of Student Financial Aid and has been an active reviewer of manuscripts for many others. Upon graduation in May of 2015, Amanda will join the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at the Indiana University-Bloomington as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Public Management; SPEA was most recently ranked in the top two of 266 graduate schools offering a Master of Public Affairs by the U.S. News & World Report.

Laura White | Department of Anthropology | College of Liberal Arts

Laura White is a Ph.D. candidate in the Nautical Archaeology Program, a program within the Department of Anthropology, at Texas A&M University. She received her M.Sc. in Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford in 2010, and prior to that, completed her B.S. in Marine Sciences and her B.A. in Maritime Studies at Texas A&M University at Galveston. She has underwater fieldwork experience throughout the Mediterranean and in the Indian Ocean and terrestrial fieldwork experience in Viking Shetland sites, Roman Yorkshire sites, and in historical sites in Texas. Aside from her academic work, Laura is active in diving safety and education; she is a NAUI Openwater SCUBA Instructor and a NAUI First Aid, CPR, and Emergency O2 Administration Instructor. She works as the Diving Safety Officer for the Institute of Nautical Archaeology and teaches scientific diving classes for the University. She also worked as the divemaster for the 2011 season of INA’s Bajo de la Campana Phoenician shipwreck project in Spain and the 2013 and 2014 excavations of a 1st century BC shipwreck in Godavaya, Sri Lanka, the oldest shipwreck yet discovered in the Indian Ocean. She served as an Associate Field Director for the 2014 season of excavation in Sri Lanka, and has participated in several seasons of the Mazotos project, a classical shipwreck off the coast of Cyprus.

Excellence in Teaching

Amber Foster | Department of English| College of Liberal Arts

Amber Foster is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Texas A&M University. The bulk of her dissertation consists of Under Water, a work of literary fiction based on her years working as a scuba diving instructor in the Bay Islands of Honduras. Her scholarly interests include nineteenth-century women's travel narratives and utopian studies. Her critical work on African American travel writer Nancy Prince appears in the November 2014 volume of Utopian Studies. Her creative writing has been published in numerous print and online journals, including Echo Ink Review, Canary, Bad Robot Poetry, and Frostwriting. Her short story, "The Body", was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize, and Amber was the recipient of the 2014 Charles Gordone Award for Fiction, Hamlin Hill Essay Prize, and the Stanley Creswell Award for Teaching Excellence. In addition to her creative and critical work, she is a freelance writer for all three regional editions of Northern California Style magazine. Following her graduation from Texas A&M this summer, she will be a lecturer for the USC Dana and David Dornsife Writing Program at the University of Southern California.

Loriann Garcia | Department of Entomology| College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Loriann Garcia is originally from Germantown, Maryland. She received her B.S in Biology from Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA where she was also a member of the Women's Basketball Team. She began graduate school in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M in 2010 after receiving the Graduate Diversity Fellowship to support her studies.  Her research focuses on plant-insect interactions, and she has completed several field studies investigating the relationship between cotton and the cotton fleahopper, an insect herbivore. Loriann has also been working steadily towards a career in college-level teaching. She has contributed many hours of service to Texas A&M's Center for Teaching Excellence and to outreach events for the Department of Entomology. Loriann has been a TA for a variety of lower and upper level courses in the Department of Entomology, and taught a course at Bard College in New York entitled Citizen Science this past winter.  Loriann will continue to explore her passion for teaching in the biological sciences as a Visiting Professor in the Department of Biology at Austin College in Sherman, TX after she graduates in August 2015.

Kayoung Kim | Department of Psychology| College of Liberal Arts

Kayoung Kim is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology. Prior to coming to Texas A&M, she received her B.A. in Psychology from Yonsei University in South Korea and her M. S. in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University. Kayoung’s research looks at the cognitive effect of biliteracy in adults, particularly in reading across different scripts. Kayoung has received numerous honors and national grants for her research, such as the Vision 2020 Dissertation Enhancement Award from College of Liberal Arts and the Dissertation Research Award from the American Psychological Association. In addition to her research, Kayoung has taught several introductory courses in Psychology at Texas A&M. Her teaching excellence has been recognized by her students and peers. One student noted, “Kayoung has enough energy and excitement to power a small town, and her vehemence truly motivates all her students. No matter the topic, her class was always exciting, interactive, vigorous, and more importantly, enjoyable. More students should take her course.” As further evidence of her dedication to teaching, Kayoung earned the Graduate Teaching Academy Fellows Certificate and is also a recipient of the 2015 Fasken Teaching Award from College of Liberal Arts and the 2015 Distinguished Graduate Student Award, Excellence in Teaching. After graduating in May 2015, Kayoung will begin her career as an Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin, Fond du Lac.

Lindsey Mehall | Department of Animal Science| College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Lindsey Mehall is originally from McKinney, Texas. She received her Bachelor’s in Animal Science in 2008 and Master’s in Meat Science in 2010, both from the University of Arkansas. Lindsey is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Animal Science and is working on graduate certificates in meat science and food safety. Lindsey works under the guidance of Dr. Jeff Savell and Dr. Kerri Gehring investigating various parameters for controlling the major E. coli pathogens. Since her arrival at Texas A&M University, Lindsey has taught ANSC 307 (Meats Laboratories), which provides students with intensive, hands-on learning opportunities combining scientific, technical, and regulatory aspects of this field. Lab instructors must fully understand the complex nature of the conversion of animals into food, and Lindsey has been masterful in teaching students in this area. Lindsey also has assisted with ANSC 457 (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Systems), coordinating and grading student presentations and assisting them in the design of a food safety programIn 2013, Lindsey received two important graduate student awards: the Ronnie L. Edwards Graduate Student Teaching Award (in recognition of her important contributions as a graduate student to the undergraduate student experience) and the Z. L. Carpenter Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Meat Science (presented annually to a graduate student who demonstrates outstanding leadership skills and has contributed significantly to the Meat Science section’s teaching, research, and extension activities).

Ashley Yaugher | Department of Animal Science| College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Ashley Yaugher is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology specializing in Clinical Psychology. During her past four years, Ashley has been a teaching assistant for large sections of Introductory Psychology and instructed four sections of Abnormal Psychology. Ashley uses several learning and teaching methods in her courses, strives to engage students in their own learning, and teaches them how use the knowledge gained from her courses in an applied and memorable manner. Former students have stated that Ashley is “Knowledgeable,” “very enthusiastic in lecture, is extremely prepared for each class, makes students feel special and worth regard” and that they always “looked forward to coming to this class and enjoyed it very much!” In addition to her course instruction, Ashley has been invited to present to several groups around campus, including the Honors Student Counsel, Psychology Club, and the To Write Love on Her Arms Organization. As further evidence of her dedication to teaching, Ashley has actively sought out and completed teaching training seminars for both general undergraduate instruction techniques as well as specific techniques for the teaching of psychology courses, and is currently completing the Academy of Future Faculty Certificate Program. Ashley has worked with Dr. Gerianne Alexander in the Brain and Gender Laboratory during her time at Texas A&M. Ashley is currently working to complete her dissertation, titled “Risk-Taking Behaviors and Impulsivity in Emerging Adults Born Prematurely.” Her research interests include emerging adult impulsivity, premature birth effects in emerging adults, and sleep in this population. Ashley proposed her dissertation this spring and continues to complete her research while mentoring undergraduate students in the lab and classroom settings.

Jordan Ziemer | Department of Communication | College of Liberal Arts

Jordan A. Ziemer is a third year Ph.D. candidate specializing in Organizational Communication in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University. Jordan is broadly interested in how organizations and their members express and enact coherent, meaningful identities through communication in work contexts. Specifically, his research considers how religious discourse interacts with notions of enterprise and entrepreneurship to influence religious work, organizing, and occupational identities. Jordan assumes an ethnographically inspired interpretive orientation toward research design, with a special interest in developmental participatory methods, including photovoice techniques. His dissertation project is an ethnographic analysis of evangelical church planting as an enterprising form of religious work and identity.In his increasingly rare free time, Jordan enjoys movie nights with his wife, Kaitlin Ziemer; playing live music; rooting for the Dallas Cowboys; and trying to get his schnauzer, Brinkley, to behave. Jordan is honored and humbled to receive a Distinguished Graduate Student Award from the Association of Former Students, and wishes to acknowledge the following people in no specific order: Dr. Rebecca Gill, Dr. Charles Conrad, Dr. Joshua Barbour, and Dr. Damion Waymer; Andrea Terry and Wendi Bellar; Drs. Brian and Cherilyn Ziemer; and countless other family members, friends, and faculty, who have all been sources of mentoring, support, and encouragement along his doctoral journey.