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Meet the 2021 Dean's Honored Graduates

Meet the 2021 Dean's Honored Graduates

Each year, the College of Natural Sciences bestows its highest honors for graduating seniors on a select group of students. These students, known as Dean's Honored Graduates demonstrate excellence across multiple domains, achieving not only academically but in scientific research, independent intellectual pursuits, leadership, service, entrepreneurship and community building. Here are biographies of the 33 outstanding students selected by College of Natural Sciences faculty for this distinction in 2021.

Astronomy

Zoe de Beurs

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Physics and Astronomy, a B.S.A. in Mathematics, and a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies

As a research assistant to Andrew Vanderburg and Adam Kraus, Zoe developed new artificial intelligence methods that can help us detect and understand planets outside our solar system. She has also done research internships at the University of Chicago and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Zoe is the first author of two papers currently in review, titled "Removing Stellar Activity Signals from Radial Velocity Measurements Using Neural Networks" and "A Comparative Study of Machine Learning Methods for X-ray Binary Classification." At UT, she served as president of the Natural Sciences Council and as a member of the President's Student Advisory Council. She is a Dean's Scholar and has received several fellowships and awards, including the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the Mitchell Co-Op Award for Outstanding Research, and the Texas Parents Outstanding Student Award. She has given more than 40 conference presentations and outreach talks, which cemented her commitment to advocating for equity and inclusion in astronomy and mentoring kids with an interest in science. During the fall, Zoe will start a Ph.D. in Planetary Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the support of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Rabia Husain

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Astronomy and Physics in the Dean's Scholars Honors Program

Rabia has worked as a peer mentor for the Freshman Research Initiative Program and as a researcher for the past three years in Dr. John Markert's physics lab, where she studied superconductivity in iron chalcogenides. She is also a researcher working under Dr. Volker Bromm in the astronomy department, where she wrote her thesis titled "Neutron star remnants of the first stars in the universe" and is currently writing her first paper. She has presented her work at conferences around the state and virtually, and has won a few research awards for it. During her time at UT, Rabia has also been a tutor for math and physics at the Sanger Learning Center and a member of the Natural Sciences Council and Dean's Scholars Student Association Council. After graduation, Rabia will study theoretical particle physics as part of her Ph.D. in Physics at Harvard University.

Maryam Hussaini

Graduating with a B.S. in Astronomy and Physics

Maryam started her research at UT under the supervision of Dr. Gregory Mace, developing a new method for measuring the magnetic field of low-mass stars using their infrared spectra. She attended an NSF REU program at Harvard University during which she researched the effects of merging galaxy clusters on the star formation rate of galaxies in the clusters. Maryam's research continued at UT under Dr. Caitlin Casey with a research project on high redshift galaxy proto-clusters. She is now included as a co-author on a number of research papers in The Astrophysical Journal. On top of her research, Maryam has collaborators from all around the world, and she has presented her research at the American Astronomical Association meeting, the Undergraduate Research Forum at UT, the Summer Research Symposium at the Center for Astrophysics, and the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium at Rice University. Maryam's research and outreach have earned her the Goldwater Scholarship in 2019, the Ralph Cutler Greene Endowed Scholarship, the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science Fellowship, and the Universities Space Research Association Distinguished Undergraduate award in 2020. After graduation, Maryam will pursue a Ph.D. in Astronomy at Harvard University.

Biochemistry

Brendan Fitzgerald

Graduating with an Honors B.S.A. in Biochemistry in the Health Science Scholars Program and a certificate in Spanish for Medical Professions

Brendan worked under the guidance of Dr. Adrian Keatinge-Clay to write his thesis, "Understanding and applying the updated module boundary of modular type I polyketide synthases." Brendan has co-authored a paper analyzing the loops of modular polyketide synthases, which was published in Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics. He has also co-authored a manuscript (submitted) on engineering new polyketide synthase assembly lines that generate triketide lactones. Beyond the lab, Brendan competed on UT Austin's rock climbing team. He also volunteered for Hospice Austin and worked as a peer mentor for the Freshman Research Initiative. After graduation, he will attend medical school at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Marco D'Anthony Hernandez

Graduating with an Honors B.S.A. in Biochemistry in the Health Science Honors Program, Inventors Program

Marco served as a member of the college's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee. He hopes to make UT Austin one of the most inclusive campuses in the nation. Marco has attended events hosted by the Admissions Office in South Texas to increase the diversity recruiting efforts. Marco is also an ambassador and teaching assistant with the Inventors Program. The Inventors Program has enhanced Marco's learning experience and has given him the opportunity to create solutions to real-world problems. After graduation, Marco plans on working and will attend a health professional school. He hopes to stay connected with UT Austin and mentor students.

Min Jun Kim

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Biochemistry in the Dean's Scholars Honors Program

Under Dr. Tanya Paull, Min Jun studied the effects of conserved phosphorylation on Hsp70 activity and the evolutionary diversification of this site in DnaK, which was the focus of his honors thesis. In conjunction, he co-authored a publication, "Growth-Regulated Hsp70 Phosphorylation Regulates Stress Responses and Prion Maintenance," in ASM Molecular and Cellular Biology. Under Dr. Soo-Hyun Yang, he also investigated the active-site on the CDX2 transcription factor responsible for ATM inhibition. Min Jun has presented his work at multiple conferences, including the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., and was awarded at CTURC. He is a Forty Acres Scholar supported by S. Todd and Diana Maclin, a Stamps Scholar, and recipient of the University-Wide Endowed Presidential Scholarship, TIDES Research Fellowship, and the FRI Summer Research Fellowship. Outside of the lab, Min Jun has served as a ministry leader for Crossroads College Ministry, as president of Global Medical Missions Alliance, and as an FRI mentor, and is also an intramural flag football champion. After graduation, he will take a gap year to continue research before pursuing medical school.

Cole Maguire

Graduating with a B.S. in Biochemistry, a minor in Classical Studies, and certificates in Forensic Science and Pre-Health Professions

During the past three years, Cole's research under the guidance of Dr. Esther Melamed has focused on understanding the impact of environmental factors in neuroimmune conditions, including multiple sclerosis and autoimmune epilepsy. His work culminated in publication of two first author manuscripts titled "Moderate Alcohol Shifts Gut Microbial Networks and Ameliorates Disease in a Sex-Specific Pattern in a Murine Model of Neuroinflammation" and "Should interferons take front stage as an essential multiple sclerosis disease modifying therapy in the era of COVID-19?" Cole has presented his research at the Waggoner Center Conference for Alcohol and Addiction Research, the UT Austin Undergraduate Research Forum, the Society for Neuroscience, the American Epilepsy Society, and the joint Americas and European committee for treatment and research in multiple sclerosis. He has received the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the Eva Stevenson Woods Endowed Presidential Scholarship, FRI and TIDES summer fellowships, and awards for his presentations at the UT Undergraduate Research Forum and the Capital of Texas Undergraduate Research Conference. He has also served as a mentor for the Urban Ecosystem stream of the Freshman Research Initiative, has been a part of the Dell Medical School's Health Leadership Apprenticeship program, and has volunteered with the Austin Volunteer Healthcare Clinic. Cole has been accepted to Dell Medical School and the Neuroscience Ph.D. program at UT Austin and will pursue becoming a physician scientist after graduation.

Lois Bukunmi Owolabi

Graduating with an Honors B.S.A in Biochemistry as a Polymathic Scholar

As an undergraduate researcher, Lois partnered with Dr. Shelley Payne and Mr. David (D.S.) Cohen to determine how undergraduate institutions can take advantage of video games to support student learning. During her research, Lois created the video game IRON'ed IT! that explores the iron transport systems of Vibrio cholerae. Her thesis on this topic is titled "The Effects of Interactive Digital Media in STEM Education." Her work is currently under consideration for publication and numerous academic awards. For her work, Lois has received the Faith Foundation Junior Fellows Scholarship, the Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and the Anna Mae Hutchison Endowed Scholarship. Additionally, Lois received two nominations for the George H. Mitchell Student Award from Dr. Shelley Payne and Mr. David (D.S.) Cohen. In her time at UT, Lois has been a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion and has served on many committees to improve UT's climate for students, faculty and staff. Lois has served on college's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, the Dean's Action Team, and the Black & Latinx Action Committee. In the fall, Lois will enter Harvard Medical School.

Meena Magdi Tadros

Graduating with a B.S.A in Biochemistry

Meena worked as a research assistant in Dr. Jessie Zhang's lab, studying eukaryotic transcriptional regulation from a structural viewpoint. He is a co-author of a published paper, "Structural Motifs for CTD Kinase Specificity on RNA Polymerase II during Eukaryotic Transcription." Meena is a three-time Distinguished College Scholar. On campus, Meena served as president of Orthodox Christian Campus Ministries and was a member of the UT Senate of College Councils. Outside of research, Meena enjoys spending time with and befriending hospice patients, tutoring with Refugee Student Mentor Program, exploring the Coptic Orthodox Church, and brewing Turkish coffee. Upon graduation, Meena will pursue an M.D. at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Biology

Dominic Borbon

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Biology in the Dean's Scholars Honors Program

Dominic's research interests include synthetic biology, and he has worked on engineering algae and E. coli to perform industrially important tasks. As an undergraduate in the Alper Lab, Dominic worked on augmenting beta-alanine synthesis in E. coli. He is the recipient of the TIDES Advanced Summer Research Fellowship and the Undergraduate Research Fellowship fund. Outside of research, Dominic has been an undergraduate TA for Dr. Laura Gonzalez, a research mentor for the Microbe Hackers FRI stream, and a tutor at the Sanger Learning Center and Gonzalo Garza High School. After graduation, Dominic plans to work as a public health educator in the Peace Corps before going to medical school.

JD Carlton

Graduating with a B.S. in Biology, specializing in Marine and Freshwater Science, and a minor in Government

JD is a researcher in the Baker Marine Microbial Ecology Lab at the UT Marine Science Institute. His research examines novel microbial groups and their ecology in sea sediments. He is currently preparing a first-author paper for submission. JD received awards for presenting his research in 2020 from both the UT Marine Science Institute Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Molecular Biosciences Student Associations Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium. As a student at UT, he has served as an officer and staff member for Central Texas Model United Nations, a nonprofit that aims to teach high school students about international relations and politics. Outside of student life, he served as a legislative aide in the Texas Senate and as an executive officer at the Capitol Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. He plans to continue to merge his government and marine science interests to guide the creation of beneficial environmental policy to protect the world's oceans. JD will be continuing his research as a graduate student at UT in the fall.

Nicholas Alexander Cerda

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Biology in the Dean's Scholars Honors Program

As a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Maria Croyle, he evaluated thin film qualities across natural polymers and completed a thesis titled "Intrinsically Disordered Proteins & Regions in Viruses and Possibly Pharmaceuticals." He is co-author on a paper titled "DEK domain-containing proteins control flowering time in Arabidopsis" in New Phytologist. Dr. Maria Croyle and Dr. Christopher Sullivan served as significant research mentors through supporting his work and interests. Nicholas is interested in developing bionanotechnology to generate novel vaccines against viral infections, motivated by a desire to aid the International Task Force for Disease Eradication. After graduation, Nicholas plans to continue to research and develop vaccines. In the fall, he will enter the Gene Therapy and Vaccines Graduate Program at the University of Pennsylvania with the support of the Fontaine Fellowship.

Rahul R. Godula

Graduating with a B.S.A. in Biology and a minor in Business Administration

Rahul's research in the lab of Dr. Nigel Atkinson and Dr. Thilini Wijesekera consisted of overseeing the function of Dif splice-isoforms in alcohol preference on top of the innate resistance fruit flies have toward the inhalation of alcohol vapor. This work has culminated in a paper he co-authored with Dr. Atkinson and Dr. Wijesekera. Rahul also worked as a peer mentor and ambassador in the Freshman Research Initiative Behavioral Neuroscience Stream. In addition to research, his university endeavors included time as a member and recruitment officer of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. He has also spent time working as an administrative intern at the Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital as well as an operations intern and volunteer with Ascension Seton. Upon graduation, Rahul will attend the University of Minnesota for the Master of Healthcare Administration program.

Alexia Martin

Graduating with a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and a B.S.A in Chemistry

During her time at UT, Alexia participated in the Bugs in Bugs Freshman Research Initiative stream, where she worked with Dr. Jo Anne Holley and Dr. Tobin Hammer on two projects, "The Spatial Distribution of Bacteria within the Guts of Bumblebees" and "The Gut Microbiota of the Mexican Honey Wasp." These projects explored the gut bacteria of two ecologically important pollinators. Alexia has presented her research at seven conferences and has won awards such as the Thermo Fisher Award for Excellence in the Biological Sciences. She is the recipient of several additional awards for her research including the San Antonio Livestock and Exposition Scholarship, a Freshman Research Initiative summer fellowship, and an Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Alexia also won third place in the Visualizing Science in the Arts Competition for a fluorescence in situ hybridization image of a bumblebee gut. Additionally, Alexia has volunteered at numerous insect outreach events, teaching the public about the benefits of insects to our environment. After graduating, Alexia will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Entomology at the University of California, Davis, with hopes of becoming a professor.

Lauren Lia Quesada

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Biology an Honors B.S. in Neuroscience with a certificate in Forensic Science

Lauren is a research assistant in Dr. Preston's neuroscience research lab where she completed her thesis, "Effects of executive control on memory integration and inference in adults." During her time at UT, she worked with 4-year-olds, studying memory generalization, fMRI on children and adults, and memory integration in adults in the Preston Lab, and she worked on beer discrimination in the Supramolecular Sensors FRI stream as a research mentor. She gives special thanks to Dr. Preston and Dr. Varga for their guidance and tutelage, especially through her thesis research.

While she spent much of her time researching in lab or volunteering at multiple hospitals around Austin, she also dedicated a large portion of her undergraduate career to Texas Ballroom, where she learned how to competitively ballroom dance and helped improve the club to win Exemplary Status among all student organizations on campus. She served as treasurer and ballroom captain and frequently placed at competitions. Most importantly, she got to wear beautiful dresses and make fantastic friends. This club is the epitome of her Austin experience, holding all her best memories, from pulling all-nighters while flying to MIT to driving through ferocious storms. Many thanks to UT, the Preston Lab, and Texas Ballroom! After graduation, she will pursue an M.D at the Long School of Medicine in San Antonio.

Shilpa Rajagopal

Graduating with an Honors B.S.A. in Biology in the Health Science Scholars Program and a B.B.A in Marketing

Shilpa's honors thesis, titled "A changing narrative: The impact of COVID-19 on the roles of healthcare chaplaincy and advance care planning" under the guidance of Dr. Jung Kwak, analyzed qualitative survey data to assess challenges in the facilitation of goals-of-care conversations amid the pandemic. During her time at UT, Shilpa served as president of Natural Sciences Council, a college-wide legislative student organization with 80+ members, and she has advocated for more inclusive, accessible educational policies and spaces. Inspired by her passion for social justice and health communication, Shilpa has been working with a group of undergraduate students, faculty mentors and international NGO partners during the past year to develop a mobile-based LGBTQ+ health curriculum funded through the President's Award for Global Learning. She has been involved with Texas Orange Jackets, helping establish an endowed scholarship as part of a collaborative community engagement project to support first-year, self-identified women at UT with financial need, and she is a volunteer with the Lifelong Learning with Friends program. In her free time, she enjoys performing with her teammates as a member of UT's Indian classical dance team. Following graduation, Shilpa is looking forward to pursuing a Community Health Fellowship with Project Horseshoe Farm.

Chemistry

Elva Ye

Graduating with a B.S. in Chemistry

Elva is from Austin, Texas, and has worked in the lab of Professor Emily Que for the past three years. Her research focused on the synthesis of photoactivatable small molecule probes for selective modulation of carbonic anhydrase. This work led to a co-authorship on a paper in the Journal of American Chemical Society, a co-first-author manuscript in preparation, and multiple regional conference presentations, including a best chemistry poster award at the UT Undergraduate Research Forum. As an Amgen Scholar, Elva also spent a summer working in Professor Jinming Gao's lab at UT Southwestern Medical Center to develop polymer-based probes for detecting lymph node metastasis. Throughout her undergraduate career, she has won a number of scholarships including the Eva Stevenson Woods Endowed Presidential Scholarship, Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Norman Hackerman Endowed Scholarship in Chemistry, and Betty Wilson and James Everett Key Endowed Presidential Scholarship. Outside of research, Elva has served as an organic chemistry teaching assistant, a peer mentor in the Freshman Research Initiative Nanochemistry Lab, and as the Dell Medical School Stop the Bleed program coordinator. After graduation, Elva will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

Computer Science

James Dong

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Computer Science in the Turing Scholars Program and a certificate in Japanese

As a member of the UToPiA research group led by Dr. Isil Dillig, James is a co-author on two papers, one of which, "Synthesizing Database Applications for Schema Refactoring," has been presented at PLDI 2019; the other has been submitted for review. His honors thesis is titled "Program Synthesis for Data Structure Refactoring." He is the recipient of an honorable mention for the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award and has participated three times in the SCUSA ICPC regional programming competition, earning second place, third place and sixth place. After graduation, James plans to continue research and pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Stanford University.

Marissa Elise Chabella Jenkins

Graduating with a B.S.A in Computer Science, a minor in Business and a certificate in Global Management

Marissa is a charismatic leader with a strong academic background whose impressive accomplishments include many on and off campus leadership positions. Marissa serves as a mentor in the Computer Science Department, where she brings a warm and welcoming presence to programs. She has served as the president of the Association of Black Computer Scientists (ABCS) for two years of her undergraduate career and volunteered regularly with UTCS's Hour of Code initiative, Explore UT, and Girl Day. While serving as a TA in computer science courses, Marissa has worked diligently to help ensure that all CS freshmen succeed during their first year at UT. Marissa also served as a resident assistant in Jester East and participated in Longhorns for a Culturally Competent Campus (LC3), which allowed her to develop meaningful relationships and be of service to fellow students. Marissa also co-founded and currently leads Black Wings, a Rewriting the Code (RTC)-associated affinity space for Black women. RTC is a global organization that supports college women hoping to pursue tech. Marissa was one of five women selected to create the space, and as a leader, she plans initiatives with company partners and co-leads to uplift, connect and develop Black college women in tech.

Niklas Lauffer

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Computer Science and B.S. in Mathematics in the Dean's Scholars Program and the Turing Scholars Program

Niklas has conducted research in Professor Ufuk Topcu's Autonomous Systems lab for the past four years. In Dr. Topcu's lab, he authored several papers in the areas of formal methods, learning and game theory. Niklas also spent two summers interning at NASA Ames Research Center in Dr. Jeremy Frank's automated planning and scheduling group. Niklas' thesis, "No-Regret Learning in Stochastic Stackelberg Games," developed a novel no-regret algorithm for learning in a Stackelberg game played over a Markov decision process. During his junior year, he worked to create a curriculum and teach a new course on Homotopy Type Theory. After graduation, Niklas will join the EECS Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley, where he will pursue research at the intersection of formal methods and artificial intelligence.

Nivedhitha Selvaraj

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Computer Science in the Turing Scholars Program and a B.A. in Plan II Honors, with a Bridging Disciplines Certificate in Digital Arts and Media

Nivedhitha's research interests lie in the field of natural language processing, and her honors thesis, which she wrote as a research assistant in the TAUR Lab led by Dr. Greg Durrett, is titled "Cross-Lingual Fine-Grained Entity Typing." She is the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards, including the CNS Second-Year Excellence Award, the Alison N. Norman Scholarship for Service, and the National Congressional Award Gold Medal. In her time at UT, she has served as a TSSA board officer, captain of the Zobha Dance Team, tech officer of CS Roadshow, and senior designer of The Daily Texan. She often volunteers to advance the cause of education, mentoring and introducing computer science to young students around Austin, and she works as a pod mentor for first-year students. After graduation, she plans to start her career as a software engineer at Facebook in Seattle, Washington.

Environmental Science

Amelia Nelson

Graduating with a B.S. in Environmental Science with a focus in Biology and a minor in Government

Amelia spent the past three years working in Dr. Larry Gilbert's lab and completed her capstone project on butterfly diet and immune response with the help of her mentor, Colin Morrison. She presented this research at the Entomological Society of America's annual conference. While a student at UT, she also conducted research at UT's Brackenridge Field Lab on the impact of deer on Central Texas vegetation. She has loved working to advance sustainability in business by interning in the sustainability departments at Dell Technologies and Affinity Engineering. Amelia has also served as the president of UT's book club (In Between the Lines) for the past two years. After graduation, Amelia is continuing her work with Dell Technologies and Affinity Engineering. She is excited to bring her passion for the environment to all of her future endeavors.

Human Development and Family Sciences

Claire Eckardt

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Human Development and Family Sciences

Claire began her discrimination research journey by joining the Project PISCES lab under the guidance of Dr. Aprile Benner. She helped to examine daily experiences and subsequent impacts on well-being and development for adolescents in the Austin area. Working under the supervision of Dr. Benner, Claire completed her Human Ecology Honors thesis, "Sleep Disturbances in Adolescents: The Effects of Weight Discrimination, Beliefs About Controlling Weight, and Coping Strategies," providing analysis and insight into the role of discriminatory experiences on adolescent sleep quality. She examined adolescent sleep disturbances (trouble falling asleep and trouble staying asleep) in relation to peer-perpetrated weight discrimination, and the moderating role of shift and persist coping strategies, psychological resilience, and beliefs about the importance of weight control. Claire has served as a student administrative assistant under interim Dean David Vanden Bout, as a family programs intern at local nonprofit Generation SERVE, and as a nanny for private households. She has been an active member of the co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega since her freshman year, through which she volunteered weekly to aid the greater Austin community. During her final semester, she worked remotely with Wonders and Worries to support adolescents coping with the illness of a loved one. Claire will attend the Human Development and Early Childhood Disorders M.S. program at The University of Texas at Dallas this fall.

Mathematics

Stefani Barre

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Mathematics with certificates in Applied Statistical Modeling and Risk Management in the Dean's Scholars Honors Program

For her thesis research, Stefani worked alongside Dr. Milica Cudina to develop a stochastic model of COVID-19 spread. She presented her work, titled "Using an SIR Model to Predict the Spread of COVID-19 in Travis County," at the CNS Honors Thesis Symposium in spring 2021. Stefani's previous research experience includes participating in the Research for Undergraduates Summer Institute of Statistics at Oregon State University. During this program, she investigated the applications of second order stochastic dominance on portfolio investment. In addition to doing research, Stefani served as the president of Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) at UT. GIS is a professional business fraternity committed to promoting development in actuarial science, data science and risk management. As president of GIS, Stefani was instrumental in leading the chapter to win the prestigious Edison L. Bowers Award, the highest honor awarded by the GIS grand chapter. After graduation, Stefani will begin working full time as an actuarial consultant at Deloitte to develop innovative solutions for pressing issues with insurance in the government and public services sectors.

Leon Liu

Graduating with a B.S. in Mathematics

Leon is interested in the interaction between mathematics, physics and computer science. His thesis, titled "Topological electro-magnetic duality," under the guidance of Dr. Dan Freed, explored how electromagnetic duality in quantum field theory and abelian duality in representation theory are related, under the setting of topological field theories. He is also strongly interested in type theory, univalent foundation of mathematics, and programing languages. He is a former vice president and president of the math club, where he connected the undergraduate and graduate math communities. Leon is a recipient of the Barrett Fellowship and E. Peterson Endowed Presidential Scholarship. After graduation, Leon will pursue a P.D. in Mathematics at Harvard University.

Medical Laboratory Sciences

Chasity Nguyen

Graduating with a B.S. in Medical Laboratory Sciences with certificates in Pre-Health Professions and Forensic Sciences

As an undergraduate research assistant in the lab of Dr. Arlen Johnson, Chasity developed the necessary skills to perform proficiently in any lab setting. While a student at UT, Chasity was an active member in the spirit organization Texas Angels, where she served as philanthropy director and planned numerous events to raise funds for the Miracle Foundation. She was also an active member of UTMLS, where she discovered her passion for her future profession as a medical laboratory scientist. Chasity has held University Honors numerous times and was awarded the Presidential Scholarship since arriving at UT. Chasity is currently based at Houston Methodist and plans to continue her passion for medical laboratory sciences by working in Houston Methodist's core laboratory, with a focus on chemistry.

Neuroscience

Soummitra Anand

Graduating with an Honors B.S.A. in Neuroscience and a B.A. in Iberian and Latin American Languages and Cultures

As a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Kristen Harris, Soummitra investigated the structural basis of learning and memory, synapse development, and the ultrastructure of synaptic plasticity through serial section electron microscopy and 3D reconstruction. She detailed her findings in her honors thesis. While conducting research in the Harris Lab, Soummitra received the Neuroscience Studies Foundation Summer Scholarship for young women. Previously, she worked in the lab of Dr. Linda Noble at Dell Medical School, where she studied traumatic spinal cord and pediatric brain injuries; and in the lab of Dr. Rajeev Azad at the University of North Texas, where she studied bioinformatics. In her time at UT, she has served as a biochemistry teaching assistant for Dr. Gail Grabner and tutor at the Sanger Learning Center. Soummitra also served as the philanthropy director of Seva Charities and marketing director of Humanity First at UT, where she volunteered and fundraised for various charities in Austin and across the world. After graduation, Soummitra will attend the Long School of Medicine in San Antonio.

Aeslyn Kail

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Neuroscience with a concentration in Psychology, a certificate in Elements of Computing and Forensic Science, and a minor in Sociology

Aeslyn is an enthusiastic cat-lover and optimist from Pflugerville, Texas. As a research assistant in Dr. Alison Preston's Learning and Memory Lab, she participated in research, collaborated on papers, and will be included as a co-author for publication. Her honors thesis, "Emotional content in episodic events across development: Relations with subclinical depression, trait anxiety, and family environment" solidified her research interests and desire to continue with academics. Among other awards, she received the University-wide Endowed Presidential Scholarship and the Natural Sciences 21st Century Scholarship. During her time at UT, she built lasting relationships—working with Dr. George Pollak as an undergraduate teaching assistant for three years, and learning from Dr. Christine Coughlin as an undergraduate research assistant for two years. After graduation, Aeslyn plans to continue her work in Dr. Preston's lab before attending a Neuropsychology Ph.D. program.

Juan Enrique Villacres Perez

Graduating with a B.S. in Neuroscience and pursuing a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering

Juan worked as a research assistant at the Colgin Lab, where he studied the connection between seizures and behavior in an absence epilepsy mouse model under the mentorship of Dr. Angel Lopez. His work with Dr. Lopez garnered him co-authorship on a publication in preparation, the Undergraduate Research Forum CNS Award for Excellence in Neuroscience, and second place under the undergraduate category in Texas A&M College of Medicine's 25th Annual G.S.O. Research Symposium. He is also a co-author on a currently-under-review Respiratory Care paper that computationally evaluated the impact of rise time on ventilator performance, and he is a DisrupTexas finalist for developing a lung monitoring device. During his time at UT, he volunteered at St. David's Medical Center, where he helped the clinical staff at the rehabilitation center. He also volunteered at Volunteer Healthcare Clinic, where he served as a Spanish interpreter for nurses and physicians. After graduation, Juan plans to finish his integrated M.S.E. in Biomedical Engineering at UT, after which he intends to pursue an M.D.-Ph.D. with an eventual focus on neurosurgery.

Nutritional Sciences

Jenifer Chisom Ogu

Graduating with a B.S.A in Nutritional Sciences and a Minor in African and African Diaspora Studies

Jenifer is a Graduate of Distinction in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. With a strong passion for educational and health equity, Jenifer has dedicated much of her time to serving disadvantaged populations. She worked as a Teaching Fellow for a summer enrichment program called Breakthrough Houston, teaching chemistry lessons to middle school students from underresourced schools. She volunteered at C.D. Doyle Clinic, a free student-run clinic that primarily serves individuals experiencing homelessness in downtown Austin. Jenifer conducted research in the Aptamer Stream of the Freshman Research Initiative. In this lab, she worked on an independent research project to develop an aptamer-based water quality assay and eventually served as a peer mentor. She has held various leadership positions in student organizations, including president of the School of Human Ecology Ambassadors, president of the Health Careers Mentorship Program, and vice president of the Black Honors Student Association. In addition to being a Distinguished College Scholar for two consecutive years, Jenifer is a winner of numerous scholarships and awards, including the Mary E. Gearing Human Ecology Council Scholarship, the Virginia H. Woodside Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Nutrition, a Texas Exes Scholarship, and the Signature Course Information Literacy Award. After graduation, Jenifer will pursue an M.D. at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School on a full merit scholarship.

Physics

Faith Cavazos Reyes

Graduating with a B.S. in Physics and certificates in Elements of Computing and German

For most of her undergraduate career, Faith was a part of Dr. Karol Lang's research lab. In his lab, she worked on many different particle physics topics from medical imaging to neutrino physics. Her most prominent work was to research and develop LEGEND-1000's liquid argon active veto system, a neutrinoless double-beta decay experiment. During her time as an undergraduate, Faith worked as a tutor at the Sanger Learning Center for 2½ years and as a learning assistant for two years. During her time as a learning assistant and looking for research opportunities, Dr. Greg Sitz became a mentor and a source of advice and opportunity. Dr. Sitz and the UT Physics Department made it possible for Faith to spend a summer conducting research in astroparticle physics abroad at the University of Wuerzburg in Germany. Faith is the recipient of many honors and awards for her academic achievements such as the CNS Second Year Excellence Award, and she was named a CNS College Scholar three years in a row. In the fall, Faith will enter the graduate program in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Dean of Science Fellow, where she will continue to conduct research in particle physics.

Public Health

Lauren Do

Graduating with an Honors B.S. in Public Health in the Dean's Scholars Honors Program and a B.A. in Plan II Honors

Lauren's research investigates how to better identify adolescent suicide risk, and her honors thesis, written under Dr. Karla Lawson, is titled "Universal Suicidality Screening in a Pediatric Emergency Department to Improve Mental Health Safety Risk." In her time at UT, she has been an active member of the Natural Sciences Council and a council member on the Dean's Scholars Student Association, and she has worked as a COVID-19 case investigator with Austin Public Health. She is a recipient of multiple merit awards, including the Mary E. Gearing Human Ecology Council Scholarship and the Evan Stevenson Woods Endowed Scholarship. In the fall, Lauren will attend the Baylor College of Medicine to pursue an M.D.

Textiles and Apparel

Meghan Mollicone

Graduating with a B.S. in Textiles and Apparel with a focus in Apparel, Functional and Technical Design

As a design student, Meghan engaged in courses such as textile testing, computer-aided design, and technical sewing and construction. She also participated in industry-based programs such as the Kendra Scott Accessory Design, Development and Merchandising course and the 2020 Summer Mentorship course. Throughout these programs, she gained knowledge about design processes and production directly from designers at Kendra Scott and Ann Taylor. Outside of design, Meghan broadened her experience by engaging with organizations and publications such as University Fashion Group, AATCC, and Spark Magazine TX (where she held the position of director of events). She would like to thank Professors Eve Nicols and Jessica Ciarla for mentoring her while at UT and pushing her to accomplish her scholastic and career goals. After graduation, she will be starting a full-time design training program at Abercrombie & Fitch to gain design experience in a multinational corporation.

The Case Against Spanking (Audio)
The Finish Line’s in Sight

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Thursday, 05 August 2021

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