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FALL 2017

Wijewardene Takes 1st Place in 3MT® Competition

Inosha Wijewardene, PhD student at Texas Tech University

Inosha Wijewardene, Doctoral Student in the Department of Biological Sciences, won first place in the Graduate School's third annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition, beating out 11 other finalists, according to a Nov. 8 article in Texas Tech Today. The 3MT® competition is designed to cultivate graduate students' academic, presentation and research communication skills by allowing them to explain their thesis or dissertation to a non-specialist audience in three minutes or less and using only one, static PowerPoint slide. Wijewardene won first place and $300 for presenting "Co-overexpression of AVP1 and RCA to increase drought, salt and heat tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana." Wijewardene told Texas Tech Today: "My sincere thanks goes out to the dean and staff of the Graduate School, as well as the panel of judges, for making this event a success. I'm also grateful for the encouragement extended to me by my adviser, my colleagues in the lab and my family. I felt it was a tough competition, and there were really good speakers. I believe the 3MT® competition equipped me with a necessary skill where I could tell someone what I'm working on without being either too scientific or too boring—it's just three minutes. It was definitely an unforgettable experience." Demi Gary, Master's Student in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources' Department of Natural Resources Management, took second place and $200 for presenting "Examining the southern Great Plains for hotspots of at-risk species." Judy Rose, Doctoral Student in the College of Education—Curriculum & Instruction, took third place and $100 for presenting "African American Representation in Social Studies Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)." And Patricia Ryan, Doctoral Candidate in the College of Education—Educational Psychology & Leadership won the People's Choice Award and $100 for presenting "Women leaders in higher education: Career pathway factors, leadership styles, institutional fit and attaining legitimacy for female university presidents." 3MT® was developed by The University of Queensland in 2008 and celebrates the research that graduate students are doing, while developing their abilities to effective communicate their work to a non-academic audience.

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George Observes Surgeries in Kurdistan

Asher George, TTUAsher George, an Honor's College student and senior microbiology major in the Department of Biological Sciences, traveled to the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq to observe surgeons and physicians aiding Syrian refugees. George spent almost two weeks in May in the mountains and greenery of the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq with Operation H.O.P.E., a locally founded volunteer program for surgeons and physicians. He became involved with the program after meeting Dr. John Thomas, the program's founder, at church. Learn more about George in this Sept. 27 story in Texas Tech Today.

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Neilson Receives 3rd Fellowship from NASA

Brittany Neilson, TTUBrittany Neilson, a doctoral student in the Human Factors Psychology program in the Department of Psychological Sciences, recently received the NASA Texas Space Grant Graduate Student Fellowship. Through this fellowship, Neilson will conduct research at Texas Tech relevant to NASA's missions: specifically, the restorative power of natural environments on improving cognition and reducing stress. Neilson's work may have the potential to influence the design of work environments and technology for aerospace system operators, including pilots, astronauts and air traffic controllers. This is Neilson's third fellowship with NASA . "These fellowships are an excellent opportunity for graduate students to continue to pursue their line of research at their home institution while receiving financial support and recognition from NASA," Neilson said. Learn more about Neilson in this Sept. 19 story from Texas Tech Today.

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Chen Longlisted for National Book Award in Poetry

Chen Chen, TTUChen Chen, a PhD student in the Department of English's Creative Writing program, has been longlisted for the National Book Award in Poetry. Winners will be selected Nov. 15. His book, "When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities" (BOA Editions, 2017), already has won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. "Gratitude and love to my press, BOA Editions, and to Jericho Brown, who selected my book for publication," Chen said. "I'm so honored to find myself in the company of such brilliant poets."

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Duncan Places StickNets to Measure Harvey's Force

Duncan James TTUJames Duncan, a doctoral candidate at Texas Tech's National Wind Institute (NWI), was part of an NWI research team that deployed 14 instrument platforms along the Texas coast in advance of Hurricane Harvey. Duncan rode with Atmospheric Scientist Brian Hirth, a NWI Research Professor, to scout locations. The pair deployed the instruments between Mustang Island and Point Comfort while Atmospheric Scientist John Schroeder, a Professor in the Department of Geosciences, remained in Lubbock to relay forecast updates to the team. Schroeder is the principal investigator for the Texas Tech Hurricanes at Landfall Project and founder of the Texas Tech Hurricane Research Team. As soon as the StickNets were in place, Duncan and Hirth returned to Corpus Christi to ride out the storm. learn more about Duncan in this Aug. 26 story from Texas Tech Today.

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Miller Spent Summer as Amgen Scholar

Amanda Miller

Amanda Miller, a senior biochemistry major from Plano, was chosen as a 2017 Harvard Amgen Scholar. This gave Miller the opportunity to conduct research under world-renowned faculty mentors at world-leading educational and research institutions. "I had always dreamed of going to Harvard, and this program gave me the opportunity to do so," Miller told Texas Tech Today in an Aug. 24th article. Miller started her research at Texas Tech after taking an honors general chemistry course, taught by Dominick Casadonte, the Minnie Stevens Piper Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Miller then joined his lab and fell in love with her research. Through her work in Casadonte's lab, Miller received the Goldwater Scholarship in 2017, a prestigious science, technology, engineering and mathematics research-based scholarship. Miller said she thinks receiving the Goldwater Scholarship contributed to her acceptance into the Amgen Scholar program. "Most of the Goldwater Scholars that we have had at Texas Tech have gone on to have amazing research careers or careers in medicine," Casadonte said. "Amanda is certainly in that league. I honestly think that she will excel at anything to which she applies herself. Many of the Goldwater Scholars have gone on to do prestigious summer internships, and the Amgen is certainly one of the most prestigious. While at Harvard, Miller worked on Project Abbie, an initiative of the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering to develop technology for early detection of anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction triggered by exposure to certain foods, materials, medications and insect bites. "It allowed me to put my lab skills and technical knowledge to the test to work on a project with far-reaching impact," Miller said. "This program also allowed me to solidify my choice of career path and confirm my desire to become a physician scientist. In the future, I know my research questions and methods will be guided by the excellent mentorship and experience I gained while at Harvard. Only 200 students are chosen as Amgen Scholars each year and the majority are taken from top research institutions like Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Miller was the only student from the state of Texas to be selected for the program at Harvard.

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Nafees Participates in 'Festival of UndocuInnovation'

Saba Nafees TTUSaba Nafees, a doctoral student in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, took part in the late-September "Festival of UndocuInnovation," meant to recognize the creative ways that undocumented Americans contribute to society when more typical paths are closed to them. The event was prompted by President Donald Trump's indication that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program might end or be altered. (Update: The White House announced its decision: the program will end in six months unless Congress passes a bill, though existing DACA permits will remain valid until they expire.) A recent article in Fast Company described Nafees as a DACA immigrant who came to the United States from Pakistan as an 11-year-old on a visitor visa. Her bid at a green card disappeared when her sponsors—her grandparents—died before the sponsorship was finalized. "We had to decide whether to go back to a place filled with bombings and lots of terrorism going on, or to stay here and go to school and at least get through college here, because of all of the educational opportunities," the article quoted Nafees as saying. These days, Nafees "...spends much of her time researching genetic diseases and teaching undergraduate students. But Nafees is also the co-founder of a soon-to-be launched startup that will help Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal market handwoven rugs to customers in the U.S.," to quote Fast Company. Learn more about Nafees and the "Festival of UndocuInnovation" in this Sept. 1 story in Fast Company. For a more recent DACA update, follow this link to FOX-34 News' Oct. 5 report.

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