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A&S Student News

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SPRING 2019

DeWinne to Serve as Chancellor's Ambassador

TTU kinesiology major Callie DeWinne; photo by Toni Salama

Callie DeWinne has abundant reasons to be glad she's a Red Raider. The kinesiology major in the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management, will enter her senior year as winner of the Dr. Sarah Kulkofsky Scholarship for Social Sciences. A native of San Antonio, DeWinne is a recent Mortar Board inductee and, come fall 2019, will serve as a Chancellor's Ambassador. Her work as an Honor's College undergraduate research scholar has been published in the May 2019 issue of Experimental Brain Research. The project, "Pre-crastination and procrastination effects occur in a reach-to-grasp task," was led by principal author Jarrod Blinch, assistant professor of kinesiology. DeWinne says she worked with Blinch for a year on that project and has begun a second under his direction. "Now we're doing a study on the best way to measure reaction time," she says. A detailed story about DeWinne may be found by following this link.

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Acosta Headed to Russia on Fulbright

TTU linguisitics grad student & instructor Nicholas Acosta

Nicholas Acosta, a grad student and adjunct instructor of applied linguistics in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures, has won a scholarship on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. He will head to Moscow for an academic year beginning fall 2019, as yet uncertain of the university where he will teach. Acosta, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from Texas Tech, switched disciplines to further his education by applying to the linguistics master's program. He says the transition to applied linguistics took some getting used to, and that he took up the Russian language on a dare. "One of my friends was taking Japanese, another was taking Italian and another was taking Spanish," Acosta says. "Then, they said, 'You should take Russian,' and I said, 'OK, I'll do it.'" His Fulbright application was for an English teaching assistantship in Moscow. Though competition was fierce, he won. "I will be teaching English as a second language while also doing a cultural unit with Russian speakers to help them understand American culture a little bit more," Acosta says. "I'll focus more on American movies and books, and maybe some music, art and poetry." A detailed story about Acosta may be found by following this link.

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Falco Wins Parents Association Leadership Award

TTU graduating biochemistry senior Adrian Falco

Adrian Falco, a graduating biochemistry senior, is this year's winner of the Texas Tech Parents Association Student Academic Leadership Award representing the College of Arts & Sciences. The native of Friendswood, Texas, leaves Texas Tech behind—at least the main campus—with a prodigious list of accomplishments to his credit: He is outgoing president of the Honors College Bayless Elementary Mentoring Program. H his Honors thesis concerns the challenges of delivering medical supplies and services to Haiti. And he plays a pretty mean saxophone. As a student on the pre-med track, Falco will continue his studies at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He wants to be a physician. A detailed story about Falco may be found by following this link.

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Highest-Ranking Graduates Spring 2019

The following are the College of Arts & Sciences' highest-ranking students for Spring 2019 Graduation, which took place May 17. Biochemistry major Blake Aaron Ferguson carried the Arts & Sciences banner.

Department of Biological Sciences

  • Oscar Almazan, biology major
  • Rodie Wayne Brister, biology major
  • Ethan Gregory Johnson, biology major
  • Shree Ashish Patel, microbiology major
  • Nandini Arunava Ray, microbiology major
  • Sparsh Pratik Ray, microbiology major
  • Tucker McAaron Wise, microbiology major

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Stephan Brian Azatian, biochemistry major
  • Adrian Nguyen-Si Falco, biochemistry major
  • Blake Aaron Ferguson, biochemistry major
  • Quoc Trieu Nguyen, biochemistry major

Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures

  • Rivir Scott Berry, Spanish major
  • Molly Taylor Gilmore, Spanish major
  • Jessica Elizabeth Nichols, Spanish major
  • Abigail Eleanor Raef, languages and cultures major

Department of English

  • Destiny Alyse Doran, English major
  • Yoana Duran, English major
  • Pauline L. Franklin, English major
  • Karina Ocanas, English major
  • Michael Lawrence Tagliabue, English major
  • Jordan Taylor White, English major
  • Kristen Dene' York, English major

Degree in General Studies

  • Hannah Asha Daniel, general studies major
  • Breelin Noelle Shafer, general studies major

Department of History

  • Emily Ann Gideon, history major

Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management

  • Amanda Michelle Burton, kinesiology major
  • Jesse Robert Perez, kinesiology major
  • Riley Benjamin Reich, kinesiology major
  • Christian Rodriguez, kinesiology major
  • Brandon Richard Spencer, kinesiology major
  • Jenna Leanne Townsend, kinesiology major

Department of Mathematics & Statistics

  • Kip Keith Fletcher, mathematics major
  • Adam Lee Harper, mathematics major
  • Abdou Khadim Sakho, mathematics major

Department of Political Science

  • Olivia Marie Copeland, political science major

Department of Psychological Sciences

  • Caitlin Jane Boyle, psychology major
  • Bailey Jo Gomez, psychology major
  • Claire Marie Linenberger, psychology major
  • Kara Beth Pepper, psychology major

Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Social Work

  • Aliyah Destinie Acuña, sociology major
  • Hannah Sabine Hughes, anthropology major
  • Marissa Jean Medina, sociology major
  • Haley Renee Stevers, sociology major

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Wu Wins Goldwater Scholarship

TTU biology Junior Oscar Wu

Oscar Wu, above right, a junior majoring in cell and molecular biology in the Department of Biological Sciences, has been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States. Wu's research interest is in the field of cancer immunotherapy. "Whether it's the National Institutes of Health or companies like Merck, there is a huge public and private interest in cancer immunotherapy," Wu says. "In fact, the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded for developing the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug, ipilimumab. This is because decades of basic science research in this field has finally allowed us to utilize that data for drug development and translate them to patients." Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec praised Wu's hard work and dedication to research, saying that the scholarship speaks to Wu's commitment and talents as an undergraduate researcher and exemplifies the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit the university encourages in all its students. "I started conducting research when I was a sophomore," Wu says of his high school days. "I emailed 50 laboratories when I was 15 years old, and I was accepted into only one, at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. After that, everything was history."A detailed story about Wu may be found by following this link.

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Dinan Recognized as Fulbright Finalist

TTU PhD student Nancy DinanNancy Dinan, a Ph.D. student in the Department of English, was recognized as a Fulbright finalist May 6 during Texas Tech University's annual Prestigious Scholarship Reception, hosted by the Office of National and International Scholarships & Fellowships (NISF), the Graduate School and the Honors College. The ceremony recognizes applicants for the months of work that go into applying for highly competitive and prestigious educational awards and programs, including writing and revising essays and recommendation letters, serving on selection committees, and participating as interviewers and applicants in mock interview panels. "Applying for prestigious awards is no easy feat," said Wendoli Flores, director of NISF. "Only the students who are willing to sacrifice a good deal of their time end up going through the process of a complete application. Many of these scholarships require university endorsement and must be applied for internally through the NISF office so a review committee has the opportunity to assess the candidates and endorse the most competitive students." Flores added that even when a student does not receive a scholarship, the mere act of applying is an impressive accomplishment that must be recognized and celebrated."

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Perkowski Recognized at Prestigious Scholarship Reception

TTU Biology Grad Student Evan A. PerkowskiEvan A. Perkowski, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biological Sciences, received an Honorable Mention for his application to the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program. He was recognized for his application May 6 during Texas Tech University's annual Prestigious Scholarship Reception, hosted by the Office of National and International Scholarships & Fellowships (NISF), the Graduate School and the Honors College. The ceremony recognizes applicants for the months of work that go into applying for highly competitive and prestigious educational awards and programs, including writing and revising essays and recommendation letters, serving on selection committees, and participating as interviewers and applicants in mock interview panels. "Applying for prestigious awards is no easy feat," said Wendoli Flores, director of NISF. "Only the students who are willing to sacrifice a good deal of their time end up going through the process of a complete application. Many of these scholarships require university endorsement and must be applied for internally through the NISF office so a review committee has the opportunity to assess the candidates and endorse the most competitive students." Flores added that even when a student does not receive a scholarship, the mere act of applying is an impressive accomplishment that must be recognized and celebrated."

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Wilkerson Receives President's Excellence Award

Kabl Wilkerson, a history and political science major in the College of Arts & Sciences, received the President's Excellence in Diversity & Equity Award for Undergraduate Students during a ceremony on April 30. Wilkerson, a member of the Citizen Band Potawatomi, founded the Raiderland Native American Student Association to address the deficit of support and awareness of the Native American community, According to a Jan. 30, 2019, article in the Daily Toreador. Wilkerson also is an Honors Arts and Letters major in the Honors College. The awards celebrate faculty, students and staff who exemplify Texas Tech University's commitment to advancing diversity and promoting equity and inclusiveness. The program was held in the Hall of Nations at the International Cultural Center, with Texas Tech University President Lawrence Schovanec addressing the nominees and winners. "A commitment to diversity not only grows the pool of talent on a campus, but supports an environment that makes greater use of our human resources," Schovanec said. In addition to recognition at the ceremony, Wilkerson will receive a $500 scholarship. The awards were created by the Office of the President and administered by the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

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Chemistry Students Present at Meeting

Students of Michael Latham, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, presented at the 27th Texas Protein Folding and Functions meeting. the meeting was held April 12-14 at The Retreat at Artesian Lakes, near Cleveland, Texas.

  • Zachary Boswell presented the talk, "Cancer associated mutations perturb Rad50 D-loop to circumvent allosteric regulation."
  • Elahe Masoumzadeh presented the talk, "Characterizing the structure and dynamics of CstF-64 RRM-RNA complexes using NMR spectroscopy."
  • Mahtab Beikzadeh presented the poster, "Investigating the mechanism of Mre11 nuclease activities."
  • Stephan Azatian presented the poster, "Synthesis of multi-part Pf Rad50 for NMR spectroscopy analysis of coiled-coil domain of full-length Rad50."

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Chang Receives Horn Professors Award

TTU environmental toxicology PhD student Yu-Wei Chang

Yu-Wei Chang, from the Department of Environmental Toxicology, has won the Horn Professors Graduate Achievement Award for 2019. Chang's national award-winning research focuses on the adverse effects of environmental contaminants in kidney diseases and cancer. Most recently, she has been conducting research on the adverse affects of small amounts of arsenic in tap water. Her creative and impressive work not only looks at cause, but it also examines therapy approaches to reduce or prevent the negative effects of certain environmental contaminants. Her ground-breaking research is directly relevant to clinical patient care. The Horn Professors Graduate Achievement Award was established by the Paul Whitfield Horn Professors at Texas Tech University to recognize and reward outstanding research or creative activity performed by graduate students while here. She was was nominated by her research mentor Kamaleshwar Singh. A detailed story about Chang's research may be found by following this link.

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Dinan Receives Horn Professors Award

TTU English PhD student Nancy Dinan

Nancy Dinan, from the Department of English, has won the Horn Professors Graduate Achievement Award for 2019. Dinan is working on her doctoral dissertation in English Literature with a creative writing specialization in the Department of English. Her first novel, "Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here," is under contract with Bloomsbury for an expected publication in the summer of 2020. Two more novels are nearing completion, with subtle links to the first book. Her three-book project is described as significant because of the unique way it combines journalistic and historical facts with a fictional narrative, focusing on both environment and history, and thereby addressing a global issue, humanity's stewardship of nature. She was nominated by her mentor Katie Cortese. A detailed story about Dinan's work may be found by following this link.

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A&S Grad Students Receive Support Awards

This Texas Tech University Graduate School recently presented its 2019 Graduate Student Research Support Awards to 13 College of Arts & Sciences graduate students, six in the Arts & Humanities, seven in the STEM disciplines. The program is for Texas Tech University graduate students pursuing a master's or doctoral degree full time. The funds, which range between $500 and $1,000 per recipient, are earmarked only for expenses directly related to research (e.g., supplies, software, research-related training, etc.).

Spring 2019 Arts & Humanities Recipients

  • Iliana Gonzalez — Counseling Psychology
  • Leah Heilig — Technical Communication & Rhetoric
  • Olivia Kuljian — Experimental Psychology
  • Samodh Porawagamage — English
  • David Robledo — Technical Communication & Rhetoric
  • Gretchen Williams — History

Spring 2019 STEM Recipients

  • Phoenix Crane — Experimental Psychology
  • Meijun Dong — Biology
  • Susan Leib — Geosciences
  • Theresa Nguyen — Psychology
  • Kalin Skinner — Environmental Toxicology
  • Zhixing Wang — Physics
  • Emily Wright — Biology

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Miller is Outstanding Undergrad Researcher

TTU Biology senior Sarah Miller; photo by Toni Salama

Sarah Miller (pictured above, second from left), a biology senior, has won the 2019 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award at the conclusion of the TTU Undergraduate Research Conference. The week-long conference, titled "Discoveries to Impact: A Celebration of Research, Innovation, & Startups," was directed by TrUE (the Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences) and took place April 1-5 this year. Each year, TrUE recognizes outstanding undergraduate researchers, nominated by faculty, who demonstrate exemplary performance and dedication to their work. Miller's research mentor is Andrey Karamyshev, assistant professor in the Department of Cell Biology & Biochemistry at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). A detailed story about Miller's research may be found by following this link.

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Borges Runner Up for Research Award

Pablo Hernandez Borges, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science, was recognized as the first runner-up for the Student International Research Award, which recognizes international scholarship by a graduate student and is based on the annual Graduate School poster competition. His recognition came during the Global Vision Awards, held April 4, 2019, at the International Cultural Center. Borges was recognized for his research "Playing the Musical Chairs: A case study of corruption and cabinet rotation in Venezuela." His research examines the relationship of the high rotation of government ministers, a larger gross domestic product and the party in power running counter to the stability of the executive branch in government while at the same time increasing the level of governmental corruption. Winning the award was Grace Hyunjung Lee, a graduate student in Nutritional Sciences, for her research and cross-sectional study conducted in the Somali region of Ethiopia.

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Gard Lands Graduate Fellowship

Shipra Gard, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and a member of the Krempner research group, has been awarded a Helen DeVitt Jones Graduate Fellowship. The Fellowship award is $3,500 per year for three years to pursue a doctoral degree starting fall 2019.

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Brar Gets Dissertation Fellowship

Amandeep Brar, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and a member of the Krempner research group, has been awarded a Texas Tech University Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship through the Graduate School. The award provides monthly salary and tuition/fee waivers beginning fall 2019 through graduation in Summer 2020.

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Tahmouresilerd Gets Dissertation Fellowship

Babak Tahmouresilerd, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and a member of the Cozzolino research group, has been awarded a Texas Tech University Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship through the Graduate School. The award provides monthly salary and tuition/fee waivers beginning fall 2019 through graduation in Summer 2020.

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Elmassry Wants to End Sepsis Before It Begins

TTU Microbiology PhD student Moamen Elmassry; photo by Toni Salama

Moamen Elmassry, a graduate teaching assistant and doctoral candidate in microbiology in the Department of Biological Sciences, is focusing on the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can lead to sepsis if it gets into a patient's blood. Sepsis is one of the most troubling conditions in the medical community today. It's the leading cause of death in intensive care units, with an estimated 1 million new cases in hospitalized patients each year in the United States alone. The condition, in which the body's immune system goes into overdrive trying to kill a blood-borne bacterial infection, is easily treated with antibiotics—the trouble is that the detection time has, in the past, taken longer than it takes for sepsis to kill a patient. So why not just treat every patient with antibiotics to prevent sepsis before it happens? Because overuse of antibiotics leads to increased drug resistance, which makes antibiotics less effective in the future. It's a tricky situation that researchers the world over have been trying to address in a variety of ways, including a novel, faster-detection device developed in the Texas Tech University Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. But many of these methods focus on detection and treatment. What if you could know, ahead of time, why certain patients are more likely to get sepsis? That is the basis of Elmassry's new research, which he is conducting in collaboration with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. More about Elmassry's sepsis research may be found at this link.

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Rodriguez Perseveres To Earn Bachelor's Degree

TTU graduate Teresa Rodriguez

Teresa Rodriguez is a newly minted Texas Tech University graduate with a bachelor's degree in sociology. When she walked across the stage in December 2018, it marked the final step of an educational odyssey that began for a unique first-generation college student when she was in her mid-40s. Along the way, Rodriguez found another level of inner strength she wasn't sure existed when she extended her family more than she ever thought imaginable. In the middle of her unorthodox journey, family ties tugged at Rodriguez's heart when her cousin's five young children were thrust into limbo and teetered on the edge of becoming wards of the State of Texas. So Rodriguez, already a busy mother and grandmother, stepped in without a second thought and took in the five children—at the time ranging in age from 1-8—as a foster parent. "Sometimes I wonder how in the world I did it, but I did," Rodriguez said with a smile. "There were times when I wasn't sure I could make it, but the people at Texas Tech helped me and my family in ways I never expected." Read more about Teresa Rodriguez at this link.

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Elizalde Wins 3rd & People's Choice in 3-Minute Thesis

TTU Ph.D. candidate Armando Elizalde

Armando Elizalde Velazquez came to Texas Tech University nearly two years ago with a strong interest in microplastic research. Now, three semesters from a doctoral degree in environmental toxicology, Velazquez has matched his knowledge with a deep passion about the topic. Explaining that blend of knowledge and passion is an important next step, so when Velazquez had an opportunity to test a new means to do so, he didn't let it pass. A native of Toluca, Mexico, Velazquez participated in Texas Tech's Three-Minute Thesis Competition last month and was one of the program's shining stars. His presentation, "Microplastics: An invisible threat," earned third place as well as the People's Choice award. "We live in a world where everything we use involves, plastic and we are dumping it at a high rate. Now we can see some consequences, however its environmental impact remains unknown. Here is where my research comes in" Velazquez said. Read more about Armando Elizalde at this link.

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Schmitt Takes 1st Place for 3-Minute Thesis

TTU Ph.D. student Cassandra Schmitt

Cassandra Schmitt has long held an affinity for helping whoever is in need, as well as a fascination for the kind of creatures that aren't necessarily familiar to many people in West Texas. So the notion of studying amphibious and aquatic fish species and how that research can improve the quality of life for mankind has always seemed like a perfect fit. After graduating from Lubbock Christian University in 2012, Schmitt worked as an advocate for victims of sexual assault and sex trafficking at Voice of Hope in Lubbock. Advocates provide medical accompaniment, assistance with reporting and service referrals for victims and their families. When Schmitt decided to redirect her professional life, the Lubbock native went hunting for the right place to pursue graduate-level research that still had a positive impact on people and the environment. Schmitt found that ideal match, and didn't have to stray far to do so. Schmitt won first place in the Texas Tech University Graduate School's Three-Minute Thesis competition last month for her presentation "Exploring Organophosphate Insecticide Exposure in Zebrafish." Read more about Cassadra Schmitt at this link.

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Williams Finds a 'First Gen' Haven at TTU

TTU student Malik Williams

Malik Williams realized when he was still young, yet more worldly than he probably should have been, that he would have to take a giant leap of faith in life to escape the circumstances around him. Growing up in poverty in north San Antonio—to the degree that he wasn't always sure where his next meal would come from or sometimes when—Williams knew he had to find a way out. The most promising path was through a college education, and that was where Williams directed his focus. Williams is halfway down that path, a junior at Texas Tech University majoring in political science with a double minor in legal studies and communications studies. His goal after he earns a bachelor's degree is law school at an Ivy League school. "I grew up in a ghetto with guns, drugs and gangs," Williams said. "Every night, you'd hear guns shooting and then the next day hear that somebody had been killed. Coming to Texas Tech, this is a world apart from what I grew up with. Read more about Malik Williams at this link. 

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Dinan Named a Fulbright Finalist

TTU English PhD student Nancy Dinan

Nancy Dinan is a finalist in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. As she waits to hear whether she is a winner, she is working on her doctoral dissertation in English Literature with a creative writing specialization through the Department of English—while she has three novels in the works. Her first novel, "Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here," will be available for purchase in the summer of 2020. She also teaches an online class and edits for Iron Horse Literary Review, the literary magazine at Texas Tech." Read more about Nancy Dinan at this link.

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