Undergrad Research At Texas A&M Spotlighted In Student-Run Scholarly Journal

Nov 21, 2013, 10:43 ET from Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Nov. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With a cover story dealing with genetic factors affecting white tigers, Explorations might at first glance appear to be a journal catering to a highly specialized segment of scientific academia. Instead, it's a highly diversified publication showcasing the research of undergraduate students at Texas A&M University.  It is one of but a few such student-run publications in the nation, giving voice to literary and artistic endeavors as well as science and technology.

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The opening article, a three-page piece titled "Water, Chemical Additives, and Their Effects on Shale" by Matthew Wiese, a senior petroleum engineering major from Houston, sets a distinct technical tone. However, a sobering spread a few pages over under a "Chasing the Sun" heading—a piece written by  Stephen O'Shea, a senior English-creative writing major from College Station, gives a vivid and graphic literary report based on interviews with combat veterans recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then there's the one where readers are requested to get out their smartphones and scan a QR code to hear "Only Human," a piano piece composed and played by Peter Wong, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Corvallis, Ore. who also includes a highly personal account of how he came to appreciate music.

Those and 15 other articles written by Texas A&M undergraduates representing a variety of fields of study are included in the 64-page journal published this month.  Many of them are based on research conducted in conjunction with the students' studies, and all were subjected to rigorous review by a 10-member student editorial board, complemented by a five-member faculty-staff advisory board and with additional assistance provided by a bevy of volunteer faculty reviewers. Only about 10-15 percent of the articles submitted are selected for inclusion in the annually produced journal.

Explorations, now in its fifth year of publication, is overseen by Texas A&M's Office of Honors and Undergraduate Research. It receives financial support from The Association of Former Students, the university's alumni organization.

Explorations is the oldest student-run journal on the Texas A&M campus. However, a new literary magazine, entitled The Eckleburg Project, began operation earlier this year to provide additional opportunities for creative writers and artists to express themselves.

More than half of the Explorations articles were written by engineering students, including two pieces that fall more in the literary or artistic areas, but liberal arts and science are also well represented.

The new issue includes a letter from Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, a 1971 Texas A&M graduate, who notes that an opportunity he was provided to engage in research in physics during his undergraduate days proved highly beneficial to him when he continued his education at the graduate level and then launched his academic career.

"I can say without question that working on important research projects with faculty members as mentors gave me an advantage over graduates of other universities and helped launch my professional career," he states, and further observes that opportunities for students to conduct undergraduate research are much more prevalent at Texas A&M now than when he was a student.

Loftin reiterated that observation at a reception for authors and others closely associated with Explorations when the first copies of the 2013 issue were made available.

He offered the student authors/researchers assurance that notation of such publications on their resumes will help set them apart when they apply for professional or graduate school or enter the work force.

Prof. Sumana Datta, who holds academic appointments in biology, biochemistry and biophysics and genetics and serves as executive director of the Office of Honors and Undergraduate Research, notes approximately 1,866 students currently participate in the university's honors programs, with many formally engaged in research endeavors, working closely with members of the faculty.  More than 200 students are currently in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, a one-year research capstone overseen by Datta's office.

"I am always amazed by the breadth and quality of the projects and talents of our student authors and artists," Datta says, "and I am especially proud of the tremendous leadership Executive Board co-chairs  Madeline Matthews and Matthew McMahon, layout artist Annabelle Aymond and the rest of the student editors have brought to this issue.  Of course, none of this would be possible without the selfless effort of our faculty research mentors and reviewers."

For a fuller flavor of the breadth of the articles in the 2013 Explorations, the titles are telling:

  • "Bottlenose Dolphins and Boat Traffic in the Galveston Ship Channel"
    Author: Anna Pennacchi, senior biomedical science major from Houston
  • "Developing Minimally-Invasive Biosensors from Fluorescent Dye and Red Blood Cells"
    Author: Megan Poorman, senior biomedical engineering major from Plano
  • "Synthetic Jet Fuels Produced from Natural Gas"
    Author: Moiz Bohra, a junior chemical engineering major from Mumbai, India (he attends Texas A&M University at Qatar)
  • "Cap-and-Trade and Global Compromise"
    Authors:  Phillip Warren and Mariah Lord. He is a junior economics major from Austin; she is from Lafayette, Colo. and earned a political science degree earlier this year.
  • "Mother Nature and the Coming Storm" (a painting accompanied by a narrative)
    Artist: Rosa Banuelos, senior biomedical science major from Waller
  • "Two if By Sea": Modern Archaeological Research into Arrival of the First Americans"
    Author:  Thomas Colvin, who earned his degree in history earlier this year, is from Houston
  • "Mapping Subsurfaces with Marbles and Wrapping Paper"
    Author: Andrew DeCheck, senior petroleum engineering major from Racine, Wis.
  • "Aristotle's Poetics as a Framework for Engineering Design"
    Author: Justin Montgomery, who graduated earlier this year with a degree in mechanical engineering (and a minor in philosophy), is from McKinney
  • "Smart Materials for Aneurysm Treatment"
    Author: Jason Szafron, junior biomedical engineering major from Chicago
  • Genetic Factors Associated with Coat Color and Health in White Tigers"
    Author: Sara Carney, senior from La Porte who is double-majoring in biomedical science and wildlife and fisheries sciences
  • "Walking a Fine Line"
    Photographer/author: Sara Muldoon, senior biomedical engineering major, San Antonio
  • "Fungus Among Us: Hitting a Moving Target"
    Author:  Lauren Puckett earned biochemistry degree earlier this year, from Lake Jackson
  • "Using Mutant Mice to Understand Seizures"
    Author: Vivek Karun, senior biomedical science major from Katy
  • "The Pop-Op Morphing Wall: A Fusion of Engineering and Art"
    Author/artist: William Whitten, junior mechanical engineering major from Tulsa.

About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents total annual expenditures of more than $776 million. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.

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SOURCE Texas A&M University