Meet Mario Cosio '17, a senior chemistry major and undergraduate researcher in Texas A&M chemist Hongcai Joe Zhou's laboratory. "Mario is always asking questions to learn more, and in doing so, he challenges everyone in the group to continue learning as well," Zhou said.


Senior chemistry major Mario Cosio '17 never considered Texas A&M University as an option when he was deciding on which college to attend -- until he was tricked into it.

Cosio says the culprit was his high school counselor, a die-hard Aggie. And the paperwork she had him fill out his senior year in 2013 under the pretense of being just another scholarship application actually was a registration form to attend a three-day retreat for high school seniors that enabled them to visit Texas A&M and learn about the campus' rich history and its many opportunities.

"I'd visited colleges before, but this was the first place where on the bus ride home, I thought, 'I can't wait to go back; I can't wait to bring my parents,'" Cosio said. "For such a big campus, it feels so small, like a home. I felt like I was already an Aggie, and I hadn't even been accepted yet."

While Texas A&M's esteemed traditions and hospitable culture eventually won him over, Cosio says it was the university's high academic standards that confirmed his decision was the right one, particularly with regard to the chemistry program. Cosio certainly has proven worthy of the challenge, earning multiple scholarships throughout his undergraduate career. He currently holds eight separate awards, including two specific to the College of Science: a Hach Scientific Foundation Chemistry Teaching Scholarship endowed through the Texas A&M Foundation to assist chemistry students interested in pursuing careers as teachers, and a Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program scholarship funded through the National Science Foundation to support underrepresented students in STEM disciplines, specifically those involved in undergraduate research.

On that latter front, Cosio has been studying metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for the past year and a half under chemistry professor Hongcai Joe Zhou, holder of a Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry and an international expert in the design of framework materials, including MOFs.

Watch an interview with Mario Cosio '17 about his research and how he hopes to make a difference in related realms, including climate change:

MOFs' precise, highly porous structure and adsorptive properties have proven to be particularly useful in gas storage and separation, generating a buzz in many environmental and energy circles. They are composed of crystalline compounds of organic structures that are held together by metal ions, which can be changed to manipulate their properties. Cosio is investigating MOFs for their efficacy in the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels and industrial processes before it can reach the atmosphere, thereby preventing a number of ecological issues, particularly climate change.

Although carbon-capture technology currently is not required of large emitters like power plants, Cosio believes MOFs are on their way to becoming a necessary part of the climate solution.

For Cosio, research holds as much personal sentiment as his choice of schools. A Corpus Christi native, Cosio grew up a denizen of the Texas Gulf Coast. When CO2 enters the atmosphere, the oceans can become more acidic, which Cosio says can stunt oyster growth -- a staple of coastal economies -- and adversely affect those markets.

"I've always had ties to the environment, and all the research I've ever done at Texas A&M has somehow been related to the environment," Cosio said. "When I saw that Dr. Joe did research to capture CO2, to me, that was really interesting. If I can help slow climate change, then I'm helping the people back home.

"I think that's the best thing about being an Aggie -- even though you're just a student, you're making a difference."

Cosio hopes his work with MOFs will one day lead to global change in the form of a reduced carbon footprint and cleaner ecosystem. Even though his sights are set on the bigger picture, his work is already felt on a smaller scale -- by his peers. Zhou says Casio's affable demeanor and tenacious work ethic have made him a favorite within the Zhou laboratory.

"Mario is always asking questions to learn more, and in doing so, he challenges everyone in the group to continue learning as well," Zhou said. "He is friendly and enjoyable to be around. He is always helping people and working hard."

Besides staying busy in the lab, Cosio's other passion is Fish Camp, a four-day summer orientation retreat for incoming Aggie freshmen to meet, bond and learn more about life at Texas A&M. Cosio was a counselor in 2014 and is now serving as a chairperson, a role in which he helps train the 24 counselors assigned to his specific camp, one of 49 for summer 2016.

Cosio says the best part of Fish Camp is introducing young Aggies to all of the things that originally made him fall in love with Texas A&M when he was kind-heartedly hoodwinked into attending that fateful campus tour.

Looking back, Cosio says he has never been so glad to have fallen for a prank.

"We have opportunities here that no other university has," Cosio said. "That's why I love A&M so much."

For additional information about the undergraduate program in Texas A&M Chemistry, visit http://www.chem.tamu.edu/academics/undergraduate/.

To learn more about research in the Zhou lab, go to http://www.chem.tamu.edu/rgroup/zhou/.


Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or cjarvis@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Hongcai Joe Zhou, (979) 845-4034 or zhou@chem.tamu.edu

Jarvis Chris

  • Mario Cosio '17

  • Cosio, reveling in one of Texas A&M's proudest traditions -- receiving his Aggie Ring in November 2015. (Photo courtesy of Mario Cosio.)

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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