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Texas A&M chemistry doctoral student Meagan Elinski (front row, left) and Dr. François P. Gabbaï (back row, second from right), accepting on behalf of his Texas A&M chemistry doctoral student Anna Marie Christianson, are among the eight 2017 Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship Award recipients, flanked here by former United States Senator Phil Gramm (left) and Texas A&M Associate Provost for Graduate and Professional Studies Dr. Karen L. Butler-Purry (right). (Credit: Jim Lyle.)

COLLEGE STATION --

Anna Marie Christianson and Meagan Elinski, doctoral students in the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, have been selected as 2017 Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship Award recipients, announced Dr. Karen L. Butler-Purry, associate provost for graduate and professional studies.

Christianson and Elinski are two of eight Texas A&M doctoral students honored this year with the prestigious award, established in 2006 with the support of Phil Gramm, the former United States Senator from Texas who served as a professor of economics at Texas A&M for 12 years before being elected to Congress. Each was presented with a $5,000 cash award and a framed certificate during yesterday's (April 6) awards ceremony held in the Memorial Student Center Stark Galleries in conjunction with National Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week activities on campus.

Gramm himself was present this year to congratulate the eight students, who henceforth will be recognized as Senator Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellows for general scholarship excellence and contributions to their disciplines.

"It was 50 years ago that I got my Ph.D. and headed here to the campus of Texas A&M," Gramm said. "I taught economics here, and I loved every second of it. When my son got his doctorate, I told him if you truly care about the students you teach, they will discover more and learn more, and you will love it.

"It's not unusual for students to still come up to me and say, 'You changed my life.' That means the world to me. I would not trade the 12 years I taught here at Texas A&M for anything."

Christianson, a native of Waco, came to Texas A&M in 2013 after receiving her bachelor's degree at the University of Dallas, where she earned a pre-doctoral National Science Foundation fellowship. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry as a member of Arthur E. Martell Endowed Chair in Chemistry Dr. François P. Gabbaï's research group, where her research is focused on the improvement of photophysical properties in antimony- and phosphorus-based chromophores and fluorophores for application as chemical sensors. These molecules exhibit an optical response to stimuli governed by chemistry occurring at the main group element, and her research thus far has uncovered a number of possible mechanisms for such photophysical responses.

Already in her young career, Christianson has authored three articles in peer-reviewed journals as well as a book chapter, in addition to making presentations at numerous national conferences. She also served as the chair of the graduate student-led Gordon Research Symposium in Inorganic Chemistry in summer 2016.

In addition to her research work, Christianson has been active in teaching and service in Texas A&M Chemistry, having served as a teaching assistant for the First Year Chemistry Program lecture and laboratory, an advanced inorganic chemistry laboratory and a graduate-level inorganic chemistry lecture course. Additionally, she has mentored two undergraduate research students within the Gabbaï Lab and is involved in many organizations for science outreach, including the Phi Lambda Upsilon Chemistry Honor Society, Texas A&M Chemistry Open House, Women In Science and Engineering, and the Organization for Culture and Diversity in Chemistry, and also for community outreach, including Best Buddies TAMU and Meals on Wheels through St. Mary's Catholic Student Center.

After her graduation from Texas A&M in May 2017, Christianson and her husband Jon plan to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and then move to Louisville, Ky., where she will begin her career as a tenure-track professor of chemistry at Bellarmine University.

"Anna started in our program four years ago and quickly emerged as one of the most gifted students I have had the occasion to work with," Gabbaï said. "In addition to obtaining perfect grades in her classes, she promptly completed her written cumulative examinations and defended her proposal in her fifth semester. In addition to being industrious in the laboratory and the sole co-author of three manuscripts, leaving no doubt about the extent of her contribution, she is a uniquely gifted communicator with the ability to deconstruct complex situations into simple facts that can be easily understood by a broad audience.

"Anna has just accepted a position at Bellarmine University, where she will start as an assistant professor in the fall. Given her intelligence, motivation and work ethic, I am absolutely confident that she will strive at this PUI [primarily undergraduate institution]."

Like Christianson, Elinski also came to Texas A&M in 2013 as a Texas A&M Merit Fellowship recipient after receiving her bachelor's of science degree in chemistry from Hope College in Holland, Mich. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry as a member of Dr. James Batteas' research group, where her work addresses energy conservation by seeking a more fundamental understanding of tribology. More specifically, she is investigating the impact of surface chemistry and nanoscopic roughness on the tribological properties of graphene.She received honorable mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in both 2014 and 2015 and has been elected to co-chair the 2018 Gordon Research Seminar on Tribology.

Beyond research, Elinski has taught several laboratory courses in Texas A&M Chemistry while also serving as an instructor assistant for a general chemistry lecture and quantitative analytical laboratory. In addition to currently mentoring three undergraduate students in chemistry research, she previously guided a visiting student in Texas A&M's NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

Active in outreach throughout her time as a graduate student, Elinski helped develop a materials science-themed workshop for Texas A&M's Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) program to help increase interest in STEM fields among 6th grade girls. Additionally, she helped develop a nano-engineering course as part of Texas A&M's Youth Adventure Program (YAP). Elinksi says she looks forward to continuing to contribute to the development of the chemistry department as a researcher, teacher and mentor.

Gramm spent two decades serving in the U.S. Congress and Senate, using his economic and financial expertise to create important laws and policies, and to provide advice to legislators and the White House. He authored numerous articles and books while at Texas A&M, ranging from monetary theory to mineral extraction economics. Currently, Gramm is senior adviser to U.S. Policy Metrics, an economic and public policy research firm in Washington, D.C. He is married to Wendy Lee Gramm, a former member of The Texas A&M System Board of Regents and former chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission under Presidents Reagan and Bush. They have two sons, Marshall, Texas A&M Class of 2000, and Jeff.

For additional information about this and other National Graduate and Professional Appreciation Week events, contact Shannon Walton at (979) 845-3631 or shannon@tamu.edu.

To learn more about the Gramm Fellowship Program and other opportunities for graduate and professsional students at Texas A&M, visit http://ogaps.tamu.edu/.

-aTm-

Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Gramm, also a former Texas A&M professor, presented eight Texas A&M students with scholarships to support their research efforts. (Credit: Jim Lyle.)

  • Anna Marie Christianson

  • Meagan Elinski

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