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Brooke Versaw (right), accepting the Brown-Rudder Award from her Beckman Scholar mentor, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Dr. Karen L. Wooley. (Credit: Texas A&M LAUNCH.)

COLLEGE STATION --

Brooke Versaw '18, a senior chemistry major at Texas A&M University, has been recognized with the Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award, one of Texas A&M's three top student honors presented earlier this month in conjunction with spring commencement ceremonies.

Versaw and biochemistry major Gabrielle Lessen each received the prestigious award, established in 1970 to recognize the top two graduating seniors university-wide who exemplify the leadership and related traits of the late Gen. Earl Rudder, a World War II hero who served as president of Texas A&M from 1959 until his death in 1970. The award includes a cash gift of $5,000.

The Robert Gates-Muller Family Outstanding Student Award, which also includes a $5,000 gift, was presented to business honors major Rachel Keathley for demonstrating the qualities of leadership, patriotism and courage exemplified by Robert M. Gates, former president of Texas A&M (2002-2006) and U.S. Secretary of Defense (2006-2011).

Versaw, a College Station native, graduated May 10 with her bachelor's of science degree in chemistry and a minor in business. She is the ninth overall Brown-Rudder Award recipient from the College of Science and the first since 2013, when Robert Carpenter (applied mathematics) and Stephanie Florez-Malaver (biomedical sciences/chemistry) swept the top two spots. Previous college-affiliated winners of the award, established in 1971, are as follows: Barbara B. Sears (botany, 1974); Steven J. Eberhard (mathematics, 1975); Michelle S. Marti (mathematics/economics, 1979); Chi-Cheng Huang (biology, 1993); Aaron Lee Bigbee (mathematics, 2000); and Tanner B. Wilson (applied mathematics, 2012), along with Carpenter and Florez-Malaver in 2013.

It's been a whirlwind senior year for Versaw, an Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Scholar and Undergraduate Research Ambassador who has been recognized during the past 12 months by three national fellowship entities with a Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention (April 2017), a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (October 2017) and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (April 2018). Prior to her sophomore year, Versaw was selected as a 2015-16 Beckman Scholar for her excellence and creativity in research, joining the laboratory of Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Dr. Karen L. Wooley. Her related research on polymers and functional macromolecules has resulted in several presentations, including a first-place undergraduate oral presentation award as part of 2016 Texas A&M Student Research Week and an Outstanding Presentation Award in Materials Science at the 2016 Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research (GCUR) Symposium.

"Among the 55 undergraduate students who have engaged in research in my laboratory over the past 23 years, Brooke has exhibited the highest level of independent creativity, and she has the greatest potential to rise as a world-class star in pursuit of excellence in the design and development of advanced organic polymer materials," Wooley said.

Beyond her many leadership roles within the University Honors Program, Versaw has served as director of programming for the Memorial Student Center (MSC) and demonstrated her ethical integrity as hearing chair and council member for the Aggie Honor Council. She has been active as a member of the American Chemical Society and the MSC Visual Arts Committee and as a National Scholar Ambassador. In addition to a Beckman Scholar, she was selected as a President's Endowed Scholar and Robert A. Welch Foundation Scholar.

Versaw's references in addition to Wooley extoll her "characteristic honesty," "quiet bravery" and humbleness in taking on "not very visible, not always rewarding, difficult and incredibly important service."

To learn more about Versaw, see a past Q&A with her as a junior during Texas A&M's 2017 Student Research Week.

For additional information on Lessen and Keathley, see the related feature story in Texas A&M Today.

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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or or Dr. Sumana Datta, (979) 845-1957 or sumad@tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Brooke Versaw '18

    (Credit: Megan Whitlock '18.)

  • Brooke Versaw (center), representing Texas A&M at SCONA 2018 (Student Conference on National Affairs). Read her reflections on the experience in the University Honors Program blog. (Credit: Texas A&M Honors and Undergraduate Research.)

  • Versaw, presenting her research as a sophomore to Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Studies and LAUNCH Executive Director Dr. Sumana Datta during the 2016 Undergraduate Research Summer Poster Session in Texas A&M's Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building.

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