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Two graduate students from the Texas A&M University College of Engineering received the U.S. Senator Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship Award for scholarly excellence. The awards, each for $5,000, will support the research efforts of the students as they pursue their doctoral degrees.

Madeleine S. Durkee from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Nazanin Afsar Kazerooni from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, were among a group of eight students to receive the award during a ceremony in April that featured a three-minute presentation by the recipients highlighting their academic work.

Four students (three girls and one boy) is casual clothing. One of the female students is holding a framed certificate.Durkee, whose advisor is Dr. Kristen C. Maitland, associate professor in the biomedical engineering department, presented her research on improving detection of pathogenic bacteria, specifically Mycobacterium tuberculosis, in a living host. She works with an optical method to detect viable bacteria in a small animal model of disease. The bulk of her research has been developing a model of light transport within a host to determine what limits the number of bacteria that can be detected, then attempting to improve the optical system to overcome these limitations. This will eventually lead to more sensitive detection of bacteria and a better diagnostic. She is also deeply involved in teaching undergraduate courses and research, which has led her to pursue a career path in academia.

“I am very honored to receive the Phil Gramm Award,” Durkee said. “I have dedicated the past five years to teaching and academic research, and to be formally recognized for those efforts is very exciting.”

Female student with shoulder length black hair smiling. She is is a black blazer and a black and white shirt with a graphic print on it. Behind her three banners with the Texas A&M logo and an image can be seen in the background.Kazerooni, whose advisor is Dr. Arun Srinivasa, the Holdredge/Paul Professor in the mechanical engineering department, presented her research on the inelastic behavior of soft tissues, especially skin and damages that happen, for a better understating of wearable electronics, skin diseases, aging and wrinkling, etc. She has designed and built an intricate biaxial tension setup, and has been instrumental in repairing a precise laser cutter system. She has also worked in a co-op program with St. Jude Medical (aka Abbott) for five months, on developing antimicrobial meshes and material testing for the next generation of cardiac implantable electronic devices. In addition to her contributions to research, she has been the instructor of record twice, teaching two courses in the Department of Mechanical Engineering as the winner of the Graduate Teaching Fellowship.

“I am deeply grateful and honored to receive this award from Senator Phil Gramm,” Kazerooni said. “I feel thrilled and overjoyed that my work has been recognized, as well as its potential to help people.”

The fellowships are named for Phil Gramm who served as an economics professor at Texas A&M for 12 years before embarking on a highly successful political career.