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The staircase in the Zachry Engineering Education Complex
Six graduate students were selected for the 2019-20 Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Each year, the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University awards outstanding doctoral students with the prestigious Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship – supporting them on their transformational academic journeys and research endeavors.

This year, six students across multiple departments in the college were chosen as recipients for this competitive opportunity. As they prepare for the fall semester to start, Ethan Kamphaus, who was unable to participate in the Q&A at this time, Carson Hanel and Benjamin Fennell took a moment to introduce themselves:

Ethan Kamphaus, Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering

Kamphaus, a chemical engineering doctoral student, is the sixth and final awardee of the 2019-20 Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship. He began his Ph.D. journey three years ago in the Computational Materials Group, directed by Dr. Perla Balbuena, holder of the GPSA Professorship and TEES Eminent Professor. Having also received his Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Texas A&M, his research focuses on using computational techniques to model complex systems, such as issues involving lithium-sulfur batteries.

Carson Hanel, Department of Computer Science and Engineering

Carson Hanel
Carson Hanel | Image: Carson Hanel

Q. What inspired you to be in computer science and engineering?

A. Like many millennials, I grew up with the internet – utilizing it as the technology transitioned from its relative infancy into being an integral part of everyday life. Through it, I’ve built lifelong friendships with loved ones around the globe; fighting dragons together in massively multiplayer online role-playing games and solving problems in diverse, expansive online forums. This love has brought me to study the engineering magic that brings us all together in this modern world by pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science from Texas A&M.


Q. What are you passionate about? How would you like to apply your area of study to that passion?

A. I am passionate about discovering methods that ease accessibility to the bountiful information that the internet has to offer. This pursuit of methods to provide end users with greatly enhanced experiences and throughput is at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is currently taking place in a changing technological landscape wherein applications are increasingly data hungry.

The research carried out by the Texas A&M Internet Research Lab, directed by Dr. Dmitri Loguinov, includes a multitude of projects, all geared toward increasing the hardware efficiency of common big data analytics tools on both Windows and Linux operating systems.

Q. How does it feel to be selected for the Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship?

A. I received the notification in the mail around finals in the spring and was absolutely taken aback! It was such an amazing feeling to be selected for the tremendous honor of being an Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship recipient that it felt, and still feels, a bit unreal. I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to pursue my Ph.D. and cannot wait to share the research conducted by the Internet Research Lab with the world.

Benjamin Fennell, Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Benjamin Fennell
Benjamin Fennell | Image: Benjamin Fennell

Q. What inspired you to be in civil and environmental engineering?

A. My biggest inspiration for pursuing civil and environmental engineering is my father. An electrical engineer by trade, he cultivated within me a deep hunger for solving problems at a young age. We would build things together, take things apart and try to put them back together, and even solve math problems after dinner. My family also spent most of the summer hours in the water – both in the lake and at the pool – deepening my passion for water. During my junior year of high school, my interest in the field was piqued by job shadowing a civil engineer. I haven't turn back since.

Q. What are you passionate about? How would you like to apply your area of study to that passion?

A. My vocational passions revolve around any and all things water. My specific research passion centers around water treatment – providing clean water for all to enjoy. Solving water treatment issues has the potential to impact people regionally, nationally and globally; supporting generations to come through each treated water drop.

Q. How does it feel to be selected for the Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship?

A. I received an email informing me that I was a recipient of the Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship. The heading immediately caught my eye with the words "IMPORTANT" from a Texas A&M email address. As I quickly read through the email, the smile on my face became larger and larger. I ventured to tell my wife after reading through the email several times to make sure it was real. She started crying tears of joy upon hearing the news and we were both flabbergasted.

Learn more about the Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship and other graduate funding opportunities.

Meet the other recipients

Learn more about the remaining Engineering Graduate Merit Fellowship recipients in their Q&A.