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Ashley Mullen
Ashley Mullen is now pursuing her graduate degrees at Texas A&M University at Galveston. | Image: Courtesy of Ashley Mullen

“I've always loved the ocean,” said Ashley Mullen, a graduate student in the Department of Ocean Engineering at Texas A&M University at Galveston. “I've always been so intrigued by it, because it's just so massive and so vast, and there's so much we don't know about it.”

A recipient of the 2021 Engineering Graduate Merit Doctoral Fellowship, Mullen was introduced to ocean engineering as a freshman in Galveston, when her love for math and science inspired her to pursue a degree in engineering. Now, she is working toward her master’s and doctoral degrees.

The prestigious fellowship awards one student from each participating department a scholarship for two years for a master’s degree or three to four years for a doctoral degree, in addition to a stipend and other coverages.

“I’m super blessed and thankful to not only have the rest of my education paid for, but also to be paid to do what I love,” Mullen said. “It's one thing to be an undergrad and to do well, but this fellowship is a reminder that people want me here.”

As Mullen described, her main interests lie in wave energy — a branch of power generation and renewable energy in which power is produced by floating devices placed on the surface of the ocean.

While she hasn’t had the chance to dive deep into her graduate research studies yet, she has dipped her toes into wave energy research during her undergraduate experience.

“I participated in undergraduate research my senior year and was able to aid in part of the design process for a wave energy converter with applications in desalination,” she said. “Then I got to do a little bit more detailed design of my own last semester.”

Mullen is excited to begin her graduate research project, get hands-on experience and see something that she designs come to life — possibly as a prototype for industry use.

Regardless of where the sea may take her, Mullen advises students to take advantage of the small size of the ocean engineering department and connect with their peers and professors.

“Some departments are massive, and I feel like it's easy for people to just go into class and leave,” she said. “But the ocean engineering department is so small. I really thrive in an environment of having people know you and being close to your professors. I think it helps because it can be intimidating to ask questions. But when you know them personally and they know you, it becomes a lot easier and you can just walk in their office and have a conversation. I think all of that starts with just being involved.”