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Graphic with text that says 2022 College of Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student Awards.
Tianyang Zhou and Alex Strasser were awarded 2022 College of Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student awards from the Texas A&M University College of Engineering during the recent student awards banquet. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering
Two students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering won both of the 2022 College of Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student Awards. Tianyang Zhou was named Outstanding Engineering Ph.D. Graduate Student, and Alex Strasser was named Outstanding Engineering M.S. Graduate Student.

Established in 2012, this award recognizes one master’s student and one doctoral student who have demonstrated excellence above and beyond usual levels of achievement. Awardees must be in good academic standing with a minimum cumulative and degree plan GPA of at least 3.75.

Zhou is performing vital research that addresses the immediate need for improved efficiency in aerial and ground vehicles by developing structural energy storage materials that can simultaneously bear mechanical loads and store electrical energy. She is pursuing her doctoral degree under the co-advisement of Dr. Dimitris Lagoudas, associate vice chancellor for engineering research and Dr. James Boyd, associate professor of aerospace engineering.

“I am extremely honored to receive this prestigious award in recognition of my research, teaching and mentoring efforts during my Ph.D.,” said Zhou. “I would not be where I am today without the ever-present support and help from my advisors, my mentors, my peers and my students. Receiving this award motivates me to achieve more and provide more to the field and the community.”

In addition to her research, she has excelled in both teaching and mentoring roles for undergraduate and graduate students. She was selected as a graduate teaching fellow, a competitive collegewide position, and subsequently became an instructor of record.
Dr. Jim Boyd, Tiayang Zhou holding her award and Dr. Dimitris Lagoudas
Dr. Jim Boyd (left) and Dr. Dimitris Lagoudas serve as co-advisors for Tianyang Zhou. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering
“Tianyang has made key contributions to the field of structural storage devices during her Ph.D. work, and at the same time she has developed skills as a successful peer mentor to her fellow students, always willing to help others grow, following the Aggie core values of excellence and selfless service,” said Lagoudas. “Tianyang has benefited from the collaborative research effort on multifunctional storage devices, coordinated by Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus and supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.”

Strasser has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Texas A&M and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics. His research interests are primarily in the functional properties of 2D materials. Dr. Xiaofeng Qian, associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, serves as Strasser’s faculty advisor.

Strasser has presented at eight scientific conferences, has one first-author publication and has co-authored five others on topics including computing nonlinear optical properties, experimental synthesis and characterization of 2D materials and nanocomposites.

In addition, Strasser has research interests in the philosophies of physics, religion and ethics and has presented at three philosophy conferences. He is also highly active in Effective Altruism for Christians, which investigates and promotes how to do the most good with one’s money and career.
Alex Strasser and Dr. Ziaofeng Qian
Dr. Xiaofeng Qian serves as Alex Strasser’s advisor. | Image: Courtesy of Xiaofeng Qian
“While I find the process of scientific discovery intrinsically fascinating and motivating, since it helps reveal the fundamental nature of the world as well as the nature of God (as so many founding scientists also believed), I am thankful to the college for their recognition of my research contributions,” said Strasser. “I am honored to be chosen for this award, and I am grateful to my advisor Dr. Qian for the research opportunities and mentorship he has provided.”

“Alex Strasser is a very talented and self-motivated student with deep curiosity about fundamental science,” said Qian. “Through extensive advanced electronic structure calculations and highly nontrivial group theoretical analyses, Alex discovered that Janus structuring can effectively break mirror symmetry of two-dimensional materials and enable strong nonlinear optical and photocurrent responses. This offers a unique approach for developing ultrathin chiral linear and nonlinear optical platforms with out-of-plane photocurrent responses that are often lacking in their pristine counterpart.”

These awards were created by the College of Engineering to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional dedication and tenacity in their research and academic studies.