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Samuel Whitmarsh (left) and Colton Colonna (right) holding their academic honor roll plaques at E.B. Crushing Stadium at Texas A&M.
The two student-athletes have been consistent members of the honor roll list throughout their Texas A&M careers. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

On the track and in the classroom, Texas A&M University Materials Science undergraduate students Colton Colonna and Samuel Whitmarsh have maintained an elite level of success.

Their newest success includes earning Southeastern Conference Academic Honors for the 2023 spring semester. 

A student-athlete must earn a 3.0 GPA while taking full-time classes and be a member of the athletics team to earn a spot on the honor roll. Both students are familiar with the gold, having been on the honor roll list four times in their careers. 

"I came to Texas A&M looking for a good program athletically and academically," Colonna said. "A university with a name out there that people would recognize, and Texas A&M materials science has a good program and was definitely a draw to me."

Colonna's interest involves working with subjective properties, semiconductors and electronics. His focus is primarily on materials analysis and using skills from materials science 360 class characterization to analyze and help characterize the structure of the cathodes. 

"When I was doing my major search, I noticed that materials scientists work with the properties of materials much more than anything else. So that set off a light bulb for me," Colonna said.

Whitmarsh got into materials science through his high school's rocketry program. His role on the team was airframe lead, while his side project was creating a vacuum-assisted, resin-transfused carbon fiber pressure vessel for the combustion chamber.

When he first got to Texas A&M, Whitmarsh had a revolving door of options, with his mind changing every week until materials science was the proper landing spot. 

"It is a blessing to have the opportunity to be a part of (the department) while participating in track and field,” Whitmarsh said. “I think the two will tie together well on my resume.”

Colonna is a year older and included in capstone projects, and Whitmarsh looks up to him as a mentor to help guide him through how to approach homework assignments and giving encouragement.

"Having Colton as a role model is super encouraging. His guidance and insight give me hope that I can make it through the upcoming courses,” he said.

Whitmarsh's most significant appreciation toward members of his department was the help they provided when his physical health was less than optimal. 

His most notable memory of accommodation came in January when he was recovering from a broken navicular in his foot. Struggling around campus, he communicated with professors about the issue, ensuring he had a boot cover over his cast and boots in the hope that no substances would spill and seep their way into the injury.

"Having that support system really allowed me to excel," Whitmarsh said.

Colonna spent the summer at an internship with Xerox Advanced Battery Corporation in Dayton, Ohio, working with cathode development. He is expected to graduate in spring 2024, while Whitmarsh plans on graduating in 2025.

"It takes teamwork to make this happen, and the materials departments have been incredibly welcoming and flexible with an understanding of my situation," Whitmarsh said. “All this would be impossible by myself. It’s the accumulation of my parents and their encouragement, my teammates and my coaches’ willingness to work with my schedule, my classmates and their flexibility to work with me while I’m on the road.”