About

The Texas Undergraduate Research Journal (URJ) is a work of multi-disciplinary research produced and edited by University of Texas at Austin undergraduate students. The Journal is published every spring semester, circulated across campus, and housed in the Library of Congress. We are sponsored by the Undergraduate Writing Center.

Throughout the year URJ sponsors events that increase student participation in research across campus. This organization engages students with researchers in academia and in industry by annually hosting Humanities, Business, Sciences research panels. A writing workshop in the spring semester hosted by URJ editors informs students about writing techniques that improve quality and coherency of research papers. URJ’s presence on campus extends beyond a yearly publication to include research awareness and education.

Printed copies of the most current issue of the Texas URJ are available by e-mail request.

The URJ editors extend their gratitude to our sponsors for their endless support and guidance: President Gregory Fenves, Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Gage E. Paine, Vice President for Research Dr. Juan M. Sanchez, and the University Co-op.

Our Sponsors

We would also like to thank the following sponsors for their support:

2016-2017 Academic Year

The Executive Board

 

Bronwyn Scott
Editor-in-Chief

Major(s): Biochemistry, History, and Plan II
Hometown: Kingwood, Texas
Classification: Senior
E-Mail: editor.in.chief@texasurj.com
Years in URJ: Four
Highlights: Bronwyn has the honor of belonging to Plan II Honors, the Polymathic Scholars Honors Program, and Junior Fellows. When she is not running the Undergraduate Research Journal, she is acting as the president of Plan II Pre-Medical Society, organizing events as the Pre-Professional Director of Texas for Expanding Opportunity, volunteering at Hospice, or out dancing (preferably ballroom or country). She has performed research on modulating metabolism as a therapeutic strategy for cancer treatment, finding ways to chemically mimic beneficial cardiovascular changes that occur in the body during exercise, and characterizing the differentiation of regenerative cells.

 

Shadhi Mansoori
Managing Editor

Major(s): Neuroscience
Hometown: Irving, Texas
Classification: Junior
E-Mail: managing.editor@texasurj.com
Years in URJ: Three
Highlights: Shadhi is a junior Neuroscience major from Irving, TX, and this is her third year to serve in URJ. Shadhi is in the Clements Center Undergraduate Fellows Program, Polymathic Scholars, and will be serving as one of the Austin City Hall fellows in the spring. The Freshman Research Initiative has given her research experience in the DIY Diagnostics stream where molecular biology and computer coding have been integrated to produce hand held diagnostics. She is interested in pursuing work in medicine and health policy.

 

David Williams
Executive Editor

Major(s): English and Plan II
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Classification: Junior
E-Mail: executive.editor@texasurj.com
Years in URJ: Two
Highlights: David Williams is on the staff of the Texas Travesty and is involved with the Broccoli Project, a student theater group. His main research interest is early modern literature. He spends most of his free time reading and sleeping.

 

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Diane Sun
Director of Communications & Board Member

Major(s): Business Honors and Government
Hometown: Sugar Land, Texas
Classification: Junior
E-Mail: communications@texasurj.com
Years in URJ: Three
Highlights: Diane is a junior double majoring in Business Honors and Government. She organizes publicity for Undergraduate Research Journal events and initiatives. She loves visual arts, having first started in middle school, and channels the same creativity into graphic design. Outside of the Undergraduate Research Journal she is a J.J. Pickle Fellow and writes a column for the Daily Texan.

 

Senior Directors and Editors

 

Poornima Tamma
Director of Campaigns

Major(s): Biomedical Engineering
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Classification: Sophomore
E-Mail: campaigns@texasurj.com
Years in URJ: Two
Highlights: Poornima is a second year honors biomedical engineering major from Houston. She is part of the IEE Robotics and Automation Society is currently competing in the Robotathon competition. In her spare time she plays Indian carnatic violin, debate, and reads mystery and science fiction novels. She is a huge Rockets fan!

 

Kierra Boyle
Director of Development

Major(s): Biochemistry
Hometown: Plano, Texas
Classification: Sophomore
E-Mail: development@texasurj.com
Years in URJ: Two
Highlights: Kierra is spending her second year in Austin on the Undergraduate Research Journal staff leading the Development branch. In addition to the URJ she serves as a member of the Fundraising Committee for the Science Undergraduates Research Group. When not studying or hanging out with friends, she enjoys experiencing the unique food and culture Austin has to offer as well as visiting South Mall to throw a Frisbee around or sit down with a good book.

 

Venkat Tirumala
Associate Editor of Natural Sciences

Major(s): Chemical Engineering
Hometown: Plano, Texas
Classification: Senior
E-Mail: natural.sciences@texasurj.com
Years in URJ: Three
Highlights: Venkat is a senior in Chemical Engineering and works as a undergraduate research assistant in the Ben-Yakar Group (FemtoLab). His research focuses on assessing the fate choice of mouse embryonic stem cells through the use of microfluidic technologies and femtosecond laser optoporation. He served as a teaching assistant for Engineering Physics I and II, as well as a tutor for Thermodynamics and Transport Phenomena. Venkat is also a National Instruments (NI) employee and teaches LabVIEW programming to engineering students and faculty members at UT. In his spare time, he loves to hang out with friends, eat at Torchy’s Tacos, play chess, and volunteer.
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Heather Yarrish
Associate Editor of Humanities

Major(s): Rhetoric & Writing
Hometown: Grapevine, Texas
Classification: Senior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Heather is a senior Liberal Arts Honors student at UT. Her research interests include World War II, U.S. race relations, and rhetorical theory. She has worked at the University Writing Center for the past year and a half. Heather spent a summer in Italy studying the classics, and, more recently, a summer all around Europe studying WWII as a Normandy Scholar. She has just decided to take a gap year (or two) after graduation and is looking into opportunities abroad before she applies to graduate school. In her free time, you can find Heather showing people pictures of her dogs or searching for places that serve breakfast past noon.

 

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Kayley Hoag
Associate Editor of Social Sciences

Major(s): Communication Sciences & Disorders- Audiology
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Classification: Junior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Kayley is a junior pursuing a major in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a concentration in Audiology. She hopes to one day become a pediatric audiologist who can provide parents every option for early intervention services, including American Sign Language training. Kayley is currently serving as an undergraduate research assistant in the UT Special Education Psychophysiology Lab for Dr. Micheal Sandbank. They are studying word processing of adult-directed and child-directed speech in young typically developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is a part of Moody’s Senior Fellows Honors Program. Kayley is a member the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association and the service organization Texas APO (we run the world’s largest Texas flag at football games). When she is not worrying about graduate school and drinking copious amounts of coffee, Kayley likes befriending other people’s dogs, pretending she is still a good soccer player, and cooking large amounts of food.

 

Coordinators

 

Robbie Hutton
External Coordinator

Major(s): Chemical Engineering
Minor(s): Spanish
Hometown: Frederick, Maryland
Classification: Sophomore
Years in URJ: Two
Highlights: Robbie is a second-year student pursuing a major in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Spanish. He is from Maryland — where they have the best crabs hands down. Research-wise, he has worked for over a year at the National Cancer Institute studying mechanisms to inhibit HIV-1 infection. He has also researched the environmental impacts of nanotechnology and government funding, the history of the discovery of DNA, and the relationship between trust and authority in society.

 

Alex Guerro
Internal Coordinator

Major(s): Neuroscience
Hometown: Laredo, Texas
Classification: Freshman
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Alejandro is a freshman from Laredo, Texas. He is a Health Science Scholar in the College of Natural Sciences. He is currently a Neuroscience major and has scholarly interests in computer science, cell biology and chemistry. In his free time, Alejandro loves to go out with friends, shop endlessly on Amazon and work out at Gregory Gym. He can also be found playing racquetball, basketball or playing ping pong.

 

Assistants

 

Lexi Cepak
Assistant Director of Communications

Major(s): Computer Science
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Classification: Freshman
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Lexi is a freshman Computer Science major. Her four loves are art, science, technology and steak. As a child, when her eyes weren’t glued to a computer screen, she would paint pictures until there was no room left to place them to dry. In high school, she decided to try graphic design because it combined her two favorite things–technology and art–and it changed her life. In her spare time, she likes to go to thrift shops with friends.

 

Annie Zhang
Assistant Director of Communications

Major(s): Chemistry
Hometown: College Station, Texas
Classification: Freshman
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Annie is a freshman Chemistry major in the Dean’s Scholar program. From College Station, Texas, she is incredibly excited to finally live in a city with more than two main roads. The past two summers, she worked in an atmospheric chemistry lab, researching about the impacts of global air pollution on human health, ecosystems, and climate. Annie is known to be a little too obsessed with Taylor Swift, and it can be said that she loves everything except for bitter gourds, bigotry and Oxford commas. Currently, she is working as a SciTech reporter for the Daily Texan.

 

Kacey Adams
Assistant Director of Campaigns

Major(s): Public Relations
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Classification: Senior
Years in URJ: Three
Highlights: Kacey is actively involved in her sorority, where she acts as Social Chair, planning events and helping with philanthropy efforts. She is also involved with the University Fashion Group, where she is on the dressing committee and regularly volunteers with local fashion shows and organizations. This summer Kacey studied abroad in Paris, France, where she studied the French language and the history of French fashion and culture. In her spare time, Kacey runs a yoga blog on Instagram, plays tennis and piano.
Christine Rafie

Christine Rafie
Assistant Director of Campaigns

Major(s): Biochemistry & Plan II
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Classification: Senior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Christine is a senior studying Biochemistry and Plan II. She plans to pursue medical research at the MD/PhD level. She is  president of Longhorn Optimist service club, a recipient of the Terry Foundation Scholarship, and an FRI mentor in the Humanization of Yeast. She has conducted independent research on integrating optogenetic tools in yeast and determining site-specific binding characteristics of calmodulin. Christine also spent 3 months in Meknes, Morroco with handicapped individuals and speaks four languages.
Keerthana Chakka

Keerthana Chakka
Assistant Director of Campaigns

Major(s): Neuroscience & Plan II
Hometown: Katy, Texas
Classification: Freshman
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Keerthana is a freshman from Katy, TX in the Dean’s Scholars Program and the Plan II Honors Program. She is currently working on a research project in the Pierce Lab concerning the epigenetics of alcoholism and treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. In the future, she plans to attend medical school and work in clinical neurological research and health policy. Keerthana likes to write, be outdoors, and play guitar in her free time.

 

Justinne Pineda

Justinne Pineda
Assistant Director of Development

Major(s): Chemistry
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Classification: Junior
Years in URJ: Two
Highlights: Justinne is a third-year Presidential Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin. She currently divides her time between botany research in the Roux Lab and copious amounts of French homework. Besides working in the lab and learning French, Justinne spends her time shadowing in the Methodist Children’s (SATX) Pediatric Oncology unit, discovering new artists, (occasionally) practicing violin, and compulsively expanding her Amazon Wish List. Her favorite new artists are currently Kehlani and Christine and the Queens. In the future, Justinne plans to study Asxtaxanthin, a keto-carotenoid and powerful anti-oxidant found in salmon, for its potential use as a preventive Melanoma treatment.
Keon Fazeli

Keon Fazeli
Assistant Director of Development

Major(s): Accounting
Minor(s): MIS
Hometown: Plano, Texas
Classification: Sophomore
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Outside of URJ, Keon is a member of the University Securities Investment Team (USIT), where he helps manage a $24,000 portfolio by voting on investment decisions. Additionally, he is a member of Capital Community, where he volunteers to provide financial literacy education to children in the East Austin community. He spends most of his spare time producing music (and making mixtapes), playing basketball at Greg, and hanging out with friends. Keon is also a huge New York Giants fan, having watched almost every game for years.
Kelly Walsh

Kelly Walsh
Assistant Director of Development

Major(s): Chemistry
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Classification: Junior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Kelly is a third year chemistry major from San Antonio. She am currently doing research in Dr. Humphrey’s lab in the inorganic chemistry department. After graduation Kelly hopes to attend graduate school or pursue work in environmental chemistry. She loves Spurs basketball, dogs, and kayaking!
Abhi Ramchandani

Abhishek Ramchandani
Financial Development Assistant

Major(s): Business Honors & Integrated Masters in Public Accounting
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Classification: Junior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Abhi is a junior in the Business Honors and Masters in Public Accounting programs. He is involved in undergraduate research in the MIS department at the McCombs School of Business where he studies current AR trends and their social effects. In his spare time, Abhi likes to compete in case-competitions, having already partaken in over 15. He also likes to play ping-pong and, for his first two years at UT, captained the B-league UT ping-pong team.

 

Editors

 

Stephanie Wang

Stephanie Wang
Assistant Editor of Natural Sciences

Major(s): Biochemistry
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Classification: Sophomore
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Stephanie is a a sophomore Biochemistry major in the Polymathic Scholars Honors program. Her passion for research began at UT when she got involved in the High School Research Methods program, and her interest has only grown. Since then, she has been involved in lab work in the DIY Diagnostics FRI stream at UT and at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Immunology at the National Institutes of Health.
Kyungeok Jung

Kyungeok Jung
Assistant Editor of Natural Sciences

Major(s): Biology
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Classification: Freshman
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Kyungseok is a first-year biology major in the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, and lived there for the first half of his life before moving to Austin, where he has stayed ever since. Although Kyungseok plans to focus his studies around the life sciences, he is fascinated by many subjects, including the humanities. In the past, he conducted research under Dr. Kim on the morphodynamic evolution of river deltas at the Jackson School of Geosciences. Eventually, Kyungseok hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a career in research. In his free time, Kyungseok enjoys playing cello, practicing Spanish, and watching movies with his friends.
Deenah Kafeel

Deenah Kafeel
Assistant Editor of Natural Sciences

Major(s): Journalism
Hometown: Plano, Texas
Classification: Sophomore
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Deenah is a journalism major on the pre-med track. She has worked with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute on the SEA-PHAGES project, conducting research on the isolation, annotation, and characterization of Arthrobacteriophage. She is a licensed pharmacy technician and nurse aide, and has worked abroad at the Aga Khan University Hospital. Deenah is also involved in the Society of Professional Journalists, and in her free time, can be found at the closest coffee shop editing photos or blogging about human rights.
Sachit Saksena

Sachit Saksena
Assistant Editor of Natural Sciences

Major(s): Computational Biology & Biochemistry
Hometown: Cypress, Texas
Classification: Junior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Sachit is a Polymathic Scholar and pre-med student at UT Austin. He currently conducts research in the Gimelbrant Lab under the Departments of Genetics and Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School. His  research focuses on developing statistical learning pipelines to use chromosomal epigenetic signatures to identify stochastic monoallelic expression in genes on autosomal chromosomes.  Other than research, Sachit serves as a TA for freshman Research Methods, Biostatistics and Introduction to Computational Biology. He is a staff reporter for the science and technology section of The Daily Texan, a tenor and producer for Fuse a Cappella, a test writer for the UT Austin Science Olympiad Association, and a regular volunteer in the Hematology/Oncology department at Dell Children’s Hospital.
Shannon Carey

Shannon Carey
Assistant Editor of Humanities

Major(s): Plan II, History, & English
Hometown: Georgetown, Texas
Classification: Sophomore
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Shannon is a Plan II Honors, History, and English Major. As well as being a part of the Undergraduate Research Journal, she is Assistant Copy Editor for the yearbook. She spends her free time taking care of cats at Austin Pets Alive! and dancing at various conventions around Texas. She has researched John Steinbeck at the Harry Ransom Center.
JenniferMurphy

Jennifer Murphy
Assistant Editor of Humanities

Major(s): English Honors & Journalism
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Classification: Senior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Jennifer studies English Honors and Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin. Her involvement on campus includes being the Director of Communications at Transfer Students Agency, Officer at the English Council, and a Poetry Submission Board Member at Analecta. She spent the past summer working at Texas Monthly as a Custom Publishing Intern and is a Pre-Graduate School Intern in American Studies this fall. Jennifer transferred to UT with prior research experience and has presented her work at statewide and local conferences. Her current research interests involve human rights and modern-day slavery. She is writing her honors senior thesis on civil rights activist and poet Oscar Brown Jr.
Brendalys Lebron

Brendalys Lebron
Assistant Editor of Humanities

Major(s): History
Hometown: Harker Heights, Texas
Classification: Junior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Brendalys is currently a third year student at UT majoring in History. She is very excited to join the Undergraduate Research Journal staff and looks forward to a great year!

Lillian Bonin

Lillian Bonin
Assistant Editor of Humanities

Major(s): Government
Hometown: Buda, Texas
Classification: Freshman
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Lillian is a first year government major involved in the Lion’s Club, Young Conservatives of Texas, and serves as an at-large member on the undergraduate research committee on the Senate of College Councils. She also interns at the Office of State Representative Jason Isaac and and can’t wait to see what the Forty-Acres has in store for her in the coming four years.
Sonali Arora

Sonali Arora
Assistant Editor of Social Sciences

Major(s): Plan II, Business Honors, and MIS
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Classification: Junior
Years in URJ: Three
Highlights: Highlights: Sonali is a junior at The University of Texas at Austin in Plan II and the Business Honors Program. She recently completed an internship at a marketing agency in Austin, where she gained experience in data analytics and digital marketing. Sonali spent a summer in Argentina participating in a study abroad program, and studied Management and Emerging Markets at the Universidad de San Andrés in Buenos Aires. On campus, she works as an academic tutor and has been actively involved in the community, volunteering her time at different organizations in Austin. She enjoys piano, hiking, reading, and traveling.
Maria Duster

Maria Duster
Assistant Editor of Social Sciences

Major(s): Government & Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Classification: Freshman
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Maria is a first-year Government and Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies double-major in the Liberal Arts Honors program. Outside of URJ, she is involved in University Democrats, Longhorn Outdoor Club, Amnesty International, and the Women’s Resource Agency at UT. In her free time, she loves to watch films, read books, bake, and hike.
Abraham Peek

Abraham Peek
Assistant Editor of Social Sciences

Major(s): Architectural Engineering
Hometown: Katy, Texas
Classification: Freshman
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Abraham is a first-year student studying Architectural Engineering. He has previously promoted Dutch culture in the Houston area through volunteer work with Honorary Consul of the Netherlands and other organizations. He also spent a year with the Houston division of Engineering For Kids fostering interest in STEM fields among the city’s youth.
Mary Dolan

Mary Dolan
Assistant Editor of Social Sciences

Major(s): Journalism
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Classification: Junior
Years in URJ: One
Highlights: Mary is a junior journalism major from Oklahoma City, and this is her first year serving in URJ. Previously, she served as a senior columnist and associate editor for The Daily Texan. She also sits on the Texas Student Media Board of Trustees and serves as an intern for the McCombs School of Business. Mary enjoys reading, exploring Austin, and ’80s movies.