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Lamar University
News Release
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

LU announces 2018 David J. Beck Fellows, Presidential Summer Fellows

Lamar University has selected two students as 2017 David J. Beck Fellows as well as three finalists as 2018 Presidential Summer Fellows, all announced at a reception in the University Event Center, Monday, November 20.

The 1:30 p.m. event on the 8th floor of the Mary and John Gray Library included reports from last year’s Beck Fellows on their summer experiences that were made possible through the fellowship.

The David J. Beck Fellowship covers all school expenses such as tuition, fees, books and on-campus room and board for one year and includes up to $10,000 to pursue a summer project. Presidential Summer Fellowship grants up to $10,000 funding for summer research projects to top finalists in the application for the Beck Fellowship.

The 2018 David J. Beck Fellows are Sakurah Fisher of Port Arthur, and David Quispe of La Porte. The two are the 15th and 16th recipients of the fellowship since its inception in 2008. To date, Beck Fellows have studied in the U.S., as well as in Ghana, Belize, the Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Argentina, England, France, Ireland, Taiwan, and the Peoples’ Republic of China.

“The David J. Beck Fellowship is one of Lamar’s most prestigious and competitive student awards, and was made possible by a generous gift to the Lamar University Foundation by Mr. David J. Beck, a member of the university’s class of 1961 and a distinguished lawyer and jurist,” said James Marquart, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The fellowship is unique in that it recognizes students at the undergraduate level, and supports Lamar’s strategic commitment to scholarly and creative opportunities and experiences for undergraduates.”

The fellowship is widely recognized as a badge of excellence, not only on campus, but also throughout the community of higher education, Marquart said.

Fisher is a junior majoring in psychology and seeking a minor in biology. A graduate of Port Arthur’s Memorial High School, she is a member of the Reaud Honors College, a McNair Scholar, a Lamar University Ambassador, a Global Ambassador, past president of Lamar’s Rotaract Club, and vice president of the Psychology Association, as well as an active member of many other clubs and organizations on campus.

Fisher has participated in two Lamar study-abroad experiences, to Italy and South Korea. Her Beck faculty mentors are Maryam Vasefi, assistant professor of biology, and Elizabeth Aronson, associate professor of psychology. Her 11-week summer project will take her to New York State where she will join a team of researchers at the renowned Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research. She will assist the team as they continue studies of non-invasive brain stimulation on sensory-based cognitive impairment in patients with schizophrenia.

Quispe is a junior double major in electrical engineering and mathematics. A graduate of La Porte High School, he is a member of the Reaud Honors College, and a recipient of 10 academic scholarships. He is very involved in LU’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Student Chapter, having served as program chair, treasurer, and student chair.

His Beck faculty mentor is Ramesh Gudura, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. His summer project will take him to Arizona State University to work in the area of material science in solar energy. Working alongside top ASU researchers, he will help explore the relative advantages and disadvantages of two promising types of oxide coatings used in solar cells.

To be considered for the Beck Fellowship, applicants must submit detailed proposals that include their academic accomplishments, personal and professional goals, and intended summer projects, along with a statement of how the fellowship would allow them to achieve their educational and career goals.  Each applicant and, if selected, each fellow, is guided and mentored by a Lamar University faculty or professional staff member, Marquart said. 

The 2018 Presidential Summer Fellows are Emily McCall, Margaret Kay-Alana Turner, and Amanda Warner.

McCall is a junior, biology/pre-medicine major from Orange.  A member of the Reaud Honors College, she has studied abroad and works as a student assistant in the College of Graduate Studies. Her faculty mentor is Randall Yoder, assistant professor of biology.   This summer, she will travel to Kenya to study measures to control the flatworm responsible for schistosomiasis, a devastating disease throughout Africa and elsewhere in the world.   She will work with a team of top researchers headed by renowned parasitologist Dr. Eric Loker from the University of New Mexico.

Kay-Alana Turner is a senior majoring in management and Spanish from Lumberton. She is a Mirabeau Presidential Scholar, a McNair Scholar, a Lamar Ambassador, and member of the Reaud Honors College. Next summer she will conduct qualitative research on the relationship between non-governmental organizations and eco-tourism businesses in Guatemala, under the mentorship of Sarah Schwartz, visiting assistant professor of Earth and Space Science. 

Warner is a junior biology, pre-medicine major from Orange. She is a member of the American Medical Student Association, American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Chemistry Club. She is a student research assistant at Lamar and staff member for Associated Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeons in Beaumont. Her mentor is Maryam Vasefi, assistant professor of biology. Next summer, Amanda will travel to England and be a research assistant for Dr. Caroline Williams-Gray at the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair.  With Dr. Williams-Gray and her associates, Amanda will participate in research and explore diagnostic tools and treatments for Parkinson’s disease.  It is an exciting opportunity for a most deserving student.

Participants in the event heard from the 2017 recipients of the David. J. Beck Fellowship, Dillon Nicholson, a senior from Groves double majoring in sociology and French and minoring in philosophy, and Natalie Sfeir, a junior speech and hearing sciences major from Beaumont. 

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