Student Research

Agricultural Engineering student in the labWant to see what no one else has seen? Discover how something works? Solve a deep-rooted problem in your community?

Both undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have done all these things and more by performing original research.

Our students learn from the world-class researchers working at the College. They use our state-of-the-art equipment and materials. Through collaborations, they work with Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the state’s premier research and technology development agency in agriculture, natural resources, and the life sciences.
Several of our departments host undergrad research programs funded by the National Science Foundation.

Among many other projects, our students have helped explain how fire ants reproduce, worked to control an invasive tree species, and explored how changes in climate may affect Texas soils. Read a few of their stories below!

Undergraduate Research

More and more of our undergraduates complete a substantial research project during their academic careers.

Just a few projects from our top-notch undergraduate researchers:
bioenvironmental science student in lab

Jesse Pyle, a senior in bioenvironmental science

When researchers study viruses that infect crops, a humble-looking grass called purple false brome may — or may not — serve as the perfect test subject. Helping investigate the question is Jesse Pyle, a bioenvironmental sciences senior from Houston, whose work is funded by an American Society for Microbiology’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Pyle received a $4,000 stipend, a two-year membership in the society and travel expenses to the society’s 113th general meeting in Denver in 2013.

To figure out a murder victim’s time of death,  don’t forget to question the flies and bacteria. These tiny witnesses release chemicals that investigators can measure, helping estimate when the crime occurred. For work on signaling between flies and bacteria, Jennifer Rhinesmith received the Best Presentation for a Non-Doctoral student award at the North American Forensic Entomology Association’s annual meeting in 2012.

michelle bedenbaugh at awards ceremony

Michelle Bedenbaugh, a senior in animal science, receiving a Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award

Understanding how hormones boost hunger and metabolism in lambs can help us raise livestock more efficiently, but the topic also has implications for human health. Michelle Bedenbaugh, a senior in animal science, studied these questions in her undergraduate research thesis on how the hormone leptin affects lambs. The quality of her work compared to that of advanced graduate students, according to her advisor. Ms. Bedenbaugh received the Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for undergraduate research in 2012.

Many more of our undergrads have made key contributions through original research. You have plenty of ways to find opportunities. For instance, you can look at your department’s website. The summer research program in plant pathology and microbiology is funded by the National Science Foundation and the College. Students help develop next generation biofuels, create innovations that enhance sustainable agriculture, and work to ensure the integrity and safety of the global food and fiber supply. The students—a diverse bunch—actively participate in the scientific life of the department and university.

In entomology, the NSF-funded undergraduate research program has students dive into topics such as genetics, molecular biology and toxicology. They learn key techniques such as DNA sequencing, bioassays and scanning electron microscopy. The program has won awards for attracting students from underrepresented groups.

Get involved!

Graduate Research

Delving deeply into a subject is at the heart of what our graduate students do, and that usually involves performing original research.

A couple examples of what keeps our stellar grad students occupied:
Carena van Riper receiving Vice Chancellor's Award in Excellence

Carena van Riper, a doctoral student in recreation, park, and tourism sciences, receiving a Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence

To help park managers accommodate visitors while protecting wildlife, Carena van Riper does research. Her work examines values and behavior among people visiting marine and coastal protected areas. Ms. van Riper, a doctoral student in recreation, park, and tourism sciences, collaborates with interdisciplinary research teams from James Cook University in Australia, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service. She has more than 40 publications and 37 symposium presentations, and she won the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for Graduate Research in 2012.

How crops respond to new pesticides is the research topic of Edinalvo Camargo, affectionately referred to as “Edge.” Before farmers use new tools to control weeds, they need to know that these pesticides won’t damage their crops. Mr. Camargo, a doctoral student in agronomy, won the Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Graduate Research in 2012. His work has also been awarded several first place poster prizes. “He has combined dedication to scholarship with strong, practical scientific accomplishments… that will be an agent of positive change in his home country of Brazil for years to come,” wrote one of Mr. Camargo’s supporters for the College award.

Rachel Rosenstein sits next to instruments

Rachel Wellman, a doctoral student in ecosystem science and management.

To glimpse the future of Texas plants and soils, Rachel Wellman works to understand how changes in climate and plant populations will influence soil nitrogen cycling. The research forms the basis of her ambitious doctoral thesis in ecosystem science and management, with Drs. Tom Boutton and Mark Tjoelker serving as her graduate advisors.  She received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award from her department in 2011.

Most graduate students in our College work on vital projects that they are passionate about. Their advisors and departments help guide them in the right direction. To get a head start, you can browse department pages for information about research courses, competitions and sources of funding.

Get a head start: