Showcasing Scholarship: Highlights from TAMUC’s Annual Research Symposium

TAMUC students present innovative research projects to the university community and industry leaders.

Texas A&M University-Commerce hosted its Annual Research Symposium on April 17, 2024, at the university's Rayburn Student Center. The symposium showcased undergraduate and graduate research projects, providing A&M-Commerce students a platform to present their work and demonstrate their intellectual pursuits and passions.

The event featured presentations from 75 undergraduate, 70 graduate and seven doctoral students. Joshua Belieu, a graduate physics student from the College of Science and Engineering, emerged as the overall winner with his project titled “Refining a Model for the Inner Crust of Neutron Stars Using Calculations of Semi-Infinite Nuclear Matter.”

Joshua Belieu and Dr. Brent Donham stand in front of a white backdrop with A&M-Commerce Research logos, which include the university's lion head.
Overall Winner Joshua Belieu (L) and Dr. Brent Donham (R). Photo by Matt Strasen | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

Belieu's “Star” Project

Belieu's winning entry is also his thesis topic. Explaining the significance of his research, Belieu said that astronomers seek a clearer understanding of the peculiar nature of neutron stars. With more knowledge about the stars' inner crust, scientists can better comprehend the surface behavior, which in turn influences how neutron stars are observed. Belieu works on the project with his mentor, Dr. William Newton, associate professor of physics and astronomy at A&M-Commerce.

Belieu reflected that the Annual Research Symposium was a valuable experience.

“The symposium provided an opportunity for me to hone my presentation skills, showcase my work, and engage with other active academics,” he said.

Belieu is on track to graduate in August 2024 with a Master of Science in Physics. After graduation, he plans to pursue his doctorate in physics at Michigan State University.

Student stands in front of her research project poster presentation and looks at a judge who holds a clipboard in his hand appears appears to ask the student a question.
Student Kaitlyn Kalisek (L) discusses her research project. Photo by Matt Strasen | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

Award Winners

In addition to Belieu, 13 other winners were named:

College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources


Student: Madison Coyle

Poster Presentation: Flowering and Pollinator Visits to Herbaceous Perennials Under Deficit Irrigation


Student: Katherine MacKenzie

Poster Presentation: Influence of Tillage on Aggregate Stability in Clay Soils of North Texas

College of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Arts


Student: Breeanna Hicks

Department: Literature and Languages

Oral Presentation: So, You Made it into Grad School: How Writing Centers Can Help Graduate Students Overcome Academic Identity Crisis and Serve Them on a Genre-Specific Level

Student: Hannah Shephard

Department: History

Poster Presentation: Free and Enslaved Black Settlements in San Antonio

College of Business


Student: Michael Hansen

Department: Finance

Poster Presentation: An Examination of Income Elasticity of Demand for American Professional Sports


Student: Nazmush Munia

Department: Management

Poster Presentation: A Comparison Study of Career Preparedness Pathways Proposed by Quality Enhancement Plan Summaries for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Class of 2022

College of Science and Engineering


Student: Xavier Grundler

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Oral Presentation: Constraining High-Density Parameters of Nuclear-Matter Equation of State Using Mock Data from Future Gravitational Wave Detectors

Student: Laritza Tinajero

Department: Biological and Environmental Sciences

Poster Presentation: Bobwhite Usage of Feed and Water Stations in South Texas


Student: Brooke Clifton

Department: Biological and Environmental Sciences

Poster Presentation: Analysis of Predator Responses in Wild and Captive-Reared Quails

College of Education and Human Services


Student: Eleanor Sisto

Department: Psychology and Special Education

Oral Presentation: Associations Between Consumption of Anime-Related Content, Genre Preference, and Sexual Objectification of Self and Other

Student: Wajeeha Ali

Department: Nursing

Undergraduate Poster: Music for the Soul


Student: Margaret Dwiggins

Department: Psychology and Special Education

Oral Presentation: Soft Landings: Does How You Take a Smartphone Away at the Beginning of Class Impact Learning?

Student: Marshall Tousant

Department: Health and Human Performances

Poster Presentation: “Super” Shoes Do Not Affect Jump Performance

Student stands in front of his poster presentation as he answers a question from a judge.
Student Lahirimahasaya Bestha (center) presents his research project. Photo by Matt Strasen | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

The Perks of Presenting

Dr. Brent Donham, vice president for Research and Economic Development at A&M-Commerce, emphasized that the research symposium enhances students' educational experiences, encouraging them to delve into research and showcase their work, which may otherwise stay relatively hidden in a lab or office.

It also requires students to present their research concisely to a non-expert audience, which is an important skill, especially for undergraduate students who plan to pursue a graduate degree. Donham explained that students also gain confidence when symposium attendees express interest in and excitement about their research projects.

Leah Kanaman, administrative coordinator for Research and Economic Development, noted that symposium participants receive valuable feedback from judges who share guidance and suggestions to help students strengthen their research and presentation skills.

Not least, the symposium has the potential to foster collaborative research partnerships, both inside and outside of the university. This year, for the first time, industry leaders and alums were invited to attend as judges and guests, including Dr. Stacy Pritt, associate vice chancellor and chief research compliance officer for The Texas A&M University System.

Donham emphasized that network connections could lead to employment after graduation.

“I wanted to start inviting industry partners as a way to bring visibility to our student research,” he said. “We were pleased with the number of industry leaders and alumni who participated, and we will look to increase the participation of industry leaders and alumni in the future.”

A student stands in front of her poster presentation as she converses with an individual who is holding a folder in his hand.
Student Anisa Olavarria (L) discusses her research project. Photo by Matt Strasen | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

Reaching Toward an R2 Designation

The Annual Research Symposium is a valued event as A&M-Commerce moves closer to becoming an R2 High Research Activity institution, as measured by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

The R2 designation means a university is research-focused, offering at least 20 doctoral research degrees and totaling at least $5 million in research expenditures. As an R2 university, A&M-Commerce would boost its standing in the research community, attract highly active professors in their fields, and draw more students who want to pursue their education at a research-focused university.

“As we seek to become an R2 High Research Activity university, we need to make it a university-wide priority to advance and support research and creative activities,” Donham said. “The Annual Research Symposium helps bring visibility to student research and promotes research across the university.”

Learn more about A&M-Commerce Research.

View the Annual Research Symposium photo gallery.

Featured Photo: Student Nikita Strogalev (center) discusses her research project. Photo by Matt Strasen | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications