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Avila Awarded Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship

Posted May 02, 2013

Felipe Avila (center), PhD candidate in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences is awarded with a 2013 Senator Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship. He received his award from Associate Provost for Graduate Studies, Dr. Karen Butler-Purry (left) and Provost, Dr. Karan Watson (right).

COLLEGE STATION, TX - Felipe Avila, a Ph.D. candidate in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), won the prestigious 2013 U.S. Senator Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship. This award, which includes a $5000 scholarship, is given to recognize students' exemplary contributions in research, teaching, and mentoring in their doctoral programs.

"Felipe is a tremendous role model for not only our undergraduate students, but also our graduate students. Through his mentorship and teaching, he has touched many lives, and has demonstrated the success that comes with hard work and dedication. We are very proud of Felipe and extend him our sincere congratulations," said Dr. Eleanor Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine.

Originally, Avila came to study horses, but when the opportunity arose to focus on alpacas, he took it. Alpacas, a type of camelid originally from South America, are prized in the United States primarily for their fiber. Working in the Laboratory of Animal Molecular Cytogenetics and Genomics, under the supervision of Dr. Terje Raudsepp, Avila's research focuses on chromosome structure and evolution in camelids, particularly the alpaca, as well as chromosomal abnormalities that affect the health of different camelid species. His Ph.D. research project involves generating a whole genome map for the alpaca. With this study, Avila aims to integrate genome sequence data with physical chromosome information to obtain the location of various genetic markers, such as those for disease resistance, congenital disorders, reproduction, fiber color, and texture. His goal is to lay the foundation for research on genetic contributions to traits of economic and biological importance in different camelid species.

"I couldn't have chosen a better project," Avila said.

He enjoys teaching too. As a teaching assistant for the undergraduate-level Biomedical Genetics course in the Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) program for two years, he worked for three different professors.

"I was really disappointed," he said, "when my advisor suggested I stop teaching and focus on my research." Now, he focuses on mentoring the undergraduate students working in Dr. Raudsepp's lab.

"I like to mentor," Avila said. "It's important to pass on our knowledge."

Only ten students throughout the university were awarded the U.S. Senator Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship this year. Dr. Bhanu P. Chowdhary, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies at the CVM, also sent his congratulations. Chowdhary, who is on Avila's graduate committee, was the one who first encouraged him to apply for the fellowship.

"Felipe has truly distinguished himself in both the classroom and the laboratory," Chowdhary said. "He is deserving of this honor, and we couldn't be more proud that he has been recognized for his efforts."

Avila's advisor, Dr. Raudsepp, nominated him, and the professors for whom he served as a teaching assistant wrote letters of support.

"Felipe is an exceptional graduate student and we are very fortunate to have him," Raudsepp said. "As a scientific advisor, I certainly value his achievements in research, though it is even more important that Felipe is a wonderful person-intelligent, knowledgeable, invariably friendly, patient and helpful, always a gentleman. Our undergraduate students adore him as a mentor and we all love him as a good colleague. I have no doubt that Felipe will become an outstanding researcher, scholar and teacher in his future career."

Avila obtained his Bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Brasilia (Brazil) in 2005, and joined the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) at the CVM in 2009.

Avila, along with the other nine honorees, was recognized at an awards ceremony on April 4th, where Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, the Associate Provost for Graduate Studies, presented him with a framed certificate. Avila and the other nine recipients were also special guests that evening at the 2013 Community of Scholars dinner program, which was also attended by Dr. Raudsepp and Dr. Chowdhary.

"We are especially grateful to Dr. Phil Gramm, former U.S. Senator and former professor of Economics at Texas A&M," said Butler-Purry, "for his support that made this outstanding program possible."


For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at or join us on Facebook.

Contact Information

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718

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