Makeda Mills, a PhD student studying Oceanography at Texas A&M University, will receive the 2021 Ralph Rayburn ’69 Texas Sea Grant Scholarship.
Mills is currently researching deep sea coral microbiomes to better understand their survival in changing environments. “I am hoping to apply this information to better understand how coral bleaching happens and how [corals] come back from that,” said Mills. “My research goes hand in hand with that phenomenon, so it will be great to get more information to share.”
Mills’ love for and fascination with the ocean started at a young age. She said growing up near the ocean in Saint Kitts and Saint Thomas, “really allowed [her] interest in ocean science to grow even further.” In fact, her plans after finishing her PhD involve gaining further understanding of the oceans.
“I would hope to do some research with NOAA in the future,” said Mills. “I haven’t quite figured out if I’m going more into the academic side of things yet, but I’m okay with wherever life takes me at this point.”
The Rayburn scholarship is already proving to be beneficial in helping Mills through her PhD program. “Having this scholarship definitely helps remove some stress from the experience of getting your PhD,” said Mills. “You can just focus more on studying and preparing for exams rather than wondering about how you’re going to pay for certain things.”
“I just want to say thank you to the committee for choosing me for this scholarship,” said Mills. “I greatly appreciate it.”
This scholarship is named in honor of Ralph Rayburn ’69. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Rayburn first joined Texas Sea Grant in 1978 as a marine agent for Aransas and San Patricio counties. After several years as Executive Director of the Texas Shrimp Association and in a number of roles at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, he returned to Texas Sea Grant in 1999 as the Associate Director and Extension Program Leader. Through his association with these three organizations, he worked tirelessly for the protection of Texas’ marine resources, but he is also remembered for his integrity, professionalism, work ethic and outgoing personality.