Students join the ranks of university undergraduate research

05.10.2018 | By Jeannie Peng Mansyur

The College held its first STEM Undergraduate Research Symposium

PASADENA, Texas – A bomb technician, a welder and a former third-grade teacher were among the 33 San Jacinto College students who displayed research at the College’s first district-wide Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Modeled after research symposia of professional conferences, the College featured a poster presentation session, a series of oral presentations, a keynote speaker and an awards ceremony. The judges were from NASA, the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Pasadena Independent School District and San Jacinto College. Dr. Paul Padley, renowned professor of astronomy and physics at Rice University, served as keynote speaker. Poster research topics varied from harvesting fog to how to alleviate food allergies. 

“One of the obstacles for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors at a community college is the lack of networking with university research faculty and the ability for them to perform research in university labs, but we’re aiming to change this,” said Dr. Christopher Wild, adding that the symposium will be an annual event as there is an increasing trend and need for research at two-year colleges. “We want to provide the opportunity for our students who want to perform research. We want universities to see the quality of our students' research and recruit them once they transfer.”

In recent years, San Jacinto College students studying STEM fields have been selected for research internships with Rice University, NASA, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Iowa. 

Bentley Davis, San Jacinto College student and bomb technician for the U.S. Air Force, took his first shot at research by analyzing which methods and materials work best in harvesting fog to provide clean drinking water to low-income countries. 

“This was a first for me being introduced to the academic research method, and I had a fantastic mentor to guide me along the way,” said Davis, who previously attended Texas A&M University. When he’s not traveling on military duty, Davis studies electrical engineering at San Jacinto College and plans to transfer to the University of Houston. “My next phase of research is to create robots that can sense and interact with their environment.” Davis took home an honorable mention award for his poster at the San Jacinto College Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Katherine Larson’s research on food allergies has already appeared in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care. Larson is a San Jacinto College student working on her post-baccalaureate prerequisites before applying to a physician assistant school. The former third-grade teacher displayed research on severe food allergies and the gradual introduction of specific foods for desensitization. 

Karime Abdeljalek, who is studying to become a chemical engineer, recently traveled to Oklahoma to present her research, which is sponsored by Microsoft. Abdeljalek’s research showcases a chemistry toolbox headset, complete with an element builder and molecule builder. 

Sara McAda and Marvin Valverde returned to the research presentation circuit to display their work from their summer internships at Rice University. McAda’s poster on Utilizing Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Cancer Therapeutics took first place for poster presentation at the San Jacinto College Undergraduate Research Symposium, and Valverde’s poster on Characterization of Shewanella oneidensis SO0839 Transcription Factor captured second place for poster presentation and honorable mention for the oral presentation part of the symposium. 

Additional award recipients at the San Jacinto College Undergraduate Research Symposium included honorable mentions for poster presentations to Huan Tran, Angelica Calzoncinth, Jessica Cervantes, Taylor Carnahan, Jorge Montoya and Jubayer Moyen; first place award for oral presentation to Taylor Carnahan; and an honorable mention for oral presentation to Dayoung Kim.

For more information about STEM education and research at San Jacinto College, visit sanjac.edu/stem-council.

 About San Jacinto College 

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students each year benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers eight areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to four-year colleges or universities or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce. 

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit sanjac.edu or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.