UTEP BUILD Scholars Spend Their Summers Immersed in Research and New Experiences Away From Home

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For most students, summer is a chance to take a break from classes, but for BUILD Scholars at The University of Texas at El Paso, it is also filled with new opportunities, challenges, and of course, research. Every summer, BUILD recipients from UTEP set out from their home labs to conduct research in a different laboratory at one of 12 partner universities across the country, including Baylor College of Medicine, University of Arizona, and University of Texas Health Sciences Center (UTHealth), as well as other universities with summer research programs. Visiting a different laboratory and university grants students the opportunity to work with new mentors and peers, while learning new techniques and topics that build on their academic year research activities.

Senior BUILD Scholar, Montserrat Garcia Arreguin, attended the Summer Scholars Program at the University of Rochester where she conducted developmental neurobiology research for the first time, studying genetics concepts using C. elegans as an animal model. Even though the project was unlike any of her prior work, she loved the new subject, confirming for her that she “loves research no matter what!”

Left Photo: Bautista with her poster at University of Arizona. Right Photo: Arreguin presents her independent project in Rochester.

 

 

Cynthia Bautista visited the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, where she worked with Heidi Mansour, Ph.D., and postdoc mentor David Encinas-Basurto, Ph.D. Under their mentorship, she analyzed two different kinds of nanoparticles to better understand their physicochemical differences and their potential for optimizing drug delivery. Both Aparna Mangadu’s training at UTHealth and Alheli Romero’s at Baylor College of Medicine included an elevator speech competition to teach them how to quickly and clearly communicate their research projects.

Daniella Mata spent her summer abroad in Panama City, Panama, though the Minority Health International Research Training Program (MHIRT). She spent eight weeks there expanding her social science and population studies expertise, studying the association between socioeconomic status and health-related factors in Panamanian elderly adults. Although she was apprehensive about conducting her research in a different language, she felt that the “challenge only made her a better mentee, student and learner.” Under the mentorship of Gabrielle Britton, Ph.D., Mata learned that “researchers have a responsibility to spread knowledge not only to our community, but to the world.” For many, the two months away was their first time away from home, representing an important milestone for their independence and training as researchers. Romero, who spent the summer in Houston, was not only away for the first time, but was the first among her sisters to leave home. She says that while her family missed her, she learned more than she expected with her “safety net hours away” about “being independent and able to fully prepare for research work.”

For many, the two months away was their first time away from home, representing an important milestone for their independence and training as researchers. Romero, who spent the summer in Houston, was not only away for the first time, but was the first among her sisters to leave home. She says that while her family missed her, she learned more than she expected with her “safety net hours away” about “being independent and able to fully prepare for research work.”

 

Top Photo: Aparna Mangadu presents her research at UTHealth.
Bottom Photo: Alheli Romero presentin her results during her final oral presentation.
Left Photo: Bautista feeds a giraffe at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Ariz.

 

Even with their busy summer research schedules, the scholars found time to take advantage of living in new places to explore local sites, culture and activities. In Houston, Romero attended plays, professional sporting events, museums and even took a “goat yoga” class in a petting zoo surrounded by baby goats. Bautista made many new friends exploring Tucson, where she hiked, visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Reid Park Zoo. The highlight of her non-academic activities, however, was visiting Biosphere 2, where she observed firsthand simulated biomes of rainforests, coral reefs and mangrove wetlands, among others. The summer research programs provide truly unique experiences, inside and out of the lab, for the scholars to create lifelong relationships with their colleagues.

To wrap up their summer, every scholar will present their summer research in two poster sessions at the annual BUILDing SCHOLARS Symposium, to be held at UTEP on Sept. 28, 2019. Summer research mentors who can make the trip to El Paso will attend, along with the scholars’ UTEP research mentors, BUILD Leadership and UTEP VIPs, to give the students a chance to share their exciting experiences and research with their home community in person.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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