UT Tyler minority undergrads work to advance their fields with summer fellowship

Published on Sunday, 16 July 2017 01:02 - Written by CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

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Ten undergraduate students are pushing the boundaries of their fields, performing high-level research this summer at The University of Texas at Tyler.

The students are working with faculty mentors on research projects that will likely be published in scientific journals as part of the UT System’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation 2017 Summer Research Academy.

The program focuses on encouraging underrepresented minorities as they decide whether to pursue graduate level studies, according to program director Dr. Steve Rainwater.

“The program began as recognition that many students from underrepresented populations don’t aspire to graduate studies in STEM fields,” Rainwater said. “It helps whet their appetite to what grad school is really about. It’s about doing research.”

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields represented in this year’s program include biology, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering and mathematics.

The students receive a fellowship stipend for their participation. More than 160 students and 45 faculty members have participated in the program’s 25 years.

“Usually participation is a ticket if they want to go to graduate school or do a fellowship,” Rainwater said.

Eight of this year’s students are from UT Tyler and two are from Tyler Junior College.

With the help of Dr. Lance Williams, Marisa Quevedo is running a series of experiments with mussels to ascertain the effects of expected temperature changes due to climate change.

“We think of the mussels as the canary in the coal mine,” Williams said. “If they start to decline, there’s a problem in the water.”

Quevedo’s research includes the effects of a 5-degree temperature change in the water, bank collapse and ammonia level changes due to chicken farms.

“We move the temperature up 2 to 3 degrees at a time, so we don’t kill them immediately,” she said. “The mussels are showing signs of immediate stress, they’re not feeding.”

The students will continue working on their research through early August and make formal presentations at the college and at UT El Paso.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory