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The University Star

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STEM Undergraduate Research Experience recognized as “Program to Watch” for 2019


Alex Guzman on the first day of training last semester for the new members of the program. Photo credit: Photo Courtesy of Nakya Diaz

Texas State is becoming known for its outstanding STEM department, and now the Stem Undergraduate Research Experience is ‘SURE’ to provide the school more recognition.
The STEM Undergraduate Research Program began in summer 2017 with a five-year grant for funding. The basis of the unique program is for first-generation Federal Pell Grant-eligible students in the College of Science and Liberal Arts to connect with a mentor and conduct research in a lab setting.
The 20 students chosen for this year’s program share experiences in their own research labs, but have the opportunity to closely connect with other students and faculty who are going through similar processes. The majority of members are from a Latino background as well as first-generation students, which allows a deeper connection between individuals.
The extensive application process for the program includes a lightning-round interview where students engage with faculty mentors in a high-speed oriented format. The students have the opportunity to interact with the prospective faculty aiding them with their research.
One interesting factor differentiating the SURE program from others across the country is the faculty training requirement. Mentors must undergo training from the National Research Mentoring Network, which trains four other advisers to properly guide the rest of the faculty involved.
NRMNet works to mentor researchers across all career stages with professional development training that not only focuses on their field of study, but weighs the importance of diversity, inclusion and various cultures.
Once the students have undergone professional development and a broad range of training for 10 weeks, they attend a national conference and present their research over the semester with a grant of $2,000.
Sylvia Gonzales, director of HSI STEM IMPACT program, said having a smaller group of students allows members to interact easier and associate with one another.
“Not only do the students connect in the scientific community but they relate in regards to being first generation, low-income students, which makes it an honor to be competing against universities across the nation,” Gonzales said.
Following all the students’ hard work, members of the program have the opportunity for their research to receive recognition on a national level at the Leadership Institute Annual Conference. The SURE Program was granted the title of “Program to Watch,” according to Excelencia in Education, for its outstanding research presented the past two years.
Excelencia in Education works to promote change and accelerate Latino success in higher education. The SURE program ensures the success of students and produces an educated group entering the workforce.
Texas State prides itself on diversity around campus and its high population of first-generation students who deserve equal opportunities across the institution and beyond.
Gonzales emphasized the importance of gaining recognition from Excelencia in Education: three years worth of data is submitted from the other recognized programs on the list. However, the SURE program is on the radar with only two years of data due to its progress and success.
Nina Wright, associate director of HSI STEM IMPACT program, said the progression and improvement students demonstrate is what makes the program so important.
“You can see it transform students’ level of confidence in just over 10 weeks,” Wright said. “They not only grow in lab skills, but in public speaking and time management skills. That’s the reason these students are more confident because they are more capable.”
Alex Guzman, pre-dental senior and SURE program member, conducted research on the Effects of Urbanization on Live History Traits in Gambusia affinis (Mosquitofish). Guzman was mentored by biology professor Caitlin Gabor.
“The most rewarding thing was the relationships and exposure,” Guzman said. “Being a first-generation student, there is a lot of pressure to do big things when you get to college, like become a doctor, so this opportunity got me thinking about research and academia in a different way.”
The SURE program not only helps students gain important, life-long skills to use in the real world, but aids them in connecting with other students who come from similar backgrounds willing to work hard to reach their true potential.
For more information regarding the Excelencia in Education, visit its website to learn about the recognition SURE has earned in its two years. Students interested in the SURE program can visit its website.

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