3 students gain STEM research experience through grant

3 students gain STEM research experience through grant

3 students gain STEM research experience through grant


11/7/2019

Kireon Rios loads different Porites coral samples onto a gel to conduct electrophoresis.
Kireon Rios loads different Porites coral samples onto a gel to conduct electrophoresis, in which DNA fragments will separate depending on their charge and size.

Three undergraduate students are gaining valuable research mentorship and experience this semester as the recipients of paid internships through the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) grant by the National Science Foundation.

According to Professor Ross H. Miller, who oversees the grant at University of Guam, the program, which has been funded at the University for the past 10 years and last year received a boost from $20,000 to $50,000, is designed to help level the playing field for Pacific Islanders and other minority students in STEM fields by giving them the experience and confidence necessary for future academic and career growth.

Each academic year, three UOG students are awarded a 16-week internship and a stipend that allows them to dedicate time and focus to their research. To date, the grant has funded internships for about 30 students.

“Most of the students receiving this internship go on to graduate in a STEM discipline,” Miller said, “and many go on for a master’s and some to PhDs.”

Over the course of the internship, the students choose a research project, collect data, and then prepare a research paper and presentation of their findings.

Hands-on experience

Kireon Rios, a bio-medical major mentored by Dr. David Combosch, an assistant professor of population genetics in the Marine Laboratory, is taking the opportunity to research genetic barcoding and phylogenetic analysis in order to identify Guam’s various species of Porites corals.

“The program allows me to not have to work off-campus so I can be on campus more and focus on my research,” Rios said.

Rios presented his research at the 30th Pacific Islands Environment Conference in June. He plans to pursue a career in the medical field as an emergency physician.

Bea Daria, a biology major working under the mentorship of biology professor Dr. Curt Fiedler, is helping to test physical marking methods on non-native tree snails to evaluate their potential later use on Guam’s native tree snails, which are endangered. Her project will also test radio and radio frequency identification tags on the non-native snails as well as a photographic method on the native snails that learns the color patterns for each individual animal and matches them to previous photos.

Maegan Catahay, a civil engineering major, is researching the strength of soils under the mentorship of Dr. Ujwalkumar D. Patil, assistant professor of civil engineering. Catahay is collecting soil samples from various slopes across Southern Guam. She will test their properties to determine strength and stability and will assess lime-treated samples for the potential to improve strength and prevent rainfall-induced slope failure and landslides.

Upon graduation, Catahay plans to work in Guam as a civil engineer.

An increasingly competitive program

Miller said the LSAMP program has grown increasingly competitive over the years as more students and faculty become aware of the opportunity the grant provides for students.

“I think it give students some experience and confidence, which enhances their ability to compete with others applying for jobs or grad school,” Miller said.

The LSAMP program for the University of Guam is administered by the University of Hawaii.

Apply for an LSAMP internship

Students studying in STEM fields who want to apply for an internship through the LSAMP program may contact Dr. Ross Miller at 489-2241 or millerr@triton.uog.edu.

Kireon Rios presented his research in June 2019 at the 30th Pacific Islands Environment Conference.
Kireon Rios presented his research in June 2019 at the 30th Pacific Islands Environment Conference.

Maegan Catahay
Maegan Catahay gathers soil samples for her internship project.