Students organize first-ever UOG STEM Conference

Students organize first-ever UOG STEM Conference

Students organize first-ever UOG STEM Conference



With a limited number of academic conferences that take place in Guam and with off-island conferences being costly to attend, opportunities for undergraduate students to present their work and exchange knowledge with other researchers in their fields is limited. Recognizing this problem, a group of students from the University of Guam’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences took the initiative to plan UOG’s first-ever student-led UOG STEM Conference: Perpetuating the STEM Narrative in the Pacific.

“We wanted to provide an accessible platform for local students to present their research, where they could gain valuable communication skills as well as learn about current projects happening within our community,” said Julianne Ballon, one of the conference co-chairs, along with fellow seniors Serena Barasi and Ahmyia Cacapit.

The three chairs, all chemistry and biology double majors, along with the help of the various student organizations under CNAS, organized the two-day event, which took place virtually on April 16 and 17, 2021. The conference attracted 393 attendees.

A full two-day agenda

Attendees heard from distinguished keynote speakers on their experiences in STEM-related professions, including Rebecca Garcia, potentially the first CHamoru to earn a doctorate in mathematics who is now a mathematics professor at Sam Houston State University. Other sessions included a panel addressing “imposter syndrome” in pursuing a doctorate and another panel of three students now pursuing their doctorates. 

The conference featured 27 student poster presentations, with the top presenters in each category winning awards. The top presenters were:

  • Agricultural & Life Sciences:
    Michael Fernandez
    “Painting the Pacific: A Comparative Analysis of the Lightfastness of Watercolors Made from Plants Indigenous to the Pacific Region”  
  • Biomedical & Health Science:
    Karen Mae E. Bacalia
    “The Association of Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Parent-Child Dyads in Guam: PICCAH Study”
  • Mathematics & Computer Science:
    William Sablan
    “To and From 2-Generated Groups and Origamis”
  • Earth & Environmental Sciences:
    Sarai Vega
    “Influence of Intensity and Duration of Rain Events in Guam on Sediment Plume Formation in Pago Bay” 
  • Marine Science:
    Nikko Galanto
    “Effects of Heat Stress on Leptastrea Purpurea Reproduction and Larvae Settlement” 

The conference also included workshops on finding the right mentor and grant writing. Additionally, attendees were able to browse virtual booths and speak with representatives of student organizations under CNAS, the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, Chaminade University of Honolulu, and others.

“It is important to create spaces for people who are from Guam and the rest of Micronesia [to explore STEM fields]. By doing so, we can increase diversity in STEM,” Ballon said. 

The theme, “Perpetuating the STEM Narrative in the Pacific,” invited scientific discussions about ongoing research happening locally.

“Seeing the success within our community shows students across Micronesia that they, too, have the ability and potential to succeed and make a difference in STEM,” Barasi said. “This can potentially raise awareness on issues that are happening in Micronesia and develop further solutions through local collaboration and support.”

Gearing up for next year

With the success of this year’s online conference, the conference organizers are already looking for ways to expand and improve next year.  

“As the conference community continues to grow, we hope to reach more people and organizations,” Cacapit said. “A larger participation will allow us to empower more students’ voices, showcase a wider range of STEM opportunities, and highlight a broader set of disciplines across STEM.” 

Next year, the organizers also plan to include high school students across Micronesia and showcase UOG’s undergraduate and graduate programs in the STEM fields.

The student organizers of the first-ever UOG STEM Conference smile for a virtual group photo during the conference on April 17. (Left to right, top to bottom) William Sablan, Nikko Galanto, Frank Lujan, Serena Barasi, Mary Heather Jingco, Ahmyia Cacapit, Karen Bacalia, Julianne Ballon, Trevor Orot, Laura Gombar, and Isa Bersamin.
UOG STEM Conference student organizers (from left) Laura Gombar, Isa Bersamin, Trevor Orot, Karen Bacalia, Ahmyia Cacapit, Frank Lujan, Nikko Galanto, William Sablan, Serena Barasi, and Mary Heather Jingco.