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.
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:
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.”
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.