One key component of the New Mexico AMP program is the Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA). These stipends are awarded based on a variety of criteria, including a comprehensive and detailed work plan prepared jointly by the student and the faculty mentor who has agreed to supervise the project. URA awards are available to community college and university students on their home campuses during the academic year or at summer research programs helping bridge the transition to a four-year research institution.
Credit for the program's success goes to the students for their commitment to their research work and to their mentors for the time and training they generously give to these “apprentice” researchers. Many mentors include the students as co-authors on technical papers, trust the students with presentations of their research results, and often become the greatest influence on the student’s decision to attend graduate school.
The URA students are also the backbone of the New Mexico AMP Student Research Conference. They share their work not only in New Mexico, but in professional conferences across the country.
As examples of the URA work going on across the state, four students from New Mexico State University are profiled below. They typify the quality, motivation and professionalism of all New Mexico AMP URA students. Profiled are Danielle Miranda, a microbiology undergraduate student, Kwame Porter-Robinson, an Electrical Engineering undergraduate, and Jimmy Moreno, a current Ph.D. graduate student.
NMSU, Microbiology Undergraduate, Anticipated Graduation Date: December, 2008
In the two years since she arrived on the NMSU campus, Danielle Miranda has worked very hard to learn all she can about her major of microbiology through various research and field experiences. A very goal-oriented student, Danielle has set her sights on not only achieving excellence in her coursework but also in her active involvement in related internship and program activities. Danielle started out in New Mexico AMP as a community college student in the summer of 2005 as a participant in the Summer Community College Opportunity for Research Experience (SCCORE) program, gaining excellent research experience as well as a broader knowledge of her field in her role as research assistant to faculty mentor, Dr. Jinfa Zhang, Associate Professor of Agronomy and Horticulture. Her research project with Dr. Zhang focused on the segregation of mapping population in cotton detected by ATG-anchored AFLP markers. After transferring from the NMSU-Alamogordo campus to NMSU Main, this assistantship led to a lab assistant position in Dr. Zhang's lab in the fall of 2005. Danielle also worked as a research assistant in the New Mexico AMP Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) program with Dr. Zhang on the segregation of promoter anchored polymorphism. Presently, Danielle is participating in the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program with faculty mentor Dr. Charles Bradley Shuster on the titration of the spindle assembly checkpoint in embryonic cells.
Danielle attributes her basic knowledge of research and development and delivery of poster and oral presentations largely to her experiences with the SCCORE and URA programs. She adds that the writing workshops and the experience of preparing the required scientific report contributed to her ability to prepare for many national conferences at which she has presented, including the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Annual Meeting, the Society for the Advance of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Conferences, and the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence Conference. Danielle adds that the primary benefit of her involvement in the AMP programs and its symposiums and conferences was having the opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded young people. She believes that learning about their research experiences and topics in their oral and poster presentations inspired and encouraged her to seek out and network into other opportunities, including an internship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington in the summer of 2006 and the opportunity to participate in the MARC program at NMSU in the spring, summer, and fall of 2007.
Danielle's determination, diligence, and standards of excellence have led to her designation as a Crimson Scholar and the invitation to join the Gamma Beta Phi National Honor Society. In addition, in 2007, she was awarded the Memorial Medical Center (MMC) Scholarship and the Alamogordo Rotary Club Billie Holder Memorial Scholarship. Danielle aspires to attend graduate school to reach her lifelong goal of becoming a medical scientist, a career focused on the combination of research and clinical care. Danielle will graduate in December of 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology.
Jimmy Moreno, Civil Engineering, Anticipated Ph.D.Graduation Date: August, 2008
With aspirations of one day becoming a university engineering educator, Jimmy Moreno holds a B.S. degree in geological engineering, an M.S. degree in civil engineering, and he is currently advancing toward the Ph.D. in civil engineering in the area of water resources at NMSU.
Jimmy has a long history with New Mexico AMP, participating in the Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) program for one year and the Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) Program for two years during his Master's degree program. As a URA, Jimmy worked as a research assistant with his faculty mentor, Dr. Khaled Sobhan, former NMSU professor in Civil and Geological Engineering (CAGE). Jimmy's BD faculty mentor was Dr. Salim Bawazir, Assistant Professor in CAGE, with whom Jimmy focused research efforts on on-farm irrigation efficiency in the middle Rio Grande conservancy district. Jimmy continues to work with Dr. Bawazir in his Ph.D. program, with a focus on the development of innovative techniques for estimating evaporation with state-of-the-art sensors.
Jimmy believes that his participation in the URA afforded him basic research techniques and methods and helped him to gain confidence in speaking in front of an audience, an essential skill for his future career as a professor. Even more importantly, Jimmy cites the reason for continuation of his education after undergraduate school as the encouragement and skill development that he received as a URA. Further, the research that he conducted as a research assistant in the BD program provided him more of an in-depth understanding of his discipline, honed his critical thinking skills, and presented additional funding opportunities for his research. The BD program offered beneficial training and help in filling out applications for Ph.D. programs and fellowships, an added bonus.
Moreno has many recognitions and awards to his credit. He was chosen Geological Engineer and Hispanic Engineer of the Year in undergraduate school in spring of 2001, and he graduated with highest honors as a Crimson Scholar. He was most recently named recipient of the 2007-2008 Student Water Research Grant Program by the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) based on his research project, entitled "Estimating Evaporation from Elephant Butte Reservoir with the Monin Obukhov Similarity Theory using Simple Instrumentation."
Jimmy will graduate in August, 2008 with the Ph.D. in civil engineering, after which he plans to fulfill his dream of becoming a professor and consultant.
Kwame Porter-Robinson, Electrical Engineering, Anticipated Graduation Date: May, 2008
Originally from Washington D.C., Kwame Porter Robinson recently joined the elite group of high-achieving Goldwater Scholars, students who are double-majors in the fields of engineering, mathematics, and/or science. The highly competitive Goldwater Scholarship program selects students based on the basis of academic merit, and the awards recognize students for their research skills, achievements, and potential. Kwame, who already holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design from Boston University, is currently working toward a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering at NMSU.
Kwame has been involved with New Mexico AMP for several years, participating in SMET 102 ("Introduction to Engineering Design") course; the Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Scholarship (CSEMS) program; and the Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) program. In the URA program, Kwame worked with two faculty mentors in the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. Steve Horan, Academic Department Head, and Dr. Nadipuram Prasad, Associate Professor. As a research assistant, Kwame focused his research efforts on non-linear control systems, robotic vision, and nanosatellites. When discussing the benefits of the URA program to his academic career, Kwame addressed the advantages of learning to write technical reports and of learning to develop and deliver poster and oral presentations. He also commented that working as a research assistant with Dr. Prasad in the RioRoboLab helped him to select the area of research in which he is most interested-control systems. He added that the opportunity to learn more about the profession of electrical engineering and to work with the latest state-of-the-art techniques of the field has also benefited him greatly.
Kwame is quick to point out that his success could also be attributed to the fact that he has learned how to balance his life with more than just books and trips to the library. He has held the esteemed position of President of the NMSU Ultimate Frisbee Club in which he and his peers play Ultimate Frisbee. He added that having fun has enabled him to round out his life, contributing to his success.
In addition to his participation in New Mexico AMP and his role as a Goldwater Scholar, Kwame has been awarded the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Scholarship for the past 2 years, the Goddard Centennial Memorial Scholarship, and the Honeywell, Inc. Student Scholarship.
Kwame plans to attend graduate school and to one day become a control systems engineer in the area of non-linear and intelligent systems. He will graduate in May of 2008.