Spring 2019 URS Student Profiles

New Mexico State University

Photo of Ethan Billingsley
Ethan Billingsley
Major: Mechanical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Abdessatar Abdelkefi, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Personal Statement

I am currently a senior at New Mexico State University, and am planning to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in December of 2019. After obtaining my undergraduate degree, I would also like to pursue a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at NMSU. In addition, I currently have a cumulative 3.857 GPA, and am performing research in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. My current research project involves the fabrication of a flying drone that is able to dive into the water, swim underwater, and transition from swimming back to flight. For my first four semesters at NMSU, I worked as a private math tutor, helping home-schooled students to understand concepts in both pre-algebra and algebra courses. Furthermore, I worked briefly at the NMSU Math Tutoring Center in the fall of 2019 as both a lab assistant and a crew member. Throughout my undergraduate coursework, I have learned how to use several engineering tools, such as Matlab, Arduino, Solidworks, and Siemens NX to efficiently tackle engineering projects and simplify the solutions to complex problems. Additionally, I will be interning at Los Alamos National Labs during the summer of 2019, and will be working with a team to conduct research for the lab. I plan to complete my Master’s degree by May of 2021, and hope to get a job in research and development within the automotive industry.

Photo of Pascual Camacho
Pascual Camacho
Major: Civil Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paola Bandini, Associate ProfessorDepartment of Civil Engineering

Personal Statement

As a child, I always knew that I wanted to be an engineer because my dad is one and since my early years, he taught me how to fix things. During my childhood, he was my only source of knowledge and I became very interested in how everything worked, even if it seemed insignificant. While in 9th grade, I participated in a science fair with a project titled “The Importance of Triangles in Construction”, for which I received the first place. That was the moment when I realized my interest in civil engineering and structures. Engineering is my passion, to create, innovate, and change the world. I also considered different engineering majors as biomedical and nuclear, but a trip to Chicago and its skyline made it clear that I wanted to become a Civil Engineer. My parents have been the biggest influence in my life. They have always put emphasis on the importance of school and ethical decisions. They have taught me that my decisions have to be made responsibly and that I should always work hard towards my dreams. In middle school, with my dad’s help, I started selling candies at school and this was the moment I realized that entrepreneurship was in me, as this was my first business.

In 2014, my family and I moved to St. Louis, Missouri. This changed my life for the better; I used the difficulties I experienced to challenge myself academically, mentally, and professionally. I decided to read more and became influenced and motivated to become a better engineer by reading biographies of entrepreneurs including Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, and a few others. While reading about them, my mind shifted in many ways and I started to think about ideas that could make an impact in the world. I read astrophysics books written by Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson and learned about space. I also read books on renewable energy, economics, and fifteenth century philosophy.

Every morning the first things on my head are hard work and determination. These are my main motivations that I am sure will make me successful because they give me the ability to be constant and do what is necessary to achieve my goals. I dream of a better and more sustainable future and I want to contribute to that by starting an engineering company. Through my experiences so far, I have realized that I do not want to start a business to make money and be rich, but my passion is to contribute as much as I can to a better society through ethical engineering solutions and innovation.

Photo of Adan Campos
Adan Campos
Major: Mechanical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Abdelssatar Abdelkefi, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Personal Statement 

When I started attending NMSU, I thought I had my career ensured by just passing all my classes. Throughout the semesters, I started to learn all the requirements that a company looks for when they hire students. Internships, research job positions, Co-ops, and being involved in school were all necessary if I ever wanted to be considered for an Engineering job. I started to look for different opportunities that would help me get one of the mentioned positions. First, I wanted to start by getting involved in school but did not know how until a couple of friends invited me to a Civil Engineering organization, the American Society of Civil Engineering. Since my first day attending the meetings, I wanted to start holding an officer position and fortunately, I did. I have been part of the same organization for two years now and I even was President. Last semester we went to a regional conference and we got NMSU third place overall the conference. Thanks to this, one of the teams among the organization got the opportunity to travel for the national competition.  This semester I got the opportunity to be a Peer Learning Facilitator which included being a teacher assistant for the Engineering 100 class and serve as a tutor.

My future plans include getting an internship or co-op position during the summer. Also, be more involved among the engineering community on campus and hold officer positions before graduation. Thanks to the AMP program, I had the opportunity to improve my research, team working, and communication skills by being part of group discussions and presentations. It gave me the opportunity to work on a review paper that was recently published by Ocean Engineering. I am looking forward to continuing performing a research, especially on a topic regarding Robotics, and from there, look for internship positions. Finally, I want to get my Master’s degree to gain more knowledge on the Robotics field so I can work on a high-tech company such as Lockheed Martin or Intel.

Photo of Maria Carmona Montalvo
Maria Carmona Montalvo
Major: Biology and Chemical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Francisco Omar Holguin, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Plant & Environmental Sciences

Personal Statement

  • Through NMAMP URS I’ve learned how to use different sophisticated laboratory machines.
  • I learned how to install a hard-driveinto a computer tower; to create a SOP; that research can be a slow process and that we must always adjust and enjoy the entire process; and that we use a lot of very expensive methanolin the purification process.
  • I also now have a much more realistic timeline for when certain things should be done by and also have gained a greater respect for what lab managers do.
  • This process has reinforcedmy desire to go on to graduate schooland eventually work in a teaching lab at a reputable university
Photo of Felipe Escalante
Felipe Escalante
Major: Horticulture Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alvaro Romero, Associate ProfessorDepartment of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science

Personal Statement

 In exactly one year from today, I’ll be concluding my undergraduate studies at New Mexico State University. When I first became a part of this campus in the fall of 2017, I did not have an idea of the type of work I would be getting into or what classes I would end up taking. I started out as a general horticulture major because it was the most logical thing to do at the time and had an open mind on the different opportunities and concentrations my school offered. Part of my degree curriculum involved me taking a class called economic entomology. This class mainly focuses on crop and pest interactions and what best ways manage them. This was the first entomology class I took in my college career and the spark of a new interest in insects. I enjoyed it so much I knew I wanted to incorporate entomology into my horticulture degree. Combining the best of these two interests, I would like to conduct research on plant and insect interactions. Perhaps this could be the subject for my research in my post-graduate studies. In the meantime, working at the Urban Entomology Research Center has provided me with many opportunities that have allowed me to move forward in my scientific career. The research conducted at this laboratory has also allowed me to better understand the me to better understand the mechanisms associated with insecticide resistance and bedbugs, and thus aid in the development of new strategies that reduce the impact of resistance of this pest.

Photo of Leonardo Escamilla III
Leonardo Escamilla III
Major: Mechanical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Abdelssatar Abdelkefi, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Personal Statement 

My name is Leonardo Escamilla III, I am currently a Sophomore in the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering departments. My overall academic goal is to attain at least PhD in one of my respective fields, ideally from an Ivy league school. I hope to be able to use my degrees to explore the fields of mechatronics and robotics. During my participation within the URS program, I hope to be able to gain the knowledge and experience to become an effective researcher. As of May 2019, I have completed my second semester within the URS program, and I have certainly become more comfortable with how to conduct research within the engineering field. I look forward to continuing my current project and to experiencing new and exciting things through my research.

Photo of Isabel Fernandez
Isabel Fernandez
Major: Mechanical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Abdelssatar Abdelkefi, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Personal Statement

            My name is Isabel Fernandez and I am currently dual majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering. I plan on graduating with my B.S. in the spring of 2020. Afterwards, I plan on attending graduate school to earn a master’s degree and possibly a Ph.D.  I have always enjoyed math and science and I became interested in the field of engineering in high school when I had the opportunity to take engineering courses at my local community college while earning dual credit. Upon graduating high school, I obtained an associate’s degree in general engineering. I have also held an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory since the summer of 2017, where I work over my summer and winter breaks.

With the help of the New Mexico AMP program, I have been given the unique opportunity to work on research as an undergraduate student. My project is focused on designing, fabricating, optimizing, and testing a flapping wing micro air vehicle. I am working closely with my mentor, Dr. Abdelkefi, and two graduate students on this project. This experience has given me the opportunity to gain further knowledge in the fields I am interested in and has allowed me to collaborate and learn with my fellow students. I believe that research into the field of drones has the potential to bring innovation to a number of different industries and I would love to continue to be a part of something innovative as I move further into my career.

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Virginia Fuentes
Major: Mechanical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Abdelssatar Abdelkefi, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Personal Statement

My name is Virginia Fuentes and I am pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Electrical Engineering. When I entered college, I did not know which career path to take. I have always been passionate for mathematics and being able to experience working on a hands-on project. Robotics has been of my interest and due to that fact, I decided to major in Mechanical Engineering and at the same time obtain a minor in Electrical Engineering. This is my fourth year in college and I have been given the opportunity to work on a research about bioinspired robotic systems from where I collaborated on two published journal papers.

Besides being able to work on a research project for the past two years, I managed to get involved in student organizations for the past semesters. I was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for two years from where I was elected Secretary for a year and Vice-President of Fundraising for another year. I attended three conferences as part of the steel bridge team. I plan to apply for a summer internship related to robotics to gain more experience in my field. After graduating, I plan to enter graduate school here at NMSU and continue expanding my research. I believe I can achieve any goal that I set for myself if I out all my effort and motivation towards it.

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Madison Fuller
Major: Biology Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amanda Ashley, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Personal Statement

I originally began my collegiate academic career wanting to pursue a degree in Biology to ultimately obtain a doctorate in dental surgery and become a dentist.  I had shadowed dentists and worked as a dental assistant, believing dentistry was a fit for me.  While at New Mexico State University, I was enrolled in a Cell Biology class when I realized this field was my true fit.  I was fascinated and challenged by Cell Biology, that left me curious to ways in which I could advance the science and ultimately help decrease the disease pathologies within patients.  I finished the class with a drive to see the vast unknowns within Cell Biology, particularly cancer biology.

After deciding I was more interested in a career in science than a career in dentistry, I found a research mentor, Dr. Amanda Ashley, who closely aligned with my research interests.  Dr. Ashley’s lab studies DNA replication and repair and its role in cancer biology.  Cancer biology holds a special place within my heart due to my grandmother passing away from metastatic breast cancer.  My grandmother was a strong-willed woman who had been in remission for almost ten years prior to recurrence.  I watched her struggle with the disease that would ultimately take her life, and her perseverance during those times is the ultimate driver to my desire to help combat cancer within patients.

I began working in Dr. Ashley’s lab in the Summer of 2018 and have learned many techniques during my tenure.  I have experience culturing multiple breast cancer cell lines and in applying treatments to the cells.  I am proficient in protein extraction and quantification, western blot analysis, and immunofluorescence assay, including cell fixation and staining as well as gathering data on a fluorescent microscope, and analyzing data.  I have also prepared and written grant proposals for my own research projects, a skill I believe most undergraduates lack, but is critical when pursuing a research tract career.  I believe Dr. Ashley and her lab have been monumental in establishing a firm base in cancer biology methods for continuing my pursuit of abolishing cancer.

My career intentions are to be a university level faculty researcher and professor.  I would like to perform quality research that will hopefully better patient outcomes while still being able to teach and mentor students.  I strive to be able to help instill my personal knowledge and goals to the next group of scientists. I aim to achieve these goals through the completion of a Ph.D. in a biomedical related field.

Photo of Gabrielle Graves
Gabrielle Graves
Major: Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Abdelssatar Abdelkefi, Assistant ProgessorDepartment of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Personal Statement

I am a second-semester junior re-applying for the AMP program. I am pursuing a major in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering with the desire to attain a wide range of knowledge and develop my problem-solving skills. However, due to the many opportunities and the diverse fields of specialty that are offered through engineering, it can feel challenging to know which field of research is the best fit. But this last semester working as an undergraduate research student has helped me discover my interest in morphing drones and other UAVs. By re-applying for the AMP program, I am hoping I will get the continued exposure I need to enhance my skills and focus my research interests in my professional career.

Aside from the AMP program, the classes and the clubs I have been involved in have allowed me to pick up basic research skills and have given me beneficial experiences that can be implemented into the research field. In my classes, I’ve never just memorized a given procedure without researching the concepts behind that procedure. Otherwise, I would struggle with real-world application. Conducting analytical research to understand topics conceptually allows me to generate a solution regardless if I have been exposed to that exact problem or not since this habit has sharpened my knowledge and made my mind flexible. I have also gained experience as a member of the brakes team for Mini Baja.  I was expected to research the brake system of a car; so I could further investigate what would be the most efficient brake pads, master cylinders, and bias bars for the car under braking force and pressure conditions for the entire brake system.

Over the last two semesters, I have received first-hand experience with the experimental side of research. Specifically, a fellow research assistant I have conducted finite elemental, transient and modal analyses on the airfoil of our morphing drone to study the structural integrity of the wings. All of the structural analyses have shown me the importance of conducting similar tests with different methods and boundary conditions. With all of these results, my advisor has helped me understand how to interpret and relate all of the results. This next semester I will continue to be involved in the research of morphing drones. I specifically will be working on the wind tunnel experiments and will collect data regarding the effects of flutter on the wings of the drones throughout the transition mode. The purpose of this research project is to increase the flight efficiency of the drone and reduce any instability caused by the actuation mechanisms during a turbulent flight. I plan to utilize these experiences when I pursue my master’s degree in engineering.

Photo of Toteona Gray
Toteona Gray
Major: Animal Sciences Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elba Serrano, ProfessorDepartment of Biology

Personal Statement

I am a senior at New Mexico State University and I am interested in pursing a PhD or a dual MD/PhD degree. My short-term academic goals are to immerse myself in research projects that relate to reproduction and cancer. In addition, I would like to take more public health courses to learn about other factors that could contribute to the overall wellness of an individual. This plays into my interest in using natural and alternative medicine as potential preventative and treatment options. My long-term academic goals are to attend graduate school and hopefully do research at a medical college conducting test trials on various cancer drugs. One of the reasons that cancer research is an area that I am intrigued by is because my father passed away from pancreatic cancer. I initially wanted to become an oncologist but decided that I wanted to conduct research so I could directly be involved in the battle to find a cure for cancer. I enjoy research because it allows for imagination and exploration. In addition, research provides the opportunity to plant a seed that could potentially alter the direction of the medical system and biomedical research. I hope to utilize the resources provided through URS to continue gaining more experience and knowledge in cancer research topics.

Photo of Marlie Maestas
Marlie Maestas
Major: Biology Dr. Ryan Ashley, Associate ProfessorDepartment of Animal and Range Sciences

Personal Statement

I currently work in a lab that researches pregnancy using sheep as a model. Our focus is on the different mechanisms and pathways that establish a successful pregnancy. I first started working in Dr. Ashley’s lab during the summer of 2018 with the INBRE program and have continued my research thanks to the NM-AMP scholarship. During this time I have learned many new molecular techniques, including western blots, immunofluorescence, qPCR, DNA extraction, as well as laboratory safety protocols. I have enjoyed my time doing research immensely and hope to continue my research this summer as well.

I am currently a senior at NMSU, I will graduate in December of 2019 with a BS in Biology. Although my future goals include going to medical school, the research I am doing has influenced the direction I want to go in medical school. The goal of the lab I work at is to improve pregnancy success, this research has led me to want to become an OB/GYN. This research is extremely helpful for my future goals as well as providing me with many opportunities. I have been very successful in my research thus far and I am a co-author in two papers that have been submitted for approval. I am very excited to continue my research. The more and more that I conduct research the more interested I become.

Photo of Priscyla Marquez
Priscyla Marquez
Major: Civil Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lambis Papelis, ProfessorDepartment of Civil Engineering, New Mexico State University

Personal Statement 

I´m currently a junior Civil Engineering student with an emphasis on Environmental Engineering and a minor in Mathematics. Environmental engineering intrigues me the most out of all the branches of Civil Engineering because of the huge impact it has on society. This discipline is concerned with the quality and availability of environmental resources, as well as with more complex and chronic problems such as climate change, emerging contaminants, the overall health of ecosystems, and sustainability. The fact that environmental engineers can make an impact not only in the present, but in the future of society too is particularly exciting.

Upon completion of my first year as an undergraduate student, I started assisting Dr. Papelis, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at NMSU, on a research titled Microbially Enhanced Iron-Iron Modified Zeolite Permeable Reactive Barrier. This research has been my interest because it uses a very available and cost effective mineral to treat contaminants, such as arsenic and selenium, in groundwater with the help of microbial organisms. Arsenic and selenium can be harmful even at very low concentrations in water; therefore, it is extremely important to remove it for the health and safety of society. While doing this research I gained valuable experience and skills that would not be possible other way. In addition, I learned the significance of research for the improvement of society as the project I have been part of is very important for a sustainable future. To further my research experience, this past summer I worked as an REU student at North Carolina State University on a project related to exploring the removal of phosphate from wastewater using lanthanum carbonate nanoparticles. Phosphate is a nutrient that triggers eutrophication, which promotes harmful algal growths and therefore decreases the amount of dissolved oxygen in water. Consequently, the removal of this nutrient is essential for the preservation of ecosystems and the improvement of water quality. As of right now, I’m still working with Dr. Papelis on a research titled “Surface Complexation Modeling of Selenium Sorption on Iron-Modified Zeolites.” This is a continuation of the work I started as a sophomore and it will soon become the research work of my master’s degree.

During the last two and a half years at NMSU, I have also been involved in several organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers. Through leadership roles like Vice President of Fundraising, Secretary, and now, future President, I have gained significant experience. One of my priorities has always been to attract more students that are not aware of the development that we, as students, can have through different activities, networking, and conferences.

This summer, I plan on being part of the REU program here at NMSU, in order to apply what I have learned and learn even more about the research environment. After graduation I plan on attending graduate school, given that my ultimate goal is to obtain doctoral degree and become a professor.

Photo of Alan Moya
Alan Moya
Major: Chemical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Umakanta Jena, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Chemical & Materials Engineering, New Mexico State University

Personal Statement

What I gained from my experience at URS was working under different circumstances, by balancing school and research. It also improved my presentation skills both in a class setting and to the public, not everyone knows what I am doing and had to work my way around that to convey my research to them. working in a lab team set environment. Skills that I have learned during this research experience will be helpful for real world problems and future research. The new skills I learned and enhanced will be used to better work on team settings with different people who think differently for projects such as capstone that is coming up in FALL 2019/Spring 2020. Post-graduation this experience will help me in graduate level research and school.


Photo of Pablo Paradis
Pablo Paradis
Major: Electrical Engineering and Physics Faculty Mentor: Dr. Stefan Zollner, ProfessorDepartment of Physics
Photo of Sarah Ramirez
Sarah Ramirez
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ivette Guzman, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Plant & Environmental Sciences

Personal Statement

As a undergraduate student of a STEM field in plants and sciences being able to participate in a research project has been a great opportunity. Through the AMP program I have learned about how to conduct research, organize a project as well as the pleasure of meeting so many people including fellow undergraduates who are also involved in research and it was an enlightening experience to hear about all the different research they are preforming. Meeting professionals in my field and graduate students was a great source of insight and influence. This was my first semester participating in a research project of this extent and I have gained an invaluable amount of experience that will contribute to my success as an student. I now feel more prepared and confident to take on harder tasks, I have been able to recognize many of my weakness as a student and will aim to improve them. I now have a clearer vision of what I want out of myself and my future, for one I am more convinced I want to pressure further education after my bachelor’s degree. This program was such a rewarding experience and I hope to continue in the AMP program and continue growing as a student and as a person in general because of it.

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Lucas Rivera
Major: Civil Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paola Bandini, Associate ProfessorDepartment of Civil Engineering

Personal Statement

My name is Lucas Rivera and I am a junior civil engineering major at New Mexico State University.  My hobbies include guitar, reading, and volunteer travel.  My research involves specimen preparation effects of calcium carbonate precipitation in natural sands.  Through research, I have learned how to use ingenuity and logic to achieve results in the interest of optimizing, streamlining, and implementing real world change around me.

Photo of Brian Saunders
Brian Saunders
Major: Mechanical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Abdelssatar Abdelkefi, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Personal Statement

Hello, I am Brian Saunders. I am a senior in the Mechanical Engineering program at New Mexico State University. During my time here, I have been a Crimson Scholar, stayed on the Dean’s List, maintained a 4.0 GPA, and was recently named the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Academy’s 2019 Outstanding Graduating Senior and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department’s Outstanding Senior. Through NMSU’s Masters Accelerated Program, I am currently taking three graduate-level classes that count toward an advanced degree.I expect to graduate with honors this spring and earn my Bachelor’s with a minor in Mathematics. I was recently accepted to NMSU’s Graduate School for the Master’s program in Mechanical Engineering.

Career goals:I have gained an interest in numerous fields during my undergraduate career, but I particularly enjoy solid mechanics—analyzing what stresses a loaded machine element is under, how and where a part would fail during operation, etc. Thus, I would love to utilize my skills as a stress analyst: using solid mechanics, computer modeling, and dynamics to ensure the safety and reliability of physical components and systems. I also wish to pursue a master’s degree because I have often heard it is “the degree of upward mobility”. A master’s degree would allow me to grow in my engineering career and give me strong skills to tackle many problems and challenges, whether as an individual or as a team member or leader.

Research interests:My current research interests include the fields of solid mechanics and nanomechanics. I joineda research group under Dr. A. Abdelkefiof the MAE Department. As a research assistant, I have since developed a model of carbon nanotubes for use as nanoscale biomass sensors. During the summer of 2019, I will participate in the Los Alamos Dynamics Summer School as an intern, where I will work on a team to complete a dynamics-related project. These opportunities will give me valuable mechanics and dynamics experience and insight that I could apply to both graduate studies at NMSU this falland my future career.

What I’ve gained from URS: I was an Undergraduate Research Scholar with the New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation for the Spring 2019 semester. Among other things, I gained a better understanding of how a research project in my field works, how to better review literature and decide if something is relevant to the work or not, and how to effectively summarize the work and explain it to a non-technical layperson. I was fortunate enough to have the results of my research accepted to the ASME 2019 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (IDETC-CIE), which will be held in August.I have also been able to attend a number of workshops and seminars to learn more about graduate school and see what kinds of research are being done both here at NMSU and at places like Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.

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Sean Smith
Major: Engineering Physics Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael DeAnotonio, ProfessorDepartment of Physics

Personal Statement

When I was a child, I always loved taking apart things and seeing how they worked and then re-purposing those components for other uses. I was also fascinated with science, specifically physics. While other children were in awe of their favorite sports hero, I looked up to people like Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, and Albert Einstein. As a kid, I also dreamed of being an astronaut and working for NASA. While in the military, I realized my true passion for engineering when I bought a robotics kit while I was deployed to Kuwait. I would spend hours of my free time building various things and learning to program.  It was while I was deployed that I realized that I could still achieve my childhood dreams of one day working for NASA, and I could do that through Engineering. I love to learn and want to continue learning for the rest of my life. My ultimate goal is to achieve a M.S. in either physics or engineering and to preform research for scientific organizations such as NASA, the DoE, or the DoD.

I received my first Bachelors degree in Anthropology from the University of Montana. I initially chose this degree because the course load was significantly easier than a physics degree and I found it interesting. I had also figured, at the time, that I would spend 20 years in the military and use my degree in very few circumstances. Although, I left the military, and I still find anthropological topics fairly interesting, my interests have moved more towards Electrical Engineering and Physics. The NM AMP program has given me the opportunity to find where my passions lie and is ultimately the reason that I first transferred from a Mechanical Engineering degree to an Engineering Physics – EE degree. During the SCOORE program is where I also further developed my interest in electronics as I built an automatic control valve. During URS, I spent a significant amount of time building my own data logging sensor and it cemented my belief that I had chosen the right major and concentration area. I couldn’t thank the NM AMP program enough for giving me the resources and opportunity to learn more about various STEM fields, and work with many wonderful faculty.

I intend to continue my studies and research, especially working with the Physics department and Environmental Sciences department preforming dust measurements. In the further future, I would like to continue on to graduate level education to pursue focused studies in electromagnetism and digital signals. It would be my great honor to give back to the organizations that have given me so much, such as the veteran, military, and local communities. I would love to further develop my skills and knowledge so that I may one day build technologies that keep our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines safer, or to share my knowledge with younger generations so they may carry on my enthusiasm for Engineering and Physics.

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Isabella Terrazas
Major: Microbiology Faculty Mentor: Dr. Charles Shuster, ProfessorDepartment of Biology

Personal Statement 

My name is Isabella Terrazas and I am currently a junior studying microbiology. I am also studying to complete a minor in public health. Prior to attending NMSU, I planned on pursuing a career in the medical field as a doctor. This desire lead me to working in a family physicians office directly with patients for three years. From this experience, I grew in my appreciation for the medical field but wanted to explore other possibilities for impacting the medical field from behind the scenes. This lead me to the AMP undergraduate research scholar program and I am so thankful for the experiences I have had through the program. While working in Dr. Shuster’s lab, I realized that the difficulties and frustrations of research are worth the hardship when you find one aspect in the field you find truly fascinating and worthy of knowing more. Because of my experience with AMP, I am lucky enough to be a participant in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. An opportunity like this will be valuable in helping me decide how I can effectively impact the medical community. As I continue in my degree I look forward to learning more and developing my skills so I can help communities in need. I plan on completing a Physician Assistant program after I graduate and ultimately continue with clinical research. I want to use my skills and knowledge to help communities in New Mexico understand their health and how it affects others.

Photo of April Wright
April Wright
Major: Chemical Engineering Faculty Mentor: Dr. Catherine Brewer, Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Chemical & Materials Engineering, New Mexico State University

Personal Statement

When I was in elementary school, I came across an article about global warming in one of my reading programs. After reading that article, I remember feeling terrified about the direction our world’s climate was going in and as soon as I got home, I frantically told my mom about what I had learned. When I was in middle school, a group of engineers of various disciplines came to talk to us. That was when I knew I wanted to become a chemical engineer, but at the time I did not necessarily understand everything that I could do in chemical engineering. In high school, I stumbled upon an article about biofuels and became very intrigued when I discovered that I could pursue that form of sustainability as a chemical engineer. Biofuels are particularly interesting because if we can find a cost effective and sustainable way to produce them, they can potentially lessen the world’s carbon footprint and be the leading fuel in the world. Biofuels will benefit the environment greatly by reducing the emissions that are produced from fossil fuels which will help prevent the impact of global warming.

Since I have started my education in chemical engineering, my desire to one day work towards lessening the effects of global warming has only skyrocketed. Every day, there are more and more articles describing what our world is going to be like in 10 years if we do not work towards preventing global warming now and it frightens me that not enough people care. If we do not start working towards sustainability, myself and future generations may not get to see the world as it is today. Therefore, when I graduate, I hope to work for a company such as ExxonMobil in the area of sustainable biofuels as an engineer or researcher. If I can work with a team of people who already have an extensive understanding of what biofuels are and how to create them, then I can use what I have learned and apply it to the study of biofuels and in other areas that deal with sustainability.

I have recently joined the Sustainable Bioeconomy for Arid Regions (SBAR) project and have started seeing what goes into creating biofuels. By working on this project with a team of people who already have an extensive understanding, I have learned techniques in the lab, such as hydrothermal liquefaction and bomb calorimetry which can help me in future research projects and my future career. Becoming a part of the Undergraduate Research Scholar Program will allow me to continue developing my skills in the lab and my understanding of biofuel and decide whether or not graduate school is something I would like to pursue.