Students present individual research at NCUR
04.17.2018 | By Andrea Vasquez
HOUSTON – San Jacinto College had 35 students presenting 17 group and individual research projects at the 2018 National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the most prestigious undergraduate research conference in the U.S.
NCUR is an interdisciplinary conference where students representing universities and colleges from all around the U.S., and internationally, present their research and creative works in oral, poster and performance/visual arts presentations. Institutions such as Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University are usually represented.
Presenting at NCUR is an opportunity not many community college students experience. Each year, approximately 500 universities and colleges participate with more than 4,000 proposals submitted. Last year only 32 projects from 11 community colleges were chosen to present their research out of more than 1,200 abstracts accepted; five of those were from San Jacinto College students. This year, one-third of all of the community college presentations at NCUR were from San Jacinto College, the most presentations of any community college at NCUR in the last four years.
“Most of the students presenting at NCUR are college seniors who are applying to graduate school, so getting an underclassman presentation accepted is very difficult and quite an honor for our students,” said Dr. Eddie Weller, San Jacinto College honors program director. “The reason we have so many outstanding presentations accepted is the incredible work done by our faculty; they push our students to be the best, and our students respond well. When they transfer, our students are usually better prepared than the students who start at the university, because of our faculty.”
Many of the San Jacinto College students that present at NCUR are part of the College’s honors program. The San Jacinto College honors program courses are taught in a seminar style rather than lecture and provide students with unique course experiences including advanced research projects, travel opportunities, community stewardship and leadership opportunities.
“Presenting at NCUR, the premier conference for undergraduate research, helps our students in transferring and in receiving scholarships, but it doesn’t stop there,” added Weller. “It sets them apart from other students, helping them when applying to graduate schools and in obtaining jobs. The long-term benefits for our students are massive.”
Kevin Rodriguez was among the 35 San Jacinto College students presenting at this year’s conference. Last year, Rodriguez, along with three other San Jacinto College students, participated in the University of Iowa’s Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program. Supported by the National Cancer Institute and a partnership between the University of Iowa and collaborative academic institutions, CURE is designed to provide an atmosphere to train undergraduate students in cancer research. Once selected, the students are assigned mentors at the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, where they study in different labs and work alongside principle investigators for eight weeks for two consecutive summers as paid undergraduate researchers.
Rodriguez presented his individual research project, “Differential Contributions of Activated YAP and TAZ to the Malignant Phenotypes of Metastatic Prostate Carcinoma Cells.” His research looked at two cancer-causing proteins (YAP and TAZ) that are usually together and never naturally separated. Rodriguez wanted to see what each protein contributed to prostate cancer cells. After separating them into two cell lines, the data suggested that the protein YAP drives uncontrollable growth, a hallmark of cancer, and TAZ increases migration speed in cancer cells. Some of the data also suggested that YAP may not be promoted by the same signaling as TAZ. For Rodriguez, presenting his research at NCUR was both inspiring and insightful.
“Conferences like NCUR help you assess what really interests you and which labs are doing that work,” said Rodriguez. “The amount of connections, both professionally and personally, that I have made at these types of conferences has been really great. Attending NCUR also allows students to shake hands with people in charge of graduate programs, which can help you distinguish yourself from other applicants for summer or grad school programs.”
This summer Rodriguez will be conducting research at Baylor College of Medicine on pediatric oncology focusing on Ewing's Sarcoma. “I am happy that I am helping conduct research as it relates to pediatric cancer. I personally feel like there is no greater reward than helping a child who suffers from cancer, and this opportunity helps me receive that personal reward.”
Learn more about the San Jacinto College honors program.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students each year benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers eight areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to four-year colleges or universities or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.