The New Mexico Highlands University Sigma Xi Chapter was named one of the top chapters in the world for this honorary research society.
The university’s chapter was tapped for the Sigma Xi Chapter of Excellence award, an honor earned by only two-to-three percent of the organization’s global network of more than 520 chapters in 100 countries.
“The Sigma Xi Chapter of Excellence Award salutes exceptional chapter activity, innovative programming, and true community leadership,” said Jerome Baker, Sigma Xi executive director. “We are very proud of your Highlands University chapter’s accomplishments.”
The Highlands Sigma Xi Chapter also received a Program of Excellence Award for its Student Research Fund. Since the fund was established in 2006, approximately 80 students have received funding for their research.
Over the years, the university’s Sigma Xi Chapter has a long track record of being named for program awards and other honors. Biology professor Maureen Romine is the president for the chapter this year, serving in this capacity a number of times during her tenure.
“There are so many places where science intersects your life,” Romine said. “Many of our chapter activities are aimed at supporting an important Sigma Xi mission of promoting the public’s understanding of the valid processes and procedures of science so they can make informed decisions.”
Romine added that the Sigma Xi Chapter at Highlands is very active for its size, with a diverse number of science outreach activities.
The chapter sponsors quarterly science cafés with faculty for the campus and broader community, and a faculty lecture series with a spotlight on research. The chapter is also active in the university’s annual Research Day.
“Communicating their research at Research Day is a critical component of the scientific process for our students,” Romine said. “With the Student Research Fund, we want to give as much support as possible for our students to pursue new and continuing research.
“At Highlands, we believe it’s very important to have as many students involved in research as possible, including undergraduates. The fund benefits students across all disciplines on campus,” Romine said.
The students write research proposals for consideration. If they get tapped for a Sigma Xi research scholarship, they work with a faculty adviser on their research.
In 2013, graduate students receiving the research scholarships included biology majors Lorraine García, Casey Taylor, and Molly Wright; geology majors Adam Brister, Geno Castillo, and Andrew Romero; Will Jaremko-Wright, environmental science; Robert Ortega, natural resource management; Chelsea Stoinski, psychology; Barbara Salazar, social work; and Miguel Maestas, computer science.
Fabian Pescador, an undergraduate biology student, also received a 2013 research scholarship.
The student’s research projects are as diverse as they are, ranging from analyzing juniper encroachment in northeastern New Mexico rangelands to factors influencing the fluctuation of arsenic in the Jemez River in New Mexico to using microsatellite tools to assess the population of Northern New Mexico black bears.
Romine said the university’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects is a major source of funding for the student scholarships.
The Sigma Xi Chapter at Highlands also supports promising young scientists through monetary awards to junior division winners at the Northeastern New Mexico Regional Science Fair that Highlands organizes each year.
The Highlands Sigma Xi Chapter formed in 1960 and has 32 active members, including faculty and students.
Other Sigma Xi officers include biology professor Sarah Corey-Rivas, vice president, and forestry professor Sara Brown, secretary/treasurer.