HU Biology Student Earns $40,000 Scholarship

New Mexico Highlands University biology senior Sebastian Medina was awarded a $40,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture scholarship to continue his education at the graduate level after he completes his bachelor’s degree.
In his three years at Highlands, the 21-year-old Medina has earned a 3.88 GPA, been named to the dean’s list, and honored as the Outstanding New Biology Major in 2010.
“Being from the small Northern New Mexico community of Mora, I was taught to treasure nature and the land at an early age,” Medina said. “In my freshman year at Highlands, I fell in love with biology and it became my passion. The biology and other science faculty at Highlands are excellent, super knowledgable and supportive.”
For the last two years, Medina has worked as a research assistant in natural resources professor Edward Martinez’ Water Quality Laboratory at Highlands.
Medina has worked with Martinez on several hands-on research projects associated with climate change and its implications for stream health in the Valles Calderas National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico.
“The study we’re working on now investigates nutrient concentrations like phosphate and nitrate in stream flow, and how it changes with the seasons,” Medina said. “We hypothesize that less snowmelt will result in less nutrient availability to support the base of the food web in the aquatic ecosystem.
“If the balance of nutrients is off, it can lead to depletion of dissolved oxygen levels, which can harm aquatic organisms like algae that fish feed on,” Medina said.
The university’s Valles Calderas water quality studies are funded by a National Science Foundation climate change grant Martinez secured for Highlands in 2009 that is part of the New Mexico Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, EPSCoR.
Martinez has high praise for Medina.
 “Sebastian has great potential as a scientist, and has already demonstrated how capable he is in the field and in the lab,” Martinez said. “He also provides training and guidance to newer students who are working in the lab, and assists with other research projects.
“Sebastian is very mature, conscientious student who takes pride in the work he does,” Martinez said.
Martinez added that Medina is also one of many outstanding students working as supplemental instructors in Highlands University’s Achieving in Research, Math and Science Center, ARMAS.
“Dr. Martinez opened all these doors for me I never knew existed,” said Medina, who is the first in his immediate family to attend college. “He puts tremendous effort into helping students understand their potential, and also provides exceptional insight and knowledge that makes scientific research both interesting and understandable.”
Medina’s long-term goal is to complete a Ph.D. in biology and become a college professor and researcher.
“I hope to aid in the conservation of native New Mexico wildlife to ensure healthy, diverse future populations,” Medina said.
Medina’s $40,000 scholarship was funded through a recent U.S.D.A. Hispanic Serving Institution grant Martinez was awarded. To assure nonbiased selection for the scholarship, the selection committee was composed of Highlands University faculty and staff who didn’t know the applicants.