HU Science Students Receive $10,000 NSF Scholarships

Las Vegas, New Mexico – Eight promising New Mexico Highlands University science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students have received $10,000 scholarships, thanks to a National Science Foundation grant.

Group photo of scholarship winners
Highlands NSF STEM scholars, front row from left: Saige Martínez, Victoria Sena, Jasmine Romero and Elicia Trujillo; back row from left: Nico Martínez, Philpatrick Gallegos, Randy Suazo and Pascal Faurie. Photo: Rick Loffredo/University Relations

The five-year, $661,868 NSF grant aims to prepare students for academic and career success in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, environmental geology or forestry.

Richard Medina, a computer science professor at Highlands, is the principal investigator, or lead researcher, for the grant.

“The data science component of this NSF scholarship grant is very exciting,” Medina said. “Data science is the study of how to make sense of very large collections of data. Data science is increasingly being applied in STEM fields.

“For example, multiple data sets for patients with diseases like diabetes are used to correlate different factors in their disease such as their medication history, blood pressure, diet, lifestyle and age. This gives a better picture for managing their diabetes,” Medina said

The National Science Foundation grant is earmarked for high-achieving juniors and seniors who are named NSF STEM scholars.

Because the grant focuses on upper-division students, it will include more direct advisement on research projects.

“Most of the students are already expected to conduct capstone research projects and this NSF grant funding amplifies those projects by allowing students to integrate data science in their research. Incorporating data science in research is inherently interdisciplinary, giving students a foundation for working in collaborative science teams,” Medina said.

Saige Martínez, a 24-year-old Las Vegas native and a mathematics junior, is one of the scholarship recipients.

“This scholarship will change my life because it will allow me to focus more on my education and research and not worry about working so hard to pay for college,” Martínez said. “It’s nice to see that this scholarship selection board sees my potential and believes in me and that I’m worth the investment.”

Martínez said he loves everything about math.

“Highlands has provided me with the opportunity to take the next step in my academic career. I plan to go to graduate school and eventually pursue a Ph.D. in math,” Martínez said.

Victoria Sena of Las Vegas also received the NSF STEM scholarship. The 19-year-old is on track to graduate in December 2019 with a double major in geology and chemistry. She has earned a 3.99 GPA to date.

“This scholarship will give me more of an opportunity to focus on my studies and apply to graduate school,” Sena said. “I’m very grateful. I think it will be valuable to interact with other STEM majors and faculty. Scientists need to be able to cooperate together.”

Sena said she is interested in studying climate dynamics at the graduate level.

“I’m hoping to work in either a governmental or industry setting in alternative energy policy and application,” Sena said.

Other Highlands students receiving the $10,000 multiyear scholarships include Pascal Faurie, forestry senior; Philpatrick Gallegos, computer science senior; Nico Martínez, mathematics senior; Jasmine Romero, biology senior; Randy Suazo, biology senior; and Elicia Trujillo, biology senior.

The NSF STEM scholars who aren’t computer science majors will receive training in an existing computer science laboratory at the university to learn the software used in big data investigation.

Jennifer Lindline, Highlands geology professor, and Jiao Chen, Highlands chemistry professor, are the co-principal investigators for the National Science Foundation grant.

New applications for the NSF STEM scholarships will be accepted in December 2019. For more information, contact Monique Esquibel Sena at mesquibel@nmhu.edu.