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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.