Guam NSF EPSCoR welcomes new student researchers

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SRE:   

This year, Guam NSF EPSCoR welcomed five undergraduate students from the University of Guam to its Student Research Experience (SRE), a yearlong internship that provides these students with research training, fieldwork experience, and networking opportunities under the mentorship of scientists and subject matter experts from UOG.  

 

Nicole Pineda: 

Nicole Pineda feels that the SRE program will help bolster her skills as a biology major.  

During her time in the program, Pineda is studying the biodiversity and biological factors of the green algae genus Ostreobium under the mentorship of Héloïse Louise Rouzé, Ph.D. 

Pineda says that she is ecstatic to gain more research experience and learn skills outside of her time in the classroom.  

“I feel that this research internship would allow for the hands-on component that reaches further than studying my science courses at University alone and would propel me to develop different perspectives in my STEM career,” said Pineda.  

 

Daniel Urbano 

 Applied biology major Daniel Urbano considers being in the SRE program a major step in his scientific journey.    

“This will serve as a great jumping off point in my scientific career and I’m very happy that I’m able to participate as an EPSCoR SRE,” said Urbano.  

  

For his project, Urbano will research the assessment of macro algae community assemblage and diversity in Guam under the mentorship of Robert Lasley, Ph.D., a UOG senior research associate of crustacean biology.  

 

Urbano says that he looks forward to the opportunity to conduct field studies and diving deeper into his research in a formal lab setting.   

 

 

MaryJolleen Perez

Integrative biology major Maryjolleen Perez is excited to connect and collaborate with the other SRE participants in her cohort. 

“I feel extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work alongside and learn from an amazing mentor and make new connections within the STEM field,” said Perez.  

Under the mentorship of Christopher Lobban, Ph.D., Perez is researching marine benthic diatom biodiversity and biogeography.  

Perez is most excited about acquiring a new perspective through data collection and is eager to immerse herself in the experience and expanding possibilities it affords.    

 

Ave Lyn Medina 

Chemistry and biology double major Ave Medina appreciates the support she’s experienced during her time in the SRE program.  

“The program and everyone involved in it have been extremely kind and wonderful to work with!” said Medina. “The program provides an incredible opportunity to gain practical experience in a laboratory setting. And what’s even more exciting is that as an SRE you get to play a major role in a research experiment right from the start.” 

Under the mentorship of Bastian Bentlage, Ph.D., Medina is researching how bacteria, specifically two strains of Endozoicomonas, may enhance the growth of Cladocopium C40, a genus of Symbiodiniaceae which plays a significant role in the health of coral reef ecosystems. 

 

Mya Ngemaes 

Mya Ngemaes is brimming with excitement to be a part of the EPSCoR Student Research Experience. 

As a third-year biomedical major minoring in sociology, Ngemaes is looking forward to broadening her understanding of STEM through the SRE program.  

It’s an amazing opportunity to be part of a program that fosters scientific exploration and innovation in STEM fields. The chance to contribute to research while gaining valuable experience and skills is truly invaluable.” 

Ngemaes is currently under the mentorship of Ciemon Caballes, Ph.D., researching the role of starvation in the decline of crown-of-thorns sea star (COTS) outbreaks; specifically Ngemaes is investigating abrupt decreases in COTS abundance at the end of outbreaks and the role of starvation in disease susceptibility and transmission for the purpose of understand the dynamics of COTS populations and their interactions with prey availability, pathogen susceptibility and transmission. 

Ngemaes looks forward to the opportunity to acquire more lab experience while working alongside others who share her deep passion for marine ecosystems. 

UOG graduate student heads to Okinawa to study marine invertebrates

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A graduate student from the University of Guam will be going to Okinawa to study marine invertebrates as part of an internship at the University of the Ryukus from April to August 2024.  

Joseph Proietti, a Master of Science in Biology student and Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistant, will be mentored by James Reimer, a professor at the University of the Ryukus whose research focuses on the biodiversity of understudied marine invertebrates.  

During the internship, Proietti will study Palythoa, a type of cnidarian closely related to corals and anemones.  

Some Palythoa, like hard corals, have symbiotic algae that live inside them that photosynthesize and feed their host in exchange for shelter and protection. These Palythoa are known to live in places with light availability such as open reefs while those without these symbionts live in caves or reef crevices.  

“We’re going to take the Palythoa that have symbionts and the ones that don’t to do what’s called a reciprocal transplant experiment, which will involve switching them between their two habitats,” said Proietti. “Then we’ll monitor to see how this change in environment affects how they function depending on which of their genes are expressed.”  

Besides networking with other professionals within his field, Proietti will learn skills that will help him advance as a scientist.  

“During this internship, I’ll learn about RNA library preparation, a very specific type of lab work that involves preparing RNA to be sequenced which is complicated and challenging to get right,” said Proietti. “I’ll also learn how to analyze gene expression data.”  

Proietti said that he is looking forward to exploring the reefs of Okinawa and taking on this new experience.  

 “I hope to go diving a lot. Okinawa has pretty healthy and diverse reefs from what I understand,” said Proietti. “I believe that traveling and experiencing as much of the world as you can is hugely beneficial to expanding your worldview and teaching you things that are hard to put into words. These experiences are beneficial to not just your professional life, but who you are as a person.”   

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Guam NSF INCLUDES and EPSCoR welcomes 12 new student researchers

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Guam National Science Foundation-Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (Guam NSF EPSCoR) and Guam NSF SEAS Island Alliance INCLUDES programs at the University of Guam welcomed 12 new student researchers and their families at an orientation held at the UOG CLASS Lecture Hall at the start of the year.  

The student researchers will be participating in the 2024 Student Research Experience (SRE) program. This initiative aims to boost the quantity and diversity of students pursuing careers in STEM fields.  

The program is specifically designed for undergraduates who are seeking valuable research opportunities. Out of the 12 student researchers, five are supported by Guam NSF EPSCoR and seven by Guam NSF SEAS Island Alliance INCLUDES. 

The event was also organized to introduce    the new SREs to their faculty mentors who will be working with them in the coming year.  

Emily Wendte, education and workforce development program associate for Guam NSF EPSCoR-Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) facilitated the family orientation event.  

Wendte emphasized the role of the family and mentors in the SRE program. “It’s important to us to involve the family members of our students as much as possible so that during the student’s year-long journey, family support groups are able to ask their student participants questions about how things are going in order to offer support.”  

“We want family support groups to understand the nature and requirements of the National Science Foundation grant, and that working along with it can ultimately lead to bigger and broader opportunities for the student”, added Wendte.  

The UOG CLASS Lecture Hall erupted with applause from families in attendance as students signed agreements officially entering themselves into the program. 

Wendte said that it is a binding agreement for students to fulfill the expectations and obligations outlined by the grant. This includes maintaining communication with peers and mentors, diligently performing research in labs, participating in fieldwork, and adhering to proper protocols and procedures. 

Among the mentors and students were alumni of the program, sharing advice and experiences with excited newcomers. 

Wendte recognized Brandon Respicio, a program alumnus at the orientation, recalling his journey through the program. Respicio participated in the Summer Math Research Experience (SMRE) and SRE in 2022 and 2023 respectively. 

Respicio’s list of accomplishments includes scholarship awards to attend the 2022 and 2023 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM (NDiSTEM) conference. He also received recognition for his student poster presentation at the 2023 SACNAS NDiSTEM conference.  

Respicio is currently in his final semester at UOG as a secondary education student majoring in mathematics. He is a first-generation college student.   

Wendte says, “At completion of the program, he really wanted to share what he had accomplished that year with his family. His parents were beaming! They looked just as excited and proud as he did.” 

For Wendte, witnessing the growth of each student as they progressed through the program helps her to understand the significance of the work she continues to do. 

“At the end of the program, when we get to see the fulfillment, pride and joy these students have in what they accomplished—it’s really heartwarming. It’s one of those reminders of why we do what we do,” Wendte said. 

 

Discovering 3D printing at Hagåtña’s G3 Makerspace

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Leading the charge in showcasing the possibilities of 3D printing to the public is the Guam Green Growth (G3) Circular Economy Makerspace & Innovation Hub, located in Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. 

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, operates similarly to a conventional printer. Instead of using ink on paper, it builds an object by layering filament—material used in 3D printing—to recreate a 3D scanned object.  

Filament can range from materials such as plastics, clay, or even concrete, though the scope of substances used in printing will broaden as the industry continues to develop. 

Tim Udo, G3 Makerspace coordinator, who helps teach the introductory classes for 3D printing, explains how this new industry can contribute to a circular economy and a cleaner environment in many ways.  

Along with the creation of a machine that turns non-recyclable plastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into filament for 3D printers, the machines at G3 Makerspace can also print objects from polyether ether ketone (PEEK), which, after printing and annealing (heat treatment), has the same strength as steel.  

Additionally, G3 Makerspace has another 3D printer specifically for using clay as a filament, which Udo says can be used for building structures or tiles that can further regrow coral. 

At the G3 Makerspace 3D Printing Basics Workshop, classes are capped at three participants per class, allowing instructors ample one-on-one time with students.  

Although classes generally take place on Wednesday nights during the Chamorro Village night market festivities, Udo welcomes anyone wanting to take classes during the day to speak with him at the G3 Makerspace, and he will work with their schedule. 

Additionally, participants can look forward to Udo and other instructors teaching students about G-code, which is a widely used Computer Numerical Control (CNC) and 3D printing language used to communicate ideas to the 3D printing software.  

At the end of the class, students will get to print their keychains, whistles, or 3D-printed characters as keepsakes to take home. 

With the seemingly endless potential of the 3D printing industry, Udo, a mechanical engineer by trade, imparts some advice for any aspiring engineers regarding the limitations of additive manufacturing. 

“If you want to do any kind of engineering, carpentry, or any kind of fabricating work, what you need to have is creativity. As long as you have creativity and interest to learn, you can make anything. [The Makerspace] can help you along the way with technical knowledge and the software, but as long as your mind can think of it, you can create it.” 

As classes and activities expand at the G3 Makerspace & Innovation Hub, Tim Udo encourages the public to pay a visit to the shop at Chamorro Village. 

“I think it is valuable for people to know that we are open to the public. People can get memberships here either on a monthly or yearly basis and then they can come here and utilize all the machinery we have. You can come and take a class for the laser [engraver], learn how it works, and then start cranking out your own products. The same goes for the CNC and the 3D printer. Come here, and we will teach you how to make all of it.” 

Classes take place on Wednesdays during the Chamorro Village Night Market festivities. Participants who are 18 years old and older are welcome to sign up either in person or on the G3 Makerspace’s Instagram page. 

Anthony defends his Master of Science in Biology

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Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistant Colin Anthony defended his thesis in front of his mentors, classmates and teachers at the University of Guam Marine Lab in Mangilao.

His thesis was titled, “Acclimation of Endosymbiotic Symbiodiniaceae: Improved Insights through Flow Cytometric Phenotypic Profiling.”
 
His chairperson was Dr. Bastian Bentlage. Colin’s committee consisted of Dr. Brett Taylor from the University of Guam and Dr. Cheryl Ames from Tohoku University.

UOG graduate student studying Guam’s native freshwater eels

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From UOG.edu

Karina Mejia, a graduate biology student at the University of Guam within the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program, and her research mentor, UOG Associate Professor of Biology Daniel Lindstrom, are looking to answer some unknowns about Guam’s most common river eel — the giant mottled eel, or marbled eel (Anguilla marmorata) — and they will be using some innovative techniques and technologies in the process.

Anguilla eels are found widely through the tropics, and their popularity in Japanese, Chinese, South Korean, and Taiwanese cuisine has contributed to four of its 16 species becoming endangered. While the species in Guam is not endangered, it could be sustainably managed as a food source, but surprisingly little is known about it.

The knowns and unknowns

 

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Guam’s most common river eel — the giant mottled eel, or marbled eel (Anguilla marmorata).
River eels spend some of their lifecycles in both salt and fresh water. In particular, A. marmorata and related species spawn in the ocean, where the eggs and larvae drift until they become small glass eels and enter freshwater rivers.

 

For the A. marmorata, the spawning grounds are not well-defined, and it’s not clear what time of year they journey upstream — both critical pieces of information in order to sustainably fish them in the wild or to raise them in aquaculture facilities.

A deep dive into DNA

Former UOG graduate student Sean Moran discovered that the marbled eels in Guam’s rivers have significant genetic differences. Mejia’s main focus, she said, is to build upon his findings by showing that there are genetic differences because they’re coming from different spawning grounds.

She will do this by performing a high-resolution DNA analysis using a new PCR-based genetic sequencing technology called MIG-seq developed at Tohoku University in Japan. This will allow her to group Guam’s eels with other genetically documented eels in the Indo-Pacific.

Rings that tell a life story

The second analysis Mejia and Lindstrom are hoping to do is a technique known as otolith microchemistry. It is commonly used on species around the world to trace their migration patterns, but it has not yet been conducted on the A. marmorata species in Guam or elsewhere.

The process assesses chemical concentrations within an ear bone, or otolith, of a fish. Much like a tree, otoliths add rings over time, capturing the chemical elements of their environment. The elements found can be compared to the chemical signature of different parts of the ocean, providing a daily timeline of the fish’s migration.

“So we’ll be able to say, ‘OK, this eel floated around in the ocean this many days,’ and if we’re lucky, we can say, ‘This is where it was on Day 27 — this is really close to where it was spawned,’” Lindstrom said. “We’re hoping it’s possible.”

Information for conservation

 

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A glass eel, or an eel in its juvenile stage. Photo by Canopic, sourced from Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
With research lacking on the tropical Anguilla species, Mejia is hopeful that her work will not only contribute to the regional conservation efforts, but will also inform local conservation decisions so Guam’s population doesn’t become endangered.

 

“If we’re able to say, ‘You’re only allowed to catch this amount,’ we can keep the population going and keep them from becoming endangered and then extinct,” she said.

Lindstrom said their findings will also be applicable to aquaculture. No one has been able to spawn and rear these or related eels completely in captivity, he said, so eel farms rely on the collection and captive growing of juvenile eels, or glass eels, as they swim into rivers. By knowing the locations and timing of spawning, those places could be better protected, and wild-caught fisheries could be more sustainably managed.

On the lookout for glass eels

Mejia will be looking for glass eels at Guam’s river openings and encourages the public to let her know (mejiak@gotritons.uog.edu) when and where they may have seen them.

She hopes to have enough data by next fall to draw conclusions and complete her thesis paper by Spring 2024.

Laurie Raymundo signs on as director of the University of Guam Marine Laboratory  

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History has been made with the creation of a permanent director’s position at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory. During its 52 years of existence, the facility has followed the tradition of having a three-year rotating directorship that the faculty took turns occupying. 

On August 2, 2022, UOG Professor of Marine Biology Laurie Raymundo signed her contract to fill the marine laboratory’s first permanent directorship position.  

“This is a huge change for the better. As we have grown, it has gotten harder and harder for everyone to deal with a position of leadership that is only for three years,” said Raymundo. “The continuity that the permanent position provides will enable long-term planning and implementation.” 

Raymundo’s qualifications for the job are stellar. As a coral scientist, she, her students, and colleagues have been in the forefront of coral restoration in Guam and the region. She has also held the director’s position from 2010 to 2013 and again in 2019 through August 2, 2022. 

She is happy to be able to continue her research and work with students on the university’s National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant as well as other grants she has for the next few years. Mentoring students is something she relishes, so she is not ready to relinquish that responsibility. 

When asked about her vision going forward, she gave a soft chuckle at the novelty of the question. In the past, the directorship involved putting out fires. With the new sense of stability of a permanent directorship, she wants to continue the partnerships that have been formed and wants to get faculty input as to needs going forward. Organizing a yearly faculty retreat to discuss what has been accomplished and how to propel future endeavors is on her list of priorities. 

“We work in 50-year-old buildings that have some issues, so I will be writing some grants to shore up infrastructure to meet the needs of all the new faculty we now have. There is a lot of talk about a Ph.D. program, and we have the talent, but that will need the support of the University.” 

Director Raymundo will bring some new and exciting changes to the middle-aged UOG Marine Laboratory while continuing its reputation for excellent scientific exploration and innovation. 

UOG Marine Lab conducts first coral genetics research on the Mariana Islands of Maug, Pagan, and Sarigan 

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A first-time study on the genetics of corals from the Northern Mariana Islands of Sarigan, Pagan, and Maug is underway at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory with funding from the UOG Sea Grant program and support from the National Science Foundation-funded Guam ESPCoR grant. 

A four-person research team spent 10 days on these islands in May collecting eight different coral species known for their reef-building ability and ecological importance to other species. The team is now sequencing and analyzing the DNA of the corals to identify if and how coral populations throughout the Marianas archipelago are connected and, therefore, how resilient they may be to warming waters.  

“We are looking to understand the roles of these northernmost Mariana islands and their coral reefs. Can they act as reserves for the declining reefs around the southern Marianas, or do they, in contrast, depend on our reefs?” said David Combosch, associate professor of population genomics at UOG. “We will be spending months analyzing the data to understand the patterns of genetic diversity, connectivity, and adaptations across the islands.” 

Combosch is spearheading the study as lead researcher of the Island Evolution Lab at the UOG Marine Lab. Working with him are UOG alumnus James Fifer and his doctoral program adviser from Boston University, Assistant Professor Sarah W. Davies, as well as Assistant Professor Sarah Lemer, postdoctoral researcher Héctor Torrado, and graduate biology student Joe Proietti, all with the UOG Marine Lab. 

What we don’t know 

By analyzing the DNA sequences of these corals, the team can not only document the genetic diversity of corals on these islands for the first time, but can learn about gene flow — or the transfer of genetic material from one population or island to another. 

“What we don’t really know is how much and in what direction corals across islands are connected via larvae exchange and interbreeding — or if each island has their own, distinct coral stock,” Combosch said.  

If coral populations share DNA across the Marianas, there is greater likelihood that reefs will get what they need to adapt to future ocean conditions.  

“Since Guam corals live in generally warmer water than corals on the northernmost Mariana Islands, they might be better adapted to deal with the warmer waters expected as a consequence of global climate change,” Combosch said. “But it may well be the other way around. Occasional pockets of hot water in the northern CNMI could have pre-conditioned those corals for hotter days. This is one of the things we’re looking into.” 

Additionally, the northern corals may be better equipped for more acidic waters, Combosch said, since they have lived for centuries near a volcanic vent inside the Maug caldera, which releases carbon dioxide and has created a more acidic environment. 

The team is also conducting heat-stress experiments on two types of corals from Maug, Sarigan, and Pagan — Acropora surculose and Pocillopora meandrina — to see how the same corals from different islands respond.  

Getting local students involved 

During an internship last week at the UOG Island Evolution Lab, Northern Marianas College students Subin Cho and Richelle Ramon worked with UOG graduate student Mikay Reuter to reproduce the heat-stress experiments for this study and witness the effect of warming waters on Marianas corals.  

They also learned about the relationships that corals have with other species in the ecosystem and the other stressors corals face, including pollution and overfishing, that can limit their ability to recover from bleaching events and adapt. 

“It was an eye-opener to see how different species and organisms create relationships with each other in order to thrive and survive,” said Cho, a sophomore working toward an associate degree in natural resource management. “We pollute, neglect, and overlook our coral reefs and believe that many years after, it will still be there. However, after this internship, I learned that these things we are so used to will soon disappear if changes are not made.”  

New G3 Conservation Corps members in motion 

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A second cycle of sustainability leaders kicked off their first week under one of the Guam Green Growth (G3) Initiative’s most highly mobilized programs on March 14 at the University of Guam.  

Out of over 100 applicants, 12 members were selected to participate in the G3 Conservation Corps, entering a five-month workforce development program preparing our community for the emerging green economy. This week started with an orientation offering key program guidelines, remarks from G3 leadership, team building exercises, tips from a panel of inaugural cohort members, and the recitation of the new Conservation Corps pledge.  

The G3 Conservation Corps completed their first island beautification project – gardening at UOG’s colorful cliffside planter boxes highlighting the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The following new members will partake in various conservation activities to support the resilience of our island community and natural resources: Jenelle Aguilar, Rejean Benavente, Johnny Borja, Jacob Concepcion, Remilou Hannigan, Dulce Imbo, Wade Kitalong, Andrea Murer, Ryan Perez, Christopher Quichocho, Hila’an San Nicolas, and Tre Starr.  

“The Corps will bring together hundreds of different members from our community… to do amazing things to move our island forward toward a sustainable future,” Austin Shelton, UOG Center for Island Sustainability (CIS) director and G3 Steering Committee co-chairperson, said to the members. “At the same time, the Corps will receive valuable workforce training to join the green workforce when they complete the program.”  

“Growing up on this island, we really get a lot of love for our culture and our environment. Seeing some of it deteriorate in our young lives, I feel like it’s really good to be able to set the foundation for the future, to teach better ways, so our island stays beautiful, and we can share it with everyone,” Borja said.  

Imbo, who is also a UOG graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, plans to incorporate the knowledge she’ll gain from the program into her guidance for future clients.  

“We see that the SDGs are intersectional, I want to be there to pay it forward in terms of mental health and how that relates to our environment, as well as how that relates to our sustainable development and our sustainable community here in Guam,” she said.  

“One of the things the lieutenant governor and I always talked about is how we can sustain our island, how we can provide the resources for our island, so that there’s food sustainability, so that our environment is protected, so that our culture is protected, so that our practices continue. I want you to learn as much as you can and send that knowledge out and apply that knowledge out to the community. This pandemic has shown us how necessary it is for us to sustain ourselves within our resources, and we have a lot of resources. Our island is very fragile. I love our island. I’m sure you all do. We live here. No one else is going to do it, but ourselves, and I really appreciate your commitment and your efforts,” Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero, G3 Steering Committee chairperson, said. 

“Thank you for choosing to be change agents. The whole spirit of Guam Green Growth, especially the Conservation Corps, is to try and enable people to do what they can individually, collectively as a cohort, then collaboratively with the CIS, with the government of Guam, and with the people of Guam,” Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio, G3 Steering Committee co-chairperson, said. “When I was going to college, people would tell us we don’t have any resources, that we can’t survive on our own, and the governor was always one of those that (said) ‘No, that’s not true.’ We have been here for thousands of years. We just have to calibrate what’s out here and make sure we share the knowledge.” 

In their first few weeks, the members are scheduled to assist with the expansion of the community garden in Hagåtña, familiarize with Guam’s waste management and zero waste operations, and partake in regular village revitalization projects. 

Guam NSF EPSCoR is the catalyst for Guam Green Growth and the Conservation Corps.

About G3 
Aligned with the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the Guam Green Growth Initiative, or G3, cultivates an ecosystem for transformative action to achieve a sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future for Guam. The University of Guam facilitates the island-wide initiative in cooperation with the Office of the Governor of Guam and the 100 members of the G3 Working Groups, representing all sectors of society. 

Near Peer mentorship guides student researchers’ self-actualization, contributions to STEM growth 

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The latest cohort of student researchers expanding the University of Guam’s STEM footprint convened for their first Near Peer mentorship seminar, Feb. 18, at the UOG School of Education.   

Near Peer is a program tailored to champion the research efforts of students under the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) Supporting Emerging Aquatic Scientists (SEAS) Island Alliance Guam Hub and Guam Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grants.   

From data collection and personal development to preparing for the annual Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science National Diversity in STEM Conference, students can consult a diverse team of fellow researchers and college students for guidance in different aspects of their research through knowledge exchange and shared experiences. 

A primary focus of the seminars is to cultivate an awareness of how the students’ research experiences impact the evolution of their self-identity, as well as the shaping of their education and career path in STEM, according to Cheryl Sangueza, NSF INCLUDES SEAS Island Alliance co-principal investigator and steering committee member, who also serves as the student experience and Near Peer seminar lead.  

“This unique depth of reflection brings a keen sense of self. This sense of self helps learners illuminate the impacts of their experience beyond ‘science research’. Another way our Near Peer seminars benefit is that they model a culturally relevant way of mentoring. Asking students about their evolution, grounded in their experiences, lets them know their story is important!” Sangueza stated. 

Program participants can look forward to discussing the diversity of career paths within their individual interests, including drone use and science communications, in upcoming seminars. As the conference season approaches, they will learn to shift from delivering traditional science fair presentations to credible storytelling in the science arena while leading with the value of science in Guam and its cultural significance. 

Sangueza hopes the students will gain the understanding that the island and region have immense value and global contributions in science and culture through their voices; develop a love of learning about self; have a stronger connection to Guam’s environment; and strengthen their passion, resilience, humble confidence, and the desire to join the cadre of local experts in STEM. 

“It was nice seeing how everyone has their different projects and focus they’re working on. It gives us an opportunity to reach out to other people, and, maybe, inspire other people or future cohorts to see what we’re doing and pursue these research programs,” said Raianne Quichocho, NSF INCLUDES SEAS Island Alliance Guam Hub undergraduate fellow. 

 “Overall, this is going to help me as a student and, also, pursue a career in marine science. I’m really excited for that,” Quichocho concluded. 

UOG has received NSF funding to broaden the participation of underrepresented students in STEM fields through the INCLUDES and EPSCoR programs.  

Near Peer seminars will be held on a monthly basis. 

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