COURI Summer Symposium Showcases UTEP Undergraduate Research
Last Updated on August 12, 2022 at 12:00 AM
Originally published August 12, 2022
By MC Staff
UTEP Marketing and Communications
Michelle Pineda arrived at The University of Texas at El Paso with hopes of addressing health concerns in her community through research and eventually attending medical school. The junior biological sciences major is well on her way toward those goals as a member of the campus’ Undergraduate Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (U-RISE) and the Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP).
Along with her success in the classroom, Pineda has also shown a penchant for research during her time on campus. As a new student, she participated in course-based undergraduate research experiences as part of the Freshman Year Research Intensive Sequence (FYRIS). And during the weekend, her research on the behavior of a protein in restricting HIV was showcased during UTEP’s Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI) Summer Symposium.
The event, which took place Aug. 6, 2022, at the Undergraduate Learning Center, gave undergraduate researchers, scholars and artists the chance to present their work in four categories: arts, humanities and social sciences; life and biomedical sciences; physical sciences; and engineering, computational and applied sciences.
“UTEP has given me the opportunity to push myself in striving for advancement through my competitive nature,” Pineda said. “But I’ve also received support from colleges, mentors, professors and advisers. I share any success or achievement with them.”
Pineda’s presentation featured her findings on the anti-viral properties of a protein known as Schlafen 14. Her research showed how the compound behaves when introduced to various iterations of HIV. Pineda said she was enthused over the opportunity to explain her work to faculty members and fellow students during the event. But, she didn’t expect to present her findings to UTEP President Heather Wilson, who attended the symposium and interacted with various students.
“Sharing my work with President Wilson was amazing!” Pineda said. “I never would have thought that I would have the chance to explain the hard work and dedication that it takes to produce research findings to such an outstanding figure. I was honored to share a moment with her.”
That elation is just one of the benefits that students participating in COURI’s events — such as symposia and workshops — can experience, said Lourdes Echegoyen, Ph.D., director of COURI.
“Presenting their research at a conference featuring audiences from multiple fields, like the COURI Symposium, has several positive effects on undergraduate students, including the realization that they know more about a topic than most people and that they have developed a special ability to think on their feet when asked questions about the topic,” Echegoyen said. “It is a win-win opportunity to boost their academic self-confidence!”
Eight individuals in four categories were recognized during the summer symposium. They included:
- Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences: Austin Vernon, best presentation; Paulina Vargas, honorable mention.
- Life and Biomedical Sciences: Jacqueline Lopez, best presentation; Maya Solis, honorable mention.
- Engineering, Computational and Applied Sciences: Ana Paola Aranzola, best presentation; Laura Molina, honorable mention.
- Physical Sciences: Michel Rojo, best presentation; Hashel Orquiz, honorable mention.
Since 2011, COURI has hosted two symposia a year, in the spring and summer, to provide undergraduate researchers a unique opportunity to present and discuss their research and scholarly work with faculty, experts, peers and the community. Students gain valuable research experience under the guidance of faculty mentors, who help to facilitate and enhance their research training.