High School students who interned with ERCs report path of accomplishments

April 11, 2016 - Sharon Steely

Stefi Weisburd, Outreach and Education Manager, SOE, CHTM, UNM

Stefi Weisburd

Stefi Weisburd, Outreach and Education Manager with CHTM and the UNM School of Engineering, followed up with several of the high school students who interned with the Smart LIghting (formerly called Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications [LESA]) program and other Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) at UNM.

Her survey gave the students a chance to describe the motivation and confidence imparted by their internship experience. Subsequently, this helped broaden their outlook, strengthening their boldness and vision in pursuing ambitious opportunities. Here, a few of the students describe the ways the internships helped prepare them for college and their future:

Katja Vassilev (2012) who interned in Dr. Payman Zarkesh-Ha’s laboratory, is now at Princeton University, intending to major in math, physics and/or computer science. After her summer internship, she led her Science Olympiad team to victory in regionals and state, and they represented New Mexico in the National Competition last year.

“[The internship] allowed me to work with a lot of scientific equipment that I never had access to before, and it taught me about circuits in a way that I would have never gotten at school. I also liked how independent I was, and I really got to think about things myself and figure them out on my own.” - Katja Vassilev

President Obama discusses Sophia's research at White House Science Fair

President Obama discusses research with Sophia Sanchez-Maes at the White House Science Fair

Sophia Sanchez-Maes (2013) worked with Dr. Majeed Hayat in 2014 creating programs to optimize the responsivity of avalanche photodiodes. Sophia's research on biofuels with the ReNUWit ERC at NMSU (the year after her internship at CHTM) led to an invitation to appear as a ReNUWit Young Scholar and present her research at the White House Science Fair in 2015President Barack Obama mentioned her in his remarks at the event. (Read about Sophia's experience at the White House here.) As a high school senior, Sophia won a National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Award for Aspirations in Computing, which recognizes young women for their outstanding aptitude and interest in computing. After graduating high school, she worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) writing code for the Mars Rover before entering Yale University, where she is studying astrophysics and computer science. This summer, she will return to JPL to research extrasolar planets. 

“My research time in the Smart Lighting lab has very much helped me in everything I've done. Last summer at JPL, I was able to jump into a high level radiative transfer project because of my background in optics that I gained at CHTM. I've also been able to use that knowledge in the instrumentation lab here at Yale! Prior to my work in smart lighting, I'd never taken any physics, and now that's my passion.

“Looking back on the internship, it's the best thing I could've done for myself. I fell in love with a lab culture that's exciting and challenging, which pushed me, a girl who wanted a career in pure mathematics, towards a career in more applied research. I learned that in physics I could do it all — math and code, but with a cause! Solving problems that matter, and questions that make you wonder.” - Sophia Sanchez-Maes

Marco, NASCENT and QESST ERC - Maribel, LESA, LEDA

l: Marco, NASCENT & QESST ERC intern;
r: Maribel Cardiel, ERC intern

Maribel Cardiel from South Valley Academy was one of two students selected from New Mexico (and one of 100 students selected nationwide) to participate in the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) Scholar Program in 2015, which afforded her 7 weeks, all expenses paid, at the Summer Institute at Princeton University. The institute provided intensive instruction in writing and leadership, along with ACT and SAT test preparation. Participating students enjoyed 2 college visits to major universities, and counseling and guidance during the summer and throughout their senior year.  She plans to major in computer science at Stanford University.

“I do think my internship at UNM helped me get into LEDA. It was a chance for me to broaden my horizons and strengthen my interest in engineering. The leadership skills I learned at the internship opened up so many opportunities for me, such as becoming president of MESA and a role model to females who have a passion for science. After the internship at CHTM, my curiosity for science in general broadened. I'm currently thinking about majoring in computer science when I matriculate to college.” - Maribel Cardiel

Andoza and Arynnn at RPI

Andzoa Jamus and Arynn Gallegos
visited the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
as part of their internship.

Arynn Gallegos (2015) is graduating in Spring 2016. She has been accepted to the schools of engineering at MIT, Cornell, Northwestern, Duke, Vanderbilt, University of Southern California, Rice University, University of Texas at Austin, Purdue, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, University of Maryland at College Park, University of Washington, and University of New Mexico. Her favorite part of her Smart Lighting internship was performing hands-on research. With great confidence, she plans to pursue undergraduate research as a freshman in college.

“The experience inspired me to pursue Electrical Engineering and study optics and photonics in the future. The physics and engineering of light has become one of the things I'm really passionate about. This experience solidified my decision to pursue engineering and a graduate degree. Dr. Daniel Feezell, Mohsen, and Ashwin were exceptional mentors and supported me and challenged me intellectually.” - Arynn Gallegos

Andoza and graduate student mentor, Javad

Andzoa Jamus with her graduate student
mentor, Javad Ghasemi. They interned
with Dr. Zarkesh-Ha's group.
Andoza holds a color sensor that she made.

Andzoa Jamus (2015) hopes to study biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology next year, although she hasn’t made her final decision yet.

“My experience at the Smart lighting camp made me more interested in seeing all of the different ways that a knowledge of science and engineering can help in other fields. Going into biomedical engineering allows me to bring in knowledge from different fields to solve one problem. This experience made me more interested in neurology and the effects of the outside environment on the body.

“What I liked best about the research internship was being able to learn something completely new. I learned how to program a breadboard and Arduino. It was something that I haven't done before, and I got a better understanding of the connection between hardware and software, which was pretty cool.” - Andoza Jamus

Instructors in the RET

UNM RET teachers (2013)

As part of this internship effort for the high schoolers, Stefi runs the “Research Experience for Teachers” (RET) program for UNM, where teachers gain experience in the Smart Lighting, QESST and NASCENT programs, as well as other non-ERC UNM laboratories.

Rhett Burt (RET teacher 2013, 2014) reports on the benefits of participating in the Smart Lighting ERC (formerly called LESA) program:

“The experiences I received through participation in the UNM Smart Lighting Lab have helped to reshape and enhance my teaching in a variety of ways. First and foremost, the experiences I received allow me to connect the concepts being covered in my classes to current research being done on future advancements. Providing adolescents a glimpse into the future is a great attention grabber.

“My experiences through this program have opened up so many professional contacts, both with other lab researchers and fellow teachers, that I can turn to bounce ideas off of, or ask questions. That has made me a better resource for my students, and ultimately a much better 21st century teacher.” - Rhett Burt, teacher 2013, 2014