Biology students at The University of Texas-Pan American brought home some top awards from their recent competition at the 115th Annual Meeting of the Texas Academy of Science held at Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas, March 1-2.
More than 100 students from schools such as St. Edwards University, Texas State University and Texas A&M University at Galveston participated at the event.
"There were 50 student presenters and we are proud to have brought home these first and second place awards, as well as an honorable mention," said Dr. Brian Fredensborg, assistant professor of biology. "It has been a great experience working with these students who have put a lot of work into this research."
Rebecca Hernandez, and Mayra Rangel, both general biology majors mentored by Fredensborg, won first and second place, respectively, for their oral presentations, "Are highly specialized parasites limited to only one host?" and "Suitability of trematodes in snails as indicators of coastal bay health in South Texas" which were part of the undergraduate oral presentation competition in marine sciences.
"Although I have presented a couple of times in the past, I was nervous the entire time," Hernandez said. "This was a great experience for me since I plan to work with marine mammals, so gaining this experience and immersing myself in this type of scientific research is definitely helpful in what I want to accomplish, which is get into grad school."
Rangel encourages other students to participate in state competitions.
"Even if you don't win, you still get something out of the experience and grow as a student. Most students don't realize the research opportunities available to them here at UTPA," she said.
Amanda Cavazos, environmental science major, mentored by Dr. Frank Dirrigl, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Juan Gonzalez, assistant professor of physics and geology, received Honorable Mention for her oral presentation "Nutrient and metal transport and fate in water, pore-water, sediments and selected biota of the Laguna Madre, Texas."
"What most people don't realize is that the Laguna Madre is a very unique ecosystem and my research was about understanding how nutrients move from one place to another, especially in the sediments," Cavazos said.
Overall, the UTPA Biology Department was well presented at the meeting with 12 oral and seven poster presentations in Environmental Science, Freshwater Science, Marine Science, Systematic and Evolutionary Biology and Terrestrial Ecology sessions.
Dirrigl said this year's location in Alpine also provided time for the students to search for the mysterious Marfa lights and explore the natural history of Big Bend National Park.
"It's important for students to get involved and to network in these types of events, especially if they wish to continue in this field because they get to meet professors from other schools that might have different programs than ours," said Fredensborg. "The more collaboration, the more people you know and the more opportunities you get."
The Texas Academy of Science meeting allows students to network with their peers from around Texas, gain valuable experience and confidence presenting their work and participating in the competition.
For more information, contact Dirrigl at (956) 665-8732.