UTRGV students judged on research projects, service learning efforts, at Engaged Scholar Symposium, Brownsville Campus

UTRGV students on the Brownsville Campus on Thursday attended the Engaged Student 2016 event at the PlainsCapital Bank El Gran Salón. A poster contest showcasing students’ academic work was set up for judging, and for viewing by visitors to the event. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Photo gallery: Engaged Scholars Symposium – Brownsville Campus

By Cheryl Taylor

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – APRIL 21, 2016 – The annual Engaged Scholar Symposium, held Thursday, April 21, on the UTRGV Brownsville Campus, and Friday, April 22, on the Edinburg Campus, highlighted the research work of students during an intense two-day competition.

Hosted by the Office of Engaged Scholarship & Learning, the Brownsville events took place at the Student Union, where student research posters were on display in the PlainsCapital Bank El Gran Salón. About 27 projects were entered in the competition, along with 11 oral presentations given in La Sala throughout the day and creative works performed outdoors on the lawn during the lunch hour.

Research subjects covered the gamut from Estuardo de los Reyes and Jesus Salinas’ “Optimum Creep Feed Grinding Parameters for Ti-6Al-4V Using Flood, MQL, and MQL Nanofluid Methods” to Karla Adame’s “Alcohol Effects on Honey Bee Survival.”

Service learning project posters presented for evaluation included Teresa Shumaker Wyatt’s “The Autonomic Nervous System” and Guadalupe Navarro’s “Neurons and Glia,” two of four projects that were on display at the International Museum of Arts and Sciences in McAllen for the museum’s special Saturday “brain day” March 12.

Seniors Michael Barrera and William Flores, both from Brownsville, won in the Science and Engineering category with their poster on “Study on Minimum Quantity Lubrication and How Spray Patterns Affect Creep Feed Grinding of Aerospace Materials.”

Miriam de Leon won the Life Sciences category for “Neuroprotection of Medial Septal Cholinergic Neurons by Memantine After Intralateral Septal Injection of AB1-40.”

Abigail Nuñez Saenz won the Creative Works/Service Learning category for “Neuron 3D Models Service Learning Project,” one of the projects that engaged children and families at IMAS last month.

At the Engaged Scholar Symposium in Brownsville, students stood proudly alongside their posters, explaining their research and answering questions.

Paola Juvenal, Jesus Elizondo and Edwin Hernandez teamed up on “Development of Electrodes for EDM Applications,” a project in collaboration with Carling Technologies in Brownsville.

The student team is trying to improve the mold- and die-making process with high-performance material and innovative processes, such as selective laser sintering.

“The collaboration on this project is highly beneficial to the students and industry,” said Dr. Immanuel Edinbarough, UTRGV professor of engineering technology. “The students get to study the real-life manufacturing problem and the industry benefits from the findings, having high impact on the productivity and quality improvement of electric switches.”

Edinbarough said university/manufacturing collaboration is a “win-win” situation, in which students get practical knowledge and skills to solve real-life problems, and the industry gets the benefit of improving the manufacturing process. Further, the industry learns who the budding engineers are, when it comes time to hire new engineers.

Chemistry students Alex Treviño, Michael Carrillo and Agapito Serrato III conducted a research project titled “Conformational Analysis of 3,3,3-trifluoro-2-(Trifluoromethyl) Propanoic Acid Monohydrate,” an ongoing research effort made possible by grants from the Welch Foundation.

“We are attempting to understand different ways that atoms may arrange themselves in a molecule, resulting in different molecular geometry and the energetic information about them,” Treviño said.

Under the direction of Dr. Wei Lin, associate professor of chemistry, the group was fortunate to have access to the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin, to run the computations on manmade molecules and their interaction with water.

“The analysis can be done within a few hours, or sometimes it takes a few days,” Serrato said.

The Brownsville symposium started with a keynote address by Dr. Fred Ernst, UTRGV professor of psychological science, about the research he and 12 of his students are conducting on anorexia nervosa. Ernst explained the team is coming close to dispelling some of the scientific community’s long-held beliefs regarding the eating disorder.

In mid-afternoon, after the judging was completed, Dr. Theresa Maldonado, UTRGV senior vice president for research, spoke briefly to students about the importance of undergraduate research.

Nick Weimer, assistant dean of administration, engaged the audience with a virtual ribbon-cutting, via Power Point, of Engagement Zone, a new online mechanism whereby students and non-profit organizations can be matched for like-minded volunteer opportunities.

Veronica Gonzales, vice president for Governmental and Community Relations, presented the inaugural Distinguished Community Engagement Partner Award to Dr. Luzelma Canales, executive director of RGV Focus, launched in 2012 to transform college readiness, access and success across the Valley.

“As executive director, Dr. Canales leads this initiative and collaborates with school districts, institutions of higher education, philanthropy, community-based organizations, workforce boards, nonprofits, and legislators to help drive the vision … that all students will achieve a degree or credential that leads to a meaningful career,” Gonzalez said.

Dr. Robert Dearth, director of Engaged Scholarship & Learning and an associate professor, took the podium to announce the poster awards.

“The judging was not easy. Everyone did an outstanding job,” he said. “I congratulate all the students for their efforts, and encourage them to keep up the good work.”

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