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Doane Magazine Web Exclusive: In the lab with LSAMP

Doane Magazine Web Exclusive: In the lab with LSAMP

Jasmin Sandoval stands with her research poster at the LSMCE Conference.

Before she left Marysville, Washington, for Doane two years ago, Jasmin Sandoval ’18 got a very important piece of mail.

Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Sharmin Sikich had penned a letter asking Jasmin to join fellow incoming students interested in the STEM field for a bridge program before first-year orientation.

The invite was cool—but so was the prospect of beating the rush to move in.

“I thought ‘Why not?’” Jasmin says. “I just wanted to check it out and see what it was about—and also so I could move in early.”

Turns out, that letter—and the bridge program, part of Doane’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation—set her on a new path. It didn’t take long for Jasmin to fall in love with research and change her career goals.

“I wasn’t planning on being a science major,” said Jasmin, who started summer research after she finished her first year at Doane. “I was more looking at being a physical therapist and came here with that mindset, but after I did research, I really enjoyed it. I dropped the whole physical therapy dream and started looking at research as a career choice.”

This is what Dr. Sikich wants to see more of the in the future. Aside from teaching chemistry, she is also the director of Doane’s campus chapter in LSAMP, a National Science Foundation initiative to get more underrepresented minority students involved and excited about STEM careers.

“One of the goals of LSAMP is to make students feel comfortable and to promote them,” Dr. Sikich says, “and make them feel wanted and included in STEM.”

That’s what she is accomplishing through the program. When Dr. Sikich took over the program in 2013, just two students were involved. This year, a group of 15-20 students committed to monthly meetings, workshops and traveling to conferences while new students were funneled in from the bridge program.

Students like Jordan Zonner ’18 have used the program to find Research Experiences for Undergraduates. Last summer, the sophomore from Houston was accepted into an REU in Iowa State University’s Human Computer Interaction program, and spent her summer in Ames, Iowa, gaining professional development, working on real-world research and earning a stipend.

“Dr. Sikich, I commend her for everything that (she) does. She has really been the one that’s been telling me about all these opportunities,” says Jordan, a biology major. “I found the LSAMP program through her and I really fell in love with that program. They helped me with (my) internship, too.”

Jordan and Jasmin have taken their research experience and presented it at conferences around the country. In 2015, both sophomores were research presenters at the Louis Stokes Midwest Center of Excellence Conference in Indianapolis (Oct. 23-25). A week later, Jordan won an Outstanding Graduate Research Presentation award in the computer science division for her REU research poster at the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science’s national conference in Washington, D.C (Oct. 29-31).

Dr. Sikich, Jasmin, Jordan and several group members traveled to another conference Feb. 5-6, this time for Doane’s own regional alliance with 15 other private and community colleges under the LSAMP umbrella. They traveled to the Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska STEM Partnership for Innovation and Research Education Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Jordan spoke on a student panel about her REU at Iowa State and won another award for her poster presentation.

Jordan Zonner presents her research at the LSAMP IINSPIRE Conference this February in Des Moines.

Jordan Zonner '18 presents her research at the LSAMP IINSPIRE Conference this February in Des Moines, Iowa.
Photo by Andrew Mattson

 

Jordan credits her liberal arts education for helping her stand out among her peers.

“The students I’ve met at conferences, they don’t go to liberal arts institutions, and I have the opportunity to take democracy and diversity classes, art appreciation,” she says. “I’m sure a lot of people do too, but you get different professors that go to liberal arts institutions too because they are dedicated to arts. You get to know about the art of a bacteriophage. You get to know about the art of the body.”

Jasmin noted that most of the undergraduates she meets at conferences have to wait until their junior year to begin science research. Meanwhile, she and many of her fellow LSAMP members began right away after their first year.

“I’ve definitely benefited from starting sooner because that’s experience that I have that they didn’t,” says Jasmin, a biology-psychology double major. “It’s more time to stay on certain experiments. Being able to continue your work is nice to do.”

She’s working on science research about 6-10 hours a week and is among the selected students working on Doane’s interdisciplinary biofilms project with biology, chemistry, computer science and engineering/physics faculty. This summer, she’s with a small group of undergraduates and Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Andrea Holmes continuing the research project at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

This is the kind of progress Dr. Sikich is proud of with LSAMP.

“I have gained so much from this, both through the professional connections and the students,” Dr. Sikich says. “I just love them. They’re taking advantage of the opportunities. It’s fantastic, the growth that we’re seeing and the excitement in research.”

Because of LSAMP, students like Jordan and Jasmin feel more included in the science community, and they’re ready to make STEM a place with greater minority representation.

As Jasmin would say, why not?

“It has to start somewhere, and just expanding on it and seeing it grow is really great,” Jasmin says. “Every conference, I’m not the minority, so it’s really nice.”

Jasmin Sandoval '18 stands with her research poster at the Louis Stokes Midwest Center of Excellence Conference in October 2015 in Indianapolis.

Courtesy Photo