Texas Border Business
By Clarissa Martinez
The South Texas College Student Union was filled with scientific posters and displays showcasing research of students of all ages, during its recent inaugural Emerging Scientist Symposium, hosted by the Department of Psychological Science.
The symposium was created to provide a space for students to conduct research proposals in a supportive setting to showcase their scientific work. It also helped students develop marketable skills that are needed in the workforce and academic programs.
Liza Veliz, Psychological Science instructor and one of the event organizers said the idea came about since associate degree programs don’t traditionally offer a research methods course.
“Research is at the heart of psychology, so we wanted to introduce students to the research process and kind of integrate it with our current curriculum as much as we could,” Veliz said. “As much as I explained it, my students couldn’t fully picture the event in their minds. This is really giving them that exposure to see what a symposium is. We don’t want them to be intimidated by it. We want to build their confidence to pursue these professional accomplishments, like presenting at a conference.”
Veliz said participants included traditional STC students, Dual Credit students and a group of elementary students from St. Paul Lutheran School in McAllen.
“We really want the little ones to picture themselves in the future,” Veliz said “We want them to feel valued and validated in their own scientific quest at the elementary level, because science is science no matter the age. You can start as early as kindergarten.”
Nichole Perez, principal at St. Paul Lutheran School, said the school brought their Learning Fair projects that ranged from pre-kindergarten students showing a collection of seashells or flowers to eighth graders presenting a research project on topics like World War II.
“We’re a small school, and so it’s neat to be able to participate in bigger events outside of our own campus,” Perez said. “It’s encouraging for our students to see that the research they’re doing now in elementary school is something they’re going to build upon. They’re going to do this when they’re in college and beyond, so it’s great for them to see the progression.”
Yvonne Chapa, Psychological Science instructor at STC’s Mid-Valley campus, brought a group of Dual Credit students to participate in the symposium. She said the event allowed her students to gain experience that they can include when applying to scholarships or future research programs.
“It took them about a month and a half to work on this project and they met at least four hours every day after school to complete it,” Chapa said. “They did a literature review, read articles and designed it all themselves. They’re getting this experience at an associate degree level, which doesn’t happen very often.”
Julian Barca, an STC Dual Credit student from Mercedes Early College Academy, said his team decided to work on a proposal that examined the effect of energy drinks on young adults.
“We really got into our topic because it’s about our age group and we could relate a lot to it,” Barca said. “I do power lifting and everyone in the group are athletes, as well, so we are exposed to energy drinks and caffeine. The research we found was very informative.”
Barca said the symposium showed him what can be attainable through research and may have helped him find a new academic field to pursue in college.
“I was thinking of studying business, but this has given me another option,” Barca said. “I never really thought about psychology as a major, but this proposal kind of changed my mind.”
Keely Smith, a fifth-grade teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School said she wanted to make sure the elementary students’ projects were student-led and student-based.
“I don’t think there would be another time where my child, at this age, would be invited to an education facility like STC, not just as a visitor, but as a participant,” Smith said. “I think this is a really great way to promote higher education. I want higher education to look as attainable as it really is.”
For more information on STC’s Psychology Department, visit southtexascollege.edu.
Registration for summer and fall 2023 is underway. Classes begin June 5.