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K-State Today

September 29, 2020

McNair Scholars present summer research at 2020 MKN McNair Heartland Research Conference

Submitted by Maggie Borders

An image of the conference logo. It is an artistic rendition of an atom, with the conference's name in the middle.

The McNair Scholars from K-State presented their summer research projects Sept. 26 at the virtual MKN McNair Heartland Research Conference.

Kathleen Greene, director of Educational Supportive Services and the McNair Scholars Program, and the McNair staff owe special acknowledgment to the mentors who supported the development of these projects during a difficult year. Mentors were compassionate, adaptive, flexible and encouraging as projects were reshaped for the online environment and as students and the faculty themselves experienced numerous obstacles due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find mentor names below alongside their scholars.

Scholars planned their projects this past spring under the guidance of selected faculty mentors. The summer research internship began on June 2 and involved intensive work with mentors and weekly meetings with McNair staff to monitor their progress. The scholars also spent three hours a week in a seminar preparing them for graduate-level writing and taking the Graduate Records Examination, a standardized test required for admittance to most graduate programs. Scholars received stipends to support their participation in the summer internship.

The following McNair Scholars presented on Sept. 26:

  • Alicia Alonso, animal sciences and industry, mentored by Thomas Schermerhorn, professor of clinical sciences, and Sara Gardhouse, assistant professor of clinical sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine. 
  • Shelby Bolin, microbiology, mentored by Ho-Leung Ng, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. 
  • DeShon Brooks, sociology, mentored by Mary Kohn, associate professor of English. 
  • Annabelle Burtnett, anthropology, mentored by Marta Alfonso-Durruty, associate professor of anthropology. 
  • Louie Cabrera, microbiology, mentored by Ho-Leung Ng, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. 
  • Kristin Chaney, social work, mentored by Jung Sim Jun, assistant professor of social work. 
  • Rebecca Hernandez, agricultural economics, mentored by Ben Schwab, associate professor of agricultural economics. 
  • Thomas "Tommy" Herrera, fishery, wildlife, and conservation biology, mentored by Andrew Hope, research assistant professor of biology. 
  • Jasmine Hunt, mathematics and computer science, mentored by Pietro Poggi-Corradini, professor of mathematics. 
  • Jared Medina, mechanical engineering, mentored by Byron Jones, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering.
  • Diana Najera, biochemistry, mentored by Maureen Gorman, research associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. 
  • Jared Newell, biology, mentored by Thomas Mueller, research assistant professor of biology. 
  • Jacob Rico-Martinez, electrical engineering, mentored by Dave Thompson, professor of electrical and computer engineering. 

Scholar Eric Valenzuela, animal sciences and industry, presented the literature review he completed following his summer internship at Elanco. Valenzuela completed his McNair summer research internship in 2019 and presented at the 2019 MKN McNair Heartland Research Conference.

A total of 14 students conducted research this summer, including one who was unable to attend the conference:

  • Daniel Hemphill, horticulture, mentored by Ruth Welti, university distinguished professor of biology. 

Cheryl Rauh, McNair Scholars program manager, and Maggie Borders, McNair Scholars academic specialist, are part of the MKN McNair Heartland Research Conference Committee and regularly assist with the facilitation of the conference.

The McNair staff also recognizes the contributions from the following K-State librarians who assisted the scholars with research:

  • Dan Ireton, associate professor. 
  • Cindy Logan, associate professor.
  • Livia Olsen, associate professor. 
  • Carol Sevin, assistant professor.
  • Kendra Spahr, assistant professor. 
  • Ellen Urton, associate professor.

The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is administrated by the U.S. Department of Education and authorized by Congress to prepare academically talented undergraduates for success in graduate studies. To be eligible, students must be income-limited and in the first-generation to complete a bachelor's degree, and/or from a group underrepresented in graduate study. The goal of the program is to increase the diversity of those holding graduate degrees and serving in the ranks of faculty and researchers. Faculty and staff who know of potential candidates should contact the McNair office. For more information, see the program website at k-state.edu/mcnair.