(STEM)2 Holds 7th Annual Fall Research Symposium

Science, Engineering, and Math Dean Richard Fee opened the Cypress College (STEM)2 program’s seventh annual Fall Research Symposium on Friday, November 16, at the Old Ranch Country Club in Seal Beach. Through personal stories, he emphasized how important it is to do something that makes you happy.

“If you start on a path, you don’t have to stay on that path if you don’t like the scenery. You are not stuck.”

Fee noted that one of his fears throughout his educational and career process was rejection.

“It wasn’t until I learned to hear ‘No’ and not take it personal… ‘No’ always hurts, but you keep going.”

The STEM scholars had to put aside their fear of hearing the word ‘No’ to apply for summer research projects, which were showcased at the event.

Student Summer Research Showcases

Forty-five students in the (STEM)2 program conducted undergraduate research over the summer. Seven of them — Surbhi Arora, Brendon Barrios, Evan Camarillo, Diana Costescu, Milagros Crisp, Selina Jaimes Davila, and Tareq Labeeb — served as panelists at the event, sharing what they experienced and encouraging other members of the program to apply for similar opportunities.

Brendon Barrios, Electrical Engineering, Summer Research at California State University Fullerton

Brendon’s first attempt at applying to a summer research program resulted in rejection.

“The first time that I applied for summer research, I didn’t get accepted, and I even waited a year to apply to Cal State Fullerton URE, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t make it the first time because that’s normal and a lot of the times they want to see you with more of a track record.”

Even though he heard the word ‘No,’ it didn’t stop him from seeking out opportunities. This past summer he was able to secure one such opportunity.

“I learned a lot. I did summer research that was very applicable to a lot of different technical and electrical — even medical — fields, which is really awesome. My project manager pushed me to apply to IEEE over at Cal Poly Pomona.”

Milagros Crisp, Mathematics, Summer Research at UCI

Research projects lead to a great additions to resumes and to fantastic experiences.

“One of the best highlights of our research was that I got to see embryos develop outside of the womb,” Crisp said of her research project.

Evan Camarillo, Biology, STARS Program at UC San Diego

Evan agreed with Dean Fee when it came to fear of rejection.

“I feel like this summer’s research experience has opened up a lot of opportunities for myself. I think one of the biggest barriers of applying to these types of programs is just having the confidence in yourself, knowing that you have the ability to do that. All the skills that I think I developed qualify me for going to another university on the east coast — pretty much anywhere in the U.S. I feel like I’m able to apply and go through another program somewhere else, somewhere far away from home, somewhere where things might be a little tougher so I can challenge myself a little bit more and ultimately develop some more skills,” he said.

That fear of rejection didn’t stop him, and some of the best highlights of his experience “were to meet other like-minded students. Meeting people that want to go in the same direction as you, people that are goal-oriented, people that overall have the same interests as you really benefited me in the sense that I was able to get their perspective on things and I was able to learn a lot of things… Some advice I would have for STEM scholars: if you don’t feel very confident, just put your future in perspective. I feel like during summer you’re probably going to be working. You might be taking summer classes and even when you’re at one of these research opportunities, I feel as though you’re able to do some online classes on the side of the research that you’re doing and I just think that if you want some change in your life, if you want to develop knowledge in a field that is interesting to you, the opportunity will be 100 percent worth it.”

Grace Lewis, Aerospace Engineering, Summer Research at Cal Poly Pomona for the UAV Lab

“The main highlights were definitely staying until 9 or 10 at night just to get code working and the getting up at 6:30 to do flight testing to make sure all of that was working and just cheering when all of it worked,” Lewis said.

And if the experience itself weren’t enough, Lewis also got a job at a flight simulation center immediately after her summer research.

“[The opportunity] was directly from research. It was learning everything I could about planes, everything I could about coding, simulation — all of that — and it led to a real job. That’s really amazing. I also ended up becoming friends with my team lead and she brought me out flying so I’m getting my private pilot’s license soon and UAV license and it’s going to be so cool. I’m so excited.”

Keynote Speaker Mandla Kayise

Mandla Kayise, founder and CEO of New World Education (NWE), carried himself with grace and spoke with STEM scholars about their projects before being introduced to take the stage.

“Look at yourself as the subject of your work. Ask: ‘What can I do with the subject matter?’”

Kayise shared with the college students that he was dismissed on academic probation from UCLA after three years. The engineering major eventually returned to the university four years later. His academic career prior to dismissal might not be described as organized or disciplined.

Like Kayise’s field, he told the students that they are in the fields that require the most organization and discipline, and he asked for a show of hands of who described themselves that way. Very few hands went up.

“For me,” Kayise said, “doing more made me get more organized — not doing less.”

Many STEM scholars were seen nodding their heads in agreement and appeared to be listening intently as Kayise spoke.

“When you start Cypress College, create a picture of how you want to look by the time you’re done. Think about the attitudes that go along with that image. We will always be successful if we know who we are, and we can start from there… You are what you bring to the table, and Cypress College, and what it has — that’s how you’re going to be successful.”

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