UTEP BUILD Scholars Broaden Their Laboratory and Life Experiences in Summer Research Programs

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Contact Info: jpgarza@utep.edu

Summer can signify a time for new adventures, opportunity, and growth. For BUILD Scholars at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), this promise is fulfilled through participating in various summer research programs away from their regular research laboratories. 

Every year, BUILD trainees apply to conduct novel research at one of ten partner institutions for 10 weeks, where they can learn new skills, meet new colleagues, and see new places. This key component of their training expands both their view of the content of their research and the teams with whom they conduct it.

Ethan Ramos, who works in a biomedical engineering lab at UTEP, spent his summer at Clemson University investigating materials for orthotics to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers. He said his summer experience not only broadened his research—which included testing spinal fusion sensors in full-torso cadavers—but also expanded his life experiences as well. 

Ethan Ramos
Ethan Ramos


“This has been my first time living away from home and this was an incredible experience,” Ramos said. “I’m grateful for the people who made my stay at Clemson worthwhile.”

Samantha Sakells participated in the SURF program at University of Texas Southwestern under the mentorship of Sebastian Winter, Ph.D. 

Samantha Sakells
Samantha Sakells

“During my experience, I learned how to use the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) webpage along with the data from an RNAseq analysis to evaluate protein and DNA sequences to make predictions about the structure, localization, and function of these proteins,” Sakells said. “I used these techniques to evaluate genes that could be important for Salmonella colonization of the large intestine and generate a pipeline on how to analyze these genes.”

Some trainees are able to apply the techniques they learned over the summer to the research they conduct at UTEP. 

“This last summer, I was able to gain a lot of mapping experience at the University of Utah,” BUILD trainee Aparna Mangadu said. “Here at UTEP, I volunteer in the biodiversity collections, and they were preparing for an exhibit at Centennial Museum when I got back. My mentor assigned me the task of creating a distribution map for the specimens that Elsie Slater collected in the 1900s. It was used in the exhibit last week and is still up.”

Aparna Mangadu
Aparna Mangadu


On Sept. 24, 2021, students who participated in summer research programs showcased their research to peers and colleagues at the 6th Annual Symposium held as a hybrid virtual and in-person event at UTEP. 

Each of the 19 presenters prepared pre-recorded talks in lieu of traditional poster sessions. The talks were played at the in-person event and also webcast live for research partners who were unable to attend due to continued pandemic travel restrictions. 

Following the presentations, students spoke more about their research, fielding questions from virtual and in-person attendees. The hybrid format marked a shift from last year, which was fully online, and reflected the improved conditions at UTEP and El Paso associated with the ongoing pandemic.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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