San Jac Certified: Graduate’s summer R&R will be research, and more research
06.09.2015 | By Rob Vanya
San Jacinto College graduate Emilia Herrera plans to attend the University of Texas Health School of Nursing to prepare for a career in medical research. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.
Exemplary student chosen for internship at Rice University
HOUSTON – Summertime is typically a time for some “R&R,” and Emilia Herrera will indeed get lots of it. But, her “R&R” will be research and even more research, instead of rest and relaxation.
Herrera was an exemplary Honors program student at San Jacinto College, earning an associate degree in biology in May. With high recommendations from San Jacinto College science professors, she was chosen to attend a prestigious summer research internship at Rice University, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
She will be under the tutelage of Dr. Enrique Barrera, a Rice University professor of materials science, nano-engineering, and chemistry. “Dr. Barrera wants me to participate in several projects that are in the works,” she commented. “One involves working with a Polymer Nanotube Umbilical, which is comparable to copper but lighter in weight. They are researching the possibility of increasing its conductivity for power transmissions and subsea applications.” Another of her summer research projects deals with nanowires that have the potential of being used to help people with paralysis regain some motion.
San Jacinto College biology professor Susan Starr, who wrote a recommendation letter for Herrerra, is confident the San Jac Certified graduate will excel in the Rice University summer internship. “Emilia is a true scholar with a passion for learning, an inquisitive mind, and excellent study habits,” Starr commented. “Emilia is an excellent role model and inspiration for her peers. When given an opportunity to work with a team, she shows leadership and an ability to bring out the best in her teammates. Her enthusiasm and attention to detail is contagious. I have been teaching college students almost 30 years, and she is the most remarkable student that I have encountered.”
Starr is particularly impressed with the way Herrera goes above and beyond in research work. “She began an Honors project dealing with the reading differences between native and nonnative speakers based on electrooculography (tracking eye movements of people when they read). She came up with the idea for her project on her own and did a phenomenal job collecting and analyzing the data.”
Herrera’s electrooculography research project was so impressive that it was chosen for presentation at the national conference of the National Council on Undergraduate Research, held in Spokane, Washington in April.
Herrera’s degree from San Jacinto College, and her Rice University summer internship, will be steppingstones to prepare the Honors graduate for transfer to the University of Texas Health School of Nursing in pursuit of a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in nursing. Her ultimate career goal is to work in the field of medical research, and to possibly specialize in cancer research.
The busy wife and mother says she could not excel in college and pursue her career goals without the support of her family. “I am a very proud mother of three awesome children who I hope to inspire and motivate by my college achievements – Osbaldo, Jr. (16), Madeline (10), and Denise (9),” Herrera commented. “They are my inspiration to continue to strive for the best and top accomplishments in life. My husband Osbaldo has been an awesome support and help. His support has been extremely important and critical to the success I achieved at San Jacinto College.”
Herrera is thankful for San Jacinto College’s Honors program, which enabled her to nurture and improve her natural interest in research work. San Jacinto College offers a wide range of Honors program course options at all three campuses. For more information, please visit sanjac.edu/honors.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.