Three students take to Rice University labs to research stem cells, zebrafish and heart disease

07.26.2016 | By Jeannie Peng Mansyur

PASADENA, Texas – Quyen Vu will admit that the thought of attending San Jacinto College did not bring with it visions of stem cell research alongside Rice University professors. But that’s exactly how she, Mikaela Guevara and Kevin Fuentes are spending their summer as part of the Rice University Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

The three San Jacinto College students will showcase their research at a poster symposium on Friday, Aug. 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Rice University in the BRC Event/Exhibition Hall.

“I would never have thought that as a community college student I would be able to do research like this,” said Vu, who is working in the Rice University lab of Dr. Aryeh Warmflash and researching stem cells and development. Vu graduated from San Jacinto College in May, free of college debt thanks to scholarships, work study and a Pell Grant. “My San Jacinto College professors helped me get to this point with everything from time management to how to keep a great lab notebook and deal with any challenges that came my way.”

Guevara is working in the lab of Dr. Daniel Wagner and researching zebrafish as a model system for develop and genetic basis of disease. Fuentes is working in the lab of Dr. K. Jane Grande-Allen and researching tissue and cellular responses to heart disease.

They were three of only 12 students in the nation invited to participate as interns in the Rice University Summer Undergraduate Research Program this year. Each participant receives a stipend for the 10-week internship with an option to stay in Rice University housing. Participants attend lunch meetings and seminars to discuss research topics related to multi-scale bimolecular networks. Other topics include graduate school and career options, how to prepare an effective poster and an academic workshop. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation.

“The Rice University Summer Undergraduate Research Program is world class and offers some of our brightest students the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research,” said Christopher Wild, department chair for chemistry, engineering, geology and physics at San Jacinto College. Both Guevara and Vu are former students of Wild.

“The experience at Rice will likely change their lives and academic trajectory as they get a sense for what it is like to push the frontiers of science,” said Wild. “Having the opportunity to work with some of the world’s greatest minds in a research setting is not often thought of when the community college experience comes to mind. We at San Jacinto College are grateful for the leadership at Rice that have made this summer research program available to our students.”

Vu plans to transfer to the University of Texas to study chemical engineering. Guevara plans to transfer to a university to study biochemistry, and Fuentes will study engineering.

The San Jacinto College STEM Council supports all science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related research opportunities available through the College. For more information, visit sanjac.edu/stem-council.

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.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.