Midland College: Science Students Participate in Research Projects

Rebecca Bell
Member Spotlight

Thanks to a $22,500 grant provided by ExxonMobil Foundation, Midland College (MC) will be able to establish the Midland College Water Monitoring Center, directed by Mr. Greg Larson, faculty member in Biology. Mr. Larson is an authority on water quality in the Pecos River, having worked for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) as a field biologist specializing in this area for 23 years.

ExxonMobil is providing the funding through its 2013 Educational Matching Gift Program. The donation represents a 3-to-1 match of donations made to the Midland College Foundation by ExxonMobil employees, retirees, and surviving spouses.

In a letter to MC President, Dr. Steve Thomas, ExxonMobil Foundation President, Suzanne M. McCarron, wrote, "The ExxonMobil Foundation is working to improve U.S. math and science education by supporting programs that benefit both students and teachers."

The Midland College Water Monitoring Center program will accept up to five people per year to participate as student researchers. The students' research will consist of collecting field samples and then analyzing these surface water samples for temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity (salinity), and water flow rate. Once analyzed in the field, these samples will be sent for laboratory analysis at the International Boundary Water Commission. The results of this laboratory analysis will be sent back to Midland College, where students can use the results in future research studies. Additionally, MC will partner with TCEQ to build a database on water quality in the Pecos River.

MC Dean of Math and Science, Dr. Margaret Wade, said, "The water monitoring project is our newest faculty-led research project. During the past several years, Midland College students have had the opportunity to participate in several research projects, including ones centering on chemistry, genetics, and geology. The funds provided by ExxonMobil will enable us to add another important research component to our curriculum."

In 2014, two MC research students were chosen to participate in The University of Texas Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) summer research programs. Matthew (Staley) Anderson and Alberto Lozano were selected through an in-depth application process to participate in intensive research experiences, working alongside nationally- and internationally-recognized professors. Each student spent 10 weeks this summer conducting supervised research, attending research group and lab meetings, and participating in special meetings designed to help them with future educational and career goals.

Lozano attended the University of Texas at Austin doing research in mechanical engineering. Anderson was among a select group of ten students conducting research in biochemistry at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich, Switzerland (ETH Zürich). He is one of only two community college students selected for the international research program. Last summer, Anderson participated in the LSAMP summer research program at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Both Lozano and Anderson are considered nontraditional students, being a few years older than most college students. Lozano is a U.S. Navy veteran. He has been attending Midland College for two years. He plans to transfer to The University of Texas at Austin where he will major in mechanical engineering.

Anderson, age 32, spent eight years working in the oil and gas industry before enrolling at Midland College. He is currently participating in the Midland College-Sul Ross State University (SRSU) Science Initiative. He will be able to complete a bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from SRSU while staying in Midland. His goal is to graduate in December 2014 or May of 2015. Anderson's future plans include attending graduate school and eventually obtaining a doctorate in chemistry.

Anderson stated, "MC is a really great school with a tremendous amount of opportunity. All of the teachers have shown a genuine interest in my success. I can honestly say that the trajectory of my life has been completely altered—in a good way—by my attending Midland College."

This summer, Anderson worked with Dr. Markus Aebi at ETH ZĂĽrich's Institute of Microbiology. The focus of the research was N-linked protein glycosylation and the interaction of fungi with predators and parasites.

During his time at MC, Anderson has been a leader in various student organizations. He is currently president of Midland College's Chemistry Club and recently presented his summer research at the American Chemical Society Conference in Dallas. Also at MC, Anderson participates in undergraduate research with Chemistry Professor Dr. Thomas Ready on sulfonium salts and antimicrobial agents.

Ready said, "I am extremely proud of both of these students. These summer research opportunities are the result of discipline and hard work. I know that their summer experiences will prove to be extremely valuable and help them succeed at rewarding careers."