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UTPB Undergraduate research hits the road

Undergraduate Research Day today at UTPB

Undergraduate+Research+Day+at+the+Capitol%2C+Austin%2C+TX.++From+left+to+right%3A+Dr.+Milka+O.+Montes%2C+Assistant+Professor+in+Chemistry+at+UTPB.+Dr.+Rebecca+Babcock%2C+Associate+Professor+%26+Chair+%0ADepartment+of+Literature+and+Languages+English+Program%2C+Director+of+the+Undergraduate+Research+Program%2C+and+William+and+Ordelle+Watts+Professor+at+UTPB.+Jason+M.+Snitker%2C+Undergraduate+student+in+Chemistry+at+UTPB%2C+graduating+with+honors+in+Spring+2017.
Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, Austin, TX.  From left to right: Dr. Milka O. Montes, Assistant Professor in Chemistry at UTPB. Dr. Rebecca Babcock, Associate Professor & Chair 
Department of Literature and Languages English Program, Director of the Undergraduate Research Program, and William and Ordelle Watts Professor at UTPB. Jason M. Snitker, Undergraduate student in Chemistry at UTPB, graduating with honors in Spring 2017.

Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, Austin, TX. From left to right: Dr. Milka O. Montes, Assistant Professor in Chemistry at UTPB. Dr. Rebecca Babcock, Associate Professor & Chair Department of Literature and Languages English Program, Director of the Undergraduate Research Program, and William and Ordelle Watts Professor at UTPB. Jason M. Snitker, Undergraduate student in Chemistry at UTPB, graduating with honors in Spring 2017.

Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, Austin, TX. From left to right: Dr. Milka O. Montes, Assistant Professor in Chemistry at UTPB. Dr. Rebecca Babcock, Associate Professor & Chair Department of Literature and Languages English Program, Director of the Undergraduate Research Program, and William and Ordelle Watts Professor at UTPB. Jason M. Snitker, Undergraduate student in Chemistry at UTPB, graduating with honors in Spring 2017.

Kelsie Clifton, Features Writer and Columnist

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Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, Austin, TX. From right to left, Dr. Milka O. Montes, Assistant Professor in Chemistry at UTPB, Jason M. Snitker, Undergraduate student in Chemistry at UTPB, graduating with honors in Spring 2017.

On Tuesday, March 28, Dr. Mika Montes, Assistant professor in Chemistry, and Dr. Rebecca Babcock, Professor of English, Chair of Literature and Languages Department and William and Ordelle Watts professor, joined with The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) undergraduate students from the Chemistry department in Austin, Texas. They all participated in Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol where undergraduate research from around the Lone Star State was presented

Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol meets every two years and showcases the experiences and research of undergraduate students for Texas legislators and the public. There were more than 75 research poster presentations and 50 academic institutions being represented by a faculty liaison, an undergraduate student conducting the research and their faculty advisor or mentor.

“It is both an honor and a great accomplishment to see how our students are able to compete with students from Ivy League universities by presenting their work and representing the University at this national meeting. The event highlights how the research is being conducted by undergraduate students and the positive impact it has on Texans. The goal of this event is to promote Texas undergraduate research. The theme this year was: Transforming Texas through Undergraduate Research,” Montes stated.

The majority of the Chemistry students participating from UTPB started their research in the Fall semester while some have been conducting research for the past one to two years.

“Typically, they spend around five to ten hours a week performing research activities. When the call for proposals is available in the Fall they submit an abstract and wait for their acceptance,” Montes said. “They have to make a poster showing their work and most relevant results, print it and off they go. Logistically, they submit proposals to the Student senate, the young chemist ACS award and other sources to finance their travel.”

Recently, Dr. Montes and several Chemistry students went to the American Chemical Society meeting to present their research in San Francisco. The group presented their research being conducted at UTPB through two oral presentations and three poster presentations.

“I was invited to participate in a symposium showcasing new research developments on the methods used to study the nanotoxicology in different organisms. On my presentation, I talked about the production of silver nanoparticles in our laboratory and our studies to determine the effects of this particular nanoparticles on sulfur reducing bacteria, which is a poorly studied organism but of great importance to marine life and microbial-induced corrosion. We showed how to measure nanotoxicology using this bacteria as a model organism and how our nanoparticles can mitigate biocorrosion,” she said.

Babcock stressed that: “These learning experiences benefit students in many ways. The very top students at UTPB are chosen for the Undergraduate Research Program. If you look at the Honors Convocation program you will see the names of many current and former undergraduate researchers. These students go on to graduate school and successful careers.”

In addition, undergraduate researchers, “Rather than learning from textbooks, do actual research that is important to their academic fields, to business and industry, and to society in general.” Babcock noted.  “Rather than learning passively, undergraduate researchers take an active stance to creating knowledge rather than just receiving it. Those who are interested in participating should heed the call for proposals that will come out in September. If students don’t have any idea what they want to research about they should contact their advisor or a professor whose field of study interests them. They can also contact me and I will conduct an informal matching service with researchers and mentors. Most of all students should come to the Undergraduate Research Day on April 21.”

Dr. Kyle Beran, Professor of Chemistry/ Chair of the Department of Physical Sciences, was not able to attend the event in Austin but he is also a mentor to many of the Chemistry students participating in the Undergraduate research study.

“We have the students set aside roughly five hours a week out of their schedule so they can work around their other classes and other extracurricular activities they may participate in. They are then able to devote time to their project and as faculty. we help mentor them and guide them through the research process,” Beran said.

Senior undergraduate student, Jason Snitker, under the mentorship of Dr. Montes, gave an oral presentation on the developments on controlled nanoparticle transitions induced by high-pressure ice-segregation, which is a hot topic in Nanochemistry and nanomaterial research

Snitker will also be presenting this material at the undergraduate research day at UTPB on April 21.

There were several other senior undergraduate students in the Chemistry program who presented their research at the meeting through poster presentations.

These students and their presentations are:

Lesley Felix, (mentor: Dr. Mika Montes) presented an optimization of nanoparticle synthesis using a microwave reactor.

Hao Yun Peng, (mentor: Dr. Mika Montes) presented a green synthesis of silver nanoparticles using probiotic bacteria.

Jordan Mc Donald (mentor: Dr. Kyle Beran) presented her work on energetic and structural analysis of metallo-fullerene derivatives.

Russel Maharaj, (mentor: Dr. Kyle Beran) presented a novel characterization of silver and gold nanoparticles using a laser system.

All the students mentioned are part of the national Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honor Society and the American Chemical Society which are the two most renowned societies in the Chemistry field.

Only Snitker presented in Austin.

Dr. Beran likes that UTPB requires all majors to take two hours of research and believes that this gives students a chance to see what graduate school may look like or even a potential job.

“UTPB is small enough to where every one of our graduates has had two semesters of research under their belt before they venture off into their next careers. Doing these research activities helps students to find their way,” Beran said. “It is good to experience as much as you can, take the good and bad and then figure out where you are supposed to go based on those experiences. Research does exactly that. It takes everything out of the book environment and makes it hands on.”

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UTPB Undergraduate research hits the road