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Approximately 225 attendees were present for the 2020 Virtual New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation Student Research Conference. New Mexico State University hosted the event that included university and community college students and faculty; high school juniors, seniors; and advisers from Upward Bound and the New Mexico Math, Engineering, Science and Achievement program from throughout the state. The statewide event took place virtually Oct. 9.

Derrick Lente launched the conference with a keynote address. Lente is a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives, an attorney and business owner.

In the afternoon, students attended virtual lightning rounds, presented by 10 students who provided quick two-minute speeches about their research projects, followed by a question-and-answer session led by the judges. The students viewed the student poster and video presentations. The conference culminated with an awards ceremony. Winners of the lightning rounds included Martha Minor, NMSU, and Taylor Busch, University of New Mexico.

Winners of the poster presentations for the university category were first place: Sara Garule, NMSU; second place: Alex Acuism, UNM; and third place: Jacquelyn Galaviz, NMSU. Winners of the community college competition included first place: Jeremy Sanchez, Santa Fe Community College; second place: Karina Ornelas, SFCC; and third place: Sara Lanctot, who transferred to New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Lente’s talk centered around the many opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that New Mexico has to offer students and he shared his own personal story. He was raised in the northern New Mexico in a close-knit Pueblo community, and his father encouraged him to work hard and to dream big.

Lente’s journey to success included a program at NMSU early in his education in which he learned more about water resources. Current NM AMP Director and NMSU Civil Engineering Professor James P. King was one of the faculty members who led the program. Lente found that his niche was not engineering or science but continued his academic journey at Central New Mexico Community College and UNM where he earned a bachelor’s degree in intercultural communications and English. He then attended the UNM School of Law and earned his law degree. He applied his education as a successful entrepreneur for many years, running one of the largest U.S. solely-owned Native American companies.

Lente’s message to the students was that their time is now, with science and engineering involved in all the important decisions being made in the state, nation and the world, especially during this pandemic. He reminded the students of the multitude of opportunities in New Mexico, with two national laboratories, Spaceport America and many other technology-based organizations.

Attendees could attend two of three workshops: “How to be a Leader Without Anyone Knowing,” presented by Michael Voegerl, Director of Student Affairs and International Coordinator at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; “The New Mexico Advanced Manufacturing Personal Protective Equipment Project: An Internship at Santa Fe Community College to Promote Engineering Design Knowledge and Community Service During a Pandemic,” presented by Miguel Maestas, assistant professor and lead faculty for engineering and the information systems and computer science program at Santa Fe Community College; and “International Opportunities for Undergraduates,” a panel discussion led by Manoj Shukla, director of the NMSU ACES Global Programs and Aggies Go Global; and Abby Nayra, senior program specialist for AGG. Panelists, who discussed their international experiences, included Ana Cristina Garcia Escalante, Emily Creegan, Anita Rodriguez, Camila Prieto, Lucas Rivera, Jonathan Ortiz, Alessa Ibanez and Jayme Yancy.

A faculty workshop was presented by David Torres, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Physical Science at Northern New Mexico College and NM AMP institutional coordinator. Torres discussed his work on curriculum efficiency that seeks to help others understand the time investment and bottlenecks in a college degree plan.

Another workshop was presented for the NM MESA and NMSU TRIO Upward Bound Gadsden and Las Cruces high school students. Anita Gonzales, the statewide program coordinator for NM MESA, helped students understand how to read abstracts through various exercises.

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