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Seminole State students’ research recognized at national conference in Washington, D.C.

(L-R) Rodrigo Alcalá, Michael Barton, Caitlin McCormick and Laura Mendez-Castro.

Four student-leaders from Seminole State College of Florida’s Environmental Initiative Clubs presented research projects at The National Council for Science and the Environment’s (NCSE) 17th National Conference & Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23-26.

Each students’ project focused on the conference theme, “Integrating Environment & Health”:

  • Michael Barton: His project, “Plant Growth and Responsiveness as a Tool in Sustainability Education,” reported on his implementation of a lesson plan in carnivorous plants at Seminole Science STEM Charter School.
  • Caitlin McCormick: She presented “Breaking Down the Practice of Composting,” which analyzed the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of implementing a composting program at Seminole State.
  • Laura Mendez-Castro and Rodrigo Alcalá: Their project, “Help for the Health of the Hands that Feed Us,” examined correlations between lupus symptoms and pesticide exposure among farmworkers. 

The EMERGE Program for Sustainability & Renewable Energy sponsored the trip, including travel and printing costs for the students to present their projects at the conference. Dr. Debra Socci, professor of biology at Seminole State who serves as faculty advisor for the Environmental Initiative Clubs, guided the students’ research and provided feedback on their progress. 

“I was so happy to participate in this year’s NCSE annual meeting to showcase the wonderful ecological citizenship efforts of our Environmental Initiative Clubs’ student-leaders,” says Socci. “The students’ projects, poster presentations, networking experiences and exposure to the work of high-level scientists and government agencies represent the best form of experiential learning!”

As part of the conference, Senior Scientist and former Executive Director of the NCSE, Dr. David Blockstein, announced the top four graduate and undergraduate posters. Barton’s STEM outreach program poster and Mendez-Castro and Alcalá’s poster made the list among students from University of Central Florida, Duke University, Perdue University, Pennsylvania State University and others from around the globe.

The Poster Session allows research scientists, university faculty, students, and others to share their work with over 1,000 conference attendees. Posters highlight research, innovations and initiatives relevant to improving the health and well-being of people, the planet and its ecosystems.

“It improved my presenting skills and allowed for me to step out of my comfort zone by meeting new people,” says Mendez-Castro. “The conference was amazing! I received many tips for applying to medical school and networking opportunities.”

The conference also included the 2017 Winter Meeting of the Community College Alliance for Sustainability Education, where the students heard key discussions on the future of the organization.

To learn more about the conference, please visit the NCSE conference website

The Seminole State Environmental Initiative Club meets on the Sanford/Lake Mary and the Oviedo campuses. For more information, contact Dr. Debra Socci at 407.971.5077.

EMERGE Program: The EMERGE Program for Sustainability and Renewable Energy is a three-year, $900,000 grant program funded by the National Science Foundation. The program, which began in 2015, aims to strengthen employability for graduates, add courses and provide certifications in STEM areas, offer a program for dual-enrolled students and increase interest in sustainability and STEM programs among non-science majors.

The Capitol Building serves as the backdrop for this photo from the students' visit to Washington, D.C., for the NCSE 17th National Conference in January.

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