Students’ research aims to help others

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) hosted a panel discussion of undergraduate research in different disciplines on Sept. 3. 

Panelists Nikole Karis, Mariana Duarte and Jocelyn Chavez shared information on research they’ve conducted, along with challenges they’ve overcome and their ambitions for the future. 

Karis, a psychology major, works closely with CSUMB Professor Shannon Snapp conducting research that examines how underrepresented communities and LGBTQ+ youth are affected by dating apps, amongst other things. Having previously taken a sociology course on human sexuality and masculinity, Karis has dreams of earning her doctorate and helping rehabilitate adolescents and adults. 

Duarte, a first-generation computer science major, is proud to be a Latina in STEM. Duarte is a recipient of the McNair Scholars Program and a TRIO participant – resources available to students through UROC and CSUMB. Her research includes work with Penn State determining energy efficiency for Colombia’s economy, and she aspires to pursue graduate studies in nuclear engineering. 

Noticing the lack of diversity in STEM related fields, Duarte is proud to break stereotypes. 

As a first-generation college student and Spanish language major, Chavez looks to CSUMB Professor Kelly Medina-Lopez for mentorship. Chavez recognizes the beauty and power of identity in language and culture, and uses her research to produce more ways to incorporate Spanish into education. 

Chavez’s research with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill produced a book on bilingual heritage speakers, investigating how language manifests as forms of identification. 

Translating important documents for her parents, Chavez learned from an early age her passion for language and has ambitions to become a professor. 

Karis is thankful for UROC and the resources it provides students. 

“One of the best things about UROC is getting to work in your field and others,” Karis said. 

Duarte credits UROC’s program for giving her a sense of direction and hopes to work under powerful female mentors. 

Experiencing the “imposter syndrome” in the beginning of her research, Chavez discovered a minority-geared program through UROC.

“They weren’t against me,” Chavez said. “They were with me.”

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