Bringing Research Experiences to LatinX High School Students

A top priority at our K-12 STEM Center is connecting with students whose racial and ethnic heritage has been systematically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math. With Los Angeles County and our partner school districts being primarily LatinX, the K-12 STEM Center has considerable programs and staff dedicated to providing opportunities to these communities. One program that really makes a difference in the lives of all its high school participants is the Summer High School Intensive in Next-Generation Engineering (SHINE). For the past seven years, SHINE has placed 59 professors and 239 SHINE students on the research teams of over 100 professors to learn and help the professor’s team to solve an important problem in society. This immersive, hands-on experience requires the students to apply their STEM coursework and learn new STEM to help address problems like cancer, alternative energy, human-robotic interactions, hypersonic air travel, you name it. This week, we’ve been celebrating in social media the LatinX professors who participate in SHINE, and here we want to focus on why research is important for LatinX students to experience.

Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Manuel Monge is clear about his reasons for mentoring in SHINE: “Bringing research experiences to LatinX high school students can make a pivotal and lasting impression in each student’s life choices. Facing in-depth research problems while being part of a research group develops fundamental and translational skills that can be applied to any career path and everyday life situations.” Originally from Peru, Professor Monge is one of USC Viterbi’s Spanish-speaking faculty. The Professor invited two local students into his research group, the Integrated Medical Electronics Laboratory. Luis and Irving each attend local schools and applied their STEM coursework to developing micro medical devices.

Luis reported how he learned in SHINE to create and use simulations to optimize an inductively coupled communication system as well as a radiofrequency communication system; he learned in SHINE how to use MATLAB and Simulink to generate his results. As a rising senior at a high school in Bell Gardens, Luis notes: “Technology advancements are allowing for smaller and smaller bio-chips to be inserted into the human body that will also consume less power. This would benefit the consumer and environment as it will be more efficient and need less parts to make.”

Irving also learned to use MATLAB and Simulink to assist Professor Monge’s team to improve ways to locate a micro medical device in the human body using magnetic fields. Irving observed that his research experience “helped me understand the importance of my STEM coursework….I applied my prior programming knowledge and 3D modeling skills to understand linear currents.” This was a field of applied engineering that he had previously been entirely unaware, but the experience inspired him to take computer science and calculus courses during this senior year of high school so he can major in electrical engineering in college next year.

Like all the USC Viterbi professors who mentor LatinX students in SHINE, Professor Monge feels strongly that the benefits of a research experience are expansive. He said: “students mentored in research learn of the existing programs and opportunities surrounding research which they have access to. Having this knowledge is a benefit as equally important as participating in research itself.”

The USC Viterbi professors who participate in SHINE — Manuel Monge, Cristina Zavaleta, Ivan Bermejo-Moreno, Alejandra Uranga, and Francisco Valero-Cuevas – are all powerful role models to K-12 students throughout the Southland that STEM is a place where LatinX peoples can help make specific and meaningful improvements for their communities, our world and our earth.

Published on October 14th, 2021

Last updated on October 18th, 2021

Share this Post