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  • Staff report

EPCC student RISES to the top

Updated: May 5, 2021

Mateo Flores, a student intern at El Paso Community College’s RISE Bridge Program, received the award for “Best Short Talk Presentation” at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology Rio Grande Branch.

He was joined by fellow interns Gloria Sepulveda and Kerwin Iglesias, who also presented at the conference.

RISE Bridge student Mateo Flores conducting research in the lab.

All three of these students will have their presentation abstracts published in the Clinical Infection and Immunity Journal.

Dr. Maria Alvarez, EPCC Biology Professor and RISE Bridge Program Director, explains why conference participation is a key component of the program. “Students participating at these conferences learn about current scientific developments that are having an impact on their communities and the world and have the opportunity to interact with prestigious scientists and faculty from a variety of institutions.”

Wanting to get hands-on experience and conduct experiments are what motivated Mateo to get involved with RISE Bridge program at EPCC. His conference remarks focused on Needle Point Bipolar Ionization, or NBPI, which is a new technology that can be added to existing HVAC systems to significantly reduce the bacteria in the air and airborne transmission of disease.

(L-R) Gloria Sepulveda, Dr. Maria Alvarez, Kerwin Iglesias and Mateo Flores.

Gloria Sepulveda’s research focused assessing the quality of the water in the Rio Grande river and the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in it. She believes the topic requires urgent attention and the implementation of protocols to slow down the crisis. Because of her passion regarding the topic, she was glad to have the opportunity to present her findings at the conference.

Gloria explains, “Joining the RISE program has been such a memorable experience because I got to know so many qualified people, and the fact that these people have a similar background to mine encourage me to keep striving to achieve my goals.” She continues, “EPCC has provided the tools I need to further develop critical thinking skills and to awake the love for my community through volunteer experiences and club participation.”

Ecosystems of the Southwest region was also the focus of Kerwin Iglesias’ presentation. He studied a bacterium that affects insect immune systems and their ability to reproduce and determined that it’s present in ant populations in the area.

The goals of the RISE Bridge Program are to provide research training and supplemental instruction to students by providing opportunities to conduct research and to increase the number of students who transfer to area four-year schools with plans to pursue a biomedical research career and to complete a PhD. Mateo is a great example of the program’s success.

He’s planning to transfer to the University of Texas, El Paso, and continue his research there.

This grant-funded program allows for student interns to be paid for the research work they do with the program. Mateo explains how being able to get paid has helped relieve some of the financial anxieties and pressures that come with attending college. “It's hard to go to college without fear of having debts in the future but being in this program has been fun and I'm glad I got the chance to do it.”

Dr. Alvarez is always proud to see her students receive recognition for their efforts but she’s particularly proud of them this year. “My students were facing additional financial, health and work format challenges caused by the pandemic, and they outperformed students at other institutions.”

To learn more about the Rise to the Challenge Bridge program and to apply to participate in it, click here:

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