UTSA students earn trip to World Science Forum in Budapest, Hungary

UTSA delegation

UTSA delegation at World Science Forum in Hungary (from left): Joseph Becerril, Valerie Sponsel, Darrell Balderrama and Carla Groshel

Share this Story

(Dec. 11, 2009)--When undergraduate engineering student Joseph Becerril and undergraduate science student Carla Groshel joined the UTSA Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), neither expected to be learning about research in Budapest, Hungary. But, that's exactly what happened when they both earned the trip through LSAMP's annual essay competition.

Last month, Becerril and Groshel went to the World Science Forum in Hungary with 17 other LSAMP students from across the University of Texas System. The conference gave the students a global perspective on research collaboration. Its presenters included the president of Hungary, members of the Hungarian government and members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences with sessions conducted in the ornate Hungarian Parliament.

"They had to tell us what the trip would mean for their research careers," said Darrell Balderrama, director of outreach programs in the UTSA Office of P-20 Initiatives. "Both Joseph and Carla are very dedicated to the LSAMP program. We've seen a lot of growth in their research, and we believed this opportunity would complement their success in the laboratory."

Becerril, a senior pursuing a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, applied to attend the World Science Forum because its 2009 theme was sustainability. He researches Web-based manufacturing systems and technology with Can Saygin in UTSA's Manufacturing Systems and Automation Laboratory in the College of Engineering but also is interested in energy and green technology.

"I'm still undecided about my path after graduation because I'm interested in both energy and manufacturing," he said. "But, regardless of what I choose, the World Science Forum opened my eyes to worldwide collaborations. Scientists and engineers need to work together. We need to collaborate with people from other sectors and use all of the resources that are available to us in our research."

"During the conference, the CFO of The World Bank spoke to us," said Groshel, a biology major and Honors College student. "He challenged everyone -- the scientists, specifically -- to think globally and to approach science in terms of how it can help humanity. He wanted us to know the world depends on scientists to save us from ourselves from global warming, from starvation, from disease. It's a heavy burden. It's the responsibility of every scientist to think globally."

A married mother of two, Groshel hopes to be a part of that solution. She is researching Arabidopsis thaliana hormone interactions in the laboratory of plant biology professor Valerie Sponsel. But, she hopes to translate that knowledge into a career that helps scientists better understand how human hormone therapies can be used to treat cancer.

"While most students who attend conferences do so in the area of their scientific subspecialty, participating in the World Science Forum was an opportunity for our students to listen to and interact with scientists in many disciplines and from all over the world," said Sponsel, who also attended the conference. "Many important issues that affect society as a whole were addressed including problems such as climate change and overuse of resources for which scientists must find solutions that are acceptable to policy makers. It was an enlightening experience for us all."

The UTSA LSAMP program offers research-based opportunities and support to students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). New participants join the program each semester.

For more information, contact Darrell Balderrama at 210-458-2697.