“My grandfather told me if you see a line, get in it. In my life, I’ve taken that advice to mean that if you see an opportunity, take it,” said Steven Smith, this year’s Terry M. Mikiten Graduate Research Symposium keynote speaker.
Smith, who currently works as a NASA STEM Education Specialist for the Johnson Space Center explained that his path to NASA was non-traditional.
“I’m certified in EMT because they had a class in it so I did it. I also have a paralegal associate’s degree because there was an opening. In college, I found fencing so I was the 2001 state fencing champion. While I was there, I met some guys who did MMA and then I fought MMA.”
After spending some time doing theatre, Smith became a teacher who was passionate about improving science education for students who had limited access and resources. He was approached by NASA to become a NASA STEM Education Specialist and now works in eight states developing innovative educational materials for K-12 students.
Some of NASA’s engagement towards middle and high school students include the NASA App Development challenge and Wearable Equipment for Averting Radiation (WEAR) Challenge which give students the ability to help NASA on challenges they face.
“Astronauts and engineers tend to think inside the box but kids don’t,” Smith explained. “For instance, I once told a classroom that the sky was the limit and a student raised his hand and said what about a satellite?”
His advice to current students as to start becoming more involved in scientific outreach.
“Any opportunity you have especially if you are a female or person of color, to put yourself in front of young kids—do it.”
This year’s Mikiten featured poster sessions, career workshops, and three minute thesis (3MT) presentations.
Special thanks to all our workshop presenters and participants!
- CV—Jeremy Stubblefield, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at UT Health San Antonio
- Review Process—Phil LoVerde, PhD, professor at UT Health San Antonio
- Work-Life Balance—Dina Tom, MD, assistant professor at UT Health San Antonio
- Social Media Presence—Linda Lopez-George, MA, director of Research Partnerships and Business Development at UT Health San Antonio
Alternative Careers in Science Panel
- Steven Smith, MIPM, NASA STEM Education Specialist at Johnson Space Center
- David Price, PhD, Advisor–US Field Medical at Lilly USA, LLC
- Mikaela Sifuentes, PhD, Medical Writer at Acelity
- Guy McClung, JD, PhD , Private Patent Attorney
Research-Intensive Career Panel
- Bess Frost, PhD, Assistant Professor at UT Health San Antonio
- Rheaclare Fraser-Spears, PhD Assistant Professor at University of the Incarnate Word
- Carmen Hinojosa-Laborde, PhD, FAHA, FAPS, Research Physiologist at US Army Institute of
- Surgical Research
- Travis Block, PhD, Senior Scientist at StemBioSys, Inc
3 Minute Thesis Participants
- Vinutha Ganapathy, “Role of Microbiome in Metabolism”
- Alexandra McCoy, “Ventral Hippocampus-Medial Prefrontal Cortex Pathway Mediates Antidepressant Effect of L-655,708”
- Chengwen Teng, “Torsade de pointes/QT prolongation risks with antibiotics: A contemporary analysis of the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System”
- Breeanne Soteros, “SRPX2 regulates complement-mediated synapse elimination”
- Hannah Elam, “Suvorexant Reverses Stress Induced Psychosis-Like Behavior in a Rodent Model of PTSD”
- Jordan Tanner, “A Three-dimensional Model of the Pterygopalatine Fossa Significantly Enhances the Learning Experience”
- Dorothea Morris, “Silver Nanoparticles Provide Antiviral And Immunomodulatory Activity During RSV Infection”
- Abdulhafiz Imam Aliagan, “Novel Mechanisms in Parkinson’s Disease: Role of Parkin-Mitofilin Interaction in Neuron Death”
- Grace Porter, “The Role of BDNF in mediating the PFC-dependent behavioral and neuroinflammatory response”
- Daniel Chupp, “Development of a humanized mouse platform for translation research”
- Andrew Haskell, “Donor Free” Mesenchymal Stem Cells Expanded on Gelatin Methacrylamide Microcarriers”
- Tara Gray, “What is the value of Gold?”
- Simon Levy, “Creating a Drosophila model of prion-like tau protein spread”
The finalists for the 3MT were
The forum organized by the Graduate Student Association promotes excellence in research through mentorship, collaboration, and student interaction.