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By Alexandra Grant

Megan Hughes presenting a poster at the annual AGU meeting.

IE’s IDEA Program (Increasing Diversity and Enhancing Academia) was well-represented at the 2016 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall meeting in San Francisco. This NSF-funded program provides undergraduate research experiences to underrepresented minority students in the geosciences through an intensive ten-week full-time summer research program under the mentorship of a UNC faculty member in the geosciences.  As part of their involvement in IDEA, students have the opportunity to present their research at scientific conferences.

Two UNC IDEA undergraduate students, Kathia Toledo and Coley Smith, presented on their research in poster sessions at AGU. The topics of their presentations related to their fields of study during their summer program.

Toledo said that the inspiration to present her research came from staff at IE.

“Megan Hughes suggested that IDEA students apply to the conference to present their summer research,” Toledo said. “My research adviser, Dr. Gabriela Valdivia, also said it would be a good idea to go and present my summer research to get feedback from other researchers from different parts of the country.”

Toledo presented a poster titled Analyzing Perceptions of Wellbeing in Relation to Refinería Esmeraldas, The Largest Oil Refinery in Ecuador and the research is from work she did over the summer and the fall semester. She presented to about 30 people over a period of four hours.

“During this time, I was able to chat with other researchers about my project and theirs, and a lot of them did provide some of the feedback I was hoping to get. Going to San Francisco to attend this conference was a great experience. I’m happy to have gotten the opportunity to see so many other poster presentations. The event itself was a massive event of the sort that I am not quite used to. However, overall, this event allowed me to connect with academics from all over the country and at the same time, share information about my and Dr. Valdivia’s research.”

Smith, whose adviser is Xiaoming Liu – an assistant professor of geochemistry, presented a poster titled Spatial and temporal analysis of rare earth elements in the Neuse River.

Coley Smith presenting his poster at AGU.
Coley Smith presenting his poster at AGU.

IDEA program staff, Kathleen Gray, director of the Environmental Resource Program and associate director for Outreach and Public Service, and Megan Hughes, research associate with the Environmental Resource Program also presented a poster titled Fostering Under-represented Minority Student Success and interest in the Geosciences: Outcomes of the UNC-Chapel Hill Increasing Diversity and Enhancing Academia (IDEA) Program.


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