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A Day in the Life of A Public Ally at SARSEF: May Edition

By Katerina Guerrero

The sun is staying out longer, and the school year is ending if it hasn’t already. Congratulations to all students on your academic year. You are our future of critical thinkers and problem solvers. It’s time to spend time with family, friends, and even take time for yourself to be ready for the next school year. This was always my favorite time of the year because not only did I get a break from my busy schedules but my mom, who is a teacher, got time off from her busy schedule.

These past two months at SARSEF have been packed with busy days but amazing events that I just can’t stop thinking about. I attended my first SARSEF Fair. The whole week leading up to the big day was amazing. Watching mentors and judges talk to students about their wonderful projects, I couldn’t stop smiling in the office that week working with the team and sharing laughs as we got ready for award ceremonies. These students were so excited to share their work and were excited to share what they found out from their projects.

The big day for the SARSEF Fair at Reid Park was a day of students, teachers, mentors, and families coming together as a community to support these amazing student scientists. I got to walk around and take pictures of the beautiful energy in the park. Seeing the kids get on stage, giving a big smile to their families as they received their award for the work, they had done made it a day I will never forget, and how could I? It was filled with science and celebration.

Not only did we have our SARSEF Fair, but we also had our Racing the Sun Test and Race Days. Teams from different schools watched as their solar-powered go-karts went on the track and cheered on their driver. It was students supporting students, working together on final touches. Teachers and mentors being these students’ cheerleaders and supporters on the track.

With being a Public Ally, I not only got to be a part of the amazing events with SARSEF but got to work with the Tucson Public Ally group to create the first and hopefully first of many, Armory Artisan Market. On May 11th the team and I worked so hard to have a great turnout of vendors, food vendors, entertainment, and people. Creating a space for the community to come together was our goal and we accomplished it.

Now it’s time for summer. Like I said, it’s my favorite time of the year. In past summers, I had the chance to work with students and this summer I get to do the same. I know I am not the only one excited, because the SARSEF office is excited about SARSEF Summer STEM Camp. Getting to work with students this summer as they explore, wonder, and grow will be a great adventure! Who is excited for SARSEF STEM Summer Camp? I am! Registration is still open until May 1: https://sarsef.org/summer-stem-camps-2024/. Camps take place throughout Tucson and are on a pay-what-you-can model.

A Day in the Life of A Public Ally at SARSEF: February Edition

By Katerina Guerrero

February is the month that many love, as the weather gets warmer and pinks and reds are spread throughout schools, offices and more to put a smile on your own face or someone close to you. This month I had a big smile, and it wasn’t because of the ‘you are amazing’ Valentine card I received in the office. It was because of Racing the Sun Career Days in Phoenix and Tucson.

Career Days are part of Racing the Sun, a program that challenges high school students to come together as a team to design, build, and race electric and solar-powered go-karts. To see this program in action, join us on April 27th for Race Day at Musselman Honda Track as a volunteer or spectator!

On Career Day, Racing the Sun participants visit companies and universities as part of a field trip designed to inspire them to understand and pursue STEM careers and education. They tour multiple facilities engaged in solar energy, engineering, transportation, and manufacturing. Because of the number of teams across the state, SARSEF hosts Career Days in both Phoenix and Tucson.

During Career Day in Phoenix, I had the amazing opportunity to go to ASU and visit the engineering buildings. I watched high school students get so excited to be on campus and see the many opportunities available to them. They met with ASU students and got to ask questions about their college-going experiences as well as the opportunities available to them in engineering. They went on a tour of the engineering campus and saw labs where they could do research as ASU undergraduates. After they toured the campus, students also had the chance to visit Rosendin and Legacy EV.

I joined one of the tours with Cesar Chavez High School students and their teacher, and I had the best time listening to what the students had to say. The tour was given by Valeria, a senior who came from Mexico City and moved to Arizona to study at ASU. She had the students so engaged and answered as many questions as she asked. Students saw the work ASU students were doing and connected it back to what they were doing in their classrooms. After each building, the teacher and students would huddle just to talk about what they were learning and how it could inform their project of building the go-kart. It was truly an inspiration to see these students so engaged and ready to dive right back into their projects after leaving the engineering campus.

Not only did we have Phoenix Career Day, but Tucson Career Day as well. Students had the opportunity to meet with UA College of Engineering, Musselman Honda, Texas Instruments, CATalyst, EMI, AGM, Howmet, and Creative Machines. Watching these students get involved in engineering happening in their own communities was amazing.

“Seeing our community come together to show our young engineers all they can become has been incredible. I have enjoyed watching the students get engaged with different fields and futures,” shared Anissa Alvarado, Racing the Sun Programs Manager.

This year’s Racing the Sun Career Days were amazing, and now I’m excited and ready for our Racing the Sun Race Day in April!

Living The Best Version Of Yourself – Part Two with Stacey Weiss

By Cynthia Blockburger, Lindsey Intern, SARSEF

Haven’t read part one yet? Find it here!

We wanted to know more about Professor Stacey Weiss and her mentorship with STAR Lab. Stacey shares that she is a faculty member at a small liberal arts college and does not have graduate students. All of her research is done in collaboration with undergraduate students and a wonderful lab technician who helps to keep things moving when she is deep into teaching during the academic year. She goes on to state that “STAR Lab students have been a great addition to my research team. I’ve been a STAR Lab mentor for three years now, and each year, students’ projects have built on those before them. In most cases, their projects help validate new methods being developed by my undergraduate students.”

I asked Stacey, in what ways did your participation in field research encourage and foster your curiosity? (i.e., cultural knowledge, background knowledge). She says, “Surrounding yourself in nature and focusing on observing the life around you…it is easy to stay curious! Why are animals doing this or that? How do their eggs survive in those nests with no parental care?” It was clear to me that Stacey is not only passionate about mentoring the “whole” student but also her love for animals in nature and the biomes that they survive and thrive in.

Stacey shares that her current research study is on the behavioral and microbial ecology of a lizard found in southeast Arizona, southwest New Mexico, and down into Mexico – the striped plateau lizard, Sceloporus virgatus. I was initially attracted to these lizards because they represent an “exception to the rule” re: sexually dimorphic ornamentation. In this species, the females are more ornamented than the males. I’ve studied the function and regulation of this ornament, with a focus on sexual selection theory.

Stacey goes on to share a small slice of her fantastic research journey.

About 10 years ago, an anecdotal observation and casual hallway conversation turned me down a path studying the microbial ecology of this lizard. The females lay eggs into soil burrows at the start of the summer monsoon season. They cover over the nest site and leave, providing no further parental care. The eggs stay in the nest for 6-8 weeks, exposed to all sorts of potential soil pathogens with no apparent protection. My colleague, Dr. Mark Martin, suggested that perhaps bacteria from the mother’s cloaca transfer to eggshell during egg-laying and provide antifungal protection. We have now rigorously tested this hypothesis and found support.

With STAR Lab students, I am trying to get a better understanding of the mechanism by which the bacteria ward off fungi. One possibility is that they produce chitinases, which are enzymes that break down chitin. Chitin is a primary component of insect exoskeleton as well as fungal cell walls. Thus, bacterially produced chitinases can help the lizard digest its meals as well as kill the fungi invading its eggs.

Stacey shares so much excitement with her research and mentoring students. One unexpected outcome/quality that she has learned about herself by being a mentor is guiding students through the ups and downs of authentic research experiences has not only honed my problem-solving and communication skills but has also deepened my commitment to supporting their growth, fostering a sense of perseverance that extends beyond the laboratory, and cultivating a positive and empowering learning environment for all students.

So, how does Stacey stay motivated to continue “reaching for the stars?” I’m driven by the research questions and find inspiration in continuous learning. There is never an end in sight to the fascinating questions one can ask about nature! I am driven by the relationships formed with students and the impact of a transformational research experience on their lives. They may not all go on to become research scientists – which is just fine! The skills and confidence that come from engaging in research are generally applicable and can help them in whatever career they opt for. Being part of their journey from uncertainty to confidence brings me immense satisfaction and pride.

My last question for Professor Stacey Weiss ended with a mentoring flare! I asked, what is your superpower mentorship strength? Her response…supporting students!

About SARSEF’s Lindsey Intern, Cynthia Blockburger

Cynthia Blockburger is a highly qualified science teacher and mentor and is currently entering the final phase of her Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Arizona. She is also the Vice President of the College of Education Deans Graduate Advisory Board. In 2022, she was awarded the English Language Arts Title One School’s highest teacher-performer award for the Arizona Academic Standard Assessment. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Mathematics from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and a Master’s in Education from The University of Arizona. She is a passionate educator with over 19 years of experience working with diverse students in grades K-20, specializing in STEM and English Language Arts. Over the years, Cynthia has developed various robust and diverse science curricula by state and national standards. In doing so, she has extended and fostered positive mentor and mentee relationships with students. As a first-generation graduate student, she has worked in various graduate associate positions, such as with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Under the direction of the University of Arizona Dean Berry and Associate Dean Reyes, Cynthia has provided academic and administrative leadership to support programs in the College of Education, liaised between the college and all campus colleges/divisions, and served crucial roles in research. One of her many goals has been to continue diversifying available programs, such as the AACTE Holmes Scholar Program, to meet the needs of the extended community of learners. She has also worked with Dr. David Moore, Dr. Sara Chavarria, and Dr. Corey Knox to survey the UA campus landscape to identify where field-based or experiential programs could be more inclusive and provide a better student experience from historically marginalized backgrounds. Cynthia’s work supports research and commitment to Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Inclusion, research findings, and possible solutions for raising awareness among mentors and organizers of field-based research, curricula, and academia. As a first-generation college graduate, she aims to empower students to love obtaining knowledge and develop the joy of striving for academic excellence with a solid foundation for learning.

From A Dream To Reality – Part Two with Andrea Esmeralda Hernandez Pina

By Cynthia Blockburger, Lindsey Intern, SARSEF

Haven’t read part one yet? Find it here!

Our last conversation with Andrea was terrific. Her journey with SARSEF, her work with the University of Arizona, and bridging her hometown community in Nogales with SARSEF deserve highlighting. Andrea’s journey has definitely left us wanting to know “what’s next,” so we asked!

Andrea shared that she attended a conference in her hometown, Nogales, Sonora, and it “was a big success!” How exciting to hear that the joy of science can lead us to reach our community and expand connections across all borders, physically, socially, and, of course, academically.

Andrea told me that she “reached over a hundred middle school students. I had the chance to share my academic trajectory, study tips, and valuable information about the inclusion and role of women in science. I felt the students enjoyed my time with them as much as I did”. Wow, I told you Andrea Esmeralda Hernandez Pina is amazing! Her excitement for spreading knowledge, not just for science but for showing others how to have A Dream To Reality – Finding My Purpose and Loving It!

Reaching for our dreams sometimes needs modeling, and Andrea certainly shows us how. “I reached over a hundred middle school students. I had the chance to share my academic trajectory, study tips, and valuable information about the inclusion and role of women in science. I felt the students enjoyed my time with them as much as I did, and I am sure they took away good motivation”. I can undoubtedly say that my motivation from meeting Andrea has increased. Giving valuable advice to students also seems to help us grow in valuable ways.

How, do you ask? Well, Andrea shared that she “received a certification from the Department of Education in my hometown and built an amazing connection with the authorities of the department and school I attended. I also gave talks at my high school, Rio Rico High School, and to the Rotary Club of Rio Rico”.

Lastly, Andrea says there will be more collaboration between her hometown and former high school. She is “looking forward to more collaboration with both sides of the border to unite our efforts to increase science literacy.” I am confident this is only the beginning of “what’s next” with Andrea Esmeralda Hernandez Pina.

About SARSEF’s Lindsey Intern, Cynthia Blockburger

Cynthia Blockburger is a highly qualified science teacher and mentor and is currently entering the final phase of her Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Arizona. She is also the Vice President of the College of Education Deans Graduate Advisory Board. In 2022, she was awarded the English Language Arts Title One School’s highest teacher-performer award for the Arizona Academic Standard Assessment. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Mathematics from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and a Master’s in Education from The University of Arizona. She is a passionate educator with over 19 years of experience working with diverse students in grades K-20, specializing in STEM and English Language Arts. Over the years, Cynthia has developed various robust and diverse science curricula by state and national standards. In doing so, she has extended and fostered positive mentor and mentee relationships with students. As a first-generation graduate student, she has worked in various graduate associate positions, such as with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Under the direction of the University of Arizona Dean Berry and Associate Dean Reyes, Cynthia has provided academic and administrative leadership to support programs in the College of Education, liaised between the college and all campus colleges/divisions, and served crucial roles in research. One of her many goals has been to continue diversifying available programs, such as the AACTE Holmes Scholar Program, to meet the needs of the extended community of learners. She has also worked with Dr. David Moore, Dr. Sara Chavarria, and Dr. Corey Knox to survey the UA campus landscape to identify where field-based or experiential programs could be more inclusive and provide a better student experience from historically marginalized backgrounds. Cynthia’s work supports research and commitment to Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Inclusion, research findings, and possible solutions for raising awareness among mentors and organizers of field-based research, curricula, and academia. As a first-generation college graduate, she aims to empower students to love obtaining knowledge and develop the joy of striving for academic excellence with a solid foundation for learning.

Living The Best Version Of Yourself…While Reaching For The Stars – Stacey Weiss

By Cynthia Blockburger, Lindsey Intern, SARSEF

Hello again, it’s me, Cynthia Blockburger. This interview highlights Professor Stacey Weiss of University of Puget Sound and how she envisions the core of mentoring as “living the best version of yourself…while reaching for the stars.” I must begin with how amazing Stacey is, not only as a mentor for STAR Lab (Students Taking Advantage of Research) but also for her joy and passion for supporting students as whole people inside and outside of science. As a student and now science teacher in K-12 education, I know firsthand how beneficial it was to have a mentor who believed in me and who I had the potential to become. Professor Stacey Weiss is that unique individual who mentors and guides students in exploring field and lab research with unquestionable joy and exuberant outcomes as they gain ownership of their work. Stacey told me, “I want to instill confidence and develop passion; I want to encourage students to take ownership of and pride in their work; and I want to do this while leading with kindness and support.”

In addition, Stacey is the recipient of the esteemed 2023 Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Award by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

I asked Stacey about her first experience working with the STAR Lab.

I began mentoring with STAR Lab in 2021, working with a wonderful student, Jeronimo (Jerry) Barela, from Catalina Foothills High School. Since I am in Washington State, all my mentoring has been done remotely, and we have relied heavily on the wonderful support provided by SARSEF staff and STAR Lab graduate students. I met with Jerry weekly via Zoom (who could have imagined this, pre-pandemic! I suppose some good came from it all…), where we discussed the context for the work, experimental design, specific methodologies, his progress, and planning our to-do list for the upcoming week. Cecilia, A STAR Lab graduate student, typically joined our Zoom calls. She and other staff would help prepare the materials Jerry needed and demonstrate the techniques to him when he was in the lab. It was quite the team effort! I came away incredibly impressed by the program that SARSEF has created – the resources, organizational structure, and other supports (e.g., weekly meetings with undergraduate facilitators) make this program a transformational experience not only for the mentees but also for the undergraduate and graduate students that assist along the way.

Mentors and students in STAR Lab continue to prepare the way for future research in all fields of STEM. When I asked Stacey in what ways scientific mentorship has impacted her practice and mentoring with the STAR Lab program, she said, I have had a variety of mentors with a variety of mentoring styles. I have tried, over the years, to develop a mentoring style that pulls the best bits from all of them. I began conducting independent, mentored research as an undergraduate student. I was nervous and lacked confidence, but my mentors clearly had trust in me and my abilities, and this helped me push forward in the field. Another mentor was great at personalizing his mentoring approach to the needs of his mentees and encouraging us to find and follow our own passion in science. Another emphasized the importance of community, kindness, and diversity of lived experiences in science. As a STAR Lab mentor, I hope to bring these kinds of growth experiences to Southern Arizona high school students.

I asked about Stacey’s most recent project with STAR Lab, and how it has impacted herself and her students. She said that her research team has identified a handful of symbiotic bacteria that provide antifungal protection to their animal host.

My current STAR Lab students are working with the bacteria to identify the mechanism of antifungal action. The pace of research is often slower than students expect, and a perceived lack of progress can be frustrating for them. I emphasize to students that this is typical, especially when developing new protocols and techniques. My emphasis is not just on imparting knowledge but on nurturing the potential within each student. So, “reaching for the stars” may mean very different things to different students.

I was curious to know how Stacey would describe her experience in field research before working with STAR Lab. When asked, Stacey smiled and stated, “I love fieldwork.

It is definitely what got me hooked into the field of biology! It is empowering to be surrounded by nature and just observe. Observe and generate questions about the natural world. And then figure out how to scientifically address them! Although I have done fieldwork in a variety of places, the one that keeps drawing me back is the Chiricahua Mountains in SE Arizona (for longer than I’d like to admit (30-ish years!)). This mountain is part of the Madrean “sky islands” – an archipelago of mountain islands surrounded by desert seas. The biodiversity here is incredible! I first went there as an undergraduate student from UCLA, and I have been returning annually throughout my professional career. My work is based out of the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station, and I have brought dozens of undergraduate students there with me over the years. I love exposing them to this place that was so transformational in my life. While we are there, we often interact with high school groups that come through the area, including a group from Tucson High Magnet School. That is actually how I got connected to SARSEF and STAR Lab. The previous Director of Research, Margaret Wilch, and I met there almost 20 years ago. I worked with her THMS students over the years. When she retired from teaching and moved to SARSEF, I was delighted to be able to support the program by serving as a remote mentor for STAR Lab students.

Wow, I told you Professor Stacey Weiss is amazing. Her research is as marvelous as our Arizona sunsets…astonishing. So, I wanted to know, as I’m sure you do too, where she sees her work expanding as a faculty member and mentor working with students?

I am trained as a behavioral ecologist, so the microbial work that I am doing now is quite new to me. I hope to continue to learn and develop modern microbial ecology techniques to address questions about the function of wild microbiomes and their effect on their animal hosts. My immediate aims are twofold: 1) I hope to examine interactions between the microbiome and ecoimmunology of free-ranging lizards, and 2) I want to examine intersections between microbial and behavioral ecology by thinking about how lizard behavior (diet, sociality, mating, etc.) affects and is affected by their microbiome.

Tune in for What’s Next with Professor Stacey Weiss. Her research and collaboration with STAR Lab continues. We love her journey, “Living the best version of yourself – while reaching for the stars.”

About SARSEF’s Lindsey Intern, Cynthia Blockburger

Cynthia Blockburger is a highly qualified science teacher and mentor and is currently entering the final phase of her Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Arizona. She is also the Vice President of the College of Education Deans Graduate Advisory Board. In 2022, she was awarded the English Language Arts Title One School’s highest teacher-performer award for the Arizona Academic Standard Assessment. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Mathematics from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and a Master’s in Education from The University of Arizona. She is a passionate educator with over 19 years of experience working with diverse students in grades K-20, specializing in STEM and English Language Arts. Over the years, Cynthia has developed various robust and diverse science curricula by state and national standards. In doing so, she has extended and fostered positive mentor and mentee relationships with students. As a first-generation graduate student, she has worked in various graduate associate positions, such as with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Under the direction of the University of Arizona Dean Berry and Associate Dean Reyes, Cynthia has provided academic and administrative leadership to support programs in the College of Education, liaised between the college and all campus colleges/divisions, and served crucial roles in research. One of her many goals has been to continue diversifying available programs, such as the AACTE Holmes Scholar Program, to meet the needs of the extended community of learners. She has also worked with Dr. David Moore, Dr. Sara Chavarria, and Dr. Corey Knox to survey the UA campus landscape to identify where field-based or experiential programs could be more inclusive and provide a better student experience from historically marginalized backgrounds. Cynthia’s work supports research and commitment to Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Inclusion, research findings, and possible solutions for raising awareness among mentors and organizers of field-based research, curricula, and academia. As a first-generation college graduate, she aims to empower students to love obtaining knowledge and develop the joy of striving for academic excellence with a solid foundation for learning.

From A Dream To Reality – Finding My Purpose and Loving It! – Andrea Esmeralda Hernandez Pina

By Cynthia Blockburger, Lindsey Intern, SARSEF

Hello, I am Cynthia Blockburger, your Lindsey Intern with SARSEF. In this interview, you will find out how your “dreams can become a reality while finding your purpose and loving it!” Meet Andrea Esmeralda Hernandez, from Nogales, Sonora. Andrea is passionate about being a part of SARSEF and is dedicated to sharing her story and voice. Andrea attended two different high schools. For the first two years, she attended a nursing school in Mexico. She then attended Rio Rico High School in Arizona for her junior and senior years. As early as middle school, Andrea was and still is inquisitive and mesmerized by science. She quickly fell in love with all aspects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and most certainly Math – STEM. Andrea is the first one in her family to attend a university in the US. Today, Andrea considers herself a first-generation college student attending The University of Arizona as a freshman, double majoring in Molecular Sciences and Biochemistry. Like Andrea, I am also a first-generation college student who studied science, and we both know how exciting and challenging this experience can be.

I asked Andrea what her first real science experience was that she knew… This is for me?

I will say that it was back then in eighth grade and ninth grade. I was selected to participate in the science program right in Mexico, where I lived and studied. That program is called the Science Leadership Club for Girls, a program run by the US Consulate in my city. At that time, I wanted to just explore different branches of science, and we had classes with different professors from the US. They went all over the area in my city to teach us about different branches of science, beginning with earth science research.

I remember, particularly, my favorite class in that course. That was actually at a time when I didn’t know for certain what SARSEF was all about. It was the first time that I was in SARSEF. Our activity was a mission to save a lake in Arizona. That lake was contaminated. We had to find a solution to save the lake. So, in order to find the solution, we had to analyze the water. We researched the lake and saw what microorganisms were in the water, and to do it, we used a microscope. That was the first time in my life to see and use a microscope and see microorganisms. So when I put my eyes on the glass of the microscope, I saw those little things moving around the water with their strange shapes and colors. They were crawling and just moving around! I was like, What? I was fascinated. I knew there was a microscopic world, but I didn’t know it was like that.

The microcosms were really weird; they were moving around and were completely different from us. So, that was the first time I used a microscope and saw microorganisms. I remember perfectly that I felt an excitement that I never felt before.

I remember that I wanted to cry that day. I was so excited to see the microscope and microorganisms. I remember asking the program coordinator, Oh my, why…why do I want to cry? I didn’t understand why I felt that way, and then she said that meant that you discovered your vocation. I thought to myself, okay, this is where I should be and what I should do. This must be the field that is for me because I had the privilege that not many people have.

To feel that love for your subject is really so inspirational for other girls. Girls that look like you and look like me! To know and boldly say that you like what you’re doing and to say, “We (girls) really can do this.” Andrea is truly an inspiration for all girls.

What is one of your earlier and exciting experiences in the classroom or field research with science?

I have had an experience with a lab that I started working on when I was moving from junior high school to senior high school, which I am still working with today. Some of the experiments we have done recently are studying a protein that is found inside the fungus that causes valley fever infection. This is one of my favorite experiments because it requires using a green fluorescent to see the protein. Seeing Andrea light up again as she talks about using a microscope also brings a bigger smile to my face. She goes on to say that looking under a special microscope to see where that protein is inside special cells and the outcome has been one of her favorite experiences. Andrea goes on to say that It is very beautiful and fascinating how it works. That “it” would be all things science.

When it comes to your experience with SARSEF and your whole experience throughout science, now that you’re a freshman in college, are you finding a world with more room for you to grow?

I was so upset when I moved to high school in Rio Rico. I didn’t want to move. I was close to my family. I felt like I did not want to be here. I did not want to do anything. It took me a while to understand the idea that in order to fulfill the dreams I have set for myself. This is the path that would give me the opportunities that will let me develop a difference and make a difference. So, it took me a while to understand that, but once I got the idea, I realized there were a bunch of opportunities for me. Thanks to those opportunities, I could see myself as an eligible candidate to go into this field. Now, the University of Arizona programs, the professors, and the community across campus have made me feel welcome. I am motivated to continue buying into myself and more deeply in my field. I have had the privilege to be involved in many activities. Even though I’m just in my freshman semester of college, I’m trying to just seek those opportunities because that’s why I came here.

Tune in for “What’s Next with Andrea Esmeralda Hernandez Pina.” Her path with SARSEF continues. She embodies every girl’s dream. We are loving her journey, “From A Dream To Reality – Finding My Purpose and Loving It!”

Read Part Two Now!

About SARSEF’s Lindsey Intern, Cynthia Blockburger

Cynthia Blockburger is a highly qualified science teacher and mentor and is currently entering the final phase of her Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Arizona. She is also the Vice President of the College of Education Deans Graduate Advisory Board. In 2022, she was awarded the English Language Arts Title One School’s highest teacher-performer award for the Arizona Academic Standard Assessment. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Mathematics from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and a Master’s in Education from The University of Arizona. She is a passionate educator with over 19 years of experience working with diverse students in grades K-20, specializing in STEM and English Language Arts. Over the years, Cynthia has developed various robust and diverse science curricula by state and national standards. In doing so, she has extended and fostered positive mentor and mentee relationships with students. As a first-generation graduate student, she has worked in various graduate associate positions, such as with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Under the direction of the University of Arizona Dean Berry and Associate Dean Reyes, Cynthia has provided academic and administrative leadership to support programs in the College of Education, liaised between the college and all campus colleges/divisions, and served crucial roles in research. One of her many goals has been to continue diversifying available programs, such as the AACTE Holmes Scholar Program, to meet the needs of the extended community of learners. She has also worked with Dr. David Moore, Dr. Sara Chavarria, and Dr. Corey Knox to survey the UA campus landscape to identify where field-based or experiential programs could be more inclusive and provide a better student experience from historically marginalized backgrounds. Cynthia’s work supports research and commitment to Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Inclusion, research findings, and possible solutions for raising awareness among mentors and organizers of field-based research, curricula, and academia. As a first-generation college graduate, she aims to empower students to love obtaining knowledge and develop the joy of striving for academic excellence with a solid foundation for learning.

A Day in the Life of A Public Ally at SARSEF: January Edition

By Katerina Guerrero

As we begin the new year, it is time to start creating new memories and achieving new goals to make 2024 our year. As a second-year Public Ally, I continue working at SARSEF as well as with other Allies volunteering to bring the community of Tucson together. Volunteer opportunities are amazing because I get to know other people of all ages who are also working to build a stronger community and are passionate about cultivating impactful relationships.  

Coming to SARSEF, I was so excited to see all the amazing volunteer opportunities available to work with students of all ages. SARSEF has so many amazing programs that allow us to support and applaud student work.  People come from a diversity of communities to volunteer their time and encourage students to be believers in their own work.   

In 2024, SARSEF will have many volunteer and judging opportunities for you to consider. Are you ready to make a difference? Below you’ll find a listing of many of these great opportunities: 

Beyond the SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair

Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

We are seeking judges for the Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona on Saturday, February 17. JSHS Judges will attend a virtual training in February then attend JSHS 7:30AM – 1:00PM to judge oral presenters in the subject category most aligned with your specialty. 

Racing the Sun

We are seeking event volunteers for Racing the Sun’s Test Day and Race Day! Help make these events special for high school students as they prepare to race solar-powered go-karts they have spent the school year designing and building as a team.

  • Racing the Sun Test Day, Saturday, April 6th: 9AM-3PM  
  • Racing the Sun Race Day, Saturday, April 27th: 9AM-3PM

While a background or passion for engineering is encouraged in Racing the Sun volunteers, there are opportunities for everyone to get involved! Both events will take place at Musselman Honda Circuit.

A Day in the Life of A Public Ally at SARSEF: October Edition

By Katerina Guerrero

Hello everyone! This month is usually about tricks and treats, spooky costumes, and scary movies. I love Halloween, but I’m not very good at watching scary movies without hiding my face in the pillows. This month I didn’t do too much hiding but instead enjoyed the treats that came my way. Nothing too spooky for me!

For me, the beginning of October was the start of my second year of Public Allies, Americorps with SARSEF as their Marketing and Communication Specialist. Now that can sound spooky, but it was a real treat. The feeling of getting a king-size candy bar when trick or treating as a little kid. My hands were a little shaky meeting everyone for the first time, but I always told myself to be myself and be the best version of myself and nothing could go wrong. Joining an amazing group of people at SARSEF took away the spooky and scary. You might ask, how did I get here?

I am originally from a small city outside of Boston called Lawrence, MA. I was raised in this small community and inside my parents’ restaurants. I was running around the rooms as a little kid and later started to work from host to manager. I became a writing leader for middle school students and a mentor for these students just like those who helped me in the same program. Listening to students and what they have to say, I learned so much from them and continue to grow when working with students. I made the extremely hard but amazing decision to move to Tucson to continue my education at the University of Arizona after taking two years off to help my parents during COVID. I moved to Tucson to start my major in Mexican-American studies and minor in Spanish. I am the daughter of an immigrant; my father left his family in Mexico to have a better life for himself and his family. Being so far from my family and culture in Mexico, I felt like I was losing myself and wanted to know better who I am. Taking these classes and living in Tucson has helped me so much.  During my first month living in Tucson, I learned about Public Allies Americorps and right away started my first year at ASU OCHER.  

I am so excited to be here at SARSEF, to be a storyteller for them and students, and to help spread our values of innovation, equity, and engagement. While here, I will be working on marketing. I will work with my co-workers, the students, and others involved in SARSEF and get to tell the story of the impact SARSEF has had on them and continues to have on them. With that, I will also be working on social media to spread the amazing work we are doing here.

I have learned so much and already feel a part of the team. I could dump out my pillow sheet of candy and give and trade my candy with them. As I am beginning my time here at SARSEF, I have had the amazing opportunity to meet everyone and discuss their roles and why they love having the chance to create opportunities for students through science and engineering. As I said, this month was filled with more sweet treats than tricks.

Intern Increases Science and Engineering Opportunities for Students with SARSEF through the Paul Lindsey Internship Program

Along with being a student pursuing a Master’s in Education Policy at the University of Arizona, Ricardo Dominguez is a College and Alumni Counselor at San Miguel High School.

May 26, 2021

(Tucson, AZ) Over the past school year, Ricardo Dominguez interned with the local nonprofit SARSEF, giving them the bandwidth to better track school involvement in their programs and assisting with the transition between virtual and in-person events.

Dominguez interned through the University of Arizona College of Education’s Paul Lindsey Internship Program. Lindsey interns are students of education who build leadership and management skills through real-world experiences in their funded work with community outreach programs, museums and a variety of local agencies.

SARSEF creates Arizona’s future critical thinkers and problem solvers through science and engineering, a mission that Dominguez feels a strong connection to.

“As a first-generation college student, my STEM foundation has always given me the confidence to be passionately curious,” Dominguez shared.

Dominguez is a proud graduate of the Sunnyside School District. He attended The University of Arizona directly out of high school and faced the endless challenges of a first-generation college student. Through his struggles, he was lucky enough to have caring educators who gave him the confidence to continue school even though his route was not a straight path. From this experience, he found a love of education and has devoted his career to doing just that – guiding first-generation students through higher education learning.

Currently, Dominguez serves as a College and Alumni Counselor for San Miguel High School. With the intention to make a real difference in Arizona education, he decided to pursue a Master’s in Education Policy at the University of Arizona, and through the College of Education, he was granted a Paul Lindsey Internship Scholarship, connecting him to SARSEF.

“What I love about SARSEF is its mission to nurture curiosity and make science learning fun. Although I was an intern this year, I also considered myself a student in the program, and I benefited greatly from the amazing educators working at SARSEF,” said Dominguez.

During his time with SARSEF, Dominguez analyzed program data, assisted with the Virtual SARSEF Fair, performed safety checks on solar-powered go-karts for Racing the Sun, and interviewed ISEF finalists selected at the SARSEF Fair to highlight their accomplishments.

As the school year wrapped up, Dominguez had the opportunity to reflect on his time as an intern with SARSEF.

“In a year of unknowns, my internship at SARSEF provided much-needed value to my days at home. When I reflect on my SARSEF internship, I know I received more from the program than what is said on paper. SARSEF is proof that educators come in all forms and that a passion for learning is what you need to do anything you want. From the first-year scientist at the Fair to our board members, there’s a clear passion for curiosity. That is what STEM and SARSEF are all about.”

Media Contact:  

Julie Euber, COO

SARSEF

julie@sarsef.org