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!
By Maricela Rivera, Board Member, SARSEF; Distribution Engineer II, Trico Electric Cooperative
Hello, I’m Maricela Rivera, a recent addition to the SARSEF Board. Although my title may be new, my connection to SARSEF runs deep. Back in elementary school, I was an eager participant in the SARSEF fair, participating in numerous class and individual projects.
I remember my last individual SARSEF project was in 5th grade. I evaluated the permeability of a birthday balloon using various substances: air, water, helium, and vegetable oil. Participating in the fair encouraged my passion for science. I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Arizona and work as an Engineer at Trico Electric Cooperative.
Fast forward to today, and I’m not merely reminiscing about those early days; I’m actively contributing to SARSEF. Last year, I had the pleasure of judging elementary and high school projects. Witnessing the creativity and enthusiasm of young minds brought back memories of my own journey. Those moments reignited my passion, inspiring me to do more. I found myself volunteering for a board position.
My journey has come full circle, and it’s a thrill to be part of an organization that played a role in shaping my love for science. Reflecting on my experiences, I encourage each one of you to explore the wonders of SARSEF. Sign up to be a judge or volunteer at the fair. Discover the joy of science for yourself! Your active participation could be the spark that ignites a passion in the next generation of young scientists.
By Casey Carrillo, Board Secretary, SARSEF; Director of Strategic Partnerships, University of Arizona Center for Innovation
My name is Casey Carrillo and I serve on SARSEF’s Board of Directors. I have been involved as a board member for two years. My sister is a fourth-grade teacher, and the passion that she has for education is contagious. I wanted to get involved with an organization that truly supports educators and students in Southern Arizona.
Being involved with SARSEF has allowed me to share my passion to help support Arizona’s critical thinkers. Last year, I had the opportunity to serve as a judge for SARSEF’s science fair and I learned about renewable energy and sustainability projects that high schoolers from all over Southern Arizona completed. It was inspiring to learn about the different projects – they were truly out of this world. Being able to see how passionate students are about renewable energy and sustainability is inspiring for me because it correlates directly with my day job.
I am the Director of Strategic Partnerships with the University of Arizona Center for Innovation, and we work with science and tech startups. I specifically work with renewable energy companies, and to see the pipeline of students in this space was exciting. I encourage you to volunteer for this year’s science fair and witness Arizona’s critical thinkers in action! Sign up today.
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 Staceyin 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 knowhow 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.
So far, our Fall Cohort of Ambassadors has directly impacted nearly 300 students by attending events throughout the community. If you are passionate about STEM and would you like to be a part of inspiring and encouraging scientists and engineers younger than you, consider becoming a SARSEF Science Ambassador!
The SARSEF Science Ambassador program prepares student scientists and engineers to represent SARSEF at events while promoting STEM accessibility and diversity throughout the community. Ambassadors will attend four training sessions to certify their involvement at community events. Once certified, Science Ambassadors represent SARSEF, facilitate activities at tabling events, and have access to speaking opportunities to share their passion for STEM with PreK-12 students and educators in Southern Arizona!
Applications for our Spring Cohort are open now through January 25! Apply today or share with someone you know who would be an excellent Ambassador!
¡Ya está abierta la inscripción para el grupo de Primavera de Embajadores de la Ciencia! Regístrate antes del 1/25 y únete al segundo grupo de este increíble programa.
Hasta ahora, nuestra grupo de embajadores de otoño ha impactado directamente a casi 300 estudiantes al asistir a eventos en toda la comunidad. Los embajadores asistirán a cuatro sesiones de capacitación para certificar su participación en eventos comunitarios.
Una vez certificados, los Embajadores de la Ciencia pueden representar a SARSEF, facilitar actividades en eventos de presentación y tener acceso a oportunidades de hablar para compartir su pasión por STEM con estudiantes y educadores de PreK-12 en el sur de Arizona.
¡Las solicitudes para nuestro grupo de primavera están abiertas desde ahora hasta el 25 de enero! ¡Aplica hoy o compártelo con alguien que conozcas que sería un excelente Embajador!
The Science Ambassador program prepares student scientists and engineers to represent SARSEF at events while promoting STEM accessibility and diversity throughout the community. Ambassadors will attend four training sessions to certify their involvement at community events. Once certified, Science Ambassadors are able to represent SARSEF, facilitate activities at tabling events, and have access to speaking opportunities to share their passion for STEM with PreK-12 students and educators in Southern Arizona.
Who we are looking for:
Student volunteers who are at least 16 years old (high school or college/university/trade school)
Passionate about STEM and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers
Previous participation in one or more of SARSEF’s programs preferred
Excellent communication skills, including comfort with public speaking or an interest in building public speaking skills
Experience collaborating across diverse groups
Responsible, self-motivated, enthusiastic, and creative
Availability in their schedule to attend trainings and 2-3 community events a month
Benefits of Certification:
Fulfill needed service hours in a fun and impactful environment
Ability to list program membership and certification on resume and LinkedIn profile as a representative of a leading STEM education nonprofit.
Opportunity to network with industry partners at events
Participate in diversifying access to quality STEM programming and expanding impact to those with the greatest need
Letters of recommendation written by SARSEF leaders as you continue to volunteer with our organization
Where: Trainings are in-person at SARSEF Office (5049 E Broadway Blvd); community events will be in and around the Tucson area
When: See training schedule below. Once training is complete, community event opportunities vary from weekdays, weekday evenings, and weekends. Event participation schedule is flexible, however, we do expect Ambassadors to attend at least 2-3 community events a month.
Fall Cohort 2023
Registration Deadline: Registration for the Fall 2023 cohort will be open from August 1 through August 31, 2023. All four training sessions are required in order to complete the program.
Four training sessions, once a week for four weeks
Session 1: Thursday, September 7, 7:00-8:30p
Session 2: Thursday, September 14, 7:00-8:30p
Session 3: Thursday, September 21, 7:00-8:30p
Session 4: Thursday, September 28, 7:00-8:30p
Spring Cohort 2024
Registration Deadline: Registration for the Spring 2024 cohort will be open from December 1 through January 25, 2024. All four training sessions are required in order to complete the program.
Four training sessions, once a week for four weeks