CIMA Program Helps Students Pursue STEM Careers

For nearly 10 years, Northwest Vista College has been helping underrepresented students earn bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through its Ciencia, Ingeniería, y Matemáticas Aliados (CIMA) program.

In February, Isabella Pangilinan, who attended NVC for three semesters, presented her project at the ENR (Emerging Researchers National) conference in Washington, DC. She was part of the virtual CIMA summer research program in 2021. While the ERN conference was canceled in 2022 because of the pandemic, she was invited to present her NVC/CIMA research. 

Currently, Isabella is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA. 

Dr. Claudia Verdin, co-PI of NVC’s CIMA program, said it’s students like Isabella that prove community college students can compete and conduct research with their university and graduate-level peers. 

Claudia said NVC has been able to support STEM-major students every semester since 2014. Each semester about 6-8 students receive stipends of $3,000 for a 10-week summer research at a four-year university. 

Claudia said she is now accepting applications for the next round of CIMA summer interns. 

CIMA was formed in the fall of 2013 when St. Philip’s College (the lead college on the grant) was awarded a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Baccalaureate (B2B) Program grant funded by the National Science Foundation. CIMA comprises San Antonio College, Palo Alto College, Northeast Lakeview College, and NVC.

To achieve CIMA’s mission, many initiatives include peer mentorship, faculty mentorship, tutoring, supplemental instruction, STEM student incubator, and undergraduate research.

Here’s what Isabella presented at the ENR conference:

Research abstract/summary – Bioretention basins help reduce urban pollutants by filtering stormwater runoff before traveling downstream. Determining aquatic ecosystem response to treated stormwater run-off is important in understanding the effects of such run-off from an urban area. This research aimed to determine how the bioretention basin increases or decreases the biodiversity of the invertebrate community and how soil is impacted compared to a grassy channel. At a stormwater treatment basin site at the main University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), campus, soils, vegetation, and invertebrate communities were monitored between June and July 2021. Two experimental sites were placed at a bioretention basin (site one) and a bioswale (site two), while a control treatment was placed in an undisturbed grassy channel (site three). Malaise traps, light traps, and net sweeps were utilized in the invertebrate collection process and sorted by identification of order.

Additionally, soil quality at the three testing sites was analyzed for pH levels, sediment size, and organic matter content. All treatment areas were similar in canopy cover but differed in ground vegetation. Invertebrate results showed communities were not significantly different between control and treatment sites. Soil results showed site one to contain the highest average percentage of organic matter content at 17.01%, followed by site three at 2.91% and site two at 1.77%. In addition, site two was found to have the most neutralized average pH level over two repetitions which was calculated to be 7.04 pH, site three averaged 7.1 pH, and site one averaged 7.45 pH. The bioretention basin appears to have impacted insect diversity due to a lack of vegetation cover. However, soils appear healthy based on organic matter content, suggesting the basin may increase insect diversity as vegetation grows over time. 


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