USC hosts minority research conference
By Amy Long Caffee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-5458
“I thought we were going to win the Nobel Prize,” joked Prakash Nagarkatti, USC’s vice president for research, about his first research experience as a young student in India.
He was speaking with undergraduates at the 20th anniversary Louis Stokes-South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation (LS-SC AMP) conference held Saturday, Oct. 13, at USC. Students from across the state majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas made oral and poster presentations as part of the program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.
The LS-SC AMP program encourages underrepresented and minority undergraduate students to engage in scientific inquiry and research and, more importantly, to continue their education at the graduate level.
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM fields are expected to add 2.7 million new jobs by 2018, yet women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in these fields,” said Nagarkatti. “Thus, programs such as the Louis Stokes-South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation are critical to encourage minority students to pursue research in STEM fields and advance their career opportunities.”
Nearly 90 students from nine South Carolina colleges and universities presented on a variety of subjects, including novel cancer research, more efficient biofuel production and structural nano-materials, among others. Students also engaged in a panel discussion featuring graduate students from USC, Clemson and the Medical University of South Carolina to discuss the rewards and challenges of the graduate school experience.
"I felt honored to be able to share my experience and wisdom with undergraduates concerning graduate school,” said Odell Glenn, a panelist and doctoral candidate in chemical engineering at USC.
At an awards luncheon following the presentations, students heard a motivational talk from Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin on the importance of education and its impact on the community. Nagarkatti delivered an inspirational account of his experience attending a small college in India.
“Mentoring is so important,” Nagarkatti said. “One professor in particular had a big impact on me, igniting my passion for research and helping me to realize that the world of scientific inquiry was open to me, and that I could make a valuable contribution by focusing my efforts there.”
The conference is an invaluable experience, Nagarkatti said. “It’s an excellent opportunity for students to present their work—to be able to showcase the results of many hours of hard work to their families, mentors and other faculty. We can expect great things from these students as they continue in their academic careers.”