St. Olaf News


Student wins award for presentation at national STEM conference

RiveraCarlos300x400St. Olaf College student Carlos Rivera ‘15 won a second-place award for his presentation at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in Washington, D.C.

Rivera was one of four chemistry students honored out of the more than 200 undergraduate students nationwide who participated in that section of the conference.

The conference aims to help underrepresented students enhance their science communication skills and better understand how to prepare for science careers in the global workforce. It is centered around student presentations, with workshops focused on strategies for success in graduate school, career preparation, and examining STEM careers in a global context.

Rivera’s poster presentation focused on the progress of his 15-month Beckman Scholar research project. Under the guidance of St. Olaf Associate Professor of Chemistry Jeff Schwinefus, Rivera studied the effect of various solutes on the stabilization of the DNA backbones inside the body.

One of the main applications of Rivera’s research involves fighting cancer and aging. By figuring out how to shorten or lengthen certain parts of the DNA, researchers will be able to understand what parts of the DNA contributes to the stability of the structure.

This is Rivera’s second year attending the ERN conference. Last year, his presentation focused on the population fluctuations between walleye and largemouth bass on Fish Lake Reservoir in Duluth, Minnesota.

This summer Rivera will continue his research with Schwinefus as a part of the grant received from the Beckman Foundation. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in physical chemistry.

The Beckman Foundation provides a stipend to students to conduct research over the course of two summers as well as funding for 10 hours of research each week during the academic year. The highly prestigious grant was awarded to only 10 institutions.