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Lucky Thirteen Santiago Canyon College Students Score Summer Research Spots at CSU Fullerton


​(Orange, CA) — This summer, 13 lucky students from Santiago Canyon College (SCC) have landed coveted spots in a summer research experience at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). From June 16-August 8, these STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) SCC scholars are working in cutting-edge CSUF science laboratories paired with CSUF research mentors. In total, 39 students from Santiago Canyon, Citrus, and Cypress community colleges are assisting with research alongside 19 CSUF faculty members.

The 13 studentsIvan Blanco, a 21-year-old Orange resident, is one the fortunate SCC research assistants at CSUF. He and four other community college students are engaged with work on a brain-controlled robotic arm. They use a headset that records brain wave signals that a computer transforms into code defining specific movements or expressions. The research assistants’ roles are to seek ways to enhance the robotic arm’s movement and to fix the code.

“It’s a different learning experience,” said Blanco, who will transfer to UC Irvine in the fall to major in computer engineering. “This is my second summer in the program. I have learned how to write in-depth research papers and do hands-on research. You learn skills from the research process which you get to take elsewhere — to another research project or even to a job. Programs like this one are what students need for their future in STEM fields.”

The eight-week "Summer Research Experience" is part of the Strengthening Transfer Education & Matriculation in STEM program, known as (STEM) ². In addition to the invaluable research experience, the selected students will receive a $5,000 stipend. The young research assistants will have the opportunity to test hypotheses and present their findings at the STEM Poster Symposium planned for August 8. The program is part of the (STEM) ² grant that focuses on increasing the transfer rates in STEM fields to four-year institutions.

The following SCC students have been selected to assist the highlighted faculty at CSUF:

  • Sally Abdallah and Brittany Kastens are working with Dr. William J. Hoese, biological sciences professor, on research into biology education, student learning, animal communication, and functional morphology.
  • Kaamran Syed is working with Dr. Madeline Rasche, biochemistry professor, on research that includes a combination of biochemistry, molecular biology, genomics, and biophysical approaches to identify and characterize genes and enzymes.
  • Daniel Weiherer is working with Dr. Jere Lipps, director of Orange County's John D. Cooper Center for Archaeological and Paleontological Curation and Research, on the preservation, curation, and management of the fossils and artifacts within the County of Orange.
  • Sarah Wood is working with Dr. Joshua Smith, assistant professor of physics, on research directed toward gravitational-wave astronomy with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).
  • Roland Pajarito is working with Dr. Murtadha Khakoo, professor of physics, on experimental research in atomic physics.
  • Haroon Khan is working with Dr. Geoffrey Lovelace, assistant professor of physics, on research in gravitational physics, numerical relativity and simulations of merging compact objects.
  • Brian Caballero is working with Dr. Garrett Struckhoff, assistant professor of civil engineering, on research concerning bioremediation and phytoremediation.
  • Alejandro Sanchez, Gerardo Padilla, and Blanco are working with Dr. Kiran George, assistant professor of computer engineering, on research  including high performance computing, intelligent systems, verification and testing of VLSI and FPGA implementation, and biologically inspired electronics and designs.
  • Robert Mitchell is working with Dr. Christopher Ryu, professor of computer science, on research including data mining, databases, computational finance, evolutionary computation, Internet computing, and software project management.
  • Michael Balesteri is working with Dr. Chin Chean Ngo, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, on research interests including transport phenomena in porous media, heat and mass transfer enhancement using electric field and multimedia technology in engineering education and K-12 STEM education.

For more information on STEM programs at Santiago Canyon College, call (714) 628-4800 or visit

About Santiago Canyon College

Santiago Canyon College (SCC) serves about 14,000 students each semester. The college prepares students for transfer to four-year institutions and careers, and provides courses for personal and professional development, as well as customized training for business and industry. The college is recognized for its adult education program which keeps the working adult—and senior—in mind by offering flexible schedules, and community locations. Serving the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin, and Villa Park, SCC is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District.

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PHOTO: A high-resolution version of the above photo may be downloaded by clicking on the image.

ABOVE PHOTO CAPTION: (Front row left to right) John Hernandez, Santiago Canyon College (SCC) vice president student services; Robert Mitchell; Sarah Wood; Gerardo Padilla; Brian Caballero; Ann Cass, SCC STEM counselor; Sally Abdallah; Roland Pajarito; Ivan Blanco; Jennifer Coto, STEM ².  project director and (Back row left to right) Haroon Khan; Alejandro Sanchez; Michael Balesteri; Kaamran Syed; Irvin Medina, SCC STEM ²  peer mentor; and Phil Crabill, SCC STEM counselor; celebrate the launch of the 2014 Summer Research Experience at Cal State Fullerton.

Media Contact:
Judy Iannaccone
Phone: (714) 480-7503