L-R: Reno Soto, Daniel "DJ" Firova, Mariela Aguilera, Anailse Martinez, Manuel Juarez, Marcella Juarez, and David Vela. Not pictured are Regino Lopez and Jessica Espinoza.
LAREDO, TX (LCC) - Summer might spell vacation for many students across Texas, but for several Laredo Community College graduates, this summer will include traveling abroad and interning with various United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies.
As recipients of the Texas State University and LCC’s USDA Food Safety and Agroterrorism Training: Educating our Future Workforce (FATE) grant, these LCC graduates transferred to Texas State University to complete a degree in agriculture or related sciences in order to gain the necessary training for employment with a USDA agency upon graduation.
Support for the grant is provided by a Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HIS) grant funded by the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Regino Lopez, a junior electrical engineering major, will work with the USDA Forest Service at the Fire Sciences Research Laboratory in Missoula, Montana. He will work under Bret Butler, Research Mechanical Engineer, to explore the energy release of wild land flames.
Sophomore horticulture major, Daniel “DJ” Firova, will work with the USDA Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Bozeman, Montana. He will work under research entomologist Dr. Sharlene Sing in studying the efficacy of biological control methods in integrated invasive weed management on National Forest lands.
Michael “Reno” Soto, a junior Wildlife Biology major, will work with the USDA Forest Service at the White River National Forest in Aspen, Colorado. He will work under Natural Resource Specialist Jon Thompson in performing a variety of tasks including wildlife biology, range management, water and fisheries, and developed and dispersed recreation.
Siblings Marcella Juarez and Manuel Juarez, both sophomore agricultural education majors, will work with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Sustainable Agriculture Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. They will work under research ecologist Dr. Steven Mirsky in evaluating the multifunctional effects of cover cropping systems and their role in weed management and soil fertility.
Senior nutrition and dietetics major, Mariela Aguilera, will work with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in the Food Composition and Methods Development Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. She
will work with research chemist Dr. James Harnly in developing analytical methodology to determine nutrient content of foods.
In addition to her participating in the USDA-FATE grant, Aguilera was part of the United States Department of Education’s Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program while at LCC. She served as a mentee and research assistant under Dean Marisela Rodriguez, conducting independent studies on nutrition.
Aguilera is a familiar face around Laredo, as she has served in many of LCC’s marketing and promotional initiatives, including an image of her on the new Mobile Go Center.
Fellow senior nutrition and dietetics major, Anailse Martinez, will work with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in the Diet, Genomics, and Immunology Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. She will work with research chemist Dr. Thomas Wang in using molecular-based protocols to model obesity and arteriosclerosis response using a porcine model.
Agricultural education graduate students David Vela and Jessica Espinoza will travel to Costa Rica for a two-week study abroad course, focusing on organic and sustainable methods of agricultural production. This course will be led by Dr. Hardin Rahe, professor of animal science.
Vela also will work for the USDA Forest Service at the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests in Grand Junction, Colorado. He will work under Environmental Manager Loren Paulson in determining soil erosion and vegetation reclamation rates on restored system trails.
Students received academic support and scholarships at LCC and now at Texas State University.
Dr. Douglas Morrish of Texas State is the principal investigator for the USDA-FATE grant, with Dr. Ryan Saucier of Texas State serving as co-principal investigator with Dr. Garza.