This summer, Irvine Valley College (IVC) mechanical engineering student Crystal Enciso was one of four IVC students to participate in Project RAISE (Regional Alliance in STEM Education), part of the Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). IVC was one of ten area community colleges to have students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) conduct paid research at CSUF. This year’s cohort included 69 participants who each received a $5,000 stipend for their research.
Enciso focused her project on modeling fluid flow through whale shark filtration. She was mentored by CSUF faculty member Dr. Misty Paig-Tran, whom Enciso thanks for serving as a “wonderfully supportive, intelligent, and encouraging mentor.” Held in person over eight weeks at the CSUF campus, the program provided mentoring as well as weekly participant meetings.
“We would meet as a group with URE staff and they would have panels talking about a lot of informative topics, like resume building, how to decide on pursuing graduate studies, and preparing us for the symposium with our posters,” Enciso said, adding that the program also taught participants how to present research at conferences.
A first-generation college student, Enciso said she thinks, “Project Raise will open a lot of doors for me in terms of my education when I transfer as well as broaden my career opportunities within the engineering field.” While completing her last two semesters at IVC and continuing to work on her research, Enciso is preparing to apply to CSUF and surrounding southern California universities.
This semester, she is continuing to work on her filter research while also working at the Functional Anatomy, Biomechanics, and Biomaterials Lab (FABB) at CSUF. The FABB Lab explores performance in organisms ranging from tiny plankton to the largest organisms on Earth, baleen whales, performing cutting-edge work at the intersection of biology and materials science.
Looking back, Enciso credits IVC’s Dr. Zahra Noroozi for posting about Project RAISE in her class announcements this spring. “Without this information, I never would have known (to apply),” she adds. “Dr. Noroozi was incredibly supportive and gave me insightful advice when I approached her about the interview. I see her as an incredible mentor, whom I admire deeply, and whom I will always credit for my passion in mechanical engineering and design.”
“IVC is thrilled to partner with CSUF to increase the STEM transfer pipeline," said IVC President John Hernandez. "Project RAISE provides transfer support and empowers IVC students to conduct research at CSUF while easing the transition to a four-year university. The URE provides invaluable experience for direct hands-on research and increases participants’ self-confidence while providing a strong foundation for future research participation, graduate school, and STEM careers.”
Other IVC cohort participants from this year are also on to great things. Melissa Herrera and Nikolas Reyes have since transferred to CSUF, and Luiz Landa Agundez transferred to Cal Poly Pomona. Agundez and Herrera both presented research on chemistry and biochemistry. Reyes presented on computer science.
Project RAISE was initially funded in October 2016 and was later funded through Project RAISER, a regional alliance in STEM education made possible through a US Department of Education Title III HSI-STEM grant awarded to CSUF beginning in October 2021.