University of Texas at El Paso

GK-12 Fellows

Cheryl Storer

Cheryl Storer
  • GK-12 Campus: Cotton Valley Early College High School
  • Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate, Molecular Biology, UTEP
  • Degree(s): B.S., Biochemestry, Campbell University, North Carolina

Hi! My name is Cheryl Storer. I am not an El Paso native, but I have developed a tremendous appreciation for El Paso and its people during my four years here. I received my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with a pre-medical/optometry focus at Campbell University in North Carolina. From there, I attended optometry school for a year at UAB, but I decided that was not the best path for me. I really prefer the challenges and the discoveries of scientific research and teaching students more than I ever enjoyed looking at eyeballs. I am in my fifth year as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biological Sciences at UTEP, working under the direction of Dr. Marc B. Cox. My present research interests lie in the molecular biology and cancer fields, and my dissertation project focuses on mechanisms of prostate cancer progression. I desire to pursue a career in academia or possibly even government science advocacy programs.

I am extremely excited to work with freshmen pre-AP and dual credit biology students this year at Cotton Valley Early College High School as a returning GK-12 Scientist in Residence. I am excited for this opportunity to share research experiences and to encourage students to consider careers in science. Last year I had so much fun working with the students at Valle Verde ECHS that I am back for more. I absolutely love helping students to grow in not only scientific knowledge, but to start to unlock the mysteries of science themselves. I believe in investing early in the next generation of scientists through inquiry, field trips, labs, and community outreach.

Gena Esposito

Gena Esposito
  • GK-12 Campus: Northwest Early College High School
  • Current Studies: M.S., Environmental Science, UTEP
  • Degree(s): B.S., Marine and Freshwater Biology, University of Texas at Austin

Hello, my name is Gena Esposito. I was born and raised in El Paso. I received my bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Marine and Freshwater Biology in May 2009. From August 2009-February 2010, I lived in Monkey Mia, Western Australia where I worked as a research assistant on a tiger shark tagging project. Currently, I am a second year Environmental Science master's student at UTEP, working under the direction of Dr. Vanessa Lougheed. My current research focuses on aquatic insects: organisms than are quite a bit smaller than tiger sharks, but equally as fierce. I am looking at the effects of isolation and disturbance on aquatic invertebrate communities in the Chihuahuan Desert. In the future, I hope to work in museum outreach where I can continue to try to bridge the gap between current research and the classroom.

This is my second year as a GK-12 Fellow. I spent last year at Mission ECHS in a dual-credit Biology class. This year I will be working at Northwest ECHS in both IPC and AP Biology classes. I am excited to be able to spend another year teaching in the unique environment provided by an early college high school and look forward to honing my teaching skills.

Nisa Rhodes

Jaidee Zavala
  • GK-12 Campus: Transmountain Early College High School
  • Current Studies: Ph.D., Geology/Astrogeophysics, UTEP
  • Degree(s): B.S., Astrophysics, Kasetsart University, Thailand and M.S., Geology, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Sawadee Ka, My name is Nisa Rhodes, a new GK12 fellow this fall 2011. I was born and raise and received most of my education from Thailand before I moved to Los Angeles, California to start working as a field geologist/paleontologist/ archeologist in 2007. After couple years of experiences, and now a seasoned field geologist, I decided to enroll back to school last spring (January 2011) to pursue my dream to become a professional academic geoscientist. I have so much passion in geology, outdoor actions, space exploration and mathematics. I am really lucky to have a chance to work with Assist. Prof. Dr. Jose Miguel Hurtado Jr, whom share the same interests with mine in his Center for Space Exploration Technology Research at the department of geological science, UTEP. We are studying Phreatomagmatic volcanoes eruption using integrated geophysical approaches, in order to determine hydrogeologic activities on Mars surfaces. I am so happy to be a new member of GK12 fellowship this fall. I will be team teaching Chemistry1411 with Mr. Edgar Bridges at Transmountain Early College High School as a house scientist in his class for the next academic year. As a PhD student, I hope that one-day with all the knowledge I have gained, I will be graduated to be a valuable academic resource, and that I will have the right tools to help the society to become a better place. GK12 fellowship is not only giving me the opportunity to practice my teaching skill but also let me use my ability to educate, to inspire, and to guide our young students to have more interested in science and higher-level education.

Lennox Thompson

Gena Esposito
  • GK-12 Campus: Mission Early College High School
  • Current Studies: Ph.D program in geology with concentration in geophysics
  • Degree(s): B.S., Computer Science, Coppin State University; M.S., Geophysics, UTEP

My name is Lennox Thompson and I am originally from Baltimore, MD, where I grew up. As the first member of my family to receive a college degree, I will also be first in my family to consider graduate studies in geosciences, which is the first step towards reaching my goal of earning a doctorate in geophysics. I always realized that my interests lie in mathematical applications in science and technology. I took a full academic year of graduate level Geophysics courses at the University of Memphis and returned to UTEP to start the Ph.D program in Geology. I plan to pursue a post-doc in geophysics focusing on Earthquake Seismology.

A summer internship (2008) at the UNAVCO facility was a life altering experience for me. That internship exposed me to the wonders of geophysics and sparked an interest that has motivated me to pursue a profession in the field. My past summer research experiences in geosciences have influenced me to further participate in research in earthquake geophysics. In the summers of 2006, 2007 and 2008, I participated in an internship with the RESESS (Research Experience in Solid Earth Science for Students) program, funded by NSF (National Science Foundation). I was able to complete three summer research projects in the geosciences while participating in these internship opportunities.

My last research project in the summer of 2008 was to develop a 2-D model of the Southern Rio Grande Rift (SRGR) using GMT (Generic Mapping Too) to add the locations of the USArray stations on top of the topography of SRGR and contour the crustal thickness along with the Vp/Vs ratio in the SRGR region. The mapping of the SRGR that I have done in GMT will assist in analyzing how the rift system deformed and the still ongoing regional extension that the RGR is experiencing. The motivation of my research is to better understand the unknown processes of the SRGR, such as the crustal structure, and to understand the tectonic history of the RGR in order to develop a prediction of how the rift will deform overtime.

Mark Lara

Mark Lara
  • GK-12 Campus: Valle Verde Early College High School
  • Current Status: Ph.D., Ecology, UTEP
  • Degree(s): B.S., Ecology and Evolutionary Theory, UTEP

Greetings viewers,
My name is Mark J. Lara, I am a PhD candidate here at the University of Texas at El Paso in the Biology department. As of May 2011, I started my fourth year in my graduate degree program studying the impacts of climate change on Arctic ecosystems. Specifically, my research focuses on estimating, measuring, and quantifying change in High Arctic ecosystems using old data sets, novel spatial analysis methods, and a recently constructed complex growth chamber/gas analysis systems (built by yours truly... the first year of my PhD) to ultimately understand how these vulnerable arctic ecosystems have changed in their function over decade time scales.
This is my first year in the GK-12 program and I am currently working with Jessica White at the Valle Verde early college high school. I was really interested in pursuing the GK-12 program primarily to i) gain teaching experience within a Biology classroom setting; ii) inspire students to pursue higher education in the physical and life sciences; and iii) transfer my knowledge and expertise in environmental science and ecology to redirect students into practicing and gaining interest in sustainable and renewable (green) energies. When I'm not working hard on my research or in the classroom I enjoy playing golf, racquetball, rock climbing, weight training, and pretty much anything else that challenges my body and mind. Looking forward to the upcoming year of fun!

Ezer Patlan

Ezer Patlan
  • Research: Volcano Seismologist/Geophysics
  • Campus: Mission Early College High School
  • Degree(s): BS. and MS. University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)
  • Contact Information:

My name is Ezer Patlan. I am a geophysics PhD candidate at the Department of Geological Sciences from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). I am local from El Paso, Texas. I got motivate in geosciences because the field allows you to solve geological problems that most citizens are impact such as earthquakes. El Paso does have in the past and recently local earthquakes near of Van Horn, Texas. This is my second year as a GK-12 fellow in Mission Early College High School (MECHS) working under Mrs. Adrianne Abaño as Chemistry teacher and Mr. Keith J. Colsh as Physics teacher. I believe the campus has great program with the teachers and students ready to learn new innovation. My status as PhD candidate is geophysics or Volcano Seismologist allows me to monitor the forecast of volcanic activity that take place in San Miguel Volcano, Salvador in Central America. And I am analyzing the geothermal activity for exploration energy resource at Menengai Caldera, Naruku, Kenya. Both projects, I would like to integrate computationally and geologically to the teachers and students by means of developing a MECHS colloquium, local geological field trips, and workshops. Been part of the GK-12 program is to expose teacher and students to easy available scientific tools that can be integrating into their classroom.

More information:

Christian Servin

Jaidee Zavala
  • GK-12 Campus: Canutillo Early College High School
  • Current Studies: Ph.D., Computer Science, UTEP
  • Degree(s): B.S., Computer Science, UTEP; M.S., Computer Science, UTEP

I am Christian Servin, I am a Ph.D. student in the Computational Science program, in the University of Texas at El Paso. Currently I am working in the topic "Incorporate Uncertainty to Geophysics Problems" under the supervision of Professor Vladik Kreinovich.
I have a B.S. and a M.S. in Computer Science from UTEP. I have been a GK-12 fellow since August 2010 at North West.
I have been working with Dr. Imana Ekal, developing Computational Physics applications. We work with juniors and seniors. I helped the early college high school students to program the robot for the 2011 SMART Robotics Competition, we won the 13th place out of 65!
I really enjoy to teach and motivate students to study higher education. My objective is to motivate students to become part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) community. Another of my goals is to articulate and align the curriculum between early college high schools and College. This fellowship provides me the perfect bridge to achieve my goals.

Rolando Cardenas (Ron)

Jaidee Zavala
  • GK-12 Campus: Valle Verde Early College High School
  • Current Studies: Ph.D., Computer Science, UTEP
  • Degree(s): B.S. Electrical Engineering, M.A. Teaching Mathematics (MAT), M.S. Computational Science

My name is Rolando Cardenas and I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Computational Science at UTEP. I am a returning Fellow to the GK-12 program and look forward to an exciting experience with new students. One of the things I enjoy most about the GK-12 program is the opportunity to draw students to study science in college. Many have a curiosity towards science but lack the confidence and skills to do research. I believe I can positively affect many students and help remove their roadblocks. I have been an elementary, middle, and high school math and science teacher for 17 years at Bethel Christian School. Over the past 6 years, I had the privilege of teaching credit and non-credit mathematics courses for UTEP and EPCC. In addition, I was the Director of Bands at Bethel Christian School from 1995 to 2008.

My current research is in the development of a software package that performs a 3D inversion of gravity data for a geoscience study of the Border Ranges Fault System in southeast Alaska. It is my hope to make this software available as an open-source package to aid other geoscientists studying inversion problems of this kind.

I received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from UTEP in 1991. During my studies in the late 80’s, I was a General Motors Scholar and served my internship in the Advanced Engineering department for Packard-Electric. Upon graduation, I was employed as an Electronics Engineer at White Sands Missile Range where I worked in the Vulnerability Assessment Laboratory and PATRIOT Test Operations.

Alia Servin

Jaidee Zavala
  • GK-12 Campus: Valle Verde Early College High School
  • Current Studies: Ph.D., Chemistry, UTEP
  • Degree(s): B.S., Chemistry, UTEP

My name is Alia Servin, I was born in El Paso, Texas. I obtained my Bachelor’s in Science in Chemistry from the University of Texas at El Paso. During my undergraduate studies, I worked in several research topics such as synthesis and characterization of metal-organic active structures and metal nanoparticle transformations. I am currently working in my doctoral degree in Chemistry under the supervision of Dr. Jorge Gardea-Torresdey. My main research topic is the possible toxicity of TiO2 nanoparticles in cucumber plants.
I am a new GK-12 fellow at Valle Verde early College High School campus. Currently, I am working with Sara Welsh, supporting her with chemistry topics. I am very enthusiastic for this opportunity to work with the early college students, having as a main purpose to share my experiences as a university student to them.

Sandra Villarreal

Jaidee Zavala
  • GK-12 Campus: Mission Early College High School
  • Current Studies: PhD Biology, UTEP
  • Degree(s): Environmental Science, Biology concentration, UTEP

My name is Sandra Villarreal, I was born in Ciudad Juarez but was mostly raised in El Paso. I obtained my bachelor's in Environmental Science from UTEP in 2008, and started my PhD in the fall of 2008. I am now in my third year of my PhD, and I'm looking at long-term changes in vegetation communities in the Arctic. My fieldwork is located at three sites in the Arctic, two in Alaska and one in Canada. As an undergraduate I had the opportunity to travel to Antarctica as part of the International Polar Year Research and Educational Opportunities in Antarctica for Minorities program and do my own research experiment. So you can say I'm bi-polar!
As a first year GK-12 fellow I will be working at the Mission Early College High School with Waleska Rivera, the biology lab teacher, and Helen Brewer, the biology lecture teacher. I hope to develop and improve my teaching and mentoring skills, as well as be involved in the school's environmental club and bring the concept of "sustainability on the border" to each student involved.