Never too young for research at UW-Milwaukee
Cynthia Aguas-Fernandez did a comparative analysis of the schooling of Native Americans in Indian boarding schools and the schooling of the Latina/o youth of Mexican origin in contemporary urban schools, to determine to what extent the urban schools reiterate identical inequalities that were present in the Indian boarding schools.
These young people are not university professors or even Ph.D. students – all are undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
UWM’s Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) offers students a chance to do hands-on research in their early years of college. The office matches students interested in research with faculty members who have projects students can work on.
In addition to learning the ins and outs of research, the students can earn academic credit. Some find paid research opportunities with their mentors, and many even get a chance to travel to conferences to present their work.
Most of all, they get a chance to explore a field that interests them, under the guidance of faculty members.
Scott and Lane, both seniors in engineering, work with Na Jin Seo, assistant professor of industrial engineering, in her Hand Rehabilitation Laboratory at UWM. The lab explores and evaluates ways of helping those who have lost some use of their hands through injury or disability regain strength and grip.
“I’ve learned things here that I hadn’t learned in the classroom,” says Scott. Lane likes the combination of engineering and medicine. “It helps you make the connection with how engineering can really help people,” says Lane.
Aguas-Fernandez says her education research was a good way “to merge my ethnic identities.” Her roots are in the Lakota and Ojibwe tradition, and she is deeply involved in the local American Indian community. However, she also has close ties to the Mexican- American community and speaks fluent Spanish.
“I’m really interested in the history and politics of education,” says Aguas-Fernandez, who received a SURF (Support for Undergraduate Research Fellows) grant, and worked with mentor René Antrop-González, associate professor of education. She has made presentations about her work at the statewide Posters in the Rotunda event in Madison and also at local and national undergraduate research symposiums.
Ndakuya, a senior majoring in nursing, is based at UW-Parkside in Kenosha as part of Parkside’s collaborative nursing program with UWM.
“I was really interested in doing research,” she says, so when she heard about the OUR program through her mentor, Professor Sandra Millon Underwood, she decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Her research with Underwood has focused on cancer awareness and prevention in African immigrant communities. As an international student from Kenya , it is a topic that deeply Interests Ndakuya.
Underwood’s research focuses on providing information about cancer and cancer prevention, particularly in communities of color. Ndakuya has transcribed interviews designed to gather information on barriers to testing and care. She’s also helped out at community clinics, demonstrating with a breast model how to do breast self-examination.
In June, Ndakuya and four other student researchers in the nursing program presented their work in Houston at the Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC) Biennial Symposium on Minorities, the Medically Underserved & Health Equity.
“When I started, I had little idea what research is about,” she says. “This has helped teach me a great deal about community participatory research.”