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Engineering student amazed by research opportunities

January 20, 2011

Finding a paid research position as an undergraduate was a golden opportunity for Roxanne Lerma. She couldn’t imagine finding it at any other school, she says, so when she heard about a chance to assist with Alzheimer’s research at ASU, she jumped at the chance.

“It sounded interesting, and once I found how big an impact Alzheimer’s disease had, I wanted to get involved in finding out how to cure it,” says the chemical engineering junior from Camarillo, Calif. “In the engineering school there’s a program called the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative that offers paid research positions to students, which I didn’t find anywhere else.”

She’s in her second semester doing research in Professor Michael Sierks’ lab, characterizing antibodies to look for an Alzheimer’s therapy or cure.

“Dr. Sierks has been very helpful and supportive in all my research. The ASU researchers are willing and able to allow you to assist them,” she says.

Lerma came by her analytical interest naturally, since her parents have engineering degrees, and she knew about the outstanding reputation of the ASU Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Biology fascinates her, however. She loved getting to do surgery on a frog to see how the heart responds to stimulants. She says the most interesting thing she’s learned at ASU is that a male bee explodes after sex. Eventually she wants to go to medical school, and become a pediatrician.

Meanwhile she’s a student leader, planning a regional conference for the Society of Women Engineers last spring, organizing community service activities for an honor society and Bible studies for Sun Devils for Christ. She also helped redesign a freshman mentoring program in Barrett, the Honors College.

“Being a Barrett mentor was an amazing experience. I had a lot of help from older students when I was a freshman, and it was great to give back.”

She also was selected for the Canon Leadership Program, which gives her hands-on involvement in major ASU projects. Last year she helped organize and host an event for national speaker and columnist Julianne Malveaux. More recently she was on the leadership team for World AIDS Day Eve, a campuswide educational event.

She says she can’t imagine having the same opportunities at another school.

“ASU is unlike any other university. You can do research, and get involved in so many things. And with such a diverse population here, I’ve met people from all over the world.”