Twenty students from Ms. Olivia Casaus’ Cuba High School (CHS) biology class visited the University of New Mexico (UNM) campus on April 27. First, the CHS students walked through campus with two UNM students, Morgan and Olivia. Morgan is majoring in both biology and psychology, and Olivia is majoring in international relations and minoring in Spanish. Both students also work part time for UNM’s Office of Admissions, giving informational tours to school groups and families. The CHS students learned about the process of applying to college and college life while seeing the UNM library, student union, duck pond, and classroom buildings.
Next, the students from Cuba met biology professor Irene Salinas and a graduate biology student, Ryan, who works in Dr. Salinas’ lab. Dr. Salinas and Ryan showed the CHS students the lab, where they conduct research on immune systems with rainbow trout and lungfish. Dr. Salinas’ research helps fish farmers who want to vaccinate their fish stock, much like ranchers in Cuba vaccinate their sheep or cattle.
Most of the CHS students had already seen rainbow trout but were interested in the idea of these fish living in a research lab environment. The students really liked getting to see the lungfish and learning about how scientific research is conducted at a university. There are labs like Dr. Salinas’ all over UNM and other college campuses, and they provide new knowledge that will help fish farmers, health care workers, engineers, architects, and other professions and people throughout the world.
The students ate lunch at the duck pond, where they met Professor Maggie Werner-Washburne, a retired UNM biology professor who lives in Cuba. Dr. Werner-Washburne created a program called Pathway Scholars. Students in this program receive mentoring and support to increase their likelihood of success in college. Several Pathway students joined the CHS students for lunch and answered questions the CHS students had about the college experience.
The Science Around Us is so happy to have been able to expand its programming to work with high school students. We would like to thank Wallace Toledo, who is always patient and kind when driving the bus for our field trips, Ms. Casaus, who is so kind to arrange this field trip and many other The Science Around Us activities into her classes’ schedules, and the entire Cuba HS Biology class for being so fun, kind, and respectful while spending the day with us!