All across the U.S. undergraduate students participate in competitive research programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

The areas of focus include science, engineering, or mathematics. Through the experience, students receive educational opportunities while working with a faculty mentor on a research project.

Hector Castro, an engineering student at Cochise College, participated in the University of Arizona’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium. An Arizona native, Castro lived most of his life in Douglas. He is a first-generation student who graduated from CAS High School. Castro is working towards an associate degree in Engineering and will graduate in spring 2020.

This is Hector’s story.

“Cochise College is a great school. Every semester, the college staff and instructors have helped me in many ways. When I found out about the internship, I was a little hesitant to participate. This was my first internship, and I had never lived on my own or even outside the City of Douglas.

“The first two weeks of the program were the hardest. I had no friends and no idea how to live on my own. Eventually, I started to make new friends, learned how to cook, do laundry, manage my time, and become more independent. My REU project concentrated on characterizing optical components for solar energy systems. Primarily I tested various solar panel parts.

“A profound insight I developed throughout my research is understanding that engineers not only work with numbers or equations to solve problems. Engineers also need to use logic and common sense to come up with solutions for unexpected problems. As a student looking to transfer to a university after I graduate at Cochise, this experience taught me that living outside your parent’s house is not easy. Reflecting, I enjoyed every single moment. I want to thank Celia Jenkins at Cochise College, Trin Riojas, at the University of Arizona, everyone who wished me the best before the program and those who helped me. I would also like to add that I am grateful for the new friends I made in the program. I will always remember them, and I wished the best for them.”

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