UH student awarded national science foundation fellowship
Chemical engineering senior Ricardo Sosa was recently awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, a fellowship is given to students in recognition of their outstanding academic achievements and is designed to help them in pursuit of their research goals.
The Cougar sat down with Sosa and talked with about his fellowship, his time at UH and his plans for the future.
The Cougar: Now that you have received (the fellowship), how do you feel about it?
Ricardo Sosa: I feel very grateful. It’s amazing. I couldn’t believe that I got it. It’s given me an opportunity to do something positive in the research community. I think that’s what I can take away from it.
TC: How did you get into research in the first place?
Sosa: When I was in high school, my AP Chemistry teacher did a Research Experience for Teachers with Dr. Rimer, (the) professor that I’m working with, and so for a class, he invited him over to discuss research and talk to us about it. He was talking about his research, and that’s when I talked to Dr. Rimer. After that, I emailed him over the summer to see if he had anything available for me. In the fall, he emailed me saying that he had a position available for an undergraduate student, and that’s when I joined (his team).
TC: What your research is about?
Sosa: The research is essentially focused on kidney stones. Eighty percent of kidney stones are formed from this one crystal called calcium oxalate monohydrate – COM. We are studying the growth habit and morphology of these crystals under different modifiers. By modifiers I mean the presence of proteins or peptides, things like that. Essentially, we study the growth rate, the kinetics of these crystals.
TC: Is it just done in lab environments?
Sosa: Yes, it’s all in lab environments, in glass vials. We do the synthesis there, we make solutions for synthesis as close as possible to biological conditions, make sure the salt concentrations match physiological conditions. We study the effects of different proteins from previous papers. So we study these different sequences of amino acids in each peptide to see if one sequence is more effective than another.
TC: You’re planning to go to graduate school. Are you planning to continue in the same vein? Do you have an idea of where you want to take your research?
Sosa: Actually, I accepted an offer from UH to stay here (for a doctorate). My initial plan is to continue in the same lab with Dr. Rimer. I’m still going to talk to the professors about their projects and see what they’re doing, and if that interests me more, I’ll go that direction. I talked to Dr. Rimer and he said that it would be great for (me) to experience different projects, develop a little more, so I have those other options.
TC: Do you feel that UH is a university that supports the research and has the resources and community? What’s your experience?
Sosa: I think UH is very invested in research. The professors, the graduate students… One thing that I like is that the professors are very open to students working in their labs. It’s something that they really want – they want this idea of research onto as many people as they can…They’re very open to receiving the students. My research experience at UH has been outstanding.