Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Students discover world of biology during summer Citrus Center internships

KINGSVILLE - July 06, 2012

Contact: Julie Navejar
julie.navejar@tamuk.edu or 361-593-2590

Eleven juniors and seniors from the Weslaco Independent School District spent a little over two weeks at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco, working in the labs hand-in-hand with graduate students during internships underwritten by a Hispanic Serving Institution grant. The grant is specifically for working with the Weslaco ISD.

Most of the students spent their time in the lab of Dr. Eliezer Louzada, biotechnology professor who received the grant. Students also worked in the labs of Dr. Juan Carlos Melgar, assistant professor of plant physiology; Dr. Mani Skaria, professor of plant pathology; and Dr. Mamoudou Setamou,  associate professor of entomology.

Students from Weslaco High School and Weslaco East High School were Klarissa Martinez, Johanna Rodriguez, Marylou Martinez, Aaron Duran, Karen Riojas, Rolando Arjona, Alan Flores, Leroy Garza, Elizabeth Sigala, Esmeralda Espinoza and Jose Trevino. 

Louzada said in addition to the summer internships, Texas A&M-Kingsville graduate students assist Weslaco students with their science fair projects throughout the year. “This grant allows us to help students in the Weslaco school district improve their science skills and reward those who are already outstanding with summer internships,” he said. 

Klarissa Martinez, a 16-year old junior from Weslaco High, worked in Setamou’s labs studying the biology of the citrus psyllid that is responsible for the citrus greening disease, which has recently been found in the Rio Grande Valley. “We looked at what attracts the citrus psyllid to the plant, like colors and scents,” she said. 

Martinez, who is fourth in her class, said she has always had an interest in biology, which is why she applied for the program, but this internship sharpened that interest. “I want to major in biology for sure. I’m not sure what I want to do with it, but this summer gave me a look into the research part of it.” 

Alan Flores, an 18-year old senior at Weslaco East, is ranked third in his class. He went from his AP biology class to Louzada’s lab at the Citrus Center, where he spent his time isolating plant DNA, learning how to clone a gene and looking at enzymes that defend citrus plants against stress. 

“We got to work in one of the top labs in the world,” Flores said. “It is rare that college students get to do the work we did using the technology and working in molecular biology like that.” Flores hopes to major in molecular biology when he gets to college. “After that, I don’t know if I want to go into research or possibly medical school.” 

Weslaco High senior Elizabeth Sigala, 18, also worked in Louzada’s lab. “I have always liked biology. It’s what I want to do. This internship has given me hands-on knowledge and has been both fun and educational.” 

Like Flores, Sigala worked to clone a gene involved in stress response in citrus and hopes to be a biologist. In the top 20 in her class, she wanted to attend Texas A&M-Kingsville.


This page was last updated on: July 06, 2012