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Research opportunity provides the needed spark

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​Conducting research while enrolled at a community college was a critical growth experience for Manuel Alingog. In fact, it helped him become a laboratory technician.
 
“It was both a way for me to find out about doing it (laboratory work) and it also gave me the confidence that I could do it. It actually made me more excited (about science),” said Alingog, a student at Southwestern College (SWC) in California.
 
SWC tapped National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to support student research, equip the college lab and help develop curricula for students to conduct research.
 
Alingog and two other students enrolled in the pharmaceutical and laboratory science (PLS) program at SWC and conducted research in 2007 and 2008 for Ondax Inc. in California. SWC chemistry professor David Brown directed the research with support from NSF supplemental grants (see main story).
 
“It’s almost like a (job) experience, even though it was school,” Alingog said of the work he did as a research assistant in the college's laboratory. (He received his certificate in 2008.)
 
An NSF Advanced Technological Education grant helped Brown develop the PLS certificate and associate degree program. Both tracts prepare students for careers as technicians in pharmaceutical production, biotechnology and other chemical-based industries.
 
With his recent move to San Jose, Calif., Alingog is back in the job market, where he finds that being able to talk about analytical instrumentation and to demonstrate the knowledge he first gained while conducting research at SWC eases his nervousness during job interviews. (The spectrometers and other sophisticated equipment students used for research were purchased with an NSF Undergraduate Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement grant.)
 
While at SWC, Alingog made several presentations at conferences. Most notably, his poster about the Ondax research was selected for the Council on Undergraduate Research's 2008 Posters on the Hill program in Washington, D.C.
 
Alingog remembers feeling a bit intimidated before the Capitol Hill event, but he said the presentations he did as part of Brown's research team “improved my skills in life, in general, and in public speaking.”
 
Before he was involved in the research program, Alingog said he avoided even answering questions aloud in class.
 
“It really did give me a push to perform and not just blank out,” he said.
 
The opportunities to meet scientists and see different parts of the country pushed him and his classmates even further.
 
"Everything just kept increasing our view of things," he said.
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