This summer, 10 local community colleges students had the opportunity to conduct research alongside Chapman faculty in the Keck Center for Science and Engineering

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Ecological and Environmental Sciences (SURFEES) is an annual sponsored program by the National Science Foundation-Research Experiences for Undergraduate (NSF-REU). Chapman partners with Citrus College, Irvine Valley College, Saddleback College, Santa Ana College, and Santiago Canyon College to select 10 to 15 community college students to engage in faculty-mentored research projects related to earth and environmental issues from the regional to the global scale.

The SUFFEES program was created by Christopher Kim, Ph.D. to provide transformative research experiences to students that lack substantial research facilities at their 2-year institutions. The purpose of the program is to develop scientifically-literate students, increase participation of underrepresented students in hands-on scientific research, and increase student awareness of earth and environmental issues.

Throughout the program, students also attend professional development workshops, seminars with faculty speakers and environmental professionals, and gather together for group social activities. 

We talked with a few of the students participating in the program about their experience. 


Kenninsy Bahena in Keck CenterKenninsy Bahena, Santa Ana College and Saddleback College

Research Project: “Working with Dr. Were on Glutathione and Cysteine effects on Chlorogenic Acid Quinone.”

What have you learned?: “I have learned how to communicate better with team-mates and my mentor. I have also learned how Chlorogenic Acid and amino acids work together. I have learned to be more patient. I have learned that I like to explain too much and to get to the point faster. I have also learned how to focus more in my tasks. I have learned that even if I am wrong or the experiment is not going the way it was plan, that is science because we learned for every trial.”

How do you like working in the Keck Center?: “I love working at the Keck Center Research laboratories. In my laboratory, I used the HPLC, FLOUstar Omega UV-vis, Sigma-plot, the pipettes and solutions. I love this place because you are always in the presence of science.”

Favorite part of the program: “My favorite part of the SURFEES program is being able to connect with other individuals that have the same interest as me. My family came from farmers and I am the first one in my family to attend college. This unknown world my family does not know, so it is difficult for my family to connect with me through science. Here at Chapman, I can speak science.”

What else should we know?: “The last thing that I would like you guys to know is; although summer research is short, I will never forget this experience. I really want to thank Chapman University, the mentors, Christopher Kim and everyone for making this experience happen. You guys are awesome.”


Jesus Huerta in Keck CenterJesus Huerta, Santa Ana College

Research Project: “Working with Dr. Were, we’re working on sunflower meal extract a vegetarian protein source made of sunflower seeds once sunflower oil is extracted. Due to the interactions of certain amino acids an antioxidants in it it’ll turn green which is unappealing. So, we’re trying to see if different pH’s, incubation temperatures, and amino acid concentrations will change that. Along with it, we’re testing antioxidant capacity to see if the changes were making effect antioxidant quality.

What have you learned?: “I learned multiple lab techniques, along with how antioxidants work and radicles in the body.
I learned how to use HPLC machine, the mass spectroscopy machine, and how to create buffers and radicle solutions.”

How do you like working in the Keck Center?: “I like working in the Keck center it has a very academic feel to it, and I love all the whiteboards everywhere they help out quite a lot.”

Favorite part of the program:  “My favorite part about the SURFEE program has been the faculty seminars we have bi-weekly where we see research conducted by other professors in multiple disciplines.”


Gabby McBride in Keck CenterGabby McBride, Citrus College

Research Project: “This summer I am working under Dr. Rosalee Hellberg Assistant Professor in the Food Science Program. We are focusing on Food Microbiology the DNA Barcoding of Fish in correlation with Food Fraud. I have been assigned to work with a Chapman graduate student by the name of April Peterson. She is completing her thesis on the mislabeling of frozen fish sold in the average grocery store.” 

What have you learned?: “Working on this research I have personally learned how one should properly conduct themselves in a “real” (excluding labs at Citrus) lab. Not everything is going to work out as the manual outlines, not all results will be ideal but learning how to conduct yourself under stressful times and not take your results personally. Your results in the lab do not reflect you as a person or question your capabilities. As long as you work hard, thoroughly and efficiently one shouldn’t question. I’ve learned if my results aren’t where they should be, reviewing your lab manual, trying and detect your source of error and repeat those steps and if need be just start over.”

How do you like working in the Keck Center?: “The Keck Center laboratories are amazing and quite efficient. The fact they have water bottle refill stations and various location to expunge of any trash, compostable products, recycles is quite satisfying.”

Favorite part of the program: “My favorite part of the SURFEE program would have to be the hands-on work in lab, going through the process is quite rewarding and exciting. I never thought I would be so excited when I see no air bubbles when using a micropipette! I’ve enjoyed collaborating with other undergraduate and graduate students. I’ve had the chance of meeting many published Professors and people who specify in fields I would have never thought existed. It has opened up my mind of even more possibilities as far as majors for graduate school.”

What else should we know?: “This program has given me the experience of what it would be like working full time in a lab-based setting. The level of trust installed into each one of us honestly makes me want to work even harder. Also, the faculty here working directly with the SURFEES, from the mentors, the graduate students have shown us nothing but patience and kindness. It is nice being treated like an equal and not being spoken down to just because someone has a higher education or on salary. I’d like to say thank you to Chapman for investing time, money and faculty into this program.”