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Pathways to STEM Careers grant enables student to receive research assistantship

Sean Graham received a research internship through the Pathways to STEM Careers grant that was key to building his resume.

In 2018, as Sean Graham realized he was getting closer to graduating from University of Houston-Clear Lake, he decided he’d like to put a research assistantship on his resume. A visit with Associate Professor of Computer Engineering Hakduran Koc secured that position, made possible through a grant called Pathways to STEM Careers.

Pathways to STEM Careers is a program that enables UH-Clear Lake to develop and enhance support services and strategies to increase student success among Hispanic and other low-income students in STEM fields. UHCL is a Hispanic-Service Institution, with more than 25 percent of its population being full-time undergraduate Hispanic students. The university has received over $3.7 million for Pathways to STEM Careers, to be distributed through 2021.

“My goal in my research assistantship was to produce a peer-reviewed paper,” said Graham, who plans to receive his Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering in May 2020. “The idea would be to get it published somewhere, and that would look good for both me and the university.”

The Pathways to STEM-funded research position paid for Graham to pursue that path, whether he ultimately was able to get it published or not. “During the first semester, I gathered the background information for the research, and then I wrote the research paper,” he said. “I submitted it to conferences and symposiums where that topic is discussed.”

His paper was accepted at the prestigious IEEE or Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference in Vancouver in October. “I had the experience of going and presenting the paper,” he said. “I was the only undergraduate to present at IEEE.”

Graham said his career objective is to work in aerospace. “I have had an internship at NASA and an interview for a position at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio,” he said. “Southwest found me on LinkedIn and offered me an interview. I believe it was because of my published research. Without that opportunity, I would never have caught their eye, so my research assistantship has been critical to me.”

A lot of companies look for students who have participated in extracurricular activities and internships, Graham said. “I was looking for an extracurricular activity and I was lucky I found this research assistantship,” he said. “It’s what I needed and it all worked out for me.”

Find out more Pathways to STEM Careers online.