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Mile High Dreams Come True

By Nathan Barba
Honors Students

On April 2014th, Honors students from colleges around the west convened at the “mile-high” city of Denver, Colorado to participate in the 2014 Western Regional Honors Conference (WRHC).  The WRHC is an annual convention held for three days during which Honors students get the opportunity to formally present their research projects in the form of a lecture or presentation board to their fellow peers from different colleges. 

The 2014 conference was hosted by the Metropolitan State University of Denver Honors Program and the Western Regional Honors Council.  There were over 200 students presenting from diverse backgrounds who came from universities and colleges located in California, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Washington, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  The purpose of the convention is for students to interact and network with like-minded peers who are working on similar research projects. 

Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) sent a delegation of five Honors students to represent the college.  The group was comprised of some of the winners of EMCC’s Honors Expo, which was held in fall 2013.  The five students chosen were Graciela Olivas for her group’s presentation on “Social Media and Privacy,”  Marwa Al-Hassen, Lydia Yaqu,  Jessica DeLeon, and Claire McNary for their presentation on “Sexing Owls,” and Nathan Barba for his presentation on “Volumes of Solids of Revolution.”  

Barba gave a lecture on ways to use Calculus to determine volumes of 3-D objects.  Barba’s presentation was inspired by his Calculus II professor, Ernie Chavez. 

The “Sexing Owls” team gave a presentation on the team’s groundbreaking DNA research to determine the sex of burrowing owls.  The purpose of the study was to ensure that when this endangered species is located, the owls are of the appropriate sex to reproduce. This can only be accomplished through a DNA study.  The “Sexing Owls” team had been mentored by professor Rachel Smith.

Graciela Olivas represented her group during her presentation board lecture on “Social Media and Privacy”. Olivas examined how social media activity can impact one’s professional future.  She investigated how large corporations use social media, like Twitter and Facebook, to find out more about their current or prospective employees. Olivas’ presentation placed in the top 10 in the Competitive Presentation Board series. 

Estrella Mountain Honors students were just a fraction of the presenters at the conference.  During the conference students gave 112 oral presentations and 40 presentations by presentation board. 

Here are some honorable mentions:  Krystal Courtney-Belmonte from UNLV, gave a presentation on the “Examination of the Inflammation in a Diabetic Model of Alzheimer’s Disease”.  During her presentation she discussed how researchers used two experiments on mice to determine the effects of brain inflammation on patients who had Alzheimer’s and Diabetes. 

Another presentation was given by Matthew Prater from Southern Utah University.  Prater gave an oral presentation on “Comparing Theoretical and Experimental Techniques Concerning the Particle in a Ring Model”.  His presentation was unique because he created several models to determine the path of a particle in a ring and after doing months of research found that his theory was completely wrong.  Prater commented that even though his theory was wrong he proved one way not to do it, which still has value. 

Students interested in taking part in this regional conference can get information from EMCC’s Honors Program. Please visit