Western New Mexico University Deming student Lauren Paulk has co-authored two papers published in scientific journals. The 17-year-old is a senior in high school, who through the dual enrollment program is also working toward an associate degree.
Learning through research experiences with Dr. Niccole D. Rech, who employs a teaching method known as cognitive apprenticeship, she has gained proficiency in lab practices such as collecting specimens and operating equipment. And she has learned to lay out her findings in writing and present them in a scholarly setting like the WNMU Academic Symposium.
During her sophomore year, Lauren and a few other students studied Wolbachia in Africanized bees in Luna County and the surrounding area. Next, she participated in the study of Rhizobia in pinto beans—a project that was cut short due to the onset of the pandemic. And this past spring, Lauren again worked with Dr. Rech and a fellow student to identify seven previously undocumented species of orthopterans in Luna County.
While conducting field research in her hometown, Lauren said she learned that her contributions matter. “What I did affected the entire team. It helped me really understand that the freedom the class provided also came with responsibility and trust that I would do what needed to be done.”
After earning her high school diploma and the associate degree from WNMU, Lauren will pursue more education and a career in the medical field or a science laboratory. “I think STEM careers are essential to the future of society. I also want to help people and do work that is meaningful and informative,” she said. “Dr. Rech helped prepare me to be a professional in whichever science profession I choose.”