Throughout the year The University of New Mexico undergraduate students work closely with faculty mentors to conduct innovative and exciting research.  Each spring, they get a chance to show off their research to students, staff, and faculty during the annual Undergraduate Research Opportunity Conference (UROC). UROC is a professional research conference reserved solely for undergraduates to spotlight their research, explain their ideas, and display what they have to offer in their respective fields and majors.

The latest UROC was held recently, with a total of 152 abstracts submitted and 184 students participating in the event.

The goals of UROC are to:

UROC posters
UROC poster presentation
  • Provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to present their research projects in and outside of the classroom/lab.
  • Create opportunities for undergraduate students to network with faculty, graduate students, and the greater UNM community.
  • Showcase the undergraduate research to UNM communities, including donors, policymakers, local business and industries, and other stakeholders. At UROC 2023, a total of 160 students participated in the various competitions.

UROC 180

The UROC 180 Competition, like an elevator pitch, challenges students to present their research in just 180 seconds to the general audience with no background in your research area. The top three winners receive scholarships.

During the conference, UROC 180 presenters are assigned to one of three heats. The judges then select the three top presenters from each heat to compete at the UROC 180 final.

UROC 180 winners are:

First place − Benjamin Marwedel: Flipping the switch back on: fake bacteria activate immune-mediated cancer clearance

For cancers to be successful, they must develop mutations allowing them to avoid the immune system. In his research, Marwedel developed a “fake bacteria” in a “a novel and promising cancer treatment harnessing natural activation pathways of the immune system through stimulation by bacteria-mimicking nanoparticles.” 

Second place − Cheyenne Levy: Defining feeding and swallowing skills in healthy infants using focus group consensus

Speech Language Pathology is a beautifully diverse field, assessing and improving speech skills, language skills, social interaction, cognition…” Levy noted in her abstract. She examined the parameters of a healthy swallow in pediatric populations to eventually categorize a repository of data available of infant VFSS that will help fill the gap in the information on infant swallowing, important not only for educating professionals and graduate students on the subject, but also for establishing standards and expectations around the qualities of a healthy or deviant swallow in pediatrics.

Third place − Denilson Cisneros Vallejo: Constructing Transgressive Pedagogies: Practice, Mariachi, and Music Education

Vallejo looks at the application of culturally relevant pedagogy and creation of new mariachi curricula to foster the capabilities of Mexican American students to become successful lifelong musicians. Vallejo sought to evaluate mariachi’s place in public school music education and critique the curricula’s effectiveness to foster musical development, community, tradition, and identity. Through active participation in mariachi music making, hands on music teaching, and interviews of professionals in both mariachi and education Vallejo explored the complex nature of mariachi as flexible and versatile genre that requires further analysis as it continues to undergo change.

Other UROC 180 participants were Maryjo Armas, Felana Chee, Mark Freeland, Hailey Himelright, Ashley Olson, Savannah Phelps, Dustin Roberto, Renae Simonson, Sophia Ornelas, Catarina Bruton, Michael Cuellar, Ian Erwin, Jose Garcia, Adriana Gutierrez, Ella Hatfield, Audrey Lee, Joshua Lopez, Jordan Perez, Joannliseth Prieto, Jason Sanchez Hernandez, Aliyah Zern, Charles Aguirre, Karina Bolaños, Izabelle Chavez, John Fawcett, Solomon Gbara, Rachel Johnston, Tristan Oper, Marelessis Palomino, Analaura Prado, and Jaimie Ritchie. 

Research Story winners are:


Desirée Basail-Nicolaisen laid out her research path for Stable Isotopes in Water Vapor and its links with Aerosols and Atmospheric Convection in a website. The website includes a short autobiography, influences, and support, including from McNair & ROP, the research process, and outcomes.


Lilian Walker used a website titled Empowerment through Exploration: My Research Story to highlight her research and passion for public health, participation in the URAD Native Health Research Fellowship and the African American Student Services Ubuntu Research Cohort. Walker’s research examined social determinants of health such as housing, education, and healthcare and the results and data will potentially be showcased in a free website accessible to the public.

Honorable mention

Trinity Griffus: From Cinematic Visions to Extraterrestrial Garden

In an essay, Griffus related her story as a student in the UNM ASSURE program and research that examined the “potential benefits of mycorrhizal fungi in improving plant growth and resilience, particularly in challenging environments. The results of this experiment could have significant implications not only for plants grown in exoplanet environments but also for enhancing agricultural and food productivity in New Mexico, specifically in response to ongoing effects of climate change.”

Poster presentations

The posters are a concise, visual representation of student research. Students explain their research projects during UROC to faculty, staff, students, and other visitors. Volunteers also meet with the students, discuss their research, and give them feedback on points such as command of their topic and how well they engage with visitors.

Poster presenters were Julián Ángel, Charlotte Auh, Ian Erwin, John Fawcett, Trinity Griffus, Daisy Guadian, Adriana Gutierrez, Alan Ibarra, Murphy John, Joshua Lopez, Kenda Pina, Analaura Prado, Dustin Roberto, Audriana Sauceda, Serena Smith, Kamryn Zachek, Aliyah Zern, Dawn Nordquist, David Flores, Logan Ballou, Bianca Camacho, Celina Eberle, Rios Fernandez, Solomon Gbara, Elisa Hardy, Ella Hatfield, Richard Justice, Audrey Lee, Anna Marklin, Maria Nava Martinez, Lizbeth Olivarez, Amarara Pereda, Cade Pimentel, Diego Renteria, Jaimie Ritchie, Crissie Rodriguez-Cole, Savannah Tapia, Amber Wood, Nicholas Allen, Ashley Amdor, Maryjo Armas, Adriana Brackeen, Felana Chee, Chuzube Edeh, Shaleena Flores, Mark Freeland, Madelyn Gomez, Cristian Holguin, Francine Lopez, My Linh Lucero, Roxanne Marquez, Janna Martinez, Reyes Reynaga, Benjamin Rodriguez, Renae Simonson, William Tara, Ariadna Torres, Brooke Woodmansee, Lila Allen, Jordan Belmont, Areya Bevan, Madison Butler, Caleb Dang, Chalanie Davis, Stephen Emeanuwa, Andrew Gibson, Ian Hutchinson, Melanie Kirk-Lente, Anthony Languit, Jose Montoya, Jared Moyers, Victoria Nisoli, Tristan Oper, Stephanie Paiva-Flynn, Jade Serna, Jordyn Suber, Jordyn Suber, KJ Walker, Cristina Wong, and Sophia Ornelas.

Oral Presentations

Oral presentations are 10 minutes long, allowing a more in-depth review of each student’s research, lets students explain how they became interested in their research in STEM, Humanities, Social Sciences, Medicine/Health Sciences, Business, Education, and Art and Design. See all oral presenters and their abstracts here.

Oral presenters were Catarina Bruton, Mark Campbell, Izabelle Chavez, Braeden Fields, Fernando Garcia Cortez, Sa’angna Mi’ila Gollette, Benjamin Lopez, Ian Malone, Jordan Perez, John San Nicolas, Mario Ulloa, Julián Ángel, Sachi Barnaby, Denilson Cisneros Vallejo, Valeria Cortes-Mora, Karina Dominguez Tarango, Trinity Griffus, Cole Kochan, Rhoan McMaster, Savannah Phelps, Natalie Rovello, Mario Silva, Antonio Villegas, Logan Ballou, Cruz Davis-Martinez, Jose Garcia, Eva Marques, Daniela Millan, Koby Perez, Joannliseth Prieto, Dustin Roberto, Jesus Sanchez, Jason Sanchez Hernandez, Charles Aguirre, Giovanni Cordova, Michael Cuellar, Mitzi Heredia, Marelessis Palomino, Simon Ruybalid, Max Schmidt, and Shaleena Flores.

Special Group Presentations

Special Group presenters were Lucas Comeaux, Rory Dunagan, Flora Granados, Megan Jacobs, Lillian Walker, Angelo Ragland, Nwamaka Tutman, Dyveoun Clark-king, Alyssa Davis, Jayla Perkins, Justin Spitz, Dorothy Mberile, Abigail Castro, Kenya Hernandez, Dana Awad, Carmen Atchley, Elena Rosales, Elena Finnegan, Diego Salazar, Harmony Martinez, Roselynn Padilla, Quyen Le, Paris Eisenman, Ella Hatfield, and Tiwalola Anawo.

Special Group Presentations abstracts are available here.

UROC mission

UROC was created to give visibility to all undergraduate students, giving them the chance to present their work and gain invaluable conference experience. The conference was created to be inclusive of all research types, majors, and fields of interest, and dispels the myth that research is only done in the sciences. 

UROC 2024 was sponsored by the UNM Office of Academic Affairs, College of Arts & Sciences, UNM Division of Student Affairs, Engineering Student Success Center, ECURE, Grand Challenges, Honors College, McNair Scholars/ROP, Office of the Vice President for Research, School of Engineering, University College, University Libraries, and URAD.

Top image: Melanie Kirk-Lente explains her project, Developing Culturally Appropriate Materials for Future Research in Pueblo Communities, to UROC attendees.