First Impressions: Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program at the Marine Biology Laboratories in Woods Hole, Mass.

Dr. Veronica Martinez-Acosta, UIW associate professor of biology, is the the co-director of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program (REU). The program is currently meeting over the summer for 10 weeks at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Mass. UIW student Shannon O’Bryant and Dr. Martinez-Acosta share their first impressions below. IMG_8906

UIW Student Shannon O’Bryant (’17) Shares First Impressions
The REU program at the MBL in Woods Hole, Mass. is one of the best opportunities I have ever been offered. I have always had a mind for science and yearned to explore life and careers in biological laboratories. After a failed internship, I sought other opportunities to fulfill my interest in research and laboratory science. Dr. Veronica Martinez-Acosta offered me an internship position in the REU program. Without hesitation, I accepted, and I have not been disappointed. The atmosphere at Woods Hole is unlike I have ever encountered before. There is such a passion for science and discovery that is so contagious. After spending only a few days here, I feel accepted, empowered, enlightened and driven so much so that I could hardly imagine a life outside of this scientific community. Under Dr. Martinez-Acosta’s mentorship, I feel compelled to accept my drive for discovery and use every second I have here to my advantage. I have access to many resources such as state of the art equipment, like-minded students and seasoned PhD’s to immerse myself in throughout the duration of the summer. Woods Hole is not just a beautiful town, it is also a wide-open opportunity just waiting to be explored.

IMG_8913Dr. Martinez-Acosta Reports on First Two Weeks of the Program
We have just completed our first two weeks of the program.  It has been an honor to be asked to serve as the co-director of one of the most successful REU programs in the country.  We reviewed over 455 applicants and selected 10 top students. 60 percent of our cohort represents an underrepresented minority group, 83 percent of our cohort is female and 60 percent are students at schools with few research opportunities. The MBL is buzzing with activity with faculty and graduate students studying in the famous summer courses offered here.  Currently, the Summer Program in Neuroscience, Ethics and Success (SPINES); Neurophysiology, Neural Systems and Behavior, Neurobiology and the Parasitology courses are running. Our students have had an opportunity to interact with and work through a team building activity with the SPINES graduate students.  I am a proud SPINES course alumna (2002). SPINES is a course that supports the recruitment and retainment of URM graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Interactions with the SPINES students have served as a truly mentoring experience for our undergrads to talk to individuals who are at the next level of their academic training. Students have also attended special lectures of the individual courses as well as the MBL’s Friday Evening Lecture Series. These lectures bring some of the most celebrated people in science to offer talks to the community. After each lecture, the students have the opportunity to meet the speakers and ask further questions about their work.

Aside from the interactions students have with the summer courses and lectures, the REU students are spending the bulk of their time in the labs of the MBL with principle investigators who have extensive training in their fields of interest.  Students will present an oral presentation to the MBL community at the end of their 10 weeks of training. These presentations will be live streamed so that everyone can see it.  Each student will also prepare a research poster that will be displayed near the cafeteria so that the entire community can view their work and so that the student can bring their poster back with them to their home institution. Students are highly encouraged to apply for travel awards to attend scientific meetings during the academic year.

Dr. Martinez-Acosta Reflects on Experiences at MBL
Perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences I have had thus far as the co-director has been the mentoring and professional development I have been able to offer both our undergraduates and graduate students here at the MBL. I have organized the ‘What to Expect Series’ for the MBL undergraduate programs on campus where invited speakers 
IMG_8869come to share their professional career advice regarding different topics such as how to pick your graduate program; when it might be helpful to do a master’s degree; what job opportunities would you have with a master’s or PhD; how to communicate as a scientist; what types of funding opportunities are available for pre-doctoral students; time management; and work/life balance. Most recently, I was invited to participate in the campus wide “SUCCESS” lunch seminar to discuss my career path and offer insight on the obstacles I faced and provide support for how to overcome the challenges one might face in their career.  Overall, the experiences I am gaining as the co-director culminate much of the work I have built upon during my career especially regarding my efforts to provide mentoring opportunities for underrepresented groups that would prepare them for a career in science.


STEM programs bring future female scientists to UIW

For the third consecutive year, UIW will host miniGEMS, a camp for middle school aged girls interested in STEM and STEAM programs. MiniGEMS is a student-run program led by undergraduate and graduate students from various UIW STEM programs will run from June through August. Guest speakers from throughout San Antonio will also provide information to the campers about careers in these fields.

MiniGEMS was the first camp in San Antonio for middle school aged girls that had a special focus on autonomous ground, air and underwater robots. Over 104 middle school girls will participate in the four 2017 miniGEMS camps, which were expanded to two weeks thanks to a $94,950 grant provided by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The goal of the camp is to introduce female students to the field of engineering through robotic projects, computer programming and graphic design.

The first week focuses on the EV3 Lego Mindstorms robots.  Campers will learn about robotics, sensors and computer programming. The students will also have the opportunity to build and compete using the SeaPerch underwater robots at the UIW Natatorium. The Navy Recruiting District San Antonio will help with this competition.

SeaPerch, an innovative underwater robotics program inspires and engages students and teachers through building an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The name SeaPerch came from the USS Perch, a World War II U.S. Submarine, which was the first to possess an early form of air conditioning. The program provides an opportunity to its participants in learning basic concepts of engineering with a special focus in marine robotics.

The second week of the camp focuses on programming using the MATLAB Programming Language. Art will be integrated into the programming curriculum to engage the creative side of the miniGEMS campers.

The miniGEMS campers are students from Judson ISD, San Antonio ISD and Northside ISD. An end of summer conference and banquet set for August will provide campers with an opportunity to present the fruit of their labors to their parents, teachers other camp participants.

The miniGEMS camps are managed by Dr. Sreerenjini Nair, assistant professor of physics and Dr. Michael Frye, a tenured associate professor of engineering. Drs. Nair and Frye are also the co-directors and principle investigators of the AVS Laboratory that is in the School of Mathematics, Science & Engineering at UIW.

UIW Faculty Member Brings Immersive Learning Opportunity to Life Science Students

UIW’s Dr. Veronica Martinez Acosta, associate professor of biology, has been named co-director of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Mass. The program meets over the summer for 10 weeks at the MBL and accepts 10 students per year. Many of the students chosen generally have few research opportunities available to them across their academic career. At least one UIW student will have the opportunity thanks to Martinez Acosta. This program is important to Martinez Acosta because of her history over her career and with the MBL.

Martinez Acosta grew up in Houston and went to Charles H. Milby High School. Not ready for the environment of a larger university, Martinez Acosta enrolled and attended the University of St. Thomas where she graduated in 1996 with a double major in biology and education. It was during this time when she was contemplating graduate school that she realized the hurdles underrepresented minority students face when entering a graduate program. She decided to take time to think about graduate school and instead chose to teach lower school science at Annunciation Greek Orthodox School. After three years of teaching and volunteering her time to research at the University of Houston, she decided to apply to graduate programs all over the country as a marine biologist. She was accepted into Texas A&M University where she switched her focus from marine biology to neuroscience after an impactful meeting with a professor enlightened her on the connection of research in biology and neuroscience. She received her Ph.D. from TAMU in 2005.

Since graduating from TAMU and working at the University of the Incarnate Word, Martinez Acosta has been fascinated and interested in the nervous system and its regeneration. She took a sabbatical from her work at UIW to research at the MBL toward this initiative. It was during this time that Martinez Acosta realized a larger scope of opportunity with the MBL to give back to underrepresented students. This was a position she had once been in as a student.

Students in this program will be placed in the laboratory of an MBL research scientist and have a full immersion experience of participating in all laboratory exercises and activities. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program will provide each student with a $5,000 stipend in addition to housing and a cafeteria pass for dining purposes for the duration of the program. The NSF wanted to provide this opportunity to university students who would not otherwise have the means to conduct research in their disciplines.

The program will benefit undergraduate students in life sciences interested in continuing their education into graduate school and intend to continue researching in different fields of biology. Information about the program can be found online at the MBL site or by contacting Dr. Veronica Martinez Acosta at

UIW Celebrates American Heart Month with the Red Dress Fashion Show & Health Fair

The 14th Annual Red Dress Fashion Show & Health Fair is from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the McCombs Center Rosenberg Sky Room. February is American Heart Month. For years, UIW has promoted cardiac health in women with a beautiful fashion show and health fair.

This year’s fashion show features unique, one-of-a-kind designs by UIW students. Along with the fashion show is a great health fair featuring 20 health and lifestyle vendors offering a variety of special activities and exhibits promoting cardiac health. Students from UIW’s professional programs will be on hand to check blood pressures, glucose levels, provide visions screenings and offer information on the importance of maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle.

Valentine’s gifts will be available from several local vendors including Zelime Matthews Jewelry and the Women’s Global Connection who sells items handmade by women in Peru and Zambia.  You also don’t want to miss the opportunity to purchase scarves hand-dyed by UIW fashion students and faculty. Scarves start at $20.

Another great aspect to this event is the photography contest. The contest is open to all UIW faculty, staff and students. Entries must be an original photograph that represents the color red and/or something related to the heart, heart health or the American Heart Association’s Go Red Campaign. Photographs should be signed by the contestant and printed on a 12×14 or 14×14 canvas and not exceed a cost of $35. If the artwork includes people in the photograph, a media release will need to be signed. Canvas prints should be submitted to Dr. Michael Moon in the Nursing Building, Room 128 no later than 12 p.m., Monday, Feb. 27. Voting will take place during the Red Dress event. All the artwork will be available for purchase with proceeds helping to support future Red Dress Day activities and a prize will be given to the winner. For more information on the contest, contact Dr. Michael Moon at (210) 216-5086.

This annual Red Dress Event supports the American Heart Association and their Go Red campaign during National Heart Month in February.

Artist Roger Colombik’s Exhibition Comes to UIW

Texas artist Roger Colombik brings his art exhibition to UIW. The exhibition will run from Friday, Jan. 27, through Thursday, Feb. 23, in the Semmes Gallery of the Kelso Art Center. Colombik’s exhibition will feature his Selected Works and More Life in a Time Without Boundaries pieces.  

Colombik’s Selected Works features the artist’s diverse practices in sculpture and social engagement. The sculptures weave through the narrative of Absence/Presence, a psychological state of yearning for two disparate possibilities of simultaneous existence. The representational imagery (journals, a magic carpet, pillows and scales) awaken restless spirits navigating the space between wanderlust and responsibility.

More Life in a Time Without Boundaries was undertaken in collaboration with Jerolyn Bahm-Colombik, International Rescue Committee-Abilene (IRC) and The Grace Museum. The goal was to initiate a more profound awareness and dialogue regarding the human face of immigration and the contributions that refugees make to their new homeland. To engage with this community is to enter a realm where personal histories are inextricably linked with global crises and the simple dreams that parents have for their children. This work addresses these conflicting zones of human nature through a diverse range of applications.

An opening reception for the art exhibition will be from 6 – 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 27, in the Kelso Art Center. Roger Colombik will also be giving an artist lecture from 1:30 – 2:45 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2, in the Kelso Art Center, Room 112. This lecture is free and open to the public. For more information on this exhibition and gallery hours, contact (210) 829-3852.

UIW Hosts Dolores de Crecimiento Exhibition

A unique art exhibition showcasing memories from childhood, death and cultural folklore is on display in the Semmes Gallery of the Kelso Art Center at the University of the Incarnate Word. The exhibition, titled Dolores de Crecimiento, runs through Friday, Nov. 4.

Semmes Gallery, Kelso Art Center

Artists Lisette Chavez and Coco Rico explore memories and tragedies that become lifelong lessons shaping adulthood transcending physical growth. While Chavez and Rico desire to reminisce about fonder times, often their work is fueled by tormented memories. Rico’s childhood includes witnessing animal slaughter and cruelty. Chavez felt forced to go to stranger’s funerals and to church with her mother.

Semmes Gallery, Kelso Art Center

To express these details from their past, both artists expose their vulnerable positions of worries and sadness through beautiful drawings and lithographs. An exhibition closing reception will be held in the Kelso Art Center from 6 – 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding UIW holidays). For more information about this exhibit, contact (210) 829-3852 or


Interior Design Students Win Big

Students from the UIW Interior Design program had a great week of recognition for their creative work and dedication. Interior Design students placed in both the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Pinnacle of Design Awards as well as the Fall 2016 San Antonio Home & Garden Show, which took place at the Alamodome.

ASID Pinnacle of Design Awards
UIW Interior Design students entered projects from their classes, and professional designers from other locations judged them. Ashley Shirley, who graduated in 2016, entered her senior capstone project and won first place. Kory Lipscomb, who is currently still in the Interior Design program, took second place for her Residential Design II project.



Ashley Shirley, ASID Pinnacle of Design Award first place winner
Kory Lipscomb, ASID Pinnacle of Design second place winner

Fall 2016 San Antonio Home & Garden Show
UIW Interior Design held a student competition to determine which three students would design and furnish a 10’ x 20’ room vignette at the Fall 2016 San Antonio Home & Garden Show. Five professional interior designers came and judged students’ presentations of their concepts. The three students who won were: Kory Lipscomb, Cody Rackley, and Danielle Reyes. Sherwin Williams donated paint. Home Depot at SE Military HWY & Godiad gave each student a $50 in-store credit. The At Home store in Live Oak allowed students to select furniture and accessories and Cort Furniture allowed students to select furniture to be used. Show Technologies, who puts on the Home & Garden show, had three 10’ x 20’ space built and ready for students to begin their work on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Show Technologies also constructed a stage area for Interior Design speakers next to the students’ vignettes.






UIW Celebrates Feast of St. Francis of Assisi with Blessing of the Animals

St. Francis of Assisi (c.1182-1220) 1642 (oil on canvas)Each October, the University of the Incarnate Word community comes together to observe the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi in October. This year, we are observing the feast at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 3. The day will consist of a blessing of the animals at the entrance to the Headwaters Sanctuary (located behind Sullivan Field).

Born in the early 1180s, St. Francis of Assisi spent his early years as a soldier but later devoted his life to God. It was during this period that he dedicated his time to helping the poor as well as teaching humility, obedience, patience and compassion. Around 1209, Pope Innocent III granted St. Francis and his followers the right to a new religious order. The order would be known as the Franciscan Order (Order of Friars Minor).


Many centuries later, in 1979, Pope John Paul II formally declared St. Francis of Assisi the patron saint of ecology. Pope John Paul II said, “…he, in a special way, deeply sensed the universal works of the Creator and, filled with a certain divine spirit, sang that very beautiful ‘Canticle of the Creatures’.” Since this time, St. Francis’s feast day has normally included a moment to bless animals of all types. So, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, we welcome you to the entrance of the Headwaters Sanctuary at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 3, to have your animal blessed by Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI. The event is co-sponsored by the UIW Liturgical Outreach and the Headwaters Coalition, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

UIW Gears Up for Light the Way

We will celebrate Light the Way at the University of the Incarnate Word on Saturday, Nov. 19. While the actual date of the event is months away, a lot of work and effort is accomplished by the community to create a successful and fun event. UIW invites the community to help prepare for Light the Way at a volunteer day on Saturday, Sept. 17, in the McDermott Convocation Center.

While this day is a great way for students to earn community service, the day really is a huge help in the process of Light the Way. Volunteers help remove and install light bulbs into Christmas lights that are placed all over campus and are lit on Nov. 19 through the holiday season. There are two shifts available to volunteer from 9 – 11:30 a.m. and from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. Students, faculty, alumni and their families are invited to participate. Please no children under the age of 10. (Students must have their valid UIW ID to check in for community service hours.) To register, please follow this link.

Light the Way is an event that the whole community enjoys to ring in the Christmas season, and we could not do it without your help and support. Let’s make this Light the Way the best and brightest yet. We cannot wait to see you there.

Meet the Mission Celebrates 11 Years

UIW’s community service event Meet the Mission is about to celebrate its eleventh year of serving underserved organizations and members in the San Antonio community this September. The initiative, under the leadership of the Office of Mission and Ministry, actively teaches students about the “service” portion of our Mission through action and practice.

In 2015, UIW sent 300 students to provide 1,500 hours of community service to 28 organizations in the San Antonio community. Students and faculty served in a variety of areas including assisting the elderly and refugees living in our city as well as building gardens and refurbished playgrounds in the community.

This year, Meet the Mission is Friday, Sept. 16, and starts in the McDermott Convocation Center. Not only is this event a great way to earn community service hours and help organizations in the San Antonio community, but it is also a great way to meet new friends that you might have not met in other ways. For the past 11 years, Meet the Mission has bonded hundreds of students together in our UIW family through the act of service.

For up to date information, visit the Mission and Ministry web page or call (210) 829-3128. We hope to see you there!