MSJC Students are First Community College Students to Present Poster at UC San Diego Research Showcase

June 15, 2015

Ten Mt. San Jacinto College Honors Biology students became the first community college students ever to present their findings at the UC San Diego Division of Biological Sciences Student Research Showcase.

The annual showcase, held this year on June 3, 2015 at UCSD’s Center Ballroom, allows biology undergraduate and graduate students to present a poster based on research they conducted while at UC San Diego. The students present their findings to attendees and faculty judges. Top posters receive awards at the conclusion of the event.

MSJC students were invited to attend because of a research collaboration that was started between UCSD and three community colleges: Palomar College, Cuyamaca College and MSJC. The collaboration is funded by a $300,000 National Science Foundation Grant. MSJC received $36,895 of the funds, said Dr. Nick Reeves, associate professor of biology at MSJC.

The MSJC students presented information on an insect biodiversity research project they conducted. The 10 MSJC students were:  Casey Jacobi, Bailey Ford, Ophelia Hearst, Jonathan Moncada, Blaine Novak Pilch, Leon Palaganas, Christopher Powers, Miguel Robledo, Michael Ross, and Ojan Salehabadi.

During the Spring 2015 semester at MSJC, the students set up a Malaise trap on the edge of MSJC’s Menifee Valley Campus in an undeveloped patch of land. The trap collected flying insects during a week in February and again for a week in April. Using the insect collections, Reeves and his students hoped to investigate changes in insect diversity during this short period of time. They discovered that the insect diversity shifted from almost entirely flies and midges in February to a broad assortment of flies, midges, moths, parasitic wasps, and plant bugs in April. The classification of these insects was confirmed by analyzing the DNA of these insects.

While the MSJC students were not eligible to win an award for their poster, Reeves said the fact that they were invited to present their findings showed that their level of research was comparable to what students at a four-year university learn.

“This is the beginning of a long-term effort to monitor this area of the Menifee Valley Campus and track biodiversity changes that may be caused by human disturbances such as housing development and climate change,” Reeves said. “I am proud of what these students have accomplished. These types of achievements are made possible because of the support of our exceptional honors program at MSJC and the outstanding staff that are willing to do a little extra for special projects.”


left to right – MSJC Biology Associate Professor Nick Reeves, Casey Jacobi, Blaine Novak Pilch, Ojan Salehabadi, Miguel Robledo, Ophelia Hearst, and Leon Palaganas at the UC San Diego Biological Sciences Student Research Showcase.