Amberly Mendes with plaque for first prize, Life SciencesAmberly Mendes was a “super nervous” about presenting her research on protein degradation in bacteria during the McNair Scholars Research Conference in Florida. But her confidence grew each time she explained her research, and the conference’s Life Sciences judges awarded first place to her poster presentation.

“The first judge said: ‘Tell me about your presentation five minutes,’” said Mendes, a biology major in the Class of ’18. “Afterwards he told me that I had explained my work very well.” Encouraged by his words, Mendes felt that she could win her session and sought out two more judges.

“It was my first conference and my first time presenting to judges,” said Mendes, who felt that she was well prepared for the session, having practiced poster sessions and received feedback from mentors at Suffolk.

Mendes was one of eight Suffolk University McNair Scholars to present at the October conference, where undergraduates from a variety of disciplines shared their research and engaged in professional development.

The McNair Scholars program prepares promising undergraduates from underrepresented groups for doctoral and other graduate programs. It is a federal TRIO program housed at Suffolk University within the Student Success Division.

In addition to Mendes, the following students presented at the conference.

  • Sarah Cohen, Class of ’17, Psychology & Sociology
  • Rooby Fortulien, ’17, Finance
  • Kadiatu Kamara, ’17, Biology
  • Fernando Lopez, ’18, Advertising/Marketing
  • Michelle Lopez, ’17, Biochemistry
  • Tiffany Martinez, ’17, Sociology
  • Sydney Thomas, ’18, Biochemistry

“The conference provided opportunities to network with PhD schools that were there to talk about their programs, and we attended workshops on topics such as how to find the right school and financing higher education,” said Mendes. It also provided the Suffolk students a chance to bond as a group, even while connecting with students from other colleges and universities.

Mendes, whose goal is to obtain a joint MD and PhD, got involved in the McNair program at the end of her sophomore year. She worked on the bacteria research this past summer with biology Professor Celeste Peterson, whom she refers to as “my mentor.”

She had taken courses in genetics and molecular genetics. “I was interested in that work so reached out to Dr. Peterson, and that’s how I got the summer research position.”

McNair students receive a stipend for summer research and internships, and Mendes plans to pursue another internship in 2017.

While she is dedicated to science and research, Mendes also is active on campus and has performed community service through Alternative Spring Break and Jumpstart, an early-education program. She also played soccer for the Suffolk Rams during her freshman and junior years.