UH Moment

UH Moment: ‘UDALL SCHOLAR

For one UH student, sustainability is more than recycling; it’s rocks and minerals…and playground equipment. It’s a mindset that earned her a prestigious scholarship.

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Vanessa Alejandro is studying geology.  The lab where she works is examining a rare mineral called Ikaite.  She’s hopeful, however, that her geology studies further her accomplishments in educating about the Earth.

“I’m interested in looking at problems where people and the environment intersect,” Alejandro said. “Right after I graduate I want to join the Peace Corp and then get a doctorate in a sustainability-related field.”

Her interest in geology is fueled by her interest in conservation.  A research project she’ll tackle this semester builds on ideas involving energy from the sun and kids on a playground. 

“We created a virtual, sustainable playground that harnesses energy from the playground equipment, so when kids play on it, the energy created is harnessed,” she said.  

Alejandro will spend the semester making that virtual project a reality. That is, when she is not busy with an area conservation group. She is the co-founder of Warriors of the Wild, a nonprofit organization that educates children on how to protect the Earth and its animals. Since its inception two years ago, the group is active in three cities. 

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“We do afterschool workshops, festivals, local trips,” she said. “It’s very hands on. We follow our own curriculum and we try to get kids outside.” 

Her personal and academic efforts helped her earn the prestigious Udall Scholarship for undergraduates who are committed to careers related to the environment.

“If we can influence those children who didn’t know they liked science, and now they’re in love with science, to have some sort of curiosity for the natural world, that’s what we’re going for.”

Vanessa Alejandro is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez

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