GCC Student Jacob Fathal Awarded Research Opportunity

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Guam – Jacob Fathal is proof that if you start out at Guam Community College, you really can be your own success story.

Fresh on the heels of being named a 2012 New Century Scholar, Fathal, a sophomore computer science major at GCC, received word this week that he has been accepted into the University of Texas at Austin’s Environmental Science Institute Research Experience for Undergraduates. The 10-week summer program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and pairs an undergraduate student with a mentoring professor for a research project. Fathal will be working under Dr. Daniel Breecker on research involving soil carbon flux. The program provides students with a $5,000 stipend and room and board.

[Jacob Fathal, left, studies a map of Guam with Dr. John Jenson, a professor at UOG’s Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific.]

“Jacob embodies what every professor searches for in a student. He has the desire and drive for higher education. He has the academic mind and intelligence to succeed in that pursuit and he has the technical skills for hands-on experimental research,” said Dr. Jay Sunga, assistant professor of science at GCC, and one of Fathal’s instructors.

“What is most striking is that whatever he sets out to do, whether it is academic or artistic in nature, reflects careful thought processes,” said JoNita Kerr, GCC associate professor and another instructor of Fathal.  “Also, he has the passion and curiosity to sustain a career in science or engineering, and I’ve no doubt that he will enjoy success in the field that he chooses.”

Kerr referred Fathal to Dr. John Jenson, a professor at the University of Guam’s Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific. It was Jenson who then encouraged Fathal to apply for the UT undergraduate research program. He says the internship will provide Fathal with a solid knowledge of stable isotope techniques and applications. “Since the project is climate-related, it is such a good fit with what he is doing on Guam – not duplicating the cave work, but expanding on it,” Jenson said. Fathal is assisting Jenson with cave studies at Ritidian. Jenson noted that Fathal is one of approximately 10 undergraduate students chosen for the program from several hundred applicants.

Fathal represented GCC at the second annual Islands of Opportunity Alliance – Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Partnerships conference at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in August 2009 with a service learning project that highlighted fish populations affected by local fishing habits.

He will graduate from GCC in May with an Associate of Science degree in Computer Science. He then plans to enter the Pre-Engineering program at the University of Guam.