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Honors student tapped to present on Capitol Hill

Lamar University Reaud Honors College student, Daniel Quispe, has been selected to participate in this year’s prestigious Council of Undergraduate Research’s event, “Posters on the Hill,” held annually in Washington, DanielquispeD.C.

Quispe, a mechanical engineering major from La Porte, graduating in 2021, has represented Lamar University at numerous conferences to present his research on the physics of solar cells, either as poster presentations or talks.  For the upcoming “Posters on the Hill,” Quispe will present a paper titled “Implementing Solar Energy into Southeast Texas with Efficient Solar Cells.”

Having attended several conferences, such as The Undergraduate Research Day in Austin last spring and the Undergraduate Research Conference in Buffalo, New York, sponsored by the McNair Scholars program in summer 2019, Quispe is a veteran presenter. He was also accepted to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., an event postponed due to COVID-19.

Quispe is the second member of his family to attend Lamar University. His brother David was a Beck Fellow and Goldwater Scholar who participated in undergraduate research also. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Quispe knew he wanted to gain experience presenting to increase his chances of selection to the “Posters on the Hill” event in D.C.

“I was very excited when I got accepted because I applied a year ago and didn’t get accepted,” said Quispe. “One of the requirements is having experience presenting. Now I’ve been around the country talking about my research.”

More than 300 students applied to present at the event in the nation’s capital but only 60 students were selected. Dr. Cristian Bahrim, a professor of physics at LU and Quispe’s mentor, considers the acceptance “a pinnacle moment in a student’s research journey.” 

“It is a rare privilege for any university to be invited to this event,” said Bahrim, who also serves as LU’s acting director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “Typically, no more than one university per state is invited in any given year. To the best of my knowledge, this is the third time a group from Lamar University has been invited to this event. Looking to the credentials of previous LU student presenters at “Posters on the Hill” and what they became, it is clear that only high caliber students with a robust research experience and great potential for a successful academic career are accepted at the event held in D.C., every April. I foresee the same great potential for continuing academic success in Daniel’s case.”

In 2006, Joey Hunt, Bahrim’s research assistant pursuing a Bachelor of Science in physics and mathematics, was the first LU student to be accepted to present at “Posters on the Hill.” He presented a poster titled, “In Search of a New Molecule.” In 2015, a group of biology students led by Nicolas Thanasis Nikoloutsos, a physics, electrical engineering and mathematics major now in the bioengineering graduate program at Rice University, presented a poster at the D.C. event titled, “Formation of Physiologically Realistic Cancer Cell Spheroids with Soft Substrate Microenvironments.” Dr. Ian Lian, associate professor of biology, was his mentor.

Bahrim is now uniquely qualified to mentor students like Quispe in the future. He has served as a reviewer of the Physics and Astronomy section of the Council of Undergraduate Research for the Posters on the Hill 2020 event. “I was impressed by the quality of the papers and the significance of the research I was asked to review, which, for me, makes Daniel’s achievement even more significant.”

With the help of Bahrim, who also mentored David in research in 2018, Quispe began looking into the efficiency of solar cells in Southeast Texas by seeking to understand the efficiency of solar cells in adverse weather conditions, which are specific to coastal areas: such as, sustained winds and dense cloud coverage.  As part of his research, he compared solar cells’ efficiency in the humid climate of Southeast Texas to their efficiency in arid regions, such as Arizona, for example.

“We found that solar cells produce more energy in Arizona because there are less clouds,” said Quispe. “A simple cloud passing by the sun, causes an 80% drop in voltage production and we have more cloud coverage. We need alternative sources of energy, but clouds work against solar cells in coastal areas.”

As part of the conference in D.C., Quispe will make a presentation at the Capitol in front of policymakers. He will also attend other congressional meetings to present and discuss his research.

“I’m really excited about this conference and being selected,” said Quispe. “It’s always a great thing to get a victory even if, especially if, it’s the second time to try, and “Posters on the Hill” will be that next leap in achieving my dream to go to graduate school.”

“Daniel has a distinctive academic pathway, holds a perfect 4.0 GPA after three years at Lamar University,” said Bahrim. “It has been a unique privilege for me to train and mentor in research the Quispe brothers. They leave behind a unique ‘Quispe legacy’ of student success here at LU, an inspiration for future generations of students.”