Many new high school graduates celebrate their accomplishments by relaxing and taking a break before entering the next phase of their lives. Five students from the University of San Diego’s incoming class of 2017 are spending their summer in a different way.
Devyn Bryant, 17, is one of those students. A graduate of the Horizon Christian Academy in the San Diego neighborhood of Clairemont Mesa, Bryant is foregoing trips to the beach or hanging out with friends to get a jump on his academic career by participating in USD’s Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) program.
Bryant, who plans to major in mechanical engineering, has been working under the guidance of Truc Ngo, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering. Their research project seeks to replace the use of fiberglass and other non-biodegradable materials in mechanical systems with more sustainable options that are environmentally safe.
Bryant has brought “enthusiasm and energy to the group,” Ngo said. He has shown a “desire to learn, practice his skills, and contribute to the end goals of the research project as a whole.” At the midpoint of the seven-week program, he’s learned a number of skills including preparing samples for experiment, operating the metal shear machine and creating simple drawings through computer-aided design.
Four other students — one in biology, one in biophysics and two in marine science — are participating this summer in the PURE program that introduces first-generation college students and/or students from underrepresented groups to mathematics and science research at the college level. “My favorite part is seeing the potential and excitement of students that are preparing to embark on the next stage of their education,” said Timothy Clark, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who’s helping to coordinate the program this summer.
Coming into the seven-week program, Bryant had no prior experience in conducting research but that didn’t stop him from hitting the ground running. “They did a great job integrating me into the project,” he said. “Dr. Ngo gave me three research papers to read and after reading those I was really caught up on the experiment and the projects. This is real world application and research that I have never done before, so I jumped at the opportunity. And also, to be mentored by a professor that I may have in the future, you know as just a freshman, is really an invaluable experience.”
Bryant’s passion for understanding how things work and his interest in all things engineering stem from his experience on his high school’s robotics team. During his junior year, Bryant, along with a couple of his peers created the “PantherBots” and finished in second place at regionals in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge.
Along with being an honor roll student all throughout high school and being a member of the U-T San Diego All-Academic team, Devyn is also an aspiring student-athlete. In high school, he played varsity football as a cornerback and was part of the San Diego All Stars, a team comprised of San Diego’s best football players who went on to defeat the best players in the CIF Los Angeles City Section.
Bryant said his mom, a single parent, and other mentors he thinks of as family, have instilled in him the belief that he could achieve any goal he set his mind to as long he put in the hard work to achieve it. “I learned at an early age that hard work pays off,” Bryant said. “I’ve never strayed from that. Knowing I will become better through my work ethic pushes me.”
On top of being a student of the PURE program, he has also been conditioning with USD’s football team every day from 7 to 9 a.m. Bryant has continued to push himself this summer and if there’s one thing that he shares with his fellow freshmen this fall, it’s the excitement of starting his college career.
“Right now I’m just focused on being a good athlete on the field and an excellent student in the classroom. Being a student-athlete, I know I’m going to be really busy, but I’m ready for the challenge.”
— Hector V. Ramos Jr. ‘13