News Release

Santiago Canyon College Students Soar High with Research at Cal State Fullerton and Chapman

​(Orange, CA)—Have you ever wondered about the nesting habits of western bluebirds and whether they are affected by urban noise pollution?

Well, it’s something that 19-year-old Santiago Canyon College (SCC) student Sama Ruda has thought about a lot in recent weeks. She has spent the summer at three regional parks measuring the size of bluebirds’ territories and how it relates to the ambient noise level. On Friday, August 11, her eight-week research project will come to an end with the Summer Research Symposium at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). The symposium is sponsored by CSUF College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in Dan Black Hall from 10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

The symposium offers the Undergraduate Research Experience participants the opportunity to showcase their summer research activities with their faculty mentors. The poster that Ruda will present highlights her work accomplished alongside her faculty mentor Dr. Bill Hoese, CSUF biology professor and co-director of the Southern California Ecosystems Research Program.

Ruda, a third-year SCC biology major, describes how painstaking her summer research has been. It has been difficult keeping track of her assigned bluebirds. Each bird supports its nesting family by ensuring that their territory is free from other male bluebirds, plus the male bluebird brings food to its young. By tracking and recording where the bird perched, Ruda helped established a polygon defining the bird’s territory. If she lost sight of the bird she was tracking, which was very easy to do, the trial became invalid and she needed to start again.

“Last week, I was able to finish collecting the data and it was nice to feel that I had achieved something,” she says. “After the hard work, I was happy with the end results especially in light of all the challenges I faced.”

Ruda plans to transfer to CSUF in the spring to earn a B.S. in biology. From there, she plans on attending pharmacy school. Despite the fact that research on bluebirds does not figure into her career goals, her time has been very well spent this summer.

“Overall it was a great experience and not just something for my resume especially since getting accepted came with a $5,000 stipend. After learning about research techniques, I am considering choosing pharmacy research as my field,” she says. “The experience has taught me to have patience. I’m usually a person who wants to get something done right away. When I finished collecting my data, I learned if I gave a project more patience, it would be more meaningful in the end.”

The eight-week Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) program is part of Project RAISE, a regional alliance in STEM education funded by a Department of Education Title III HSI-STEM grant awarded to CSUF in October 2016. Project RAISE integrates a variety of services and project components to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income STEM students and increase persistence, retention, and graduation rates among participants. Santiago Canyon College students participated in URE along with students from Citrus College, Cypress College, Fullerton College, Golden West College, Mt. San Antonio College, Orange Coast College, and Santa Ana College.

The following five SCC students were selected to assist the listed CSUF faculty with their projects:

    • Irvine resident Jackson Flanagan – Dr. Garrett Struckhoff, assistant professor of environmental engineering
    • Anaheim resident (Elizabeth) Liz Hitch – Dr. Ally Fry-Petit, assistant professor of chemistry
    • Anaheim resident Sama Ruda – Dr. Bill Hoese, professor of biology
    • Orange resident Samantha Koenig – Dr. Chean Chin Ngo, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
    • Santa Ana resident Zach Sarvas – Dr. Andrew Petit, assistant professor of chemistry

In addition to the SCC students helping with research at CSUF, Orange resident and SCC student Andrea Lopez was selected to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Ecological and Environmental Sciences (SURFEES) program at Chapman University. Lopez, who is helping with food science research, received a $4,000 stipend. She has also been able to live on-campus during the eight-week program. The SURFEES program culminates with a poster symposium on August 9.

For more information on STEM programs at Santiago Canyon College, call (714) 628-4800 or visit

About Santiago Canyon College
Santiago Canyon College (SCC) serves about 17,000 students each semester. The college prepares students for transfer to four-year institutions and careers, and provides courses for personal and professional development, as well as customized training for business and industry. The college is recognized for its adult education program which keeps the working adult—and senior—in mind by offering flexible schedules, and community locations. Serving the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin, and Villa Park, SCC is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District. Visit to learn more.

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Contact: Judy Iannaccone

Phone: (714) 480-7503