Teacher and Student
Student Ernest Puletasi (right), one of theree ASCC students chosen for off-island summer internships in the science field, is congratulated by ASCC Science Deprartment Chairman Dr. Randel DeWees. The other students selected are Amber Ropeti, who will be travelling to Harvard University along with Ernest, and Faatoia Areta., who will travel to Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica. (Photo: J. Kneubuhl)

ASCC Science Students Selected for Summer Internships

April 23, 2015

By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer

Three students at the American Samoa Community College recently received the good news that they have been selected to spend eight to ten weeks off island this summer as interns through two programs under the aegis of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Ernest Puletasi and Amber Ropeti will both spend ten weeks at Harvard University at the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, while Faatoia Areta will travel to Costa Rica for an eight-week tropical agriculture internship at the Las Cruces Biological Station.

Ernest and Amber both applied for their internships through the NSF Science and Technology Centers Tribal Initiatives Summer Undergraduate Research Internship Experience, a paid summer undergraduate research internship program for Native American/Native Hawaiian/Alaskan Native students held at NSF Science and Technology Centers (STC's) around the country. Ernest and Amber had a choice of seven different STCs they could attend, with a wide range of available research foci. They both opted for the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials (CIQM) at Harvard, which hosts research and education programs exploring the unique electronic behavior of quantum materials, including graphene, topological insulators, and the nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center diamond, with the goal of achieving new breakthroughs in electronics, photonics, and computing.

All of Ernest and Amber’s travel expenses are covered, along with room and board, and they will be encouraged to present their work at upcoming conferences. The application process for the program required them both to find a qualified mentor at their school. Ernest’s mentor is ASCC Science Department chairman Dr. Randel DeWees, who agreed to the role after noticing Ernest’s outstanding performance in the Chemistry 1 (CHM 150) course and his “lifelong learner attitude.”Ernest, age 20, majors at ASCC in Health Science. "I hope to gain more scientific knowledge and research experience at Harvard during my 10-week internship experience,” he said.

Amber, age 18, majors in Natural Resources and is mentored by Mrs. Pauline McFall of ASCC Community & Natural Resources (CNR). “I hope to broaden my knowledge in the scientific field and to facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of the assorted collections of microorganisms, whether on sea or land,” she enthused. “I look forward to conducting research and being involved in programs that explore the unique automated behavior of significant materials. Ultimately, I want to incorporate research to help discover inexpensive resources for our Island.” Amber plans to pursue a Doctorate degree in the field of Science and become a Horticulturist.

Faatoia Areta, age 20, carries a double major of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and is mentored by CNR instructors Dr. Otto Hansell and Mr. Ionatana Fasavalu. She applied for her eight-week residency in Costa Rica through the Native American & Pacific Islander Research Experience (NAPIRE), which is also funded by the NSF. Administered by the Organization for Tropical Studies, the NAPIRE Program is designed to introduce Native American and Pacific Islander undergraduate students to the biodiversity of the tropics.

“When I applied for the internship, I selected three research areas: Conservation Biology, Animal Behavior and Plant Ecology,” explained Faatoia. “These can help me gain the kind of knowledge I can apply here in our environment, as well as to our natural resources.” After ASCC, she plans to continue her studies on Plant Pathology at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, and then hopes to return to serve American Samoa.

Opportunities for study in the areas of Science and Natural Resources are detailed in the ASCC Catalog, which can be found online at: