STEP2 Grant


The STEP2 program is a multi-institution grant involving UTRGV, TAMU-Kingsville, STC, and TSTC (Harlingen). The program will expose students to research with local scientists with the intention of increasing their opportunities for careers within USDA and graduate school at UTRGV, TAMUK or other universities.

Electronic application deadline:
February 9, 2018

Apply for STEP2 program


  • Prepare students to transition to four-year B.S. degree institution (UTRGV and TAMUK) through ‘summer camp’ training short-courses in soil and plant science, animal and meat science, entomology and biotechnology, or tour visits to USDA agencies.
  • Develop “hands-on” research training opportunities through internships with UTRGV, TAMUK, USDA and opportunities for research experience under a faculty mentor
  • Learn more about agriculturally-based science professional societies through presentations at regional and national meetings

Student Participation

Interested students will participate in spring semester engagement activities. These may include hands-on biotechnology workshops at STC, invited speakers, and other events. Near the end of the spring semester, about four student participants will be chosen to take part in a 10-week paid summer laboratory research program, either at UTRGV, or other local research institutions.

Student Eligibility

To be eligible for the STEP2 program, students must:

  • Have graduated from high school no later than the spring semester of the current year
  • Be a U.S. citizen or Dream Act (DACA) student
  • Be a South Texas College student during spring and summer semesters

Strong preference is given to students whose goals are science-oriented as opposed to medically-oriented

Student Testimonials

Alma LopezThe STEP2 research program was a wonderful opportunity for me. It helped me broaden my career options and gave me a firsthand experience of what it is to work in a laboratory. In the beginning I must admit it is a nerve-wracking experience. As a new student I was unknowledgeable and inexperienced about many things related to my project assignment. With time however, I learned so much and continue to do so. Slowly, my progress in the lab improved so now I feel much more confident about my work there. What I'm trying to say is: Don't let fear of the unknown hold you back. You learn as you go, as long as you put in the effort to do so. This research program is both fun and challenging. The program leaders, professors, mentors, and scientists gave me beneficial information regarding Graduate School and the broad range of degree programs they offer. I recommend that students take advantage of this great opportunity and explore career options in the research field. Without a doubt, the STEP2 program has been a stepping stone in my education.

-Alma Lopez

Christopher BalboaThe Step2 program has provided me with countless benefits in field of science from hands on experience to knowledge on wide variety of scientific subjects. I was given an opportunity at Texas A&M Citrus Center where I would be introduced to the plant pathology lab. In this lab I was taught invaluable information about pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and even my beloved fungi and their effect on the Citrus industry. I also learned about mycorrhiza which is a symbiotic relationship between fungi and plant roots that greatly affect crop yield of all types of plants. Before coming to college I had originally thought that my goal of working with fungi would come way later in my career but due to the Step2 program I was able to accomplish this in my second semester at South Texas College.

-Christopher Barbola

Jacob WolfeThroughout the summer I was able to work with and learn with some amazing professors from UTRGV and STC to better my skills and gain experience in an aspect of science I never studied before. Everyone I worked was extremely helpful and always ready there to guide myself and others whenever needed. The projects and research I was able to participate in along with hearing about were interesting and drove me to do and learn even more. With this program, I was able to do and see things that many in their early science careers aren't doing, building confidence and a better foundation for their futures which is always invaluable.

-Jacob Wolfe

Ruth GalanThe STEP 2 program has deeply marked my academic and career path as it has given me an invaluable and incredible experience. It has allowed me to start building up my confidence in the laboratory setting as well as in my technical communications. During my time at the USDA CPHST Mission Laboratory I learned more than I could imagine, this knowledge and the skills acquired are things that complemented and enhanced my education received at South Texas College. This program has introduced me to an environment that was both exciting and challenging, and one that will undeniably broaden my future opportunities in the field of research. I am grateful because I got to be part of this program and for the wonderful people that I met.

-Ruth Galan

Courtney AvilaAfter participating in the Step 2 program and being able to have an opportunity to work hands on in a research facility, I would encourage anyone interested in pursuing a career in sciences to take part in it. Even the selection process of getting chosen is very rewarding because you get to take part in workshops that are free and beneficial towards familiarizing yourself with the basics of working in a lab. Once starting it can be intimidating if you have no experience but all of the mentors are behind you 100% to encourage you and guide you so you can continue to grow. I learned so much from everyone I worked with, from my mentors to the other undergraduate students that worked in the lab. It's an environment that you want to surround yourself in to continue to foster your interests towards a career in the scientific community because not only do you gain valuable work and research experience from taking part in the Step 2 program, but many other opportunities are opened up for you through the program because you have an entire team of people that want you to succeed and will share the knowledge and resources they can to see you be successful.

-Courtney Avila

Fallon FraustroThe Step 2 program has given me invaluable experience. I recommend this program to anyone interested in biology. This incredible scholarship program has given me exposure to research labs that I would not have had otherwise. The scientists and students I worked with were incredible, and here to help me succeed every step of the way. I feel very fortunate to have been selected. My advice to anyone interested in the program is to take a chance, and get that application filled out, you will not be disappointed! My research work this summer taught me so much. I almost feel like a different person. I will be forever grateful.

-Fallon Fraustro