Hector Ontiveros Attends MIT Program for Students Interested in STEM

Although limited to online sessions only due to Covid-19, the summer program connects students with industry professionals


Mary Allen, Senior Reporter

Over the summer, senior Hector Ontiveros-Morales participated in the MIT Online Science, Technology and Engineering Community program (MOSTEC), designed for minority students who are interested in careers in STEM. 

Through the program, Ontiveros-Morales had the opportunity to work with a group of like-minded students from all over the country and learn skills that will be useful to a future engineer. 

The MOSTEC program is a six-month commitment that starts the summer before the student’s senior year and continues through the first semester. The program heavily focuses on academics and enrichment, and the participants have the opportunity to attend college fairs, information webinars and focus on networking. 

Typically the program would be half online and half in person, with the academic phase and the enrichment phase being online, and the symposium, where students share their projects and participate in workshops, being held on the MIT campus. This year, however, the symposium phase had to be adapted to online. The change was met with several obstacles.

“The greatest challenge I encountered was working online with my project team across different time zones. For the elective course, we completed a project to be presented during a final symposium. Practicing and memorizing the presentation was the hardest part, especially over online meetings, but it all went well for the symposium,” Ontiveros-Morales said.

Despite some challenges Ontiveros-Morales found benefits to the program being fully online.

“Some advantages of having the program fully online were that my family and teachers were able to attend my final symposium presentation, and I could attend more of other students’ presentations as well,” Ontiveros-Morales said.

During the academic phase, participants are enrolled in two classes. Ontiveros-Morales was assigned Science Writing as his core class and chose Image Processing and Pattern Recognition of Droplets as an elective. 

For the elective, Ontiveros-Morales and his team completed a project about the drying process of common droplets and the patterns that were formed. Ontiveros-Morales was tasked to mix different substances—food coloring, paint and spices like paprika—with water and examine the droplets.

 For the Science Writing class, Ontiveros-Morales had to interview an expert on the subject of his choice and write a paper about his findings. Out of 200 students, Hector’s paper on desalination placed in the top 28 for “Best of Science Writing.” 

Participants in the program also had the unique opportunity to connect with industry professionals. During the “Ask Me Anything” sessions, which were held after the academic portion of the program, participants were able to meet in small groups where they could ask experts questions and engage in more in depth conversations about the STEM field. 

 “I recall specifically the session with a couple who both work at NASA and Boeing and teach the Aerospace course together. I received the advice of starting to connect with possible companies in your career of choice as early as high school,” Ontiveros-Morales said.  

For those considering attending MOSTEC next summer, in an email Ontiveros-Morales offered this: 

“The biggest piece of advice I would give to someone considering this program is just to Apply! I know that I was intimidated at first because the application is lengthy and the program only accepts a small number of participants, but I still gave it my best shot. I would also say that the program does take up a lot of your time over the summer, but it’s totally worth it!”