From undergraduates to Ph.Ds, UNLV students proved that you're never too young or old to invent, impact, or impress.
Students this year took UNLV's Rebels spirit to heart, tallying up resumes that would give professionals in their fields with years of experience a run for their money.
Here are just a few whose achievements made news headlines in 2022.
Sussing Out Disinformation on Social Media
Pushing back on propaganda was the focus of Brookings Mountain West graduate student researcher Mary Blankenship. The Ukraine native and social media disinformation expert gave dozens of media interviews in 2022 about her research into “information pollution” surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war, African and U.S. elections, the Nord Stream pipeline explosion, American gun violence, and fallout over Twitter’s takeover by billionaire Elon Musk — to name just a few topics.
Blankenship continues to filter through millions of tweets. Her goal is to help everyday citizens around the globe understand the implications of information pollution on war, free speech, politics, and people’s livelihoods; why propagandists create it; how different regions of the world are responding in real-time to social media disinformation; and strategies to combat it.
- Russia-Ukraine War: Global News Canada (twice) (thrice), Forbes, Al Jazeera, Toronto Star, Business Insider, Kurdish NRT TV, Daily Dot, NewsNation, Expresso Portugal, Newsweek, The Statesman, The Record, KRNV-TV: News 4, KSNV-TV: News 3, The Las Vegas Sun, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), KVVU-TV: Fox 5
- Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase: Global News (twice), Al Araby, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, Verve Times, Q107, ABC News 15, WPTV News 5, KOAA News 5, ABC News 10
- Mass shootings: Quartz, MSN, City Cast Las Vegas, Newsy, San Antonio Express-News, Houston Chronicle, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Pahrump Valley Times, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, KSNV-TV: News 3, Greater Good Magazine
- Elections: Agence France-Presse, Las Vegas Sun
- Nord Stream pipeline explosion: Center for European Policy Analysis
Women in STEM were among the Rebels making it happen in 2022. And several students — from the Colleges of Sciences and Engineering — made headlines for their groundbreaking research.
- Citlally Lopez, a Mexican-American first-generation student and undergraduate studying organic chemistry, became the first student in UNLV history to receive the prestigious Pfizer Diversity Research Fellowship in Chemistry. Lopez, under the direction of College of Sciences professor Jun Yong Kang, is using the $20,000 award to further her research in developing a drug that could decrease the growth of cancer cells. The aspiring physician-scientist told journalists that she was inspired by her own loss of family members to cancer, and a desire to break down cultural and gender barriers in the male-dominated field of science.
Voice of America, Telemundo, TV Azteca, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, KVVU-TV: Fox 5, Las Vegas Weekly, STEM Magazine, University Speaks
- Mechanical engineering graduate student Kristen Tagaytayan’s solar research could help NASA land a space probe on Venus: AZoM
From hockey and football to basketball and beyond, Las Vegas is steadily gaining a reputation as a sports powerhouse. UNLV students got in on the action as the Lady Rebels rose through the ranks to a monumental championship win and several alumni made Olympics history.
- Fans throughout the campus and Las Vegas communities cheered as UNLV’s women’s basketball team served up a Women’s History Month marvel and headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years. The team’s meteoric rise helped boost the popularity of women’s basketball and proved that female athletes have a major role in Southern Nevada’s revamp into a sports mecca.
The Next, Las Vegas Review-Journal (twice) (thrice), KSNV-TV: News 3, KTNV-TV: ABC 13
- Former UNLV sprinter Kaysha Love was named to the U.S. Olympic bobsled team: NBC News, Las Vegas Review-Journal (twice), KSNV-TV: News 3, World Athletics, Mountain West, Reno Gazette-Journal, Deseret News, ABC4 Utah
- Former UNLV running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence made the Canadian Olympic bobsled team: Las Vegas Review-Journal (twice)
Local Link to Hollywood History
Students and professors with UNLV's Public History Program hosted the first public tours at Walking Box Ranch in a decade.
In February, history professor Deirdre Clemente and her students recounted their years-long efforts to preserve and revive the Searchlight desert oasis home of 1920s silent film stars Clara Bow and Rex Bell for public tours for KSNV-TV: News 3 viewers.
Then, KSNV-TV: News 3 returned in October — along with KLAS-TV: 8 News Now and the Las Vegas Review-Journal — to cover the free event, which featured hands-on activities with the ranch's collection of material culture; expert-led nature walks on ranching and indigenous plant life of the area; films showcasing former ranch owners Bell and Bow; and a mac n' cheese contest in honor of Bow's favorite recipe.
After four years of intensive work, a team of UNLV engineering students and faculty placed 11th in the $10 million ANA Avatar XPRIZE. The global challenge draws top tech talent to create a humanoid robot that pairs with a human counterpart through wearable technology controlled in real-time. UNLV’s team created Avatar-Hubo — a 5 ft., 5 in. humanoid robot that can walk, climb, see, sense, and even feel anything it’s engaging with. The big picture idea is to one day develop tech that would allow doctors, surgeons, or emergency professionals to be anywhere in the world without ever leaving their office.
President’s Innovation Challenge
An innovative student design for automated and self-watering microgreen gardens took the $25,000 top prize at the inaugural President’s Innovation Challenge. The competition — hosted by UNLV’s Office of the President, Graduate College, Office of Economic Development, Black Fire Innovation, and the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development — called on interdisciplinary student teams to come up with actionable ideas to deliver new business, new industry, or even entirely new sectors to our local economy.
KTNV-TV: ABC 13, Las Vegas Review Journal, Las Vegas Sun (twice)
Awards and Academic Achievement
As UNLV's enrollment continues to grow, so does the pool of students who are embracing the Rebel spirit and making a difference in the community. Here are just a few who were honored for their contributions.
- The Nevada Department of Education presented UNLV/CSUN Preschool kindergarten teacher and UNLV College of Education master’s student Carl Esteban with the Nevada Early Educator of the Year award during a surprise celebration: KSNV-TV: News 3
- UNLV junior Kelsey Elizabeth Matthews, a social work major and Honors College student, was one of just 58 students nationwide to be awarded the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship for 2022. Inspired by obstacles during her own childhood, Matthews plans to use the $30,000 award to pursue a law degree with a joint master’s in either social work or public policy. She hopes to become an attorney and advocate for social justice, legislative change, and public interest, and eventually run for public office.
KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, KSNV-TV: News 3
- Student Heather Renner became the first openly gay pageant contestant to be crowned Miss Nevada: KOLO-TV, Reno Gazette-Journal, Elko Daily Free Press
- UNLV alumna Samantha Gruwell filled in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on her work on the Pixar film “Lightyear.”
- Doctoral engineering graduate and Nobel Laureate Meetings attendee George William Kajjumba was interviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal about his work finding solutions that bridge water scarcity and the food crisis.
- The Las Vegas Sun and KSNV-TV: News 3 featured mechanical engineering Ph.D. graduate Maria Ramos Gonzalez — a DACA recipient and robotics-focused MIT postdoctoral researcher with an amazing story of overcoming gender barriers to excel in STEM.
- The Las Vegas Review-Journal also spoke to Gonzalez, as well as with undergraduate Tracy Fuentes, a double major undergraduate who founded an online magazine to help tell the stories of Asian women.
- The Las Vegas Sun covered psychology undergrad Ava Platt’s journey from traumatic brain injury recovery to pursuit of a neuroscience Ph.D. via a partnership program with Brown University and the National Institutes of Health.
- Media professional Michael Saladino plans to use his master’s degree in Urban Leadership to help transform Las Vegas into a bonafide sports town, reported KSNV-TV: News 3.
- KLAS-TV: 8 News Now talked to aspiring public health physician Emily Carter about the hardships of obtaining her degree amid pandemic pandemonium.