(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Halfway into their 12-week internships at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center, TSTC Biology students Paloma Gallardo and Sammy Huerta are thriving.

Gallardo uses DNA extraction and PCR — polymerase chain reaction — in the leaf tissues of a plant to identify citrus greening disease.

Huerta, working on an entomology project, examines pest insects that have managed to survive the extreme Rio Grande Valley heat — and this year’s freeze.

“It’s exactly the kind of process that I enjoy,” Huerta said. “The fact that you can see progression through your experiments with the insects — it still fascinates me with how the life cycle changes. I really, really do enjoy it.”

With a love for science discovered in childhood, Huerta intends to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a paleontologist.

“Everything around us is a product of science in some kind of study,” he said. “In terms of biology, you could physically see things grow in that natural progression. It was just a natural step (for me) to focus on biology and living science.”

Huerta has appreciated one-on-one learning opportunities at the Citrus Center and encourages other TSTC students to apply for the internship.

“In terms of the practices, some of them we study in a biology course where you go over your methods,” he said “It’s real-world applied, here. You see the steps, you understand the experiments that you’re doing and you understand why.”

Gallardo developed her passion for science during her classes at TSTC — particularly microbiology.

“I think biology is such a great degree to pursue because it’s so broad — you can do a lot of things in biology,” she said. “You can be anything if you have a biology degree.”

Gallardo has been so inspired by her internship and TSTC Biology experience thus far that she wants to share it with her former high school, Harlingen School of Health Professions.

“When I got to the Citrus Center, I was like, why don’t more people know about this? There’s so many things you can do in the Valley. You can save money and invest here,” Gallardo said. “What I’m doing right now my old classmates are doing, but they’re paying 25 grand.”

TSTC offers an online Associate of Science degree in Biology designed to help students get a head start on a bachelor’s degree, pursue a path to medical school, or work in medical or science fields.

“TSTC is a really good stepping stone,” Huerta said. “There’s no reason not to be a part of TSTC.”

The Citrus Center internship is accepting applications for fall 2021, spring 2022 and summer 2022, with the funding extension available, TSTC Academic Core lead instructor Jena Campbell said. Students who are interested in applying should contact Campbell, TSTC associate professor of academic science Paul Leonard or TSTC academic science instructor Michael Gay.

Registration for the fall semester at TSTC is underway. For more information, visit

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TSTC Biology student Sammy Huerta uses a microscope to sort insects he collected from his project greenhouse July 28, 2021, at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center.
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