Headshot of Mark Flores.


McDaniel College, Westminster, MD

Mark’s introduction to the sciences began early, as his mom is an environmental sciences high school teacher. He visited national parks, and did hands-on trial experiments at home to help her prepare for her class activities. His dad traveled frequently for his government job. Due to his dad’s job, Mark grew up in Ecuador, attending elementary school there. During high school he became interested in studying chemistry and kinesiology.

While attending McDaniel College he began looking at graduate schools, and it was then that he decided he wanted more research experience to learn more about laboratory work. In his search he came across educational research, which he wasn’t familiar with and wanted to try that out. His REU search found RIT’s program to be an opportunity.

Working with Dr. Zwickl, Mark’s long term goal for the summer REU experience is to develop an assessment tool to better examine factors contributing to why undergraduates remain within a department or major or why they chose to leave or switch to something else. Mark’s specific areas of interest are examining students’ help-seeking behaviors and self-efficacy, both of which are linked to retention and dropout rates.

Mark is using interviews of undergraduate STEM majors to obtain a deeper understanding of students’ experiences in order to develop measurement tools (surveys) that can be used by departments or colleges. The tools will help faculty and administrators understand aspects of the student experience that are typically hidden and help improve the culture, support, and programs to support student success.

This is Mark’s first REU. He commented that he thrives on social interactions, and the REUs are all trying their best to interact virtually with each other. He says it’s interesting to learn about the other disciplines and perspectives from other REU students. “The common factor that binds us all is that we all love the sciences,” commented Mark.