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Students Take Honors at CSU Research Symposium

Titan Science Students Win Top Awards at Statewide Annual Biotechnology Symposium

Jan. 11, 2013

Young man in gray suit standing beside older woman holding a certificate

CSUF’s Alexander Burtea, recipient of the 2013 Glenn Nagel Undergraduate Student Research Award, receives congratulations from Greta Nagel. The CSU award is named in honor of her late husband.


For their work and accomplishments as emerging biotechnology researchers, two Cal State Fullerton science students garnered top awards at the California State University Biotechnology Symposium, held last weekend in Anaheim, where three additional CSUF students received scholar awards.

Graduate student Nicole Ratib won the 2013 Don Eden Graduate Student Research Award, and Alexander Burtea received the 2013 Glenn Nagel Undergraduate Student Research Award. The honors were announced Jan. 5 at the statewide symposium, sponsored by the CSU Program for Education in Research and Biotechnology (CSUPERB).

Ratib of La Habra is pursuing a master's degree in biology, and Burtea of Fullerton is a senior majoring in biochemistry.

Esther Chen, associate professor of biological science and Ratib's faculty mentor, lauded Ratib's prestigious achievement: "Nicole is a joy to work with in the research lab. She has a real talent and passion for biology — and she works very hard. I'm very proud of her, and I'm proud of how much she has grown as a scientist, especially during the past year."

"It's exciting to see Alex get this award. He is a tremendous student — one of the best," said his faculty mentor, Nicholas Salzameda, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. "I'm very proud of him, and so is the department and college."

Burtea and Ratib each received a $750 scholarship, as well as up to $1,000 for travel reimbursement to attend and present their research at national or international meetings.

Ratib was humbled to be selected for the Eden Graduate Award: "I feel extremely honored to have won this award. The research presentations given by all of the finalists were very good, so I'm sure the committee had a very difficult time picking a winner."

Burtea's award is named in honor of the late Glenn M. Nagel, the 1987 recipient of the Cal State Fullerton Outstanding Professor Award.

Said Burtea: "This award means a lot to me because it has encouraged me to be engaged in my research even more. It has also shown me that others are interested in my work, and that all my hard work is paying off."

Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholar Awards Honorees

At the symposium, the recipients of the 2013 Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholar Awards also were announced. Three Cal State Fullerton biological science majors were selected for this award and a $3,500 scholarship. Overall, a dozen students from six different CSU universities were selected.

The 2013 Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholar Award recipients from Cal State Fullerton:

  • Charles Mordaunt of Fullerton is guided by mentor Nilay Patel, assistant professor of biological science.
  • Van Nguyen of Garden Grove is guided by mentor Math P. Cuajungco, associate professor of biological science.
  • Matthew Schroeder of Yorba Linda is guided by mentor Alison Miyamoto, assistant professor of biological science.

Each scholar will conduct faculty-mentored research projects this spring and summer. CSUPERB partners with the Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women's Health Research to fund promising undergraduate student research projects related to women's health.

Presidents' Commission Scholars

Previously, three other CSUF science majors who had been selected for CSUPERB's inaugural class of Presidents' Commission Scholars made presentations at the CSU Biotechnology Symposium. A total of 25 undergraduates carried out faculty-mentored biotechnology research projects on 13 different CSU campuses last summer, and they presented at last week's symposium.

Cal State Fullerton 2012 Presidents' Commission Scholars, who are continuing to work in the lab this year, are:

  • Rebecca Adamek of San Dimas, majoring in chemistry, whose research on the "Development of a FRET Assay for the Discovery of West Nile Virus NS3 Protease Inhibitors" focused on creating therapeutics for the treatment of the West Nile virus. Salzameda is her faculty mentor.
  • Sophia Hernandez of Diamond Bar, a biological science student, whose research, "Investigation of the association of soluble intracellular manganese in Pseudomonas putida GB-1 and its corresponding mutant," focused on understanding how a certain bacteria can potentially help in bioremediation in the environment. Her faculty mentor is Hope Johnson, assistant professor of biological science.
  • Eric Yik of Lakewood, a biochemistry major, whose research project, "Structure-Function Studies of Thermodesulfovibrio yellowstonii ADPGlucose Pyrophosphorylase," focused on understanding and improving the ADPGlucose Pyrophosphorylase enzyme. This enzyme helps to make starch and glycogen, which can be used to make biodegradable material and biofuel. "As an effect of the biodegradable material, pollution would decrease and make mankind greener," Yik said. His faculty mentor is Christopher R. Meyer, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The Presidents' Commission Scholars each received a $6,000 scholarship, in addition to $2,000 for materials and supplies needed for the research project. The program seeks to increase the number of undergraduate students that have access to a full-time research experience. CSUPERB received 66 applications from 18 CSU universities in response to the request for proposals.

CSU Biotech Symposium

The 25th annual symposium, held Jan. 3-5 at the Anaheim Marriott, brought together students, faculty members and administrators from throughout the state, as well as biotech professionals working in academia, government and industry. Students had the opportunity to learn more about cutting-edge biotechnologies, career paths, as well as present their research, in efforts to help them succeed in the sciences. More than 70 Cal State Fullerton students, including science and mathematics majors, presented their poster research projects.

Chen noted that Cal State Fullerton and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics have "an impressive track record with student awards at the CSUPERB symposium, which is made possible by the strong support for student-faculty collaborative research on this campus, and particularly, in the college.

"The competition benefits the students because it gives them practice in clearly articulating the aims, significance and results of their research projects, both in a poster format and in a short research talk, to a friendly audience," added Chen. "Often, research students are so immersed in the day-to-day technical details of their research projects that they forget how important it is to be able to describe their work to others — and the ability to communicate to a general audience is an important skill for scientists."

By: Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027

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