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Minority Access to Research Careers Scholars Announced

Successful Program Helps Students on Path to Research Careers

Sept. 11, 2014

Five Cal State Fullerton students are embarking on a path to a research career this fall, following in the footsteps of more than 50 students who have found success and satisfaction as researchers.

They are the newest members of Cal State Fullerton's Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Scholars, a program established 19 years ago to encourage and support students interested in the possibilities of advanced university degrees and futures in scientific exploration. In the last nine years of the program, 86 percent of MARC scholars have entered doctoral programs.

One such alumnus of the program is Jaime Munoz Velazquez, who began graduate studies this fall in the University of Michigan's Developmental Psychology Program. "I was one of four students admitted into the developmental program this year from a pool of 326 applicants," Munoz Velazquez said. "I mention this because my MARC training made a difference in my odds of getting accepted.

"I was told by members of my graduate program selecting committee that my application stood out because of my extensive research experience achieved through MARC," he noted. "I am, and will always be, very grateful for the 'springboard' MARC represented for me, allowing me to compete with other high-caliber students in highly competitive graduate programs."

One of this year's scholars is Miranda Petty of Chino.

"More than anything, I want to learn as much as I can about conducting meaningful research in the field of psychology," said the senior, who hopes to eventually complete a doctorate in psychology and teach at a university. She is working with Iris Blandon-Gitlin, associate professor of psychology.

Also new to the program is Bianca Ruiz of Yorba Linda, who hopes to "blaze the trail for Hispanic girls like me to get involved in science.

"It can be discouraging to not see a woman who looks like you working in STEM, especially when your cultural community does not always understand or encourage the pursuit of a higher degree." Ruiz, a senior majoring molecular biology and biotechnology, is studying microbial Mn oxidation with Hope Johnson, associate professor of biological science.

Also joining the program are:
Alyssa Bormann of Bellflower, senior, biochemistry
Jacqueline Castro of Rancho Cucamonga, senior, psychology
Anetka Jelo of West Covina, senior, biochemistry

They will be joining six scholars entering their second year in the program, such as Jennifer Spencer of Rancho Santa Margarita, a biological science major conducting research under Melanie A. Sacco, assistant professor of biological science.

"Through listening to each other's research, as well as presenting my own, MARC has helped me to think broadly about the importance and application of the research I am currently conducting and will be conducting through graduate school," she explained.

Other second-year scholars, their cities of residence, majors and faculty mentors:
Michael Ko of Victorville, senior, biochemistry, Peter de Lijser, professor of chemistry and biochemistry
Sean Page of Brea, senior, psychology, Jennifer Trevitt, associate professor of psychology
Carissa Romero of Corona, senior, psychology, Eriko Self, chair and professor of psychology
Joshua Silva of Santa Ana, senior, biological science – cell and developmental biology, Math P. Cuajungco, associate professor of biological science
Rebecca Vargas of Fullerton, senior, biochemistry, Maria Linder, professor of chemistry and biochemistry

Participants join the program as juniors or seniors and are introduced to and involved in various types of research with faculty mentors. They are required to:

  • complete specific science courses
  • conduct an average of 15 hours of research per week during both semesters of the academic year
  • perform research full time one summer on campus and one summer at a doctoral-granting institution
  • conduct a specific research project that culminates in a senior thesis
  • defend their findings before a thesis committee at the end of the program

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