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Student Scientists Win Outstanding Research Awards

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Five undergraduate science scholars won research presentation awards at the recent Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) national conference in Washington, D.C.

The five awardees are active in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program and Southern California Ecosystems Research Program (SCERP). A total of 19 CSUF students presented their research projects, including participants in other programs, such as the Biology Undergraduate Research Scholars Training (BURST) and Maximizing Access to Research Success (MARC) programs.

With more than 3,500 participants, the Oct. 29-31 “Diversity in STEM Conference” offered students opportunities to network with peers and science professionals.

“The SACNAS conference is especially important because there are so many terrific role models — who are at different points in their career paths — for our students to meet,” said William J. Hoese, professor of biological science and co-director of SCERP.

Amybeth Cohen, professor of biological science and MARC program director, added that this year’s meeting provided the biological science, biochemistry and psychology students in MARC with several opportunities.

“They were able to hone their presentation skills and interact with peers and mentors in a scholarly setting, gather information regarding Ph.D. and summer research program opportunities from the many universities in attendance, and attend numerous professional development sessions,” Cohen said.

The five awardees were recognized for their outstanding research presentations in the category of biological, agricultural and environmental life sciences. The 2015 awardees, all biological science majors (except where noted) their concentrations, research focus and faculty mentors are:

  • SCERP scholar Velvet L. Park, marine biology, for her research investigating the effects of wastewater outflow on the reproductive physiology of Pacific sanddabs (a species of flatfish), with Kristy Forsgren, assistant professor of biological science.
  • McNair scholar Jessica Sanchez, psychology major, with minors in biological science and chemistry, for her investigation to determine the nature of organic carbon in plant phytoliths, with Eric Potma, UC Irvine Department of Chemistry.
  • SCERP scholar Evelyn Ruelas, marine biology, for her work with Forsgren on examining the reproductive morphology and physiology of black perch.
  • HHMI and McNair scholar Carina Sandoval, molecular biology and biotechnology, for using a molecular biology approach to understand how the tomato plant immune system works to detect and fight off infection by tomato mosaic virus through a protein called Tm2-2, with Melanie Sacco, associate professor of biological science.
  • SCERP scholar Nathan Vega for his presentation of the SCERP summer group project investigating water uptake by leaves in coastal sage scrub plants, with Hoese and Darren Sandquist, professor of biological science and SCERP co-director; and co-authors Joseph Gamez, Cliff Jordan Abney, Stacy Schkoda and Austin Xu, also SCERP scholars.

SACNAS is a society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists — from college students to professionals — to attain advanced degrees, careers and positions of leadership in science.