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Advancing the Dream of a Doctorate

McNair Scholars to Spend Summer Conducting Research
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Vicente Mata has been juggling work, school and a family, but his future seems to be heading in the right direction.  

The first-generation college student first went to another four-year educational institution “but wasn’t ready for it.” He was out of school for three years before he returned to school at a community college, then transferred to Cal State Fullerton.

Last year, the Anaheim resident learned about the CSUF’s Ronald McNair Program, a federally funded effort that provides faculty mentors, graduate-level research internships, workshops and seminars — all focused on helping low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students prepare for entering a master’s degree and/or doctoral program.

“I never had graduate school in my trajectory,” said the senior sociology and Chicana/Chicano studies major. “Joining the McNair Scholars Program opened lots of opportunities for me.”

Fellow McNair Scholar Belinda Sanchez agrees. “The McNair Scholars Program allowed me to participate in academic and professional activities that otherwise i would not have been able to be a part of,” says Sanchez of Anaheim, a biological sciences major who has traveled to the University of Florida to take part in a 10-week Neuroscience Research Program. “This program, through its various resources like advising, research and funding, has allowed me to grow academically. I feel much more prepared and knowledgeable about graduate school.”

The McNair Program also has expanded these students’ dreams beyond a bachelor’s degree. Mata now hopes to achieve a doctorate in education and will be spending seven weeks at UC Santa Barbara conducting research focused on Latino males in education. Sanchez is looking forward to a graduate program in molecular biology.

Fellow McNair scholar Deshawn Sambrano, a senior psychology major from Fullerton, will be traveling to Stanford  to study motivated perception, “a psychological phenomenon that when we are motivated to see something, that influences what we see,” explains Sambrano. “Over the summer I will be helping to investigate whether our motivation merely helps us interpret ambiguous stimuli, or whether our motivation actually effects what we see.”

Spending the summer at Stanford “is a fantastic experience for me because it gives me an opportunity to conduct research at a doctoral-granting, R1 university,” added Sambrano, whose goal is to earn a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience and become a faculty member at a research institution “in order to contribute to the cultivation of new scientific knowledge through research, while teaching, guiding, and mentoring young scholars.”

“I want my college experience to mean something beyond the diploma,” says Mata, a young father. “Just applying to graduate school, I have gained so much confidence. I don’t want to lose sight of my goal … especially because of my daughter. It’s a very exciting time and I’m very thankful for all the reassurance and support.”

Mata, Sanchez and Sambrano are three of 11 McNair Scholars spending this summer at research institutions around the world. Also participating are:

  • Alyssa Bormann of Anaheim, biochemistry, University of Oxford (England)
  • Iliana Florez of Pomona, human services, UC Santa Barbara
  • Brianna Hernandez of Chino, human services, Ohio State University
  • Leslie Ortega of Buena Park, biological sciences, University of Arizona
  • Diana Phan of Montclair, English and gender studies, UC San Diego
  • Ariana Romero of Placentia, human services, University of Michigan
  • Sheila Samperio of Huntington Beach, health sciences, Chiang Mai University (Thailand)
  • Carina Sandoval of Placentia, biological sciences, Cornell University