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Travel and New Experiences Help Shape Future Scholars

McNair Scholars Spend Summer Expanding Research Experiences
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McNair Scholar Elizabeth Mercado, a senior majoring in biological science, will be spending this summer in England, researching antibiotic resistant genes at Oxford University.

Fellow scholar Mercy Tran will be traveling to the University of Michigan to conduct research in psychology under the institution’s Summer Research Opportunity Program.

Mercado and Tran, both first-generation college students, are two of 10 scholars taking part in the program’s summer programs, gaining valuable experience in what could be their future by living and conducting research at a doctoral-granting institution.

“I am one of nine children. My parents migrated to the United States when I was 12,” says Mercado, who hopes to one day earn a doctorate in neuroscience. “Since a young age, I have always taken my education very seriously and I have worked really hard to pursue any goal that I set for myself. Being in the McNair program and doing the McNair thesis will help me demonstrate to grad schools that I am suitable and a competent scholar.”

When she came to CSUF, Mercado had no plan to strive to strive for a doctorate. “I had the intention of becoming a nurse; later, I realized that I was more interested on how the body worked from the ‘inside’ than how it worked from the ‘outside.’

Tran agrees. “When I transferred to CSUF from community college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Things changed when I met Dr. Susan Sy, professor of psychology, my research mentor and adviser,” explains Tran. “She was the first to show me that becoming a professor and conducting research could become a reality for me. She was the one who encouraged me to apply to the McNair Scholars Program.

“As a first-generation college student, I did not have the social or cultural capital to help me prepare for a Ph.D. program. The McNair Scholars Program has paved the way for my future by providing me with the knowledge resources and support needed to apply and succeed in a graduate program,” Tran adds. “I am doing things that I never thought I could have done: conducting my own research project, presenting at academic conferences, and attending a summer research program.”

The summer research “will allow me to expand my scholarly network and give me the rigorous research experience needed to help me develop as a scholar,” says Tran, who will be conducting research on how parent-adolescent processes inform ethnic-racial identity and psychosocial functioning among Latino adolescents. “The summer experience also will help me get one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a faculty member at a California State University campus.”

“The McNair Scholars Program has provided me with multiple opportunities to enhance my learning and preparation for graduate school,” said Jessica Guerrero of Anaheim, who will be spending the summer continuing research into the link between ethnic cultures and migrant entrepreneurial activities in Santa Ana. She will be taking part in UC Irvine’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

“Through the McNair Scholars Program I have met many scholars doing incredible things, and everyone that I have met in the program has supported and helped guide each other in our academic goals,” said Guerrero, whose goal is to earn a doctorate in public policy and administration and work either as a university professor or as a policy researcher in the government.

Other participating McNair Scholars, their cities of residence, majors and institutions where they will be conducting research this summer:

  • Erick Aguinaldo of Diamond Bar, psychology, CSUF
  • Ingred Garcia of Chino, economics, UC Santa Barbara
  • Stacy Guzman of Azusa, biochemistry, Harvard University
  • Kimberly Madrigal of Anaheim, sociology, UC Santa Barbara
  • Rico Palafox of Fullerton, psychology and mathematics, Oregon State University
  • Vanessa Sanchez of West Covina, biological science, CSUF
  • Shaina Sta Cruz of Fullerton, communicative disorders, USC