Minority Students in Sciences Experience Their Future at National Conference

Back row (standing): Erica Parra, Carlos Alvarado, Kumar Tiger, Geraldy Eisman, Alisha Coffey, and Front row: Onyeka Uzomah (MBRS RISE Alum, currently attending Purdue University Ph.D. Program in biology); Teresa Ramirez (MBRS RISE Alum, currently attending Brown University Ph.D. Program in biology), show Toro pride at th SACNAS conference.

Eleven research students of the Minority Biomedical Research Support Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS RISE) and Minority Access to Research Careers-Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC-USTAR) programs were given the opportunity to attend the largest gathering of minority scientists in the country and hear first-hand about current research in a variety of fields at the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science’s (SACNAS) 2012 National Conference in Seattle, Washington, in October.

For biology major Carlos Alvarado (MBRS scholar), SACNAS turned out to be highly motivational.

“As a new scholar in the MBRS-RISE program, the SACNAS conference was an amazing experience,” the junior said. “It gave me an extra push and lit a fire inside of me that could not wait to get back to CSUDH and continue my research with my mentor, Dr. [H.K] Choi [associate professor of biology]. … I cannot wait for the next SACNAS conference because by then I will have research to present and I plan on representing CSUDH the best I can!”

Attending with Alvarado were Victor Bell (MARC scholar, biochemistry, junior); Melissa Cervantes (MBRS scholar, psychology, junior); Alisha Coffey (MARC scholar, senior, biochemistry); Geraldy Eisman (MBRS Scholar, psychology, senior); Hugh Leonard (MBRS scholar, psychology, senior); Donna James (MBRS scholar, sociology, senior); Ashley Martin (MBRS scholar, biochemistry, senior); Destinie Thompson (MBRS scholar, psychology, senior); Kumar Tiger (MBRS scholar, biology, senior); Kelly Whaling (MARC scholar, psychology, senior).

Hearing the talks and attending workshops were definitely educational for the students, but many of the students said the ability to meet so many scientists, students and professors from across the county, most of whom were minorities, was inspirational.

“Everyone there was so easy to talk to and share interests with – both research and otherwise,” Bell said. “I had never felt such a strong sense of belonging before and I now feel even more confident about pursuing a career in scientific research.”

Psychology majors Kelly Whaling and Hugh Leonard won an award for their poster presentation.

Whaling and Leonard were recognized with a conference award for their poster presentation, “To Sleep Perchance to Dream… About Facebook: The Mechanism of Media Use and Disordered Sleep.” Their faculty mentors are psychology professors Louis Mark Carrier and Larry Rosen.

There were among four CSU Dominguez students, including Martin and Tiger, who were given the added experience of presenting posters at the conference on research they have been assisting in as MBRS/MARC scholars.

“I loved the diversity found in both culture and academia at the SACNAS 2012 National Conference,” Whaling said. “No one attending the conference had the same background, and every individual that I met had something unique to offer that enhanced my world view. Further, I was deeply honored to have been recognized for my undergraduate research with an award at such a prestigious conference.”

Biochemistry major Ashley Martin presenting her poster at SACNAS.

Tiger presented a poster titled “Identifying Components of Vg1 Anchoring Complex” with his research mentors, senior research assistant Erin Powrie and biology professor Kimberly Mowry, both at Brown University. Martin presented “Fructose Increases Glucose Utilization for Fatty Acid Synthesis in 3T3 L1 Preadipocytes,” based on research with Paul Lee of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), MBRS RISE and MARC-USTAR provide mentorship and development for underrepresented students in the biomedical and behavioral sciences to better prepare them for advanced degrees.

Several students not in the MBRS and MARC programs also attended the conference. They were biology majors Cassandra Morrow (senior), Erica Parra (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation scholar, senior), and computer science majors Brian Herrera (junior), Boian Kovev (junior), Jesse Navas (senior) , Samori Price (junior), and Matthew Roesger (sophomore).

For more information about SACNAS, visit www.sacnas.org.