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March 16, 2006
DH 06 RH19
Contact: Russ Hudson,
Media Relations Coordinator
(310) 243-2455/2001

U.S. Department of Health Taps CSUDH Dean
to Review Grants

USDH Cites Her Research, Accomplishments, Honors, and
“Mature Judgment and Objectivity”

Carson, CA— Many grant applications submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be reviewed by Laura Robles of California State University, Dominguez Hills. Robles was just given a two-year seat on the Cell Structure and Function Study Section of the NIH’s Center for Scientific Review.

In the letters of appointment sent to CSUDH President James E. Lyons, Sr. and to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Allen Mori by DHHS,Robles was cited as having “mature judgment and objectivity, as well as the ability to work effectively in a group.” The letter also says that those selected for a seat on the study section “are selected on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific disciplines as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements, and honors.”

Robles, who holds the positions MBRS (Minority Biomedical Research Support) Program Director and Acting Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, Academic Programs at CSU Dominguez Hills, says, “I am very excited to be a member of the study section. It is a real honor and will be a lot of hard work. I feel, as do the other members of the study section, a real commitment to reviewing grants fairly and hoping that the research that is subsequently funded will advance our understanding of health issues and basic cellular processes.

“I feel it is an awesome responsibility to review another investigator’s grant,” Robles continues. “Every member of the study section feels this responsibility. We read each grant carefully, read background material on the subject, and read the principal investigator’s journal articles.”

Robles said that as a member of the study section she will participate in the review of mostly R01 and R25 grants submitted to NIH for funding. Those kinds of grants are submitted by faculty at colleges and universities, and by research institutions. The R01 grants are the top research grants dealing with significant biomedical topics, she explains. R25 grants also deal with significant biomedical research, but they are usually submitted by faculty at institutions that do not have as high a level of NIH funding as top research-intensive institutions.

“Both types of grants propose experiments and suggest outcomes of the experiments related to a particular biomedical research area,” Robles says. “Experiments proposed in each grant are expected to advance that field of study significantly. Grants are reviewed with the idea that significant new knowledge will be added to the field.”

Robles said she believes she can add an important new dimension to the NIH study section. “The study section is composed mostly of faculty researchers from top research-intensive universities and research institutions. I come from a different environment and have a different viewpoint. This viewpoint is especially important when we review the R25 applications.

“For instance, California State University faculty members are competitive for the R25 (grants), but the other grant mechanism, R01, is mostly attained by faculty completely committed to research because they are at research-intensive institutions. But, there are some on the CSU faculty who have received the R01, so it is not impossible for someone from Dominguez Hills to receive this level of support sometime in the future.”

This is not Robles’ first stint with this study group. She participated as an ad hoc member on October 6 and 7 of last year in Washington, D.C.  She reviewed grant applications dealing with the cytoskeleton, protein trafficking, and signaling.
Robles also serves on the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) review committee. Her four-year term will end with the committee’s last meeting in June. On that committee, she reviews MARC grants submitted by faculty and administrators to give opportunities for underrepresented students to succeed in biomedical research.

Robles does not keep her own research to herself. Her research has included many students, both undergraduate and graduate.

One example is an article accepted for publication in Visual Neuroscience early last year. She wrote “Rho GTPases regulate rhabdom morphology in octopus photoreceptors” in collaboration with Brian Matsumoto of UC Santa Barbara, and with CSUDH students and alumni Aria Miller, (Class of ’03, Biology); Teresa Ramirez (Class of ’04, Biology); Freddi Zuniga, (Class of ’04, Chemistry); Gina Ochoa (Class of ’00, Masters of Science, Biology); Shaunte Gray, graduate student, biology; and Shannon Kelly, graduate student, biology and MBRS Research Associate.

Her comment at the time was, “This research could not have been done without the participation of undergraduate and graduate students in my lab. Aria Miller is the first author on the paper and this work was part of her master’s thesis research.”

In May of last year, she also acquired a little more than $2 million in funding through May 31, 2009 for the NIH MBRS Support of Continuous Research Excellence (SCORE) program for Dominguez Hills. Robles has obtained federal funding for the MBRS program at every funding cycle since 1980, and for SCORE since 2001.

“Scientific research is very expensive,” Robles says. “Dr. Martinez [H. Leonardo Martinez, professor of chemistry and professor, science, mathematics and technology courses at Dominguez Hills] and I have research laboratories on campus where our students, technical personnel, and ourselves work.” Robles said the SCORE program “provides the means for faculty release time, salaries for technical support personnel, consultant fees, equipment, research supplies, a seminar series, and travel to scientific meetings.”

Both Robles’ and Martinez’s research projects, which have student participation, is on the cellular level. Robles’ current research is titled “Cytoskeleton and Signaling Pathways in Photoreceptors,” which is about how eyes work. Martinez’s current research is titled “Including Active Transport in Cell Transport Phenomena Studies,” which is about how molecules move from one cell to another.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
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Media Contact:

Russell Hudson
University Communications
& Public Affairs
(310) 243-2455


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Last updated March 1, 3:15 p.m.,
by Joanie Harmon