Former RISE/U*STAR Testimonials

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Daisy Aceves

Former RISE Scholar

Psychology, 2015 Alumnus

Counseling Psychology, Ph.D. Program

Texas Tech University

Coming from a community college to California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) I quickly noted how much more involved and invested the professors were with their students. Having not been taught much about the world of research in my previous studies, CSUDH provided me with an array of knowledge and sparked my love for conducting research. It was at CSUDH that I joined my first lab, Dr. Butler’s Applied Psychology and Psychology Law (APPL) lab. She, along with other students, introduced me to the RISE program and encouraged me to apply.

I was accepted into the program and my accomplishments skyrocketed. The RISE program helped me along the application and GRE process; they also emphasized the importance of research and encouraged us to attend conferences and apply to summer research programs. I soon found myself in three labs: Dr. Butler’s at CSUDH, Dr. Linehan’s Collaborative Adolescent Research on Emotions and Suicide (CARES) lab at LA BioMed, and Dr. Lopez’s Culture and Mental Health lab at the University of Southern California (USC). From there on I presented at 6 conferences and was accepted in the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training (MHIRT) program at USC. Through the prestigious MHIRT program I was able to work in a psychiatric hospital in Puebla, MX for 10 weeks conducting research on the duration of untreated psychosis and cultural circumstances on help-seeking in Mexico. It was because of the knowledge gained through my studies at CSUDH and the push RISE-RISE gave me that made me a competitive researcher and landed me acceptance into these labs and program.

I am currently a first year counseling psychology doctoral candidate at Texas Tech University under the mentorship of Dr. Piña-Watson. My current research focuses on mental health disparities and caregiver burden among the Latino community. Being part of RISE gave me the means, skills, and knowledge to achieve these accomplishments. The RISE program provided us with our own little family, we all went through the same struggles and were always available for support. The RISE program shaped who I am as a student and researcher and will continue to give me support throughout my academic journey.

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Robert Adams

Former RISE Scholar

Chemistry, 2016 Alumnus

Computational Chemistry, Ph.D. Program

University of Kansas

It had finally happened; towards the close of my summer REU program, I was seen as a true scientist expressing publishable results by my Principle Investigator. Little did I know that making a good name for myself then, would lead to a series of upcoming triumphant events…

I would rather not bore the reader with my backstory of growing up with neglectful and inadequate parents, spending years in the foster care system, or even dealing with pressures of being the first in my family to attend college; I would just like to express the saying I had to tell myself to get through certain days. “The grass is not always greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it”.

Many scholars count their first big achievement as getting into the college of their choice, but mine was just graduating high school. Getting admitted to college was also a big boost of confidence but, the milestone happened in my 4th year at CSUDH when I got accepted into an NSF-funded REU. Performing well at this REU extended my network by giving me great references, which were used to leverage me into the prestigious RISE program at CSUDH. My experience with the RISE program could not of been better in the sense that I furthered both my research and my network, both of which helped in the Graduate School pursuit. The RISE program also worked with me in submitting Graduate School applications, and keeping up with important due dates (something I have always struggled with). This experience and set of skills gained from the RISE program, coupled with the Chemistry degree and mathematics minor I earned from CSUDH allowed me to be a prime candidate for graduate programs. After being accepted into 4 graduate programs, I picked University of Kansas where I will be doing theoretical chemistry and will be computational method development.

Moving forward I am still unsure of career paths of either industry or academia. I know however, based on what RISE has taught me and the collection of experiences I will have during my time at KU, I will make the right call when the time comes and have a great future.

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Luis Campos

Former MARC U*STAR Scholar

Chemistry, 2002 Alumnus

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Columbia University

The MARC U*STAR program at CSU Dominguez Hills catalyzed my interest in research, specifically in Organic Chemistry through computational methodology. Prior to becoming a U*STAR scholar, I worked two jobs to pay for my living expenses and volunteered in the laboratory of Professor H. L. Martinez. The stipend from the U*STAR scholarship then allowed me to drop the jobs and focus on research during the last two years of my undergraduate studies. It was this experience that gave me the exposure to learn many different skills through independent research projects at the forefront of Organic Chemistry.

Additionally, the workshops outside of the research lab taught me valuable lessons in safety, ethics, data analysis, and scientific communication through publications, poster presentations, and talks. I cannot forget about the national and international conferences I attended as a U*STAR scholar. These allowed me to expand my network with many other people doing research and also allowed me to evaluate the impact of my own research. Finally, the scholarship also gave me the freedom to leave CSUDH for the summer and undertake projects in top research institutions, such as UCLA and King's College London. All in all, the U*STAR program sets a strong foundation in research, ethics, and collaboration for all participants, and that is something that remains with me at the core.

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Alisha Coffey

Former MARC U*STAR Scholar

Biochemistry, 2013 Alumnus

Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Ph.D. Program

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

I've attended other universities, and CSUDH was by far the best one I went to. I say this because the size of the university allows for close encounters with faculty and staff. It was through those close encounters that I found out about the MARC USTAR program.

After joining the program, I was instantly incorporated into the little RISE/MARC family at CSUDH. All of my questions were answered and my concerns were dealt with. I never felt like I had fallen through the cracks or lost in the crowd especially because of the monthly meetings. The staff and faculty of the RISE/MARC program became mentors, confidants, and friends.

The workshops and opportunities that I attended as a MARC USTAR scholar were incredibly beneficial to my work in labs, and even now that I am a graduate student. Having extensive laboratory experience through the program is good enough to make me attractive to research faculty at my graduate institution, but also having gone through training such as the radiation safety training, and attendance to national scientific conferences pushed me to the front of the application pool. In my interviews with faculty from potential graduate programs, I was told several times that my experience and exposure is "impressive". I know I owe that to the program.

Because of the requirements of the program, I was strongly encouraged to apply for summer research programs at other universities. I applied to several and accepted the offer to work at Penn State Harrisburg on the genetic modification of tomato plants. Not only was this a great opportunity to gain more experience, but also a great way to network professionals in the field since I worked and interacted with faculty from several institutions on a daily basis.

Being a part of the program gave me the ability and the means to continue and finish my undergraduate degree without the burden of worrying about my finances. Before the program, I was working a full-time job at night, and going to school full-time in the day. This caused my grades to suffer, not to mention the personal suffering of stress, worry and sleep deprivation. After being accepted into the program, all of those stresses subsided, and I was able to not only focus on my studies and lab work, but maintain a 3.9 GPA during my last two years at Dominguez Hills.

The graduate school application process is grueling and tiresome with all of the statements to write, transcripts to submit, and deadlines to keep straight. The program helped make the process easier by giving the graduate school workshops, not to mention the GRE workshops. Even though the process was very tedious, and at times, quite stressful, I was accepted to four PhD graduate programs, and also offered a fellowship from one them.

My undergraduate journey was a long one with many ups and downs. I can honestly say that the MARC USTAR program made the trip a much smoother one. Now that I am a first year graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I know how to be a good student as well as a skilled and knowledgeable lab worker. I also know that my CSUDH RISE/MARC family is behind me still, and will continue to celebrate with me in my achievements.

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Geraldy Eisman

Former RISE Scholar

Psychology, 2014 Alumnus

Health Psychology, Ph.D. Program

University of California, Merced

Growing up as a Latina from an immigrant family in the city of Carson, I was inspired to transfer from LA Harbor College and pursue a Bachelor’s degree in psychology at CSU Dominguez Hills. However, it was the opportunities for personal and academic growth that made me fall in love with the campus. Although I faced many challenges as 1st generation college student CSUDH’s small size campus provided me with resources and unique opportunities that helped me succeed as an undergraduate. Indeed, it was one on one interaction with professors that sparked my development as an academic. I first heard about paid research opportunities, such as the RISE RISE program, from a professor after I inquired about summer research opportunities. Professor Steven Frieze then guided me in preparing an application for the program.

I was accepted to the RISE RISE program at the end of my first year at CSUDH. Although I was unsure I agreed to extend my stay at CSUDH to complete 2 years in the program, one of the best decisions I could have made. During my 2 years in the program I learned not just about the research process but also about being an academic and applying to doctoral programs. Through the weekly guest speakers I was exposed to successful researchers that had gone through similar experiences I had. Interacting with them inspired me in many ways. For instance, I was inspired by the speakers’ genuine interest in students’ research and success.

While in the program I worked in two labs which helped me identify my passion: behavior medicine. Consequently, I gained a wide range of research skills, such as data collection and analysis, which made me a strong candidate for doctoral programs. Further, the program provided me with financial and social support that I needed to succeed as a minority student in academia. Not only did I receive social support and career advice from program staff, like Tigress and Dr. Laura Robles, but I also met other students with similar goals and aspirations as myself. In this inclusive and safe environment I built friendships and found study partners who motivated me and held me accountable. The program allowed me to gain research experience while earning a modest income. This meant that I would be able to work on campus and focus on my studies and career instead of leaving campus to work somewhere that would not benefit my future.

As part of the program requirements I attended professional conferences and got experience preparing and presenting my research. Further, I earned 1st place two consecutive years at CSUDH’s Student Research Day. Additionally, the program prepared me to apply to graduate school by providing summer GRE courses and graduate application boot camp. Additionally, through the programs guidance, I was able to identify the best graduate mentor to help me continue my growth.

I am now a 3rd year Health Psychology graduate student at UC Merced working with Distinguished Professor Dr. Jan Wallander. My current research focuses on racial/ethnic differences in adolescent health behaviors and outcomes. As I continue my journey through graduate school I am confident that the strong research foundation I gained from the CSUDH RISE RISE program will continue to help me succeed as a Latina scholar.

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Marvin Malone, Ph.D.

Former RISE Scholar

Chemistry, 2007 Alumnus

Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Chemistry

University of Illinois Urbana-Campaign

After taking a semester off after high school, I started CSUDH in January of 2002. That first semester I had fortuitously taken an introductory chemistry class with Dr. George Wiger, who saw something special in me. Dr. Wiger was the one who told me about the NIH RISE RISE program and introduced me to Dr. H. Leonardo Martinez. After a discussion with Dr. Martinez about the RISE program and his research, I decided to apply to the program. I would later find out that freshmen do not typically apply to these research intensive programs and most assuredly do not get accepted into such programs. However, I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the program and I am forever grateful to those who decided to take a chance on me.

In the RISE program I worked with Dr. Martinez in his theoretical chemistry lab, studying the thermochemical properties of single walled carbon nanotubes. I learned a lot from Dr. Martinez and owe a great deal of gratitude to him for molding me into a successful young scientist. During my time working with Dr. Martinez, as an RISE RISE student scholar, I presented my research at conferences both regionally and nationally – winning awards for presentations at the 2006 CSUDH Student Research Day and the 2006 Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science conferences. As a student scholar I also received several honors including Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, the National SMART Grant, and induction into the scientific research society Sigma Xi. Early on in my undergraduate years at CSUDH I wanted to be an optometrist and because of this desire I was given the opportunity to work with Dr. Laura Robles in her cell biology lab, studying the phosphorylation of LIM kinase in octopus retinal protein. In my years at CSUDH (2002-2007) I worked for and alongside many great researchers and I am thankful and blessed for my time at CSUDH.

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Alejandro Morales, Ph.D.

Former RISE Scholar

Psychology, 2002 Alumnus

Department of Health Psychology and Sociology

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

I am currently an assistant professor in the department of Psychology and Sociology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona where I teach courses on intimate relationships, counseling skills, couples psychotherapy, and multicultural psychology. Before arriving to Cal Poly, I was a professor in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a doctorate in Counseling Psychology where I had the opportunity to conduct research with Latino immigrants as well as to provide mental health services to immigrants, refugees, and college students. My line of research focuses on how psychological and cultural mechanisms impact the psychological and physical health of Latina/o immigrants.

My mentors at CSUDH were amazing. They’ve become my colleagues and collaborators. Now as a mentor to students I can only hope to be as good as they were. I often reflect on my mentoring experiences at CSUDH as a way to develop my own style as a mentor.

One last word of advice to those of who want to pursue a doctorate or academia, is not to be afraid to leave sunny California. Sometimes, the best training you can receive is in another state. In my case, I landed in Nebraska which is one of the relocation sites for immigrants and refugees, a great place to conduct multicultural research. Students who attend colleges and universities in California may not know that in out of state schools they can provide you with life-changing opportunities. Always remember that you can come back once we receive your degree. I know I did. I hope that my story helps other students who want to go to graduate school or at least help you think about the possibility.

In the summer of 2007, I started graduate school at The Ohio State University in the department of chemistry working with Dr. James Coe (also PhD advisor of CSUDH professor Dr. Kenneth Rodriguez). Dr. Coe further molded me into a scientist worthy of the name. The first two years of graduate school, I was a teaching assistant (as well as being a research assistant) and in 2009 I was honored for my work as a teaching assistant in physical chemistry. In 2010, I was awarded a Master of Science degree for my work characterizing single isolated yeast cells with infrared microspectroscopy. In 2012, I was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree for my work characterizing the plasmonics of nickel mesh under an infrared microscope and studying single particle infrared spectroscopy. As a graduate student I also got involved in the national organization NOBCChE (National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemist and Chemical Engineers) serving as secretary, treasurer, and then president my last year in graduate school of the OSU chapter. In my time as a graduate student I had the opportunity to present my research on many occasions, including at CSUDH for the BIO 491 class in 2011. It was an awesome feeling to have everything come full circle, considering I was once in the position of the student in that class. I really enjoyed the opportunity to go back to my alma mater and talk to the students and see my old professors.

In the summer of 2013 I accepted a postdoctoral research position working for Dr. Ralph Nuzzo in the department of chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The project that I am working on, which concerns the development and characterization of materials for multivalent batteries, is part of an initiative (The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research) funded by the Department of Energy to bring together government, academic, and industrial researchers from many disciplines for the goal of creating new breakthrough energy storage technology. I am looking forward to the challenges to come and I aspire to be a great example and an encouragement to young underrepresented minority scientists.

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Kumar Tiger

Former RISE Scholar

Cellular and Molecular Biology, 2014 Alumnus

Molecular Biosciences, Ph.D. Program

Rutgers University

I grew up from South Central Los Angeles and then came into the city of Carson when I was 9. CSUDH was the 1st college that provided an outreach program to me. This was a very positive experience for me and it was the first time I ever been on a college campus to take classes. Although I initially thought that the UC was the best option, I knew that CSUDH was the right school for me to grow as a scholar and conducive to my development as an individual.

I found out about the RISE RISE program at the end of my 1st year of college while I was browsing through the CSUDH’s flyers throughout campus. I was so excited that such an opportunity existed and upon the decision to become accepted into the RISE RISE program, I knew that my dream to become a scientist was closer than ever before. Previous to my participation into the RISE RISE program I had the curiosity but I had no idea what a scientist would do or how to become one other than what I saw in the media.

The staff and faculty at the RISE/MARC program was essential into developing me into the scholar I am today. The program provided me with a network of invaluable colleagues and a strong support system to help me become a better scholar. It also provided me with a means to support myself financially throughout college as I often struggled to come up with my payments for my tuition. Although my family was highly supportive, the benefits of the program became something that I relied heavily upon and it gave me a place to study.

I overcame many adversities throughout my participation in the program which included overcoming the GRE, coursework, and my personal life but the program believed in me and motivated me along the way. There were a few times I thought perhaps I should change my major but I learned how to become the most perseverant person possible. The research experience I gained from the program did much more than make me a competitive student but it kept me interested and improved some of the skills that I might of lacked. For example, I was involved in genetics research which helped prepared me for the advanced courses in Biology and see the entire coursework with a whole new perspective.

During my time as a RISE-RISE scholar I participated in many extracurricular activities, multiple summer research internships, and presented my research in national conferences. I got to go to the Scientific Advancement for Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference to present my research and network with graduate programs multiple times. The summer research opportunities at Rutgers University and Brown University forever changed my outlook on research. In addition, from my experience as being a scholar from the RISE RISE program I was able to help recruit and train future students even as an undergraduate.

Although I did not get an interview for doctoral studies as an undergraduate, my participation in the RISE helped me get a prestigious NSF graduate scholarship as a Masters student. When it was time to re-apply for doctoral graduate school, I was able to get into all of the schools I interviewed which included Rutgers, Indiana, Michigan State, and Georgia Tech. Many of the faculty noted one of the reasons they selected me was because I had extensive research presentation skills and remember seeing me at the previous conferences. My GRE scores and GPA also improved dramatically from what they once were and I give credit to that to my previous preparation in the RISE program’s workshops as an undergraduate. I am starting the Molecular Biosciences PhD program at Rutgers University for Fall 2016 and I have been awarded two additional scholarships thus far. I plan to become a professor and work in Industry part-time after I am done.

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Fatimas Rivas

Former MARC U*STAR Scholar

Chemistry, 2001 Alumnus

Assistant Member Faculty, Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

I received my Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from California State University California, Dominguez Hills in 2001. I was privileged to be accepted into the Marc-USTAR program during my undergraduate school years. The program allowed me to conduct biomedical research and provided me with financial assistance. It was a wonderful experience to work with Dr. Laura Robles and her research group. They trained me to become a methodical problem solver and I learned how to conduct RNA extractions in that lab (a technique that I still use in my lab). The program was outstanding in terms of technical training and personal growth. We had weekly meetings regarding our research work, plans for the summer programs, and future goals. Dr. Landefeld was an excellent mentor, and allocated a lot of his time to discuss graduate schools and various programs available to us. He helped us prepared for national meetings (SACNAS/ABRCMS) and graduate school applications. Those were some of the most educational and fun college experiences I remember. The Marc-USTAR program helped me build the confidence, and leadership skills needed for graduate school.

I obtained my doctoral degree in Organic chemistry from UCSD in 2006 from synthetic studies towards the total synthesis of norzoanthamine under the guidance of Professor E.A. Theodorakis. As an IRACDA postdoctoral fellow, I worked with Professor K.C. Nicolaou at the Scripps Research Institute working on synthetic studies towards Maitotoxin and locked nucleic acids. I am currently an Assistant Member Faculty in the department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My research group focuses on developing new novel molecules to understand and treat glucocorticoid resistant acute lymphoblastic leukemia and metabolic diseases.

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