RISE Scholar Photos & Bios

RISE Student: Sabrina Barata

Sabrina Barata

Sabrina Barata is a 4th year at California State University, Dominguez Hills, who will be graduating in spring of 2023 with a Chemistry degree, along with a minor in Computer Science. She first became interested in chemical research by watching Bill Nye the Science Guy videos in middle school. After Sabrina receives her balechors, she plans to obtain a Ph.D. in Marine Chemistry and anticipates studying either ocean acidification or coral bleaching. Sabrina is currently part of the McCauley lab, researching the cytotoxicity activity of secondary metabolites from marine fungi against cancer cell lines. Additionally, in her free time, Sabrina likes to play soccer and go to the beach.

RISE Student: Victoira Espeso

Victoria Espeso

Victoria Espeso is a 4th year student at California State University Dominguez Hills, graduating in the spring of 2023, with a bachelor’s of science in Cellular and Molecular Biology. Victoria first became interested in biology as a freshman in high school and was specifically interested in the field of genetics. After completing her undergraduate degree she is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in the field of genetics and eventually her goal is to become a professor at a university. She is currently working with in a genetics lab with Dr. Tecle as a research assistant. In her free time, she enjoys reading, and spending time with her husband and dog.

RISE Student: Melissa Estrada

Melissa Estrada

Melissa Estrada is a junior at California State University Dominguez Hills, who is graduating in the Spring of 2024. She is majoring in Biochemistry and is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in animal behavioral. Her interest in research began when she learned that the products created by nature were proved to be impactful. She is currently working in Dr. McCauley’s lab which is focused on identifying fungal natural products that exhibit cytotoxic activity towards a brain cancer cell line. In her free time, she likes to watch TV show reruns, exploring new places, and going to concerts.

Jorge Hernandez Garcia

Jorge Hernandez Garcia is a senior at California State University, Dominguez Hills pursuing a B.S. in Chemistry. He is currently in the McCauley Lab and is largely interested in the isolation and purification of metabolites produced by marine fungi and sponge samples. Successful isolation and purification is rewarding to him because it leads to structure elucidation of the small molecules derived from nature. His future goals include obtaining a Ph.D. in a biological sciences program with an emphasis on natural products. Additionally, he hopes that his research work contributes and benefits towards the advancement of natural products sciences for future generations. In his spare time, Jorge enjoys drawing, painting, and spending time with his fur-child, Nina.

Susana Lopez

Susana is currently a senior at California State University, Dominguez Hills graduating with a BS in Cellular and Molecular Biology in the Spring of 2023. With an interest in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience or genetics. Susana works under Dr. Sonal Singhal with her project focusing on a rare species of the desert flora, Encelia, and its reduced genetic diversity compared to common species in the genus. She analyzes the genetic data with a variety of bioinformatic tools, such as BWA, Samtools, and BCFTools. In Susana’s free time, she likes to play with her dog and cat, go on drives, and try new fruit teas from different boba places.

RISE Student: Jeffrey Ocampo

Jeffrey Ocampo

Jeffrey Ocampo is a 4th year student at California State University Dominguez Hills, graduating in the spring of 2023. Jeffrey is pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry, and has found an interest in biomedical research while working under the mentorship of Dr. Erin McCauley's lab. With both his parents migrating from Mexico and raising a family of nine, getting an education was always important to him. During his time in high school, he selected a chemistry class and took a liking to the material, from there decided to enroll at CSUDH as a chemistry major and later switched to biochemistry. As time went on at the university he met new people who were a part of the RISE program and that motivated him to look at a career in research. He is now working alongside Dr. McCauley in identifying fungal natural products to treat cancer cell lines. In his time doing research and learning more about natural products has inspired him to find a career in research and pursue a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, with the new knowledge gained from his time in the RISE program at CSUDH. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games, catching up on TV shows, and spending time with friends.

RISE Student: Edwin Omar Chavez Santana

Edwin Omar Chavez Santana

Edwin Omar Chavez Santana is a second-year transfer student at California State University Dominguez Hills, graduating in 2024 with a bachelor's degree in science in Biochemistry. He is a first-generation student who immigrated from Mexico with his family from a young age. He has always been captivated by science and the ocean. His captivation has led him to work in multiple labs where he gained the knowledge and skills that he uses today while working under the mentorship of Dr. Erin McCauley. The focus of their research involves secondary metabolites of marine spongers. He aspires to continue his education with marine natural products. Edwin has always been an outgoing person with a list of hobbies that is constantly growing. He enjoys video games, scuba diving, photography, and sports such as soccer and hockey.

RISE Student: Brianna Orantes

Brianna Orantes

Brianna Orantes has always been intrigued by learning how living organisms work. As a third-year microbiology student, she is fascinated by microorganisms and bacteria. Brianna aspires to earn a Ph.D. in microbiology and continue to become an immunologist, working for large pharmaceutical companies doing research in vaccine development. The intrigue in the field is to be a part of these great discoveries which can help society move forward without any fears.

A strong motivation for Brianna’s career goals is being an underrepresented minority and a first-generation student. As a Salvadoran woman, she wants to inspire others and make a difference in society and be a part of a new generation that can learn to accommodate change. Currently, Brianna is a part of Dr. Wang's Zebrafish research where her focus is on skin development and their interactions with touch-sensing neurons. Zebrafish are similar to humans at a molecular level and because of this, they are suitable for investigation. In Brianna’s spare time, she enjoys painting and spending time with my family and friends.

RISE Student: Isabel Parada

Isabel Parada

Isabel Parada is a junior at California State University, Dominguez Hills majoring in Biology with a focus on Ecology and Environmental Biology. She enjoys nature and is curious as to why plants behave the way they do. She works in the laboratory as a research assistant with Dr. Theiss studying the evolution of Oenothera (evening primrose). She is organizing seeds to germinate and grow plants to perform breeding system analysis this spring/summer. From this experience, she has gained numerous computer and laboratory skills to further help push her career. Isabel hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in forestry ecology to further her interest in biodiversity and to manage and conserve trees. In her spare time, she likes to go camping, try new foods, and go on long car rides.

RISE Student: Ana Ponce

Ana Ponce

Ana Ponce is a 3rd year molecular biology student, at California State Dominguez Hills. After immigrating from El Salvador to California, she enrolled at a community college where she become captivated by microbiology having learned about horizontal gene transfer. Once she transferred over to Dominguez Hills, Ana joined Dr. Pederson’s biochemistry lab as student research assistant. With her other lab mates, Ana works to help express a protein from the HIV-1 virus which may have an influence in the virulence factors when interacting with mammalian cells. Along with this, Ana’s also interested in learning more about G protein coupled receptors.

RISE Student: Joshua Quiran

Joshua Quiran

Joshua Quiran is a junior at California State University, Dominguez Hills and is majoring in Microbiology. He is expected to graduate spring 2023. He has always been interested in the study of diseases and how to cure them. He is currently at the Lundquist Institute with Dr. Ibrahim, Professor of Medicine at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Infectious Disease, at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The focus of the current research is on advancing the understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms and virulence factors of fungal and bacterial infections, and on translating this knowledge into novel immunotherapeutic strategies to combat infectious diseases. Joshua is currently assisting in research testing the effectiveness of antifungal medication. He currently wishes to pursue a PhD in virology.

RISE Student: Jessica Sklar

Jessica Sklar

Jessica Sklar is a third year, Presidential Scholar, majoring in Environmental and Ecology Biology. She works in Dr. Wang’s lab where she focuses on how zebrafish fecal microbiome are impacted from microplastic ingestion. After graduating, Jessica plans to get a Ph.D. in marine biology following her love and passion for the environment, ocean, and animals. When not at school or doing research, Jessica enjoys going to the beach and going on hikes. She also a huge animal lover, so she is am always with my dogs or taking care of my new litter of foster kittens!

RISE Student: Shaz Sutherland

Shaz Sutherland

Shaz Sutherland is currently a junior majoring in Biochemistry at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She was born in California, but after nineteen days old resided in Belize. After attaining her Associates Degree in Biology and Chemistry with honours from St. John’s College in Belize, she decided to further her studies in California. She became fascinated with both Biology and Chemistry, especially when she took a human health and disease course at the associates level; the general sheer amount of diseases she was exposed to in that course influenced her to continue majoring in Biochemistry at the undergrad level. Shaz became so amazed at finding answers to treating and or curing these diseases. California State University, Dominguez Hills now presents a grandeur of excitement with the opportunity for Shaz to plunge into a variety of research with respective mentors in the RISE Program. Her goal is to use experimental techniques to develop treatments and perhaps cures for different diseases. In her free time, she likes watching new TV series/ movies on Netflix, and going to the beach.

Nathan Williams

Nathan Williams is a fourth year biochemistry undergraduate at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Originally, he was a former social science major seeing a future in law, business, or as a historian. However, after spending much time in debate, he found that science could also be a future pathway. After spending much time, he decided to pursue a future in biochemistry which has given more fulfillment in my college experience than he could hope for. Nathan has had the privilege to work in Dr. Pederson’s and Dr. McCauley’s research labs. In Dr. Pederson’s lab, he is currently working to optimize the protein expression and purification of HIV-1 p17 with future plans to collect NMR data to study the binding interaction between HIV-1 p17 and heparan sulfate. In Dr. McCauley’s lab, he helps to extract secondary metabolites from natural products for screening to find novel compounds to combat cancer. Both these labs have only reinforced the urge to obtain a Ph.D in analytical chemistry where Nathan believes producing pure compounds can be one of the most engaging things to do. In his free time, Nathan likes to spend time with family and friends indulging in conversations ranging from financial investments to current events, playing chess, card and mobile games, running with my two huskies and playing tennis. Nathan looks forward to a pathway leading to a Ph.D and the time when he can give back to the scientific community.