One microbiology and two biochemistry students were recognized by CSU-Wide Program
By Bryana Quintana
The California State University Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (CSU-LSAMP) program recognizes the remarkable achievements and stories of students and alumni across the CSU system with the goal of promoting underrepresented students in STEM. Awardees are highlighted in the program’s annual Program Recognizing Outstanding Undergraduate Achievement (PROUD) publication.
Three San Diego State University students have been honored as CSU-LSAMP PROUD scholars for 2023. Gabriela Andrea Contreras received the Outstanding Academic award, Brianna Antunez earned the award in Outstanding Service & Leadership, and Mariel Rosales was recognized for Outstanding Persistence & Perseverance.
Learn more about these students and their work below!
A biochemistry major and researcher in Tom Huxford’s Structural Biochemistry Laboratory, Gabriela Andrea Contreras graduated in December 2023. She is in charge of her own research project titled “Engineering MS2 Maturation Protein for Structural Studies” in collaboration with the Physical Virology Laboratory. Contreras also worked with students in the Physical Virology Laboratory crystallizing and imaging newly discovered virus particles. Outside of her research, she has been learning how to use computational chemistry programs and tools, such as VMD, Qchem, and AMBER, to support her benchwork with the mentorship of Dr. Yuezhi Mao. In addition to her participation in CSU-LSAMP, Contreras was accepted into the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program in the summer of 2022. She maintained a high GPA throughout her education, making the Dean’s List every semester with the exception of the semester that she studied abroad in South Korea. Contreras plans to pursue either a Master’s or doctoral degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.
Brianna Antunez completed her fourth year as a biochemistry major and during her time at SDSU, she actively participated in various organizations. Without her leadership and determination as president of the SDSU SACNAS Chapter, the chapter would have ceased to exist. In this role, Antunez gained invaluable insights into effective leadership and developed a profound passion for assisting others in STEM. Through her involvement with the Latinx Student Union, Antunez found a meaningful connection to her cultural heritage, which deepened her understanding of her own interests and aspirations. Guided by her personal values and interests, she dedicated herself to giving back to underrepresented communities in San Diego County, particularly by encouraging and supporting young individuals to pursue careers in STEM. Antunez created strong relationships with mentors in the Chemistry Department as well as with undergraduate and graduate students who are also actively involved in organizations. These connections provided her with valuable guidance and support as she navigated her academic and professional journey. Thanks to CSU-LSAMP, Antunez continued her research pursuits in the biochemistry lab of Dr. Youngkwang Lee. This experience not only highlighted the significance of research but it also underscored the importance of mentorship in fostering personal and intellectual growth.
Mariel Rosales graduated May 2023 with a 3.28 GPA. She earned a bachelor of science in microbiology with an emphasis in clinical laboratory science. The road to graduation was long and arduous as she decided to take on the challenge of chasing dreams while raising two children, striving to be a role model for her daughters. Rosales is grateful for parents that exemplify hard work and dedication as they overcame adversity to make it in America. Her parents’ experiences motivated her and helped her realize her potential, which she applied to her career goals. Entering the university, Rosales was unsure if she was “science material” or had what it took to be a scientist. Through CSU-LSAMP, she explored research by joining Dr. Anca Segall’s lab as a research assistant on the IBD Project. Focusing on the microbiota of patients diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease, Rosales worked on isolating and purifying bacteria and their associated bacteriophages with the goal of characterizing phages associated with the dysbiosis causing IBD. In addition to academics, research, and raising two daughters, she was eager to advance her skills and apply concepts during her final semester. So, she took on a part time job at a biotech company where she continues to work today.