Campus: CSU Fullerton -- June 2, 2004

Six Cal State Fullerton Student Scientists Headed to Labs in England and Thailand

Six outstanding Cal State Fullerton students will spend the summer conducting research with top scientists at Oxford and Cambridge universities in Great Britain, and at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, as participants in the Minority International Research Training (MIRT) program.

They will join eight other MIRT scholars from five other California State University campuses in Southern California. The aim of the program is to increase the number of minority research scientists. The students will leave June 3 and return Aug. 12.

The CSUF student participants are described below:

Duyen (Amy) Bui of Santa Ana will work in the laboratory of David Sherratt, Department of Biochemistry, Oxford University. Sherratt’s research is concerned with the molecular mechanisms of genetic recombination processes and how these mechanisms relate to biological functions. Bui is a Class of 2004 magna cum laude graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. A President’s Scholar, she received the American Society for Quality Control Award as an “Outstanding Minority Biomedical Research Student.” Bui plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. program.

Michelle Cathorall and Pauline de Leon, both of Fullerton, will travel to Chiang Mai University in Thailand, where they will work in the Department of Community Medicine. The pair will be involved in a research project that involves data collection and analysis, as well as community and health-related interaction with various populations being studied. They are both Class of 2004 graduates with bachelor’s degrees in health science.

Rafael Fernandez of Whittier will work in the laboratory of Richard W. Farndale, Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge University. Farndale’s research centers on the investigations of signaling pathways activated in human platelets by collagens of the blood vessel wall. Fernandez is a Class of 2004 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biological science.

Jimmy Hernandez of Ontario will conduct research in the laboratory of Fran Platt and Terry Butters, Department of Biochemistry, Oxford University. The research focus of the lab is therapy and pathogenesis of lysosomal storage diseases. Hernandez also received the American Society for Quality Control Award as an “Outstanding Minority Biomedical Medical Research Student” and was editor of Dimensions: The Journal of Undergraduate Research in Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He is also a Class of 2004 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and plans to pursue a doctoral degree.

Michael Longo of Whittier will conduct research in the laboratory of Tom Blundell, Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge University. One of Blundell’s research interests is structural biology, one of fastest-growing points for recruitment in the biotechnological, pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries. Longo is a graduate student in chemistry.

MIRT mentors Bruce H. Weber, emeritus professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Marcelo E. Tolmasky, professor of biological science; Alfonso F. Agnew, assistant professor of mathematics; and Vincent C. Merrill, assistant professor of kinesiology and health science, will oversee the scholars during their assignments.

In their spare time, students will have the opportunity to explore their host countries. Students receive stipends, travel and living expenses.

Now in its 10th year, the MIRT program has enabled more than 100 biomedical, science and health science students to spend the summer studying with top scientists in Great Britain, Thailand, Mexico and Israel. The program has been supported by more than $2 million in grants from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health.

The concept for the program was generated at a 1993 luncheon meeting at the Hard Rock Café in Atlanta, where Weber and colleagues from Southern California were attending the National Institute for General Medical Sciences Minority Research Conference.

“We were discussing ways to increase the number of students, particularly minorities, to pursue biomedical research,” said Weber, who has directed the program for the past nine years.

“We already had funded programs for this purpose, but we wanted to do something special that would involve a research experience to stretch a student’s horizon, both as a person and as a potential scientist, and develop in them the international perspective of contemporary science.”

At the suggestion of a colleague from Cal State Long Beach, Weber applied for a grant from NIH, and the program was born for a consortium of CSU campuses in the Los Angeles basin.

“That lunchtime conversation has led to a program for students that has turned out to be the most satisfying experience of my 30-plus years of teaching,” Weber noted. “Student participants benefit by being able to conduct research at some of the world’s outstanding laboratories, staffed by world-class scientists.

‘We all benefit because society will eventually gain additional biomedical researchers who will join other researchers in unraveling the mysteries of human diseases.”

After heading the program since its inception, Weber is passing the baton to Tolmasky for 2004. Weber will become associate director.

Students have called the program “awesome,” “an experience I’ll never forget,” “one that has re-energized me” and “enriching.

Contacts: Marcelo E. Tolmasky, (714) 278-5263,
Bruce H. Weber, (714) 278-3885,

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