California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Professor, Biological SciencesDirector, Science Educational Enhancement Services (SEES)
A tumor immunologist with expertise in genetics and DNA repair and a former research fellow at City of Hope National Medical Center, Dr. Steve Alas’ impact on human lives extends far beyond his research lab. The veteran biologist has provided extraordinary service and opportunities to thousands of students at his alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona, while diversifying the STEM fields and connecting California’s industries with invaluable untapped talent.
Dr. Alas first joined the university as an assistant professor in 2005. Today, as director of Cal Poly Pomona’s Science Educational Enhancement Services (SEES), he works tirelessly to eliminate barriers for underrepresented and first-generation students in the fields of science and engineering, serving more than 700 students each year. While establishing a community of peers, SEES provides students with professional development, peer mentoring, academic support, referrals to fellowships and scholarships, and summer orientation for incoming freshmen, among many other services. His efforts have helped narrow the graduation gap for participating underrepresented students from 17.6 percent to 3.9 percent.
Recruiting young scientists, Dr. Alas has established summer Discovery Camps for elementary to high school students from neighboring school districts, which also provide teaching opportunities for CPP students. To support retention and success, Dr. Alas created a multifaceted onboarding “STEMpire” experience for first-year science and engineering students, including advising for at-risk students. And for the past decade, he has run the CSU Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (CSU-LSAMP) program, which provides professional development, research fellowships, conference travel and financial support to underserved students pursuing graduate degrees.
Dr. Alas has secured more than $2.5 million in federal grants to propel his students’ success. Among many other accomplishments, he was the principal investigator for a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to establish Cal Poly Pomona’s Biological Training in Education and Research (BioTIER) program in 2013 to support masters students pursuing STEM careers. Most recently, he acquired a $1 million NSF grant entitled SPIRES (Scholars Program in Research, Education and Science) to engage underrepresented scholars in the STEM fields through fellowships, career training and workplace psychology workshops.
Described by President Soraya Coley as “the epitome of a teacher-scholar-mentor-leader,” Dr. Alas has received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Service, as well as the CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award (FILA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Cal Poly Pomona and a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from UCLA.