DPC Newsletter

Student Conferences Spotlight

Volume 7, Issue 3

Consortium News

Celebrating recent honors for CSULB BUILD students and faculty

By Nicole Streicker

The California State University, Long Beach BUILD program congratulated students and faculty who received awards or scholarships. 

From left: CSULB BUILD Scholar Antonio Arreguin, CSULB BUILD Principal Investigator Kim Vu, PhD, CSULB BUILD Fellows Training Director Virginia Gray, PhD, and CSULB BUILD Scholar Adeline Rosales.


BUILD Scholar Antonio Arreguin received the prestigious Sally Casanova California Pre-Doctoral Scholarship. Read more about the scholarship and recipients in the announcement from the Office of the Provost

BUILD Scholar Adeline Rosales received the Café Bustelo® El Café Del Futuro Scholarship. Café Bustelo® aims to invest in the Latino community by awarding scholarships to those who seek better futures for themselves, their families and their communities. Learn more about the scholarship here


BUILD Principal Investigator (PI) Kim Vu, PhD, received the Franklin V. Taylor Award at the 2022 American Psychological Association Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The award recognizes outstanding achievements made by a psychologist in the field of applied experimental/engineering psychology. Vu shared that recipients of the award deliver an oral presentation and part of her talk will touch on BUILD and her extensive work training students in applied experimental psychology.

Virginia Gray, PhD, the BUILD Fellows Training Director and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics, received the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Nutrition in Higher Education Award at the 2022 Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more about Gray’s achievement on the CHHS Faculty Spotlight page or the SNEB media release.

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SF BUILD faculty accomplishments: Marilyn Thomas and Tung Nguyen

By Leticia Márquez-Magaña

Double Gator Marilyn Thomas, PhD, Wins Prestigious K99/R00 Award

Marilyn Thomas, PhD, received a prestigious K99/R00 Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue her investigation of the “Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities on Late Cognition in Black Adults.”

Thomas is a “Double Gator,” meaning she earned two degrees at San Francisco State University (SFSU)—a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Master of Public Health—before completing her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. SF BUILD supported part of Thomas’ graduate work and awarded her a mini-grant as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Through this award, she submitted a proposal for NIH funding as a K99/R00 recipient. Despite it being her first submission, Thomas earned a priority score of 15 and was funded earlier this year to pursue her investigation.

SF BUILD Faculty:Marilyn Thomas, PhD and Tung T. Nguyen, MD

In addition to this important work, Thomas remains involved with SF BUILD as a leader of the Building Bridges activity, which helps students transition from undergraduate to graduate or professional programs, while gaining research experience, networking and building community. Thomas is uniquely well-suited to this role because she has attained multiple degrees and is now a valued member of the UCSF research and training communities.

UCSF PI of SF BUILD Named Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity and Anti-Racist Research

Tung T. Nguyen, MD, who serves as the PI for the SF BUILD partner program at UCSF, was appointed as the inaugural Associate Vice Chancellor for Research –Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Anti-Racism (AVC Research - IDEA). In this role, he will continue his work as an agent of change looking for ways to disrupt systemic barriers that perpetuate inequities in research, and developing an anti-racist research agenda at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The creation of this role aligns with the UCSF vision to be among the most diverse, equitable and inclusive academic medical systems in the country. Alka Kanaya, MD, a long-time colleague of Nguyen, writes of his selection, “Great title and perfect role for a true visionary.” 

Read more about Nguyen’s selection in a message from Vice Chancellor of Research Harold R. Collard, MD, MS.

XULA BUILD faculty mentor receives NIH grant to research deadly cancer

By Brhea Washington

Hector Biliran, PhD, a professor in Xavier University of Louisiana biology department, received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund his university research. Biliran credits his preliminary research, supported by a grant through Xavier’s Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (XULA BUILD) program, Project Pathways, with helping him attain an NIH Support Research Excellence (SuRE) R16 grant.

The SuRE program supports building research capacity at institutions with a significant number of students from backgrounds nationally underrepresented in biomedical research. SuRE develops and sustains the research excellence of faculty investigators and provides students with research opportunities, catalyzing institutional research culture and enriching the research environment. 

Biliran’s XULA BUILD grant helped him successfully apply for the SuRE R16 grant by providing funding for his research. Biliran’s research focuses on human lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD), the most commonly diagnosed histological subtype of lung cancer. It has a mere 15% five-year survival rate.

In his research, Biliran studies the role of the Bit1-TLE1 cell death pathway as a potential therapeutic target in human lung cancer. The research goal is to molecularly characterize and dissect the TLE1 epigenetic and transcriptional function in human LUAD cells, with the hope it can be targeted to attenuate LUAD aggressiveness and metastatic potential.

He is grateful for XULA BUILD’s role in the progression of his SuRE R16 grant. 

“As principal investigator, I am thankful that XULA BUILD provided the necessary support for me to continue my cancer research project,” Biliran said. “XULA BUILD was critical to keeping my lab functional and allowed us to continue mentoring undergraduate students in innovative and hypothesis-driven research projects at Xavier.”

Photo of Dr. Hector Biliran and text: XULA Professor receives NIH Grant for his XULA BUILD

Biliran was thankful to be selected for the grant and to continue contributing to lung cancer research. 

“For educators and scientists, preparing and submitting grant proposals can be a tedious and overwhelming experience, but can turn into a fruitful and worthwhile endeavor,” Biliran said. “The selection of my grant for funding by the NIH indicates my work is significant and innovative to drive current knowledge in the human lung cancer field.

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Summer research experiences shape UTEP BUILD Scholars' interests and plans

By John Garza

Sol Corral presenting her summer research at the annual BUILDing SCHOLARS Symposium

BUILDing SCHOLARS trainees at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) spend their summers away from home, conducting research at partner institutes around the country, from Arizona to Connecticut. The Summer Research Programs that they attend supplement their academic year research, allowing them to explore new labs and research topics, while making new friends and professional connections. 

For psychology major Sol Corral, the experience was an opportunity to complement the social psychology research she does during the academic year with mentor Craig Field, PhD, at UTEP. This past summer at Arizona State University (ASU), she worked with Steven Neuberg, PhD, to develop a new social cognitive model of hope, filling a gap in the current theoretical literature. 

"Being part of the summer research program at ASU was a very different experience to me as I had never done research outside of UTEP,” Corral said. “Working with Dr. Neuberg allowed me to learn new ways to develop research questions and approach research in general by letting my creativity run free before we limited my ideas to what the literature has previously demonstrated.”

Siria Jansen discovered her true research passion over the summer at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Although she majors in physics at UTEP, she spent the summer working with Esra Akbay, PhD, investigating how sensitizing cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents can increase the efficacy of the treatment. 

“Working in the Akbay Lab this summer allowed me the opportunity to work in a topic outside of my current major which has given me the experience I need to truly know that I want to shift into cancer biology for my PhD,” Jansen said.

“The research I was doing was beyond my area of knowledge, so working with experts in the field of pathology and cancer biology allowed me the opportunity to grow as a research scientist in a conducive learning environment.”

Jansen currently works at UTEP with physicist Ahmed El-Gendy, PhD, exploring the use of nanoparticles in cancer treatments. 

Siria Jansen in the lab.
Isaiah Perez in the lab.

Isaiah Perez studies anomalous gene expression related to metabolic and craniofacial abnormalities, using zebrafish as an animal model, in his academic year research with mentor Anita Quintana, PhD, at UTEP.

For his summer research experience, Perez worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, under the guidance of Stephen Ekker, PhD. There, he was able to build on his genetics expertise by working on a base editor for mitochondrial DNA from zebrafish embryos.

“My summer at Mayo Clinic with Dr. Ekker’s team brought to light the topics I’d like to embark on in graduate school,” Perez said. “While working with a diverse group and like-minded researchers, I learned the power of collaboration which gives rise to an open-minded environment, an attribute I will embrace in my doctoral studies.”

Perez plans to return to Mayo Clinic this winter to continue working with Ekker after he graduates from UTEP in December.

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BUILD EXITO partner institution secures $2.5 million in AANAPISI grant funding

By Arjun Viray

Northern Marianas College (NMC), a partner institution of the Portland State University BUILD EXITO program, recently secured $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) program. 

BUILD, which stands for “BUilding Infrastructure Leading to Diversity,” is a student research training program funded by the National Institutes of Health. The program also includes faculty development initiatives, enhances institutional research capacity and encourages partnerships between institutions to broaden impacts and opportunities. As BUILD EXITO is in year nine of the 10-year grant period, the program has started to “ramp down,” and securing funding for future opportunities is important. 

Beylul Solomon, PhD, the lead BUILD EXITO staff at NMC, said the AANAPISI award came at an ideal time and enables NMC to positively impact the lives of 20 students per year for the next several years. 

“I was beyond thrilled when I heard NMC received the award for the AANAPISI cooperative grant, which would expand both the efforts of the BUILD EXITO and Project PROA program at the college,” Solomon said.

“We knew that the BUILD EXITO model was working given the exponential increase in applications to EXITO as the grant winded down. It showed that our students were strengthening and increasing their science identity, especially having seen significant numbers of NMC alumni who transferred and successfully completed their degrees at PSU.” 

Read more at the NMC website.

Northern Marianas College students and Beylul Solomon, PhD, at the 2022 Summer Research Academy hosted by BUILD EXITO.
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The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.

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