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CSULB Presence Felt At CSU Biotechnology Symposium

Published: February 3, 2014

Faculty and students from CSULB made their presence felt recently at the 26th annual California State University (CSU) Biotechnology Symposium in Santa Clara.

CSULB psychology major Rodolfo Flores was selected from among eight finalists as this year’s recipient of the Glenn Nagel Undergraduate Student Research Award for his project in the area of neuropsychopharmacology—the interdisciplinary study of the role of drugs on behavior and development.

The Nagel Award fosters excellence in undergraduate student research throughout the CSU system in biotechnology-related research, covering a broad range of topics in cellular, molecular, chemical and physical studies of the life sciences.

Working in the laboratory of Arturo Zavala, an assistant professor of psychology at CSULB, whose focus is on understanding drug addiction, Flores’ project is investigating whether early exposure to Ritalin can increase or decrease the rewarding effects of psychoactive drugs during adolescence.

Two other CSULB students—Patricia (Nhi) Nguyen and Phuc Huu Ba (Sam) Nguyen—also were recognized as recipients of 2014 Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholar Awards which were given to 12 students from seven different CSU campuses.

CSUPERB partners with the Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research to fund promising undergraduate student research projects in topics related to women’s health. Each scholar will conduct faculty-mentored research projects during the this spring and summer.

Patricia Nguyen, a chemistry major, received a $3,500 scholarship for her proposal titled “Structural analysis and binding mechanism of apolopoprotein E cholesterol binding domain by fluorescence spectroscopy.” Her faculty mentor for the project is Vasanthy Narayanswami, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Phuc Nguyen, a biochemistry major, also was awarded a $3,500 scholarship for her proposal titled “Use of a Novel Metal Binding Protein for Toxic Metal Remediation.” Her faculty mentor is Roger Acey, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Finally, a team of four CSULB students—Kyle Booth, Phuc Nguyen, David Steidle and Nancy Trujilo—was named “Crowd Favorite” for its project and presentation in the CSUPERB-I2P (Idea to Product) Early-Stage Biotechnology Commercialization Challenge, which culminates at the annual CSU symposium. Acey served as the team’s faculty mentor for the competition.

I2P competitions were designed and pioneered at the University of Texas at Austin by engineering professor Steven Nichols and colleagues. As they explain it, “the phrase ‘Idea to Product’ refers to applying creative thought to a technology (‘idea’) and developing a market application (‘product’) for that technology.”

For the competition, teams pair science/engineering students with business/entrepreneurship students. One hallmark of the I2P program is that students with no previous experience in biotechnology commercialization can be competitive, and the CSUPERB-I2P Challenge remains the only biotechnology-focused I2P competition.

More than 45 students and another 20 faculty and staff from CSULB attended and took part in the symposium, primarily in poster presentations.

Organized by the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB), the symposium brings CSU students, faculty and administrators together along with biotech professionals working in academia, government and industry. It is designed to broaden exposure to cutting-edge biotechnologies, product-focused innovation and the spectrum of career paths available in the life sciences.

–Rick Gloady