CPP-UCR Master's Bridges to PhD (B2D) Program

B2D Student Participants


 anaAna Quetzali Alcaraz Echeveste is a first-generation and first-year master's student in Dr. Bharti Sharma’s laboratory. She received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology from Cal Poly Pomona. Her project aims to understand the developmental and molecular changes underlying floral development and maturation in Delphinium. When she’s not in the lab, she enjoys the outdoors (especially beach days), dancing cumbias, discovering new music, and making art in her free time. After completing her master’s in biology, she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in the biological sciences and become an educator. 

hebbertcohort3Addyson Hebbert is a current master's student in Dr. Jamie Snyder’s Lab. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Cal Poly Pomona. For his master’s thesis he is currently attempting to discover if the C92 protein of STIV1 interacts with itself. STIV1 is an archaeal virus and during infection the C92 protein causes pyramid structures to form on the membrane of the host cell. The pyramid structures are utilized during cell lysis where the pyramid opens and progeny viruses are released. C92 is studied through mutagenesis where specific mutations are made in the genome of the protein. The mutants will be screened through a split ubiquitin system as well as a yeast-2-hybrid system to determine if protein-protein interaction is occurring. These systems can also be used to screen mutations in other proteins of the infection cycle. During his free time Addyson enjoys snowboarding, as well as going to the gym, and cooking. He has a special interest in viral research and following his master’s he would like to continue his education with a Ph.D. in the field of virology.

Ibarracohort3Arnel Ibarra is a First-Generation College Graduate starting his first year as a Master's Student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He earned his B.S. in Biotechnology at Cal Poly, and he is returning to conduct his Master's Degree Research in Dr. Jason Ear's Laboratory. He is currently studying Cancer Research, specifically, the properties of DAPLE gene fusions and the role they play through their activated signaling pathways that can ultimately lead to two types of blood cancer, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) or Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML). Looking towards the future, he plans to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and continue contributing to the field of Cancer Research. When he is not conducting research, he enjoys playing video games and watching Anime. In his free time, he is also a musician and plays many wind instruments and is a part of Cal Poly’s Bronco Pepband.

romerocohort3Isabel Veronica Romero is a first year master’s student at Cal Poly Pomona. Isabel has a BS in Biology and a strong interest in the study of Immunology. Some hobbies of hers include crocheting, going to the gym and spending time with her friends and family. Isabel will be conducting research in Dr. Frances Mercer’s lab where she will be studying the receptors necessary for neutrophils to perform trogocytosis to kill T. Vaginalis. After completing her master’s, she hopes to pursue a PhD in biomedical sciences.


Joseph Alas cohort2Joseph Edward Alas is a second-year master's student in Dr. Wendy J. Dixon's lab. He received his bachelor's of science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. While at UC Santa Cruz, he was on a collaboration project researching Wolbachia in Dr. Grant Hartzog lab. Currently at Cal Poly Pomona, He is researching the effects of genistein, a phytoestrogen found in soybeans, on the cell cycle using the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In his spare time, he enjoys reading novels, playing videogames, and learning about cryptocurrencies. His goal is to be admitted into a biomedical PhD program involving applied human diseases. 

 Sydnie Chase cohort2Sydnie Chase is a second-year Master’s student at Cal Poly Pomona in Dr. Jamie Snyder’s laboratory. Sydnie enjoys spending time with family, working with reptiles, and getting outdoors in her free time. She has a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry obtained at Cal Poly Pomona as well and studies cell/molecular and evolutionary biology. For her master’s thesis she will be developing a genetic system for the crenarchaeote Sulfolobus acidocaldarius in conjunction with its pathogen, Sulfolobus Turreted Icosahedral Virus 3 (STIV3). The genetic system she is developing is a vector-based tool essential for her laboratory to elucidate putative functions of specific genes in the host and pathogen. She will do this by using a mutant strain of S. acidocaldarius missing 322 bp of the pyrEF gene, dubbed MW001 after Michaela Wagner who developed this strain.  The mechanism used is a “pop-in/pop-out” system. The vector used will contain the gene of interest (GOI) along with restriction sites and inducible promoters. Cells will be first grown on uracil free media to promote double crossover insertion, where the vector “pops-in” to the genome. Colonies successfully transformed are then streaked on plates supplemented with 5-FOA and uracil, which will allow the plasmid to “pop-out” taking with it the GOI. This will be done with different genes of interest, then infected with STIV3 to determine the functionality of the gene in question. After her Master’s, Sydnie plans to move on to a PhD program in biomedical sciences. Alongside her work in cell biology, Sydnie is also an advocate for women’s issues in STEM and underrepresented transfer students. She is also on the board of the Biology Graduate Student Association (Bio GSA), an organization that aims to provide support and community for biology graduate students.  

Diego HenriquezDiego Henriquez is a current masters of Biological Sciences at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. He graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a B.S in Biotechnology with a minor in Chemistry. Conducting research under Dr. Nancy Buckley, he has been working on studying the Effects of Alternative Liposomal Amphotericin B Treatment Regiments on Pulmonary Aspergillosis in Metabolically Normal Mice with Jon Olson. Future studies will include studying the pharmacokinetic properties of Ambisome™ in mice with obesity and diabetes — specifically how the metabolic condition of the mice affects the distribution of the drug throughout the body in the presence of a systemic infection. In his spare time Diego enjoys making leather goods, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, and spending time in the back country with his chocolate lab, Bruno.
Keven Kwok Cohort2Keven Kwok is a first-year master's student at Cal Poly Pomona. Keven has a B.S. in Biotechnology with a minor in Chemistry. After working in the Biotechnology industry for a year he decided to go back to school and pursue his master's degree. With his interest in Immunology, Keven will be doing his graduate research in Dr. Douglas Durrant's lab. He will be studying how knocking out the gene CMKLR1 in mice will affect mice after being infected with West Nile Virus. After completing his master's in the Biological Sciences, he hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, specifically in the field of immunology. 


Will Cruz Will Cruz is a Master’s student at Cal Poly Pomona, who is interested in biochemistry. Originally, from central California, he has been in the Pomona area for about four years. On his free time, he enjoys the outdoors, usually through hikes and camping. Another interest is learning about different cultures and learning different languages, with his current language goal being German. He is currently working in Dr. McCulloch’s lab, studying the enzyme BaiCD.  Research Description: “The gut flora plays an essential part in aiding organisms digest their food efficiently; however, microbes also breakdown other molecules that can produce unnecessary, and sometimes harmful, products. An example of this is Clostridium scindens’ conversion of primary bile acids to secondary bile acids. The enzymes needed for the metabolism of primary bile acids are encoded in the bile acid inducible (bai) operon. Will’s current study focuses on the purification of the BaiCD enzyme. This enzyme takes part in an intermediate step with coenzyme NAD+; it is postulated that a double bond is added, priming the intermediate for the next enzyme, BaiE, resulting in dehydration at C7. The current goal is to purify the BaiCD enzyme so that a stable crystal can be formed and analyzed. A resolved 3-D structure of BaiCD will give insight into the catalysis of primary bile acids to secondary bile acids.”

Nathalie NadalesNathalie Nadales is a Master’s student in Dr. Nancy Buckley’s laboratory at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Nathalie has a B.S. in Biology from Cal State Northridge. During her undergraduate studies, she was a MARC scholar and conducted cancer research, where they established the utility of an immune-competent tumor cell-free model for characterizing the mechanisms of breast cancer cell priming of the premetastatic niche and LCN2 as a promising therapeutic target for blocking breast cancer progression. For her graduate work, she will be investigating the effects of cannabinoids on the resistance to systemic Candida albicans (C. albicans) resistance in immune competent and immune compromised male and female mice. C. albicans is an opportunistic yeast pathogen that can cause invasive or systemic candidiasis and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the hospital setting. After obtaining her MS in Biology, Nathalie plans to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and contribute to the biomedical field, specifically cancer research. When Nathalie is not conducting research, she enjoys long hikes and a nice cup of coffee. 

Christian OrdazChristian J. Ordaz is a first-year graduate student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in Dr. Nancy Buckley’s laboratory. Christian has a B.S. in plant science with a focus on pest and disease management, served in the United States Marine Corps (USMC), volunteers as UCCE Master Gardener, and is a husband, and father of two young boys. His undergraduate research experience includes identifying the potential pest and disease threats on production and economy to California's coffee-growing industry. For his graduate work, he was inspired to switch to biomedical research because his wife is currently undergoing cancer treatment. Under the supervision of Dr. Buckley, he will be investigating garlic’s influence and mechanisms of action on the immune system. His short-term plans include spending time with family, coaching soccer, and researching how biological dietary supplements can support the immune system. His long-term plans are to promote and support underrepresented students to pursue higher education and help discover effective natural cancer therapies.

Ashley RamirezAshley Ramirez is a first-year Master’s student at Cal Poly Pomona. She enjoys being outdoors, especially in the mountains where she can be surrounded by pine trees. Ashley obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Microbiology at Cal Poly Pomona. She is currently conducting her  Master’s degree research in Dr. Mercer’s Parasitology Immunology research laboratory, in which they study the interactions between the parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis (Tv), and a type of white blood cell called neutrophils (PMN). Tv is a flagellated unicellular parasite responsible for causing the highly prevalent and understudied infection, trichomoniasis. However, the immune response to the parasite remains poorly undercharacterized. Her research project is determining whether PMN cell surface opsonin receptor, FcϒRIIa, a constitutively expressed IgG receptor, is required for trogocytosis of Tv. Additionally, She is determining the fate of these trogocytic bites of the parasite, within the neutrophil by studying whether PMN lysosomes are necessary for the digestion of Tv material, and sustained trogocytosis. Ashley's future goal is to teach and become a Principle Investigator at the university level where she can carry out vaccine development research and help spark a passion in underrepresented students to pursue the biomedical sciences.