The STEM Team

The STEM Connections Team 



2017-2018 CNAS STEM Peer Mentors


Alina Santos

Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology
Transferred from: Foothill College                                                              

Alina Santos

I attended Foothill Community College in northern California when I graduated high school to begin my undergraduate education in Biology. During my enrollment there, I worked at Target as a Customer Service Representative in addition to becoming a private tutor in various levels of math, biology, and chemistry. While taking classes and working part-time, I volunteered at a local free clinic and medical-surgical nursing unit to continue expanding my clinical experience as well as solidifying my interest in the medical field. I am deeply appreciative of these opportunities as they have allowed me to interact with a variety of patients on a personal level and introduced me to different perspectives of those in healthcare professions. Upon transferring to UCR, I fell in love with studying biochemistry and cell signaling pathways. I knew I wanted to participate in a lab that utilized these fields for medicinal purposes. Currently, I am actively involved in Dr. McCole’s biomedical research lab, where we are examining the intestinal epithelial barrier in mice and biopsies from human patients. The barrier permeability to electrolytes and macromolecules is through the tight junctions connecting adjacent cells. Specifically, the McCole team is interested in the regulation and expression of gene PTPN2, as it has demonstrated significance in inducing intestinal barrier defects when introduced to certain cytokines. In addition to research, I help represent the university at official functions and events as a CNAS Science Ambassador as well as a STEM Peer Mentor. I am also involved on campus in student organizations such as CampMED, Flying Samaritans, and the American Red Cross Riverside Chapter. On the weekends, I volunteer at Loma Linda University Medical Center in the Emergency Department. Ultimately, I hope to integrate these experiences on and off campus in order to become a well-rounded physician. Outside of academics, I love to read, run, dance, and hike in my spare time. Since moving to southern California, I am still learning and exploring new places. I am also a huge coffee addict, so you will most likely find me at The Coffee Bean during various times of the day. Don’t hesitate to say hello!


Derek Deng


 Derek DengI started my undergraduate career studying Biology at UCR right after I graduated from high school. Being very curious about what the university had to offer for me, I decided to try out various organizations on campus such as Circle K and Flying Samaritans. It was not until the end of my first year that I found out that I would be getting the chance to participate in an all expenses paid research program here at UCR. Through the program, I was able to learn much about protists and how they thrived in their microcosms based on various conditions. Throughout my years at UCR, I have been involved in various organizations like the Student Alumni Association as Vice President of Marketing, Mini Medical School as the Director of Training, and a member of STEM Pathways where I was able to get a STEM Pathway Grant to further my research. In the future, I plan to apply to medical school and take a gap year to prepare myself mentally. Please let me know if you see me around and say hi!


Duane Kim

Transferred from: Golden West College

 Duane KimMy college experience started at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach where I had a great experience academically and professionally.  During the 5 years I attended, I wasn’t able to get heavily involved on campus due to the fact that I was working roughly 75 hours a week at my parent’s business.  However, I did get a chance to work on campus as an employee of the Financial Aid department which allowed me to learn an enormous amount of useful information while also developing professional work skills.  Once I transferred to UCR, I decided to become heavily involved and make the most of my time at the campus.  I was lucky enough to get a summer internship for research at Prof. Quinn McFrederick’s lab in the Entomology Dept. through the STEM program which helped me start my journey at UCR off on the right foot.  In my lab, I got to work with a variety of bees and help pursue research pertaining to gut microbes and their effects on individual bees and the hive as a whole.  I decided to stay involved in the research lab during the school year while also getting involved in many different clubs and organizations on campus to help make me a competitive applicant for medical school.  Other campus involvements include: STEM Pathway Peer Mentor, Supplemental Instruction Leader for Genetics, Inter-Organizational Representative for Phi Delta Epsilon, Vice Chair of the Transfer and Non-Traditional Student Committee, Patient Intake Member for Riverside Free Clinic, Emergency Dept. Volunteer Trainer and Volunteer at Loma Linda, and UCR CNAS Science Ambassador.  Outside of school I like to do a variety of activities such as swimming at the beach, hiking, and discovering new places to eat at.  If you ever have questions on how to get involved on campus, tips for the pre-med field, or just want to talk, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to assist!


Georgette Sabbah 


 Georgette SabbahAfter graduating from Redlands East Valley High School in 2014, I was accepted into UC Riverside as a Regent Scholar. Upon entering UCR as a first-generation chemistry major, I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities that were available to undergraduate students. As a result, I began researching in Dr. Julian’s Analytical Chemistry lab as a sophomore studying the influence of isomerization on crystallin proteins in the eye lens and how this modification promotes the pathogenesis of age-related diseases. I have had the privilege of working with the Dr. Julian team for the past two years and becoming the co-author of a publication that can be found in the Journal of Proteome Research. I was fortunate enough to be selected as a participant in the MSRIP-UC Leads summer research program which gave me the opportunity to work on a second publication with the Dr. Julian team and present my work at a research symposium. I will continue presenting my work at research symposia with the MSRIP-UC LEADS program during my senior year.  Besides research, I am heavily involved in on-campus activities. As a supplemental instructor for courses such as calculus, chemistry, and biology, I review major concepts discussed in lecture during weekly sessions that I facilitate. Furthermore, I have had the privilege of assisting the university as a host during official functions as a CNAS ambassador and STEM Peer Mentor. Additionally, volunteering for Redlands Community Hospital’s Labor and Delivery department has inspired me to point my career path towards the medical field. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, hiking, and trying new restaurants. If you ever have questions on how to get involved on campus or just want to talk, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to assist!


Lindsey Bustos

Transferred from: Riverside City College

Lindsey BustosAfter graduating high school from Redlands East Valley, I was not admitted to a four-year institution. I decided to attend Riverside City College after being accepted into their honors program, despite still living in the Redlands area. During my enrollment there, I worked as a sales associate at Best Buy and later as a dog bather for Furry Face. I always had an interest in STEM and pursued my prerequisites to transfer as a STEM major at RCC. I became more interested in the field of medicine while attending RCC and decided to enroll in their Emergency Medical Technician program. I was able to learn more about the human body and eventually decided on the path to medical school. I was especially intrigued in the brain and applied to transfer as a neuroscience major. I applied to a handful of UC’s and Cal States and received admission to all of them. The choice to come to UCR was an easy one because I did not want to move away from my friends, family, and dogs. It was also the best decision financially because I could continue to work as an EMT at Riverside AMR and live at home without paying rent. Upon transferring I was able to participate in the RISE summer bridge to research program in which I was placed into a lab. This program further developed my professional skills, acquainted me with the campus, and helped me make several new friends. As a part of Dr. Talbot’s Cell Biology and Neuroscience lab, I assisted in her research of electronic cigarettes. I studied the cytotoxic effects of menthol on human lung epithelial cells. I was able to present my findings multiple times at different symposiums. It also led me to become involved with the clearing the air group which helps keep UCR smoke free. I am also involved with intramural sports on campus for which I play indoor and outdoor soccer. I have had great success at UCR which lead to becoming a CNAS Science Ambassador where I am able to represent the university at official school functions and mentor younger girls to maintain interest in STEM. The STEM connections program has been a vital resource in my success as well. I took advantage of the Health Professions Advising Center since I knew I wanted to go into medicine. With the advice of the assistant director there I was able to find my future career in podiatry and will be attending Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, CA beginning in August. Outside of school, I enjoy singing and dancing but I am not very good at either. I also love to eat which I am good at


Ruchittrani Hapuarachchi 

Biology/Statistics Minor
Transferred from: Santa Monica College

Ruchittrani HapuarachchiAfter graduating from high school, I decided to go to community college because one, I did not feel prepared enough for a four-year university and two, I was not ready to take on the financial burden that a university brings. I spent five years at Santa Monica College continuing my studies while working part-time in order to save for university. My involvement in Santa Monica College included becoming a president’s ambassador and participating in Phi Theta Kappa honor society and Pre-Health Association.  I graduated from Santa Monica College with an A.A degree in Science with honors. I started my UCR undergraduate career in the summer of 2016 as one of the Summer  Bridge to Research student. I was placed into Dr. David Reznick’s lab in the Biology Dept. where we looked at the evolutionary traits of the Trinidadian guppies with regards to predation. I fell in love with the lab and continued in the lab since the summer. Besides research, my other campus involvements include Mini Medical School, American Red Cross UCR chapter and Medical Scholars Program. I am also part of the Health Scholar program at Riverside Community Hospital. After graduating from UCR, I plan on going to PA school. In my free time, I like to eat, sleep and watch Korean dramas.

Rosa McGuire

Transferred from: Victor Valley College
Rosa McGuire

In 2011 I moved to the United States from Peru. I spent two years at Victor Valley College working on my A.S. in Math/Science before transferring to UCR as a Biology major. During Summer 2015, I was part of the Summer Bridge to Research Program. I worked in the Anderson Lab, where I worked on bacterial population dynamics. During my first year at UCR, I continued working in the same lab but in a different project that studies the effect of spatial configuration on species interactions using computer modeling and protist microcosms. I really enjoy doing research and I have presented at various symposia including the UCR Undergraduate Research Symposium and the AAAS Pacific Division Meeting. Aside from research, I am also part of the UC LEADS program, Honors Program, and STEM Connections Program. Now that I am a Peer Mentor, I feel motivated to help other college students that might have similar stories to mine. I am looking forward to sharing my experience in the STEM program and be a resource to other fellow Highlanders. After I graduate from UCR I plan to attend graduate school to obtain a Ph.D. in Ecology. I hope to become a professor at a research university. My hobbies include photography, reading, and spending time with my pets.

Vicente Melgarejo

Transferred from: Chaffey College

Vicente Melgarejo

I immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 2011. After graduating from high school, I went to Chaffey College for three years to start my Biochemistry degree. I was a student assistant in the zoology laboratory for a year, and I was also a part-time cashier at a fast food restaurant.  In the summer of 2016, right before transferring to UCR, I was a participant of the RISE Summer Bridge to Research Program. I was placed in Dr. Rankin’s Laboratory in the Entomology Department, where I studied the reproductive behavior of Bombus impatiens bumblebees when they are exposed to cuticular hydrocarbons from queens. I am honored to still be part of this research group. In the summer of 2017, I was a USDA Dynamic Genome Scholar, a research opportunity focused on analyzing the genetic variation of citrus trees in the UCR Citrus Variety Collection using molecular biology and bioinformatics, as well as exploring the biotechnology industry. My other extracurricular activities besides research and being a peer mentor include being the treasurer for out in STEM (oSTEM), a member of University Honors, and the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP). My career goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in environmental conservation, and teach at a community college or work for a regulatory government agency. Besides being a science geek, I enjoy hiking, music, books, culture, social justice, Harry Potter, cats, bad jokes and going a day without falling or spilling something.



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University of California, Riverside
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College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
Nhi Tran
S.T.E.M. Connections Coordinator
Pierce Hall 1104

Tel: (951) 827-1764