Undergraduate Research

Opportunities Center

N e w s l e t t e r | M A Y / J U N E 2 0 2 2

May the Research

Be With You

From the Desk of Buck

What a fantastic school year! Despite still reeling from the effects of COVID-19, I continue to be amazed by the wonderful things our students continue to produce. 

This school year consisted of many “firsts”: our first hybrid Fall Research Competition; our first, fully in-person Spring Showcase since the global pandemic; and of course, our first in-person Year End Celebration since 2019. All these events were wildly successful thanks in large part to the herculean efforts of the UROC staff. Great job, team! 

This year, nearly 80 students graduated from our UROC Scholars / McNair Scholars, UROC Researchers, Koret Scholars, African Heritage Research Collaborative, STEM Education Research Experience, and LSAMP Rising Researchers programs–our largest cohort to date. They have demonstrated -- via both internal and external measures -- the powerful transformation that engagement in activities such as undergraduate research can bring about. This work is not easy; it takes tremendous effort, discipline, and passion, along with a supportive and nurturing community – even during non-pandemic times. And so, we take this time to celebrate their accomplishments. Congratulations! 

So as we say goodbye and good luck to our graduating class, we look forward to hearing about their future adventures and achievements. For our continuing students, we look forward to working with you this summer and in the coming years as you forge ahead building a thriving network of peers, colleagues, mentors and friends, all while contributing greatly to the scholarly vibrancy of our campus and local community. 

See you in the fall!

John “Buck” Banks, Ph.D.

UROC Director

**Image of John Banks placing stole over Samuel Perrello at the Year End Celebration

• • •

Graduating Class

UROC Researchers

Summer Alinaeem, Environmental Science, Technology, & Policy

Eduardo Aparicio, Business Administration

Rimki Barua, Biology

Jade Betancourt, Biology

Seryna Bonacorso, Global Studies

Lucas Bugarin, Spanish Language

Jamiel Capatayan, Computer Science

Bonnie Dawson, Environmental Science, Technology, & Policy

Alicia Del Toro, Marine Science

Denise Drachenberg, Marine Science

Richard Esqueda, Psychology

Rachel Frese, Kinesiology

Red Glines, Environmental Studies

Gloria Greensten, Biology

Timothy Hanneman, Computer Science

Justin Harris, Psychology

Jace Innis, Marine Science

Daniel Jacoby, Computer Science

Athena Lee, Business

Frankie Leyva, Biology

Derek Bryant Lilienthal, Computer Science

Gabriela Lopez, Psychology

Christian Morris, Mathematics

Keyoni McNair, Computer Science

Ariana Nava, Biology

Francis Nguyen, Marine Science

Samuel Perrello, Marine Science

Morgan Raimondo, Biology

Kaitlin Rooney, Marine Science

Rosalba Saavedra, Kinesiology

Alyssa Schaer, Environmental Science, Technology, & Policy

Amalia Seigel, Marine Science

Clyde Ivan Rei Sumagang, Computer Science

Avalon Surratt, Biology

Nate Walton, Biology

Lily Westphal, Biology

STEM Education Research Experience

Lauren Dixon, Biology and Teacher Preparation

Viviana Vigil, Marine Science

LSAMP Rising Researchers 

Annabelle McCarthy, Biology

Isaiah Woodard, Biology

African Heritage Research Collaborative

Cobey Davis, Mathematics

Nyah Edington, Cinematic Arts and Technology

Koret Scholars

Priscilla Amao, Psychology

Paula Beltran, Collaborative Health and Human Services

Jennifer Berberian, Collaborative Health and Human Services

Megan Dearie, Psychology

Paul Dommert, Psychology

Michael Haidar, Computer Science and Psychology

Erika Hernandez-Gonzalez, Business Administration

Hana Jacinto, Japanese Language and Culture

Korina McKinley, Psychology

UROC Scholars

Stephany Barrera, Cinematic Arts & Technology

Gagandeep Choongh, Psychology

Angel Diaz, Psychology

Matthew Dunham, Statistics

Armando Flores, Environmental Science, Technology, & Policy

Jennifer Grossman, Marine Science

Laney Klunis, Marine Science

Chase Paparotti, Cinematic Arts & Technology

Amelia Parker, Humanities and Communication

Maggie Seida, Marine Science

Melissa Vezard, Marine Science, 

Gretchen Wichman, Environmental Science, Technology, & Policy

Jordan Velasco, Marine Science

McNair Scholars

Lily Amador, Humanities and Communication

Paulina Cadena, Biology

Ahtziri Carranza-Medrado, Environmental Studies

Mariana Duarte, Computer Science

Xenia Enriquez, Social and Behavioral Science

Wendy Feng, Environmental Studies

Saray Garcia, Business Administration

Maite Gato-Fuentes, Marine Science

Kaiku Kaholoa’a, Biology

Vicky Meraz, Biology

Jesus Orozco, Humanities and Communication

Maria Rocha, Marine Science

Carlos Rosas, Biology

Melyssa Spandri, Humanities and Communication

Silvia Vasquez, Biology

• • •

And they're off!

UROC is proud to play a role in the development of education ownership, intellectual vibrancy, and scholarly identity in our CSUMB students. That growth allows students to not only move into the next phase of their academic careers, but students feel better prepared for the rigors they will encounter. We congratulate and wish the best of luck to the following UROCers who will embark on a whole new academic journey around the country, and world this coming fall.

Maite Gato-Fuentes

McNair Scholar

Master’s in Marine and Atmospheric Science

University of Miami

University of Miami logo

Derek Lilienthal

UROC Researcher

Master’s in Artificial Intelligence

San Jose State University

San Jose State logo

Wendy Feng

McNair Scholar

Master’s in Environmental Studies

University of Oregon

university of oregon school logo

Amelia Parker

UROC Scholar

Ph.D. in Communication

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina logo

Mariana Duarte

McNair Scholar

Master’s in Predictive Analysis and Risk Measurement

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois logo

Gretchen Wichman

UROC Scholar

Master of GeoScience

Southern Cross University

Southern Cross University logo

Matthew Dunham 

UROC Scholar

Ph.D. in Statistics

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State logo

Cobey Davis


Single Subject Credential Program for Mathematics

San Jose State University

San Jose State logo

Korina McKinley

Koret Scholar

Master of Social Work

CSU Monterey Bay


Melissa Vezard

UROC Scholar

Master’s of Environmental Science and Management

UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara Logo

Stephany Barrera

Dewar Scholar

Master of Fine Arts in Producing for Film and Television

Chapman University

Chapman University Logo

Hana Jacinto

Koret Scholar

Teaching Asian Languages Master of Arts Program

UC Los Angeles

UCLA logo

Morgan Raimondo

UROC Researcher

Ph.D. in Environmental and Forest Sciences

University of Washington

University of Washington logo

Meg Dearie

Koret Scholar

Ph.D. in Social Psychology

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University Logo

Trevor Stevens

McNair Scholar

Ph.D. in Clinical Science

University of Delaware

university of delaware logo

Jade Betancourt

UROC Researcher

Master’s in Biology

CSU Long Beach

CSU Long Beach logo

Lily Amador

McNair Scholar

Master’s in Higher Education

University of Arizona

University of Arizona Logo

Viviana Vigil

SERE Scholar

Teaching Credential Program

CSU Monterey Bay


Saray Garcia

McNair Scholar

Ph.D. in Management

UC Irvine

UC Irvine log

Jesus Orozco

McNair Scholar

Ph.D. in Justice Studies

Arizona State University

Arizona State University Logo

Francis Nguyen

UROC Researcher

Master’s in Biological Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Scripps logo

Kaiku Kaholoa’a

McNair Scholar

Ph.D. in Marine Science

Stanford University

Stanford logo

Priscilla Amao

Koret Scholar

Master of Social Work

CSU Monterey Bay

• • •
Where in the World are CSUMB McNair Alum?

We caught up with Catrin Wendt, Class of 2016, who is currently a Research Associate at Bristol-Meyers Squibb in Seattle, Washington. 

I graduated CSUMB and UROC in December 2016 in the Marine Science program, then moved to Seattle, WA to begin my M.S. at University of Washington in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences where I studied disease ecology. My thesis project investigated patterns of parasitic infection caused by Ichthyophonus hoferi in a population of Pacific herring which collapsed shortly following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. I spent a winter with my time split between collecting herring and seawater samples in Cordova, Alaska, and processing those samples in lab at home in Seattle.

Graduate school was a transformative experience, with my two big lessons being community building and adjusting to change.

I was deeply involved in the graduate school community, both locally and internationally. At the international scale, I founded an online community for grad students (think the modern iteration of grad cafe) which has exploded to over 150,000 members. We are currently planning an international and interdisciplinary conference which we are hoping to kick off within the year. Locally, I was very active with activism organizing and co-founded Institutional Climate Action, which is a coalition of students from local institutions who fight for climate justice and divestment from fossil fuels within their university. Community building in these vastly different formats and scales has taught me that there is always hope to be found in your community. When imposter syndrome rears its head or when the reality of the climate crisis becomes too heavy a burden, turn to your peers and your community.

This lesson was tested during COVID, when isolation was king. It was then that I learned my second lesson of graduate school: change will happen unexpectedly. I was the first thesis defense of lockdown and subsequently graduated into an entirely different landscape. Government research positions were in a hiring freeze, funding was in question for many field projects, and it was clear that I had to be creative with my next steps. After (I’ll be honest here) many months of reflection, I realized that I was not bound to environmental science. The truth was that my research skills are highly transferable – I just needed to be flexible. I could make lasting and meaningful impacts with my research outside of environmental science. I capitalized on my environmental DNA work from my thesis and used it to get a position as a technician in a molecular lab processing COVID tests. After a few months in this lab, and as the Delta wave died down, I used this experience to launch myself into a career with Bristol-Meyers Squibb. I now work in a Genetic Engineering team as a Research Associate where I design droplet digital PCR assays and support development of cancer immunotherapies. COVID has taught me that change will happen and it will be unexpected, but also that there are usually more resources you can use to respond to this change, you just have to be flexible in your thinking.

McNair Scholars at UA

Collecting eDNA samples in Cordova, Alaska.

Selena Velasquez with friends

Image following an Institutional Climate Action event. 

Selena Velasquez presenting at AERA

Collecting sediment samples for eDNA.

• • •

CSU Student Research Competition Winners

Congratulations to all the delegates  for a job well done at the statewide 36th Annual CSU Student Research Competition hosted virtually by San Francisco State University. They presented their research expertly and provided great responses to the judges' questions.  Congratulations to the faculty research mentors. --Congratulations, all.  Way to represent research at CSUMB!


Special congratulations go to TWO First-Place Winners in their respective sessions:

Ellre Villanueva-Ancheta & Lauren Frey~ Master of Science Physician Assistant

The Effects of Near-Peer Mentorship on Aspiring Physician Assistant Student Confidence

Faculty Mentor: Nicole Reichhart, MSPA, PA-C

Competition Category: Education (Graduate)

Ellre Villanueva & Lauren Frey

Nevan Bell~ Psychology

Campus Policing and How to Improve Sense of Safety

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Lovell 

Competition Category: Behavioral, Social Sciences, and Public Administration (Undergraduate)

• • •

Celebrating Writing Scholarship

Congratulations to the following newly published UROC alumni and their research faculty!

  • Eduardo Aparicio, Koret Scholar, & Dr. Shwadhin Sharma, Associate Professor of Information Systems. Organizational and team culture as antecedents of protection motivation among IT employees. Computers & Security.
• • •

Looking Forward to the Summer!

Hannah Kim

Hannah Kim, LSAMP and UROC Researcher - This summer is going to be packed full of adventure and research as I will be attending the CSU LSAMP Costa Rica Expedition, and upon my return, I will be conducting more research with the Logan Lab and the Watershed, Environment, and Ecology Lab at CSUMB. The skills I gain abroad will be applied to my research in and out of the lab when investigating coral physiology and freshwater ecology in the efforts to create a healthier environment amidst climate change.

Kimmy Smith

Kimberly Smith, McNair Scholar - I have been accepted into the Minimizing Health Disparities Summer Research Experience at University of Arizona! I will be matched with a faculty mentor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health to conduct ten weeks of health disparity focused research, graduate school preparation, and professional development, culminating in a final poster and oral presentation symposium. Outside of my academic commitments, I'm hoping to find hikes that lead to water, eat a sonoran hot dog, and see an infamous javelina while I’m there! This opportunity wouldn't have been possible without the McNair scholars program spring break trip to Arizona and the incredible power of networking.

Miguel Alvarado

Miguel Alvarado, UROC Researcher - This summer, I will be working with the Monterey Audubon Society looking at the nesting locations and territory of Black Oystercatchers local to Monterey Bay to help determine population's success of creating the next offspring. The information will be in addition to data collected over the last 10 years in order to create a more solidified answer to how these species are being affected by surrounding factors. I am looking forward to networking and pushing the research further while growing as a role model for underrepresented Hispanics wanting to have a significant impact in the world of sciences

Josie Wrinkle

Josie Wrinkle, UROC Researcher - This summer, I’ll be a part of the Research Internship in Molecular Ecology (RIME) program. We’ll be working to answer the question “does biodiversity loss affect the transmission of parasites?” To do this, we will be collecting DNA sequence data on parasites. I’m most excited about staying in Monterey for the summer where the weather is nice and I don’t have to be in triple digit-degree weather!

Taylor Trivino

Taylor Trivino, UROC Scholar - I will be participating in the USC REU program where I will be partnering with Dr. Jed Furhman and PhD Student Melody Aleman. I will be conducting research at the Philip K. Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. My project will be focused on analyzing the role of microorganisms in natural marine ecosystems. I look forward to working with the USC program and spending my summer on Catalina Island!

Brianna Saucedo

Brianna Saucedo, Koret Scholar - I will be conducting focus group discussion interviews with my mentor, Angeline Nariswari, and United Way of Monterey County, with whom I’ve been closely working since this last semester. I will also work towards writing a comprehensive literature review on consumer financial vulnerability and predatory lending that will be suitable for an academic journal in business marketing.

Gabriel Morales

Gabriel Morales, UROC Scholar -  This summer, I am attending the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (MURAP) at UNC Chapel Hill! I will be working towards preparation to graduate school among other students across the country and faculty at UNC. I am most looking forward to developing and presenting my research project as I am ready to apply what I have learned in my Qualitative Methods course!

Mario Coronado Cartmell

Mario Coronado Cartmell, UROC Researcher - I am so hyped about conducting my own research project with the Santa Lucia Conservancy. I will be curating their camera trap database consisting of some long term deployments from 2014. Our goal is to determine if there is significant occupancy of large mammals such as the non-native Wild Boar or the American Black Bear. I will use ArcGIS to visually represent detection patterns of species by habitat, time of day and season.

Brenda Alfaro

Brenda Alfaro, Koret Scholar - This summer, I’ll be attending EPITA: School of Engineering and Computer Science in Paris, France. I will be a part of their Secure Blockchain and IoT Networks program that will help me learn concepts of blockchain technology to secure and integrate technology into IoT networks. Afterwards, I will be able to design secure decentralized applications and IoT network architectures based on blockchain. I am excited to learn more about Parisian culture,visit museums, and cybersecurity!

• • •

See you in October!

Corin White holding baby outfit

Join us in congratulating Corin Gray and her husband Solomon as they welcome the newest addition to their family -- Zenneth Edward Gray!

Zen or Zenny, as they will affectionately be known by, is due sometime in late June. Corin, however, officially went on family leave as of mid-May.  

Looking forward to meeting little Zenny!

• • •

The Professor's Corner

by Sherry L. Palacios, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Science

“I am interested in so many things, how can I possibly narrow down to just one?” This was my constant refrain until I discovered the wonder of Oceanography. Oceanography is inherently interdisciplinary. It incorporates physics, geology, chemistry, biology, policy, data visualization, science communication, and much more! It uses a holistic approach to understand the natural world and can be applied to many different systems including the open ocean, nearshore, and estuaries. 

Oceanographers use many research tools to understand the sea. My research group uses light - how it propagates through the water column, interacts with what is there, and how much of it and what colors re-emerge from the surface. The sub-discipline for understanding light and water is ‘aquatic optics’. We use aquatic optics to develop ways to use remote sensing imagery to infer the biology, chemistry, and physics of the system. My group uses satellite, airborne, and drone imagery in our work.

I am fortunate to have several UROC Researchers and Scholars in my lab group. All use aquatic optics in their research. Moana Bullock is working to map the density of eelgrass beds in Elkhorn Slough using sophisticated optical models applied to drone imagery. Her work can inform resource managers about their habitat restoration efforts. Charles Scrivner is developing an algorithm for the discrimination of two optically similar macrophytes, eelgrass and the invasive alga Cladophora, to aid resource managers plan for eelgrass habitat loss. Ingrid Martinson is developing an optical algorithm to detect plastics in the ocean. Her algorithm will be applied to satellite imagery at river mouths to develop a ‘plastics budget’ to better estimate inputs into the ocean to mitigate the problem. These three students learned advanced physics and optics in order to apply their knowledge to pure and applied research questions in biology, conservation, human impacts, and policy.

When Ingrid came to me and said she wanted her research to do some good in the world, we jumped at the opportunity to use an interdisciplinary approach to identifying and tracking marine debris. I look forward to how Moana, Charles, and Ingrid’s work can help in ocean discovery!

• • •

Mark Your Calendars

summer symposium decorative banner

Please join UROC and the Ocean Science REU as we host the 2022 Summer Research symposium on Friday, August 12. There will be over 30 oral presentations as well as dozens of poster presentations. 

• • •

Pictures Galore

Enjoy some pictures of our undergraduate researchers from our Year End Celebration and Commencement!

Jesus Orozco and Amelia Parker

Jesus Orozco and Amelia Parker speak at the Year End Celebration.

Buck with Morgan Raimondo

Buck places UROC stole over Morgan Raimondo.

UROC Students with Corin

Keyoni McNair speaks at the Year End Celebration.

UROC Scholars

UROC Scholars Cohort: Jennifer Grossman, Matthew Dunham, Jesus Orozco, Wendy Feng, Corin White, Amelia Parker, Melissa Vezard, Silvia Vasquez. 

Writing Fellows

UROC Writing Fellows: Morgan Raimondo, Gagan Choongh, Natasha Oehlman, Matthew Dunham, Amelia Parker, Melissa Vezard. 

UROC Students with Corin

JP Dundore-Arias accepts his Mentor of the Year Award. 

Angel Diaz and Meg Dearie

Angel Diaz and Meg Dearie waiting to walk. 

Gagan Choongh

Gagandeep Choongh walking to commencement. 

Stephany Barrera

Stephany Barrera about to walk the stage. 

Gretchen and Wendy

Gretchen Wichman and Wendy Feng pose for a quick picture. 

Mali and Jade

Amalia Seigel and Jade Betancourt pose for a quick picture. 

Scholars group

Vicki Meraz, Kai Kaholoa'a, Maggie Seida, and Jordan Velasco are greeted by Eric Barajas. 

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