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Conducting Research Abroad

Students Help Close the Health Care Gaps in Foreign Lands

This summer, nine California State University students and one from the University of California have fanned out to various continents to conduct research aimed at eliminating differences in health care for underrepresented populations.

As part of the federally funded Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Program, they are spending 10 weeks working with researchers at universities in England, Thailand and Argentina. Underwriting this year's program is a $117,068 National Institutes of Health grant.

"The program focuses on providing students from underrepresented minorities the opportunity to participate in a summer research experience under the direction of world-class scientists in a new and challenging environment," said Marcelo Tolmasky, program director and professor of biological science at Cal State Fullerton.

"The experience is designed to introduce them to international collaboration in modern scientific research, and sensitize them to issues of minority and third-world health problems," he said. "We expect that, as professionals, these students will be inspired to seek novel approaches to solve minority and third-world health problems and help close gaps caused by health disparities."

Doreen Carpio, a Cal State Fullerton senior majoring in biological science and pursuing a concentration in cell and developmental biology, is conducting research on antibiotic resistance by bacteria, at Instituto Fundacion Leloir, a private institution affiliated with the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her words echo those of many of the other students:

"I'm nervous. I've never done anything like this before and I don't speak much Spanish. Muy, muy poquito! But I hope to gain a more detailed perspective on minority health and health disparities. There's a lot that goes on that a normal California girl would not know related to my field of interest, health care, " she said.

"My eyes were first opened when I went to Thailand last summer on a missionary trip to conduct medical clinics in remote villages and to help at orphanages," added Carpio, a Fontana resident, who is blogging about her experiences. "There was no research involved, as there will be this time, but it really opened up my eyes to what sorts of issues occur on a day-to-day basis around the world."

Gabriel Lucero, a graduate student in electrical engineering at Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach resident, also is assigned to Leloir.

"My academic background is in physics and electrical engineering, so I'll be getting a crash course in biomedical and biochemistry research in a very good laboratory," Lucero said. "I will be assisting in research on how cells determine whether secretory pathway proteins are properly folded and what they do. There are about 20 misfolded protein diseases, including Huntington's and Alzheimer's.

"I hope to gain a little perspective - both cultural and scientific - and learn techniques,deepen my experience as a researcher and work on a fundamental problem that has implications for curing disease," he added.

Also in Argentina this year is Carla Cueva, also from Long Beach. She's a Cal State Los Angeles alumna and first-year graduate student in biological sciences at UC Irvine. She's conducting research at Instituto de Investigaciones Biotecnologicas.

Spending the summer at Chiang Mai University in Thailand are Cal State Fullerton health science majors Jordan Aquino of La Verne, Leah Beck of Placentia and Jonathan Lozano, along with Carson resident Jeffrey Idica, a senior psychology major at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

CSUF biological science majors Laura Lee of Northridge and Jennifer Vinson of San Clemente are at England's University of Oxford, while Yoliana Mansour, a CSUF senior majoring in biochemistry, is at the University of York. Originally from Cairo, she resides in West Covina.

Media Contacts:
Marcelo Tolmasky, Biological Sciences, 657-278-5263 or
Russ L. Hudson, Public Affairs, 657-278-4007 or