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Setting Sights on a Future in Biomedical Research




Analine Aguayo graduated with honors from her high school, but she thought a university education was out of reach. At community college, she discovered a real love of biology and, despite her original hesitations, Ms. Aguayo joined the Biology Program at CSU Northridge.

At CSUN Analine began to dream bigger and she was given an opportunity to join the campus' National Institutes of Health-funded RISE program to start a research career.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women in the United States, with an overall five-year survival rate of about 90%. However, if patients are diagnosed after cancer has metastasized (stage IV), the five-year survival rate dramatically decreases to less than 20%. Familiar with this fact, Ms. Aguayo joined Dr. Jonathan Kelber's group last summer. She took on a project in the Kelber lab to learn and discover more about dysregulation in breast cancer.

After initially pairing up with a graduate student, Analine quickly developed her own study focus. Her work is aimed at gaining a better understanding of how metastasis occurs by studying how the migrating tumor cells adapt to new environments.

Last Fall Dr. Kelber encouraged Ms. Aguayo to apply for a Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women's Health Research-CSUPERB Scholarship. In November 2017 she was selected as one of the 2018 Howell-CSUPERB Scholars. In January she attended the 30th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium to present her research and accept her award.

Finishing up her summer in the Kelber lab, Ms. Aguayo recently reflected back on her undergraduate research experiences. She said the Howell-CSUPERB proposal writing process taught her how to develop a hypothesis, formally describe her work, and design a research timeline - all skills important for her future career plans.  "Since becoming a Howell Scholar, I… have been exposed to a wonderful learning environment where I have been able to learn different lab techniques through mentors and fellow lab-mates, develop my own experiments and lab timelines, and learn how to be able to continue forward with experiments after less-than-ideal outcomes. These have all been incredibly valuable assets in helping move my career forward. I am also very grateful for the strong and supportive communities that I have become a part of – at CSUN, CSUPERB, and the Howell Foundation Community. It….is wonderful to know that the Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholar Program continues to advance the careers of aspiring researchers."

After more than a year of biomedical research experience, she says, "My plans after graduation include attending graduate school with the ultimate aim of obtaining my PhD in Cancer Biology. I would like to become a professor/mentor, and eventually teach introductory science courses to young, underrepresented populations in developing countries such as Mexico or Panama."

Captions for images below: (Left) Some of the 2018 Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholars presented research posters at the 30th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium. Clockwise from top: Dr. Katherine McReynolds (CSU Sacramento & CSUPERB Strategic Planning Council Chair), Dr. Stanley Maloy (San Diego State University & CSUPERB SPC member), Maizie Lee (CSU Fresno), Stacy Guzman (CSU Fullerton), Analine Aguayo (CSU Northridge), and Kathryn Johnston (CSU Bakersfield). (Right) Dr. Katherine McReynolds (CSU Sacramento) presents Ms. Analine Aguayo (CSU Northridge) with a 2018 Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholar Award during the awards banquet at the 30th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium (January 2018) in Santa Clara, California. 

Since 2000, the Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women's Health Research and CSUPERB have partnered to make $567,855 in awards to 188 Cal State undergraduate researchers. Together the Howell Foundation and CSUPERB recognize that research experience is critical to engaging and graduating students interested in careers in women's health. In fact, the great majority of Howell-CSUPERB scholars go on to apply successfully for graduate degree programs and industry jobs.