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Opening Doors to Research Careers




​​Across the CSU persistent and creative ​faculty mentors support collaborative faculty-student research programs with grants from federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

​However, it takes cutting-edge science, transformational ideas and effective collaborations to win grants at the federal level. Due to the very competitive national funding landscape, life science researchers can face gaps in funding that endanger the momentum and continuity of scientific projects.

Over the years Katherine McReynolds, a chemistry professor at CSU Sacramento, has been fortunate to win funding from the NIH, the National Science Foundation and the Research Corporation. The McReynolds lab develops novel branched sugar-based molecules, known as glycodendrimers, that have potential as anti-HIV therapeutics.​

However, in 2012 Dr. McReynolds faced a gap in funding when attempts to renew her NIH research grant were unsuccessful. She turned to CSUPERB's Research Development grant program to keep her lab afloat financially; she won a CSUPERB grant in the Spring 2013 round of seed grant awards.

Dr. McReynolds explained, "...the CSUPERB proposal focused on synthetic method development using green chemistry coupled with microwave chemistry." She also made sure she had the right collaborators. "We perform an in-house competitive binding assay to determine at the most basic level if our molecules have the ability to bind to HIV-1 gp120 [the therapeutic target]. If they do, we then send the samples forward to Duke University and my collaborator, Dr. Celia LaBranche​, who performs both an inhibition of infectivity assay with different pseudovirus strains of HIV-1, followed by cytotoxity assays. "The team was able to gather additional "anti-HIV data that showed that we were on the right track" designing active molecules.

She explains what happened next: "We were very happy to have the first SCORE submission from our campus funded [by NIH] on the first try. This opens the door for other faculty on the CSUS campus to apply to this great program, which provides excellent opportunities for students and faculty alike to participate in important biomedical research". This summer, three graduate students and six undergraduates worked with Dr. McReynolds to keep the science moving forward.

When asked why she chose to join the faculty at a primarily undergraduate institution after training at University of Arizona, McReynolds admits, "there are challenges to being a successful teacher-scholar at a CSU campus. The teaching/committee loads can be heavy… Some days, I feel very much like an overworked lab manager/postdoc, who also has a full-time teaching job and a family to boot… [but] I am more efficient than I was when I was first hired. It also helps that I have fantastic, talented CSUS undergraduate and Master's students working with me. Their excitement for doing research is what has kept me fighting so hard over the years to obtain and maintain the necessary funding to keep my lab open to these students. My former research students have gone onto excellent careers in medicine and as scientists in private industry or with government agencies. It is incredibly satisfying to me to see how successful they are once they graduate and leave my lab."​