Preparing students for doctoral studies

Student Profiles

Christian Bustillos

Christian Bustillos

Hometown: Barstow, CA

Major: Biology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lorenzo Ramirez

Research Title: A Cross Comparison of Olfactory and Stress Behaviors Between Two Species of Canines

Research Summary: “The purpose of this study is to compare and contrast olfactory and stress behaviors between two canine species. The species being studied are Canis hallstromi (New Guinea Singing Dog) and Canis latrans (coyote). The New Guinea Singing Dogs were found to have a significantly higher frequency of the nose to the ground behavior. Hazel, the coyote, was found to have a significantly higher frequency of multiple stress behaviors (e.g. ears back, growling, and pacing). There was found to be no correlation between olfactory and stress behaviors.”

Significance of Project: “This project is important since it is vital to understand how canines are affected by captivity. It is very important to be able to enrich their lives and ensure that they live as happy a life that they would live in their natural habitat.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “I hope to attend medical school and become an oncologist. My goal in pursuing this career is to instill hope in patients who are facing hardship.”

Luis Perez

Luis Perez

Hometown: Oxnard, CA

Major: Mathematics and Computer Science

Faculty Mentor: Dr. John Villalpando

Research Title: Applications of Error-Correcting Codes

Research Summary: “My research aims to explore a specific type of error-correcting code called Hamming Codes through mathematical topics, including set theory and graph theory. Moreover, fundamental properties of Hamming Codes are proved through graph theory and a way to explain Hamming Codes is through set theory. Finally, applications of Hamming Codes that go beyond traditional uses are explored and developed using mathematics. Overall, this research looks at a topic in coding theory, namely, error-correcting Codes through a mathematical lens.”

Significance of Project: “My project is important because of the overall idea that error-correcting codes are a way to communicate effectively between two parties. This general notion of effective communication can then be expanded to applications that go beyond traditional uses of error-correcting codes.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “I hope to attend a PhD program in Mathematics after graduating.”

Sienna Magdaleno

Sienna Magdaleno

Hometown: Oxnard, CA

Major: Biology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lorenzo Ramirez

Research Title: Conflict Behavior of Captive Tufted Capuchin (Sapajus) Troop in Food & Non-food Conditions

Research Summary: “In this study, we explored the effect of food presence on social interactions and competition for a captive tufted capuchin (sapajus) troop of six individuals living at America’s Teaching Zoo (ATZ) at Moorpark College. Based on the trainers’ hypothetical hierarchy, the most dominant group member exhibited a statistically significant higher frequency of conflict behavior, compared to the assumed least dominant group member (*p = 0.0205). These findings support the current framework, which suggests the notion that within-group food competition serves as a measurement for social structure and is a factor that needs to be considered in captive environments."

Significance of Project: “Home to 130 exotic animals, ATZ serves a critical purpose in providing animals with the appropriate enrichment and training needed to survive and live comfortably. The potential to uncover findings about the species at ATZ through non-invasive studies are particularly important in discovering ways to improve the living conditions and welfare of these animals.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “After graduation I hope to continue my education by enrolling in a graduate program for biomedical and rehabilitation sciences. Ultimately I plan to earn a PhD.”

Lorena Silva

Lorena Silva

Hometown: Ventura, CA

Major: Biology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lorenzo Ramirez

Research Title: Exploring Maternal Care, Social Behavior and Learning Mechanisms in Ring-Tailed Lemurs

Research Summary: “The purpose of this research is to compare humans and lemurs in three aspects: maternal care, social behavior, and learning mechanisms. For maternal care, we explore the behavioral interactions between the mother/daughter pair and time spent together during observation. We explored the introduction of a new male lemur to the mother/daughter pair’s enclosure. Finally, we investigated learning mechanisms involved with positive reinforcement training with lemurs. The behaviors that were significantly associated with success during training was holding the fence, looking around the environment, and climbing down.”

Significance of Project: “Like all other primates, ring-tailed lemurs are similar to humans. We share a lot of DNA, so observing their interaction and behaviors can teach us a lot about ourselves.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “I am hoping to continue my research in either animal behavior or cancer research at a graduate school in California.”

Vanessa Avalos

Vanessa Avalos

Hometown: Fresno, CA

Major: Biology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Grady Hanrahan

Research Title: Effects of Pesticides on Genetic Expression in Caenorhabditis Elegans

Research Summary: “Do commonly used pesticides affect or change the genetic expression of a nematode that models the human toxicant response? I hope to show that these pesticides may or may not induce a response mechanism and activate expression of particular genes.”

Significance of Project: “My project aims to understand the way the body reacts to pesticides that are commonly used around people. By studying an organism that shares similar toxicant response mechanisms with humans, I will be able to suggest that humans exposed to these chemicals undergo similar toxicant response processes.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “I hope to enroll in a genetics program and pursue my Ph.D. After graduate school, I hope to pursue clinical research or a career in gene therapy.”

Emily Johnson

Emily Johnson

Hometown: Palmdale, CA

Major: Biology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Katherine Hoffmann

Research Title: The Effect of Temperature on the Rate of the Reaction of Anaerobic Metabolism in Mytilus Galloprovincialis

Research Summary: “Is Mytilus galloprovincialis anaerobic metabolism suppressed or elevated during thermal stress? I expect the results to reveal a significant elevation of succinate in the anaerobic hot condition. [I found that] temperature may or may not have a significant effect on the rate of reaction of anaerobic metabolism in Mytilus galloprovincialis.”

Significance of Project: “Studying how mussels perform their metabolic processes under temperature stress allows greater insight into how the organisms of the intertidal zone are acclimating to climate change.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “I plan to attend a Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) and ultimately obtain a Ph.D. I have a long term goal of working as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. I hope to one day create low-cost medications derived from plant or animal by-products.”

Cortez Espinoza

Cortez Espinoza

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Major: Exercise Science

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Travis Peterson

Research Title: The Influence of Golf Shaft Characteristics on Measures of Golf Swing Generation

Research Summary: “The study proposes to investigate whether differences in golf shaft stiffness changes the way players regulate linear and angular impulse in an effort to accelerate the system and generate clubhead speed. We hypothesize that net angular impulse generated by an individual would stay the same when swinging with a driver with different shaft stiffness. It is expected that the contribution of the rear and target foot would generate the same linear impulse generation between clubs. We also hypothesize an equal reaction force magnitude and direction generated by each leg since the golf shot is essentially the same. Overall, this study aimed to investigate the influence of golf shaft characteristics on ground reaction forces for highly skilled golf players.”

Significance of Project: “The results of the study are important for golf players and coaches to understand how players generate the golf swing from the ground up with clubs of varying shaft properties, and could have implications toward reaction force generation in balance impaired populations.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “This upcoming summer I plan on enrolling into a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program after graduation in May 2020.”

Giovanni Flores

Giovanni Flores

Hometown: Santa Paula, CA

Major: Computer Science

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Craig Reinhart

Research Title: Using Natural Language Processing to Communicate Ideas More Clearly in Writing

Research Summary: “How does one efficiently remove filler words from written text? I was curious about Natural Language Processing as a field, and felt like this project would expose me to this subfield in computer science. I hoped to show that it is possible to remove filler content from written text using the Python toolkit…[Ultimately,] I was able to remove the content, but not in an efficient manner. For content longer than a few pages, the algorithm slowed to a crawl.”

Significance of Project: “Removing filler content takes time for any writer. I hoped to build an algorithm that would give hints as to what should be removed.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “I hope to enroll in a graduate program in computer science, while at the same time being able to get some industry experience working as a developer.”

Joanna Portillo

Joanna Portillo

Hometown: Santa Clarita, CA

Major: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Marcey

Research Title: The Characterization of a Suspected P-transposable Element Near Su(var)2-10 in Drosophila Melanogaster

Research Summary: “Why do our fruit flies have an extra eye mutation? Why does this mutation demonstrate non-traditional characteristics? I am looking at genomic sequences that are expected to play a role in the extra eye mutation using Splinkerette PCR. The sequences will be matched to Dr. Marcey’s epigenetic model and we expect our results to match Dr. Marcey’s epigenetic model to explain the extra eye mutation.”

Significance of Project: “Studying epigenetics and genetics is so important because there are so many questions that need answering. Especially at this time, where more and more of the population are requesting genetic testing for disease markers. This testing is only the first step since much more is involved in the development of mutations than the genetic code. This is what my project elaborates on.

Post-Graduation Plans: “After graduation I hope to attend a genetics graduate program to ultimately obtain my doctorate in genetics.”

Stephanie Figueroa

Stephanie Figueroa

Hometown: North Hollywood, CA

Major: Communication ‘20

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aaron Heresco

Research Title: Viewer's Perceptions of Homosexuality in Television

Research Summary: “How does the likability of gay male characters affect viewer's perceptions? I am curious to see how a minority group is represented in currently on-air shows...I have found that while some characters scored high on the Likability Scale, some participants showed some signs of homophobia. Additionally, portraying a gay male antagonist had no correlation with viewer's perceptions of their sexuality.”

Significance of Project: “Portraying homosexuality in television is important because not only do the characters serve as role models for LGBTQ+ youth, but also the shows indirectly raise awareness of laws negatively impacting the LGBTQ+ community. My project is important because it addresses social justice for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “After graduation, I hope to pursue my Masters and Ph.D in Communications and work in the entertainment industry.”

Brianna Zaragoza

Brianna Zaragoza

Hometown: Granada Hills, CA

Major: English

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Scott Chiu

Research Title: Integrating Culturally Inclusive Writing Pedagogies

Research Summary: “This study hopes to determine if Latina/o and/or Hispanic students at CLU are empowered by culturally sustaining pedagogies. This study also hopes to determine how CLU can implement strategies that may better serve Latina/o and/or Hispanic students… Preliminary results indicate that while diversity initiatives have greatly improved the experiences of Latina/o and/or Hispanic students, there are still many unique challenges. Therefore, there is an urgent need to re-examine and change current writing pedagogies that will require creativity, flexibility, and cultural awareness to ensure equity.”

Significance of Project: “This project is important because diversity in higher education is increasing. Therefore, institutions such as Cal Lutheran which is an HSI, must ensure that teaching pedagogies embrace the diversity of their students and provide empowering practices.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “I plan to enter a PhD program in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Composition. My research interests include Latinx studies, teaching and writing pedagogies, and studies in leadership in higher education.”

Andrea Sanchez

Andrea Sanchez

Hometown: Oxnard, CA

Major(s): Psychology/ Spanish  

Faculty Mentors: Dr. Melissa Donovick

Research Title: Examining Barriers to Mental Health Services Among Latino Immigrants, Age and Belongingness

Research Summary: “I hope to show that there is a relationship between Latino immigrants’ age of arrival to the U.S. and their belongingness with their perceived barriers towards mental health services… Although there was no statistical significance in the relationship, two trends were observed. Individuals that arrived to the U.S. at older ages had less perceived barriers towards mental health services and lower levels of belongingness was associated with more perceived barriers towards mental health.”

Significance of Project: “My project is important because it aims to increase awareness of those who may need additional outreach programs to receive mental health services.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “After graduation I hope to enroll in a Ph.D. program in psychology.”

Kaitlyn Marquez

Kaitlyn Marquez

Hometown: Reseda, CA

Major: Biology/Chemistry

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Grady Hanrahan

Research Title: Separation and Characterization of Drug Metabolites and Associated Biotransformation Pathways

Research Summary: “The goal of this research is to elucidate the biotransformation pathways and chemical separation of common medications, dietary supplements, and their associated urinary metabolites. Expected outcomes include the identification of reactive metabolites, the elucidation chemical structure as it relates to possible toxicity, and a greater understanding of metabolite screening. "As a result, this study will provide expanded knowledge in the field of metabolomics and provide critical information on the human health aspects of medicinal metabolism.”

Significance of Project: “This project looks at conversion rates of parent compounds to metabolites. By understanding theoretically how these compounds break down we can better understand how they may result in disfavorable side effects.”

Post-Graduation Plans: “I am excited about working closely with a faculty mentor and presenting my work to the community.”

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