José Omar Castellón
Cal State LA student receives NSF fellowship
for doctoral program at UCLA
By Margie Low
Cal State LA News Service
José Omar Castellón knew he wanted to pursue a career in the sciences. But, it wasn’t until he attended a chemistry laboratory class that he discovered his interest in scientific research.
That undergraduate lab class helped define his personal mission, which was developed further as a graduate student at California State University, Los Angeles.
“I hope one day I will be working in the biosciences or pharmaceutical industry while conducting research to help cure diseases,” Castellón says.
This month, the Oxnard resident will receive his Master of Science in Chemistry from Cal State LA and be the first in his family to earn a graduate degree.
Castellón, who was recently awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, will attend UCLA’s Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program in the fall.
The fellowship will provide Castellón $34,000 per year for his first three years of doctoral study in biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology.
Castellón credits much of his success to the support he has received from the faculty and staff members at Cal State LA.
“I have been fortunate in meeting the right people that believe in my abilities as a budding scientist,” he says.
He was admitted to Cal State LA’s graduate program through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation–Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship (LSAMP-BD).
The LSAMP-BD fellowship is part of a comprehensive, statewide program dedicated to broadening participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. It is funded by the NSF and the Office of the CSU Chancellor.
“The Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship has helped fund my master’s degree and has provided me guidance toward entering a Ph.D. program,” Castellón says.
As part of his LSAMP-BD fellowship, he researched antifreeze proteins in Professor Xin Wen’s chemistry and biochemistry lab. Earlier this year, he presented his graduate thesis on “Investigation of Ionic Interactions Between Calcium Carbonate and Engineered Antifreeze Proteins” at the 2017 Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington, D.C.
During his time at Cal State LA, Castellón also participated in a LSAMP-BD summer research experience in Costa Rica. There, he lived in a reserve studying the habitat, behavior and metabolism of a giant lizard.
Castellón completed his undergraduate degree with a dual major in chemistry and Spanish and a minor in biology at CSU Channel Islands. He also worked for an agricultural chemistry laboratory for about a year, where he analyzed soil and plant samples to help local farmers improve their yields.
His professional experience, along with his Cal State LA education, have prepared him for the future, he says.
“I am excited and nervous but I am looking forward to the next couple of years as I develop myself as a scientific researcher,” Castellón says.