News Release| Trinidad Cisneros; Cal State L.A.

May 27, 2011

Cal State L.A. bridges gap for graduate, from helping those in need on L.A.’s mean streets, to Stanford to help all of society at cellular levels

From under freeway overpasses, sordid hotels and Skid Row, to the hallowed halls of Stanford University, for graduate Trinidad Cisneros Cal State L.A. was a conduit for his passion for assisting those in need, to helping better all of society at the cellular level.

Cisneros will graduate with a bachelor’s in biology on Saturday, June 11, at 8 a.m. during CSULA’s 64th annual Commencement ceremony. A Boyle Heights resident, Cisneros will walk with his peers in the University’s Department of Biological Sciences.

Before Cisneros launched his stellar academic career at CSULA in 2007, he worked at Bienestar as a health educator for sex workers in Hollywood, and as a counselor and tutor for institutionalized youth at the Edgewood Center for Children and Families.

“It was important for me to get involved and help others, because I know poverty first hand; having grown up in the Pico Gardens Housing Projects. I witnessed many things that I knew that, as an adult, I wanted to change,” said Cisneros, 29. “I believe these experiences have made me receptive to the specific populations I’ve worked with, such as sex workers and at-risk youth who were at first reluctant to receive my help.”

His passion took him all over the mean streets of Los Angeles, places where many in society avoid, to assist those who many in society shun, such as families on Skid Row who he would help place in emergency housing.

Eventually, Cisneros’ commitment to bettering the lives of those in need sparked his interest in biology, which led him to CSULA.

Cisneros was accepted into the Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) Programs at CSULA, which makes the creativity and intellectual talents of minorities available to the scientific research community. He is also a MORE Programs Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Fellow and CSU-LSAMP Scholar.

While on campus, where he will graduate with a 3.7 GPA, Cisneros’ work in biomedical research has been “outstanding,” according to CSULA Professor Edith Porter. He conducted research in innate immunology under the guidance of Porter in CSULA’s College of Natural and Social Science. His project involved the assessment of host-derived antimicrobial lipids for their potential as breast cancer therapeutics.

Trinidad has been one of the most enthusiastic and inquisitive aspiring scientists whom I have encountered. He radiates fascination for science and is always eager to know more,” explained Porter. “Despite a huge course load and being engaged in research, Trinidad still made time to serve the MORE programs in various functions that involved student leadership. He has a strong team spirit and is a wonderful citizen.

Though he was accepted for graduate studies at 10 of the top research universities in the nation, Cisneros chose to pursue his doctorate at Stanford in immunology. His focus on biomedical research stems from an altruistic need to help his community.

“Cal State L.A. has been more than just an academic incubator, or a hub of intellectual discourse. It has been a refuge for me where I have been able to refine my skills as a scholar, and for making lifelong friends,” said Cisneros. “The University has prepared me for Stanford by giving me a strong foundation in the life sciences. I expect that my experience at Stanford will help prepare me reach my career goals of remaining in the academy as a professor, mentor and primary investigator.”

In addition, Cisneros has conducted research at other institutions to gain experience in different facets of biomedical science. In 2009 he was an Amgen Scholar at the University of Washington, working with Dr. Merrill Hille investigating the roles of the protein CDC42 involved in cell migration and notochord formation during early embryogenesis of Danio rerio. 

In 2010 he was at Harvard with Dr. Shiv Pillai working on a project investigating B-cell receptor editing in the context of autoimmunity. The objective of this project was to investigate if there was a subset of individuals with autoimmune diseases that have defects in central tolerance.

According to Cisneros, “My research experiences at UW, Harvard and Cal State L.A. have in aggregate fueled my commitment toward a career in science, as a professor, researcher and mentor. These experiences, coupled with my experience at CSULA and Stanford, will allow me to give back by fostering the next generation of scientists as a mentor, while providing scientific insights into human health and disease.”

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Working for California since 1947: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 215,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds—reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six Colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to the Honors College for high-achieving students, opening in fall 2011. Programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, housed in the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center.