Research Honors | Spotlight

Top research honors for Cal State L.A. at CSU student competition

History, psychology majors garner first-place awards of $500 each

About 200 students from 22 California State Universities convened at Cal State L.A. May 1-2 to showcase their achievements in research, scholarship and creative activities at the 23rd annual CSU Student Research Competition.

Impressing the jurors with their presentations, Cal State L.A. psychology major Victor A. Cazares and history major Daniel Pierce garnered first-place honors—Cazares in behavioral and social sciences and Pierce in humanities and letters.

Additionally, presentations by mechanical engineering major Sara Esparza and music major Hainu Tan received second-place honors.

For a group photo of all Cal State L.A. participants, click here.

Hosted on the CSULA campus for the first time, the CSU competition is held annually to recognize and encourage excellence in undergraduate and graduate scholarly research and creative activity throughout the 23 CSU campuses.

Victor Cazares

Picture of Victor Cazares.Mentored by Alicia Izquierdo, assistant professor of psychology, Cazares presented his research on “Orbitofrontal Cortex Lesions Impair Responses to Cue Predicting Shifts in Work to Reward in Rats.”

He explained, “The research I conducted was an investigation of the involvement of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in decision making. Specifically, I tested whether the OFC was involved in responding to a stimulus associated with reward devaluation.”

“Winning the competition, that was definitely exciting!” Cazares said. “I definitely wanted to win and make my advisor proud. It was nice to see what everyone else was doing, to interact with them and talk about issues in the field. And it was also nice, in terms of winning, to see the University recognized for its research; and for others to see that research done here is valuable and will contribute to the field.”

Cazares will earn his master’s degree in psychology this spring and then head to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to pursue a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience. A recipient of a MBRS (Minority Biomedical Research Support) Fellowship and Michael Roffe Scholarship, Cazares also received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cal State L.A.

Daniel Pierce

Picture of Daniel Pierce.Mentored by Choi Chatterjee, associate professor of history, Pierce used personal interviews taken in the 1950s by Soviet emigres for his research, entitled
“Growing Up Red: Emigrant Youth and the Role of the Family in the Soviet Union.”

He explained, “I reinterpreted their results to argue that the role of family dramatically influenced Soviet youth during the 1930s, in three key areas: party politics, career/education aspirations, and religion.”

Pierce, a graduate of Simi Valley High School, completed his master’s degree in history this past winter while working full-time in the information technology department at SAGE Publications. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA.

According to Pierce, “My time at Cal State L.A. has allowed me to pursue my educational and career goals, with the full support of the entire history faculty. It feels great to be able to represent the fine faculty at Cal State L.A.”

He hopes to teach part-time at a local community college. “I have a deep passion for education and helping students reach their full potential,” he said.

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