Bridges to the Future Program | Spotlight

Aspiring researcher looks at protein to remedy infectious diseases

Summer program provides first-hand lab research experience for students

Lab experiment:

Links of interest:

Bridges to the Future Program at CSULA: /

MARC Program at CSULA: /

LSAMP-BD program at CSULA: /

2009 Annual Report of Research at Cal State L.A.: /

National Institutes of Health:

Cal State L.A.’s Department of Biological Sciences: /

Cal State L.A.’s College of Natural and Social Sciences: /

Other opportunities for students to conduct research at Cal State L.A.: /

L-r: Edith Porter, Bertha Martin and Daniel Delgado.
Pictured (l-r): Biology Professor Edith Porter observes as graduate mentor Bertha Martin works with Bridges to the Future student Daniel Delgado to prepare the samples for lipid extraction to eventually test for cholesterol ester.

With a passion for science and medicine, Daniel Delgado hopes to play a part in finding future cures for some of the world’s most infectious diseases.

For 10 weeks this summer, Delgado is participating in Cal State L.A.’s Bridges to the Future Program. Being exposed for the first time to advanced lab research, he is helping to study the biological function of a protein found in airways of humans and other mammals, identified as Palate, Lung and Nasal epithelium clone (PLUNC).

Working alongside graduate student Bertha Martin in Professor Edith Porter’s Innate Immunity Laboratory at CSULA, Delgado has been analyzing the association of antimicrobial cholesterol esters with PLUNC in airway fluids collected by collaborators from living organisms.

Delgado explained, “Our goal is to identify carrier proteins for antimicrobial lipids—natural antibiotics made out of fats—that could lead to new drugs to treat infectious diseases, such as cystic fibrosis.”

According to Professor Porter, an expert in medical microbiology and innate immunity, “The research is important to the overall understanding of natural defenses against infections, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in the areas of immunity and health.” Porter’s lab work is supported by a National Institutes of Health grant.

Delgado, who hopes to pursue a M.D./Ph.D. to become a physician scientist, was admitted to CSULA’s Bridges to the Future Program at the recommendation of his biology instructor at East Los Angeles College (ELAC). The summer program is a collaborative between CSULA and ELAC to increase the transfer of minority students to CSULA who have aptitude in the biomedical science disciplines.

L-r: Daniel Delgado and Bertha Martin.
Bridges to the Future student Daniel Delgado and his mentor, Bertha Martin, divide the samples into fractions using the gel-size extraction column.

“My experience at CSULA so far has been pretty incredible,” said Delgado. “It’s been interesting to learn the various techniques to answering questions through science. I am looking forward to working with Dr. Porter continually. She’s been a great professor—always there to provide guidance.”

“It’s been exciting to share the research progress with Delgado,” said Martin, a LSAMP-BD scholar who will begin applying to a Ph.D. program in pathology or immunology. “We both learned a lot during the summer analyzing all the experiments. It’s my first time mentoring an undergraduate student, so it’s been an eye-opener to actually rediscover everything that I know.”

While at CSULA, Delgado impressed Martin as well as other students and faculty with his intuition and inspiration. He was referred and accepted to the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) fellowship program at CSULA this fall. This honors undergraduate research training program will prepare Delgado to successfully compete for positions in top graduate programs leading to the Ph.D. in scientific fields.

Porter said, “Even though he didn’t come to CSULA with any advanced lab experience, Delgado has demonstrated that he is bright, attentive, eager to learn and open to exploring different solutions. He has actually already provided some innovative ideas throughout the research.”

On Friday, Aug. 19, 1 p.m., Delgado and Martin will present results of their research project, entitled “Carrier Protein Identification of Airway Secreted Antimicrobial Cholesterol Esters,” at the Summer Student Research Poster Presentations in the Physical Sciences building first-floor lobby on the CSULA campus.

The event will also include poster presentations by CSULA students in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program and Project SEED, along with other participants in the National Institutes of Health-Bridges to the Future summer program.