CSUPERB | January 22, 2013 | Spotlight

Cal State L.A. biology alums recognized by CSUPERB

CSU celebrates 25 years of contributing to biotechnology research

President Rosser honored at the 2013 CSU Biotechnology Symposium. (Photo by CSU.)

A salute to Rosser

During the 25th CSU Biotechnology Symposium, President James M. Rosser of Cal State L.A. received special recognition for his role as a founding member of the CSUPERB Presidents’ Commission.

He was key in championing the collaborations between CSUPERB’s eight Los Angeles-area campuses, the Southern California Biomedical Council (a life-science industry trade association), and the Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative. The formal agreements strengthen the alignment between biological education and the biotechnology industry, thereby bolstering opportunities in life-science education, innovation, and workforce development.

On the CSULA campus, President Rosser has been supportive in the implementation of several academic programs geared toward the M.S. in Biotechnology, the Biotechnology Certificate, Clinical Genetic Molecular Biologist Scientist Training, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s Bridges to Stem Cell Research.

Created in 1987 as a systemwide program, CSUPERB aims to develop a professional biotechnology workforce by mobilizing and supporting collaborative CSU student and faculty research, innovating educational practices, and responding to and anticipating the needs of the life science industry.

Pictured: (l-r) Humboldt State President and CSUPERB Presidents’ Commission Chair Rollin Richmond; SFSU Professor and CSUPERB Faculty Consensus Group Chair Michael Goldman; President Rosser; CSUPERB Executive Director Susan Baxter; and Cal State L.A. alumnus and Grifols Biologicals, Inc. President Willie Zuniga.

Find out more at the following links:

* CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB):

* CSU Biotechnology Symposium release:

* CSU blog: “The 25th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium Celebrates Past, Present and Future”:

* Office of Graduate Studies and Research at CSULA:

* MBRS-RISE Program at CSULA:

* Department of Biological Sciences at CSULA:

* College of Natural and Social Sciences at CSULA:

Hector Aguilar-Carreno is in the frontline conducting groundbreaking research on one of most deadly viruses to infect humankind. And, Michael Lipscomb is doing cutting-edge research on dendritic cells and T cells, which may lead to innovative ways to combat infectious diseases and cancer.

Both Cal State L.A. biology graduates were two of only seven California State University (CSU) alumni recently chosen to speak in the opening session at the annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium. In commemoration of its 25th year, the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB) invited select CSU alumni, who had made careers in a broadly defined range of biotechnology careers, to play a role in the symposium proceedings.

Hector Aguilar-Carreno

Photo of Hector Aguilar-Carreno.

Aguilar-Carreno, who earned his master’s degree in biology at Cal State L.A., is currently an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University (WSU).

As part of the honor, he presented a lecture on “Entry Mechanisms of the Deadly Nipah Virus: the Real CONTAGION Story” during the symposium.

According to Aguilar-Carreno, “Nipah virus is one of the most deadly human pathogens, with a mortality rate approaching 75 percent.”

Aguilar-Carreno’s laboratory at the WSU Allen School for Global Animal Health studies how this virus enters mammalian host cells, which profoundly effects global human and animal health.

“My lab utilizes a mixture of new biochemical, biophysical and molecular biology techniques,” he explained, “to understand step-by-step how two of the viral proteins make it possible for the virus to enter cells and spread from one cell to another.”

He was pleased to be selected by the CSU from a group of over 70 nominees, and credited his experience at CSULA for helping to develop his career as a scientist.

“Although the topic I focused on in the laboratory of Sandra Sharp was different from the research I do now, the lessons I learned and the knowledge I obtained from her and other faculty at CSULA were superb and extremely important,” said Aguilar-Carreno. “CSULA was an absolutely crucial transition between my primary and undergraduate education in Mexico, and my career as a scientist in the U.S.”

Sharp, who led the CSUPERB Genomic Analysis and Technologies Taskforce Meeting during this year’s symposium, nominated Aguilar-Carreno for his inspiring story and his knowledge in the area of virology.

“In my laboratory, Hector was a highly talented, passionate researcher,” said Professor Sharp. “He was a brilliant student, and was awarded a scholarship while at Cal State L.A. He went on to complete his Ph.D. at USC and had an extremely productive post-doctoral period in the laboratory of Benhur Lee at UCLA.”

Aguilar-Carreno’s advice for students pursuing a career as a scientist is to be patient.

“Science takes a lot of patience, and many times it is those projects that require patience that are the ones worthwhile doing,” he said. “I have a saying that I learned some time in my past that I love to share with everyone interested in being a scientist because it has helped me to be more efficient: ‘Do the RIGHT experiment, do the experiment RIGHT, and do the experiment RIGHT now.’”

Michael Lipscomb

Photo of Michael Lipscomb.

Lipscomb, who earned his master’s degree in biology at CSULA, is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Howard University.

He presented a lecture on “Cytoskeletal Architecture of Immune Cells Dictates Host Specific Defenses” during the symposium.

Lipscomb’s research focus is on immunology, Dendritic cell, T cell and immunological synapse. His lab team studies the role of the adaptive immune system, specifically focusing on the interaction between Dendritic cells and T cells in the periphery.

“We hope that understanding the mechanisms of immune response induction can lead to biomedical interventions to combat infectious disease and cancer, or suppress autoimmunity responses,” said Lipscomb.

In response to the CSU recognition, he said, “It’s a good feeling to be selected to be part of the first cohort of honorees and to be among thousands of alums out there, representing the CSU in the science and technology field.”

Lipscomb attributed his success to the Minority Biomedical Research Support-Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS-RISE) Program at CSULA and his faculty adviser, Nancy McQueen, for helping to jumpstart his career.

“With these resources, my academic journey at CSULA was educational and enriching,” he said.

He also described his time at CSULA as “a dash of fun in the sun,” referring to the window view of the campus from the lab where he spent days conducting research.

Lipscomb’s discipline and focus as a graduate student while at CSULA impressed Professor McQueen.

“In the two short years he was in the lab, his work on the anti-viral activity of the antimicrobial peptide retrocyclin laid the foundation for current work in the lab on the anti-viral effects of lipids,” said McQueen, who was a recipient of CSUPERB’s 2008 Biotechnology Faculty Research Award. “[Now] at Howard University, he has already begun the job of trying to set up new Bridges to the Ph.D. and MBRS-RISE programs. With his passion, drive and leadership abilities, I have no doubt that he will be successful in these endeavors.”

Lipscomb, who believes that “people are constrained only by incomplete understanding,” found his niche during his quest to answer biology-relevant questions through the applications of technology.

For students pursuing a similar career path, he offered these three tips: “Be trained well, seek excellent mentorship, and stay highly motivated.”