ASU molecular sciences students excel at TGen symposium

August 18, 2017

Three undergraduate biochemistry students from Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences presented at the Helios Scholars TGen 2017 Intern Symposium on July 28, showcasing their work in biomedical research over the summer.

Helios Scholars at TGen is an extremely prestigious eight-week summer internship program in biomedical research. Interns work full-time on a research project under the mentorship of a TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute) scientist to study the genetic components of diabetes, neurological disease and cancer. Helios Scholars also attend educational seminars, learn about career options in bioscience and practice scientific writing and research presentation skills. As a capstone to the summer program, scholars present their project results and accomplishments while at TGen at a formal research symposium. Helios Scholar Sidney Covarrubias Sidney Covarrubias with her research presentation at 2017 TGen Symposium. Download Full Image

The program is open to high school, undergraduate, graduate and medical school students in Arizona. This summer’s 45 Helios Scholars were selected from more than 500 applicants based on factors such as academic ability, initiative, personal achievements and more.

School of Molecular Sciences students Sidney Covarrubias, Alex Follette and Victoria Oladoye all gave poster presentations highlighting their project results at the TGen 2017 Intern Symposium.

Helios Scholar Sidney Covarrubias

Covarrubias conducted research on the infectious disease Melioidosis as part of a project for the Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine at the University of Arizona Phoenix campus.

“Melioidosis is a bacterium that has a mortality rate of 40 percent and affects areas in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia," she said. "Traditional diagnostics such as microbiological culturing and PCR have limitations such as time constraints, high costs, low sensitivity, and the need for trained personnel. Therefore, there is a need for the development of new diagnostics tools in order to overcome these limitations at point-of-care settings. We developed a miniaturized paper-based vertical flow immunoassay system in which a 13 mm nitrocellulose membrane was reduced to a 3.5 mm membrane in order to increase sensitivity and produce a device that accurately detected the disease.”

“This summer internship introduced me to all of the questions and processes that scientists face in their roles daily," Covarrubias said. "I learned to be patient with projects and to accept that science takes time due to the fact that multiple trials need to be consistent before one can move forward.”

Covarrubias said that the biggest thing that she gained from her experience as a Helios Scholar is the realization that medicine is truly her passion.

Alex Follette

Helios Scholar Alex Follette

Alex Follette presented on the results of DNA sequencing of canine lung cancer.

“While smoking is a common cause of lung cancer, about 30,000 never-smoker lung cancer (NS-LC) diagnoses are made each year in the U.S.," Follette said. “NS-LC is relatively understudied and a great need exists for new NS-LC treatments and accelerated clinical trials. The canine is a powerful model for comparative oncology that can help meet the need for accelerated clinical trials of candidate treatments. Compared to transgenic mouse models in which tumors are artificially induced, canine cancers arise naturally and are histopathologically similar to human cancers. To better understand the role that dogs with naturally occurring lung cancer may play as a model NS-LC, we sought to characterize its genomic landscape.”

Asked what he gained from his experience, Follette said, “I learned a great amount of information and skills during the summer, including public speaking, presenting data and creating scientific posters. Furthermore, I learned a great deal of technical information, how to conduct research and the computational utilities used in laboratory research. It was a great experience and I highly recommend interested students to apply to the Helios Scholarship Program.”

Victoria Oladoye

Victoria Oladoye (right) and Tom Avants with her research presentation at 2017 TGen Symposium.

Victoria Oladoye’s research was on childhood leukemia. Her poster session was titled, “The role of survivin splice variants in hypoxia-induced therapy resistance to the survivin targeting agent YM55.”

Tom Avants, senior academic adviser in the School of Molecular Sciences, attended the symposium and came away with great praise for the undergraduate presenters.

“As Victoria’s academic advisor, it was a joy to see the wonderful progress she has made as a student and first-class researcher," Avants said. "I remember meeting Victoria for the first time at freshman orientation. She has always been inquisitive, asking about minors, requesting overloads to 19 credit hours, always wanting to do more.”

Internships for the Helios Scholars at TGen program are available for undergraduate and graduate level-students in all areas of translational bioscience — including laboratory research, computer science and bioinformatics, mathematics and statistics, and research administration. To apply, visit

intern, School of Molecular Sciences

Freshman foodie looks forward to learning about language, culture and business at ASU

August 21, 2017

Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles of fall 2017 incoming ASU students.

Growing up in Yuma, Arizona, Lourdes Barraza sometimes yearned for a bit more excitement than the small border town had to offer. Now, as a freshman at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, she has more than she can handle. Lourdes Barraza Lourdes Barraza meets Sparky during move-in weekend at ASU's West campus. Download Full Image

“I like to tell friends about all the fun events constantly going on,” Barraza said.

Now that she has settled in her dorm at Casa de Oro on Arizona State University's West campus, the self-proclaimed foodie is looking forward to trying out new dishes and learning about the cultures behind them. It’s part of the reason she chose global management as a major.

“[I]t encompasses everything that I love,” Barraza said, “culture, language and international business.”

Though she hasn’t made a firm decision on the career path she’ll be pursuing, she’s considering supply chain management, marketing management or even working in the field of translation.

ASU Now caught up with Barraza as the reality of becoming a bona fide Sun Devil — something she has wanted since middle school — sinks in to get her take on why she loves ASU, what she’s watching and listening to, and her predictions for this year’s Territorial Cup game.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I participated in the summer engineering program a couple of years ago and fell in love with the school. I saw there were vast opportunities and resources available for students here at ASU.

Q: What drew you to global management?

A: I was drawn to my major because it encompasses everything that I love: culture, language and international business.

Q: What are you most excited to experience at ASU?

A: I'm excited to experience everything that is university life. Since I'm a freshman, everything seems new and intriguing.

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

A: There's lots to brag about when you attend a school like ASU, but I like to tell friends about all the fun events constantly going on.

Q: What talents and skills are you bringing to the ASU community?

A: I don’t have any particular talents or skills yet. I’m hoping to develop some during my four years here at ASU as a Sun Devil!

Q: What’s your favorite TV show right now?

A: Two anime series I’m enjoying at the moment are “Attack on Titan” and “One Punch Man.”

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your time at ASU?

A: Within my four years here at ASU, I hope I can accomplish my goal of learning both Mandarin and Korean.

Q: What’s one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

A: You wouldn't be able to tell by looking at me, but I really enjoy listening to Korean music. Lately it's been R&B and hip-hop.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in our world, what would you choose?

A: With $40 million, I would like to fund a project to provide clean water to necessitous people around the world.

Q: Predictions on the final score for this year’s Territorial Cup game?

A: There's no need to predict. Every Sun Devil knows the cup is ours to take!

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU News

(480) 965-9657