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2015-2017 MARC Cohort






Maximizing Access to Research Careers: Summer 2015-2017 Cohort


Susana Calderon

Major: Chemistry

Home City: Hollister, CA


Faculty Mentor: Professors Erik Menke/Hrant Hratchian

Susana Calderon is an incoming third year undergraduate student majoring in the Chemical Sciences with an in interest in theoretical and computational work. Susana was a Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MAPS) Program scholar for the years of 2013-2015. She has also received the Grossman Scholar award in Chemistry and Chemical Biology for the 2013-2014 year. Susana is currently the Vice President of the American Chemical Society Student Chapter of UC Merced and of the Science Alliance Club. She has also volunteered her time and skills to the community of Merced since she was in high school. Susana helped tutor and mentor elementary students of Ada Givens and helped lead and mentor elementary and middle school students for the local 4H department in their Summer Science Academy. She currently mentors and leads elementary students of Joe Stefani in science experiments in hope of expanding their knowledge and curiosity of the natural world. Susana enjoys drawing and reading in her spare time and loves visiting Yosemite National Park at any time of the year.
Exploration of Electronic Structures of Nitrogen-Radical Precursors for use in Amination 
Susana Calderon, Erik Menke, PhD, Ryan Baxter, PhD, and Hrant P. Hratchian, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
Selective amination refers to the introduction of amine groups into organic systems, which is a highly versatile yet challenging synthetic practice common in pharmaceutical synthesis. As such, it is important to find cheaper and more effective methods of creating amine groups. Nitrogen-radical synthesis is a route we have taken in order to make amine groups from accessible stock compounds. We are faced with the challenges of understanding how and predicting where Nitrogen-radical precursors will create radicals by cleavage of Nitrogen-Oxygen bonds. Using computational methodologies, we will explore the electronic structures of readily available Nitrogen-radical precursors in a controlled environment and seek novel applications for selective addition of amine groups based on their radical formation.

Benny Escobedo

Major: Biological Sciences

Home City: Winton, CA


Faculty Mentor: Professor Rudy Ortiz

Benny is a third year Biology major with an emphasis in Microbiology and Immunology at UC Merced. His research interests lie in studying angiotensin II-mediated oxidative stress and its contribution to promoting beta-cell failure as well as renal Sodium handling in response to AT1 receptor and GLP -1 receptor activation in a model of insulin resistant rats. Benny also allocates his time to his community, particularly through volunteering in the Emergency Room at the Mercy Medical Center. Benny is also a Certified Writing Tutor at the Bright Success Center at UC Merced and is also part of the Yosemite Leadership Program. He also takes great pride in working with the youth of his community, continually tutoring and working with students from different high schools from Merced County. Benny also enjoys playing soccer, reading, and going to the Yosemite National Park.
Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Receptor Activation and Angiotensin Receptor Blackade Decrease NADPH Oxidase 4 Protein Expression and Urinary Albumin Excretion in a Model of Metabolic Syndrome
Benny Escobedo and Rudy M. Ortiz, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
Diabetic Nephropathy is associated with oxidative stress and increased urinary albumin excretion. Angiotensin receptor type 1 (AT1) blockade improved renal oxidative stress via downregulation of NOX 4 and improved overall kidney damage by reducing albumin excretion. Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1r) activation decreased glomerular NOX 4 expression and albumin excretion in streptozotocin- induced diabetic rats. To test the hypothesis that the combination of AT1 blockade and GLP-1r activation decreases oxidative stress and subsequent kidney damage, we measured renal NOX 4 protein expression and albumin excretion in five rat groups: 1) untreated, lean LETO (n=7), 2) untreated, obese OLETF (n=9), 3) OLETF + angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB; 10 mg olmesartan /kg/d; n=9), 4) OLETF + GLP-1 mimetic (Exe; 10 ug exenatide/kg/d; n=7), and 5) OLETF + ARB + exenatide (combo; n=6). Renal NOX 4 protein expression is expected to increase in OLETF compared to LETO; whereas, ARB and Exe are expected to decrease it, and combo treatment is expected to decrease it the most. Albumin excretion increased in OLETF compared to LETO; whereas, ARB and Exe decreased it, and combo treatment decreased it further. These data suggest that AT1 blockade and GLP-1r activation improve oxidative stress, highlighting the impact of the activation of these receptors in the pathogenesis of diabetes- associated renal impairments.