Meet the local leaders for the HSI STEM Resource Hub.
Meet the local leaders for the HSI STEM Resource Hub.
NMSU Regent’s Professor | HSI STEM hub Principal Investigator
Dr. Elba Serrano, NMSU Regent’s Professor, is a first-generation-to-college student who earned her Ph.D. in biological sciences from Stanford University and an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Rochester. Her laboratory investigates the development of the sensory systems for hearing and balance and the role of neuroglia in brain function. At the national level, Dr. Serrano is a prominent contributor to the development of policy for STEM research and workforce development. She has served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins and as co‐Chair of the NIH ACD Working Group on Diversity. Dr. Serrano is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and her achievements in promoting student success have been recognized with a SACNAS Distinguished Mentor Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Distinguished Mentor Award, and a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mentoring in Science, Engineering, and Math. In 2020, Cell Press named Serrano one of the “100 inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists in America.”
Dr. MariaElena Zavala has been a professor at CSUN for the last 30 years, where she has pioneered the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) and Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) diversity programs for STEM. She earned her undergraduate degree in Botany from Pomona College and her PhD in Botany from UC Berkeley. Dr. Zavala’s research focuses on the developmental regulation of plants. She served as president of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and was elected to the ASPB Executive Committee. Her achievements in research and mentoring have been recognized with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering, the CSU Trustee Faculty award, and her societal appointments as a fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society for Plant Biology, and American Society for Cell Biology.
Department of Computer and Information Technology Chair | DACC Regents Professor | HSI STEM hub Co-PI
Jon Juarez is a New Mexico State University Regents Professor and Chair of the Computer Information and Technology Department at Dona Ana Community College. He has authored eight database application textbooks published by McGraw-Hill. He serves as co-chair of the New Mexico Collegiate Business Articulation Consortium, board member of the New Mexico Association for Career and Technical Education, and member of NMSU College of Engineering Information Technology Degree Advisory Committee. He has served as the New Mexico Coordinator of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.
Dr. Sonya Cooper is a Regents Professor and interim dean in the College of Health and Social Services at NMSU. Prior to this position, she served as the academic associate dean in the College of Engineering. She has been a member of the Engineering Technology & Surveying Engineering department for 26 years, serving as department head prior to becoming an associate dean. In addition to the college academic administrative duties, she teaches courses in civil engineering topics and serves as co-advisor for several student organizations. She is very active in the community and state as a board member of non-profit organizations and practicing engineer for structural and historic preservation projects across the country. Dr. Cooper has held officer positions in state and national professional societies and education committees, and has served as a national engineering accreditation commissioner and evaluator.
NMSU Regents Professor | HSI STEM hub Co-PI
Dr. Martha Desmond is a Regents Professor at NMSU in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology. She received her BA in Environmental Studies from Wells College and MS and PhD In wildlife ecology from the University of Nebraska where she studied burrowing owl population ecology. She completed an NSF International Postdoctoral Fellowship working with the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua and Texas A&M. Her avian ecology research focuses on birds in grassland and aridland systems as well as urban environments. While working in the border region, she became interested in educational programs for diverse communities. Educational programs that she has developed have mentored thousands of students locally and nationally across natural resource fields, working collaboratively with federal agencies on the development of diverse workforces.
Dr. Monica Torres oversees the planning, development and implementation of educational programs at Dona Ana Community College. She works collaboratively with deans, division directors, department chairs and program directors to meet the needs of a diverse community of learners at the community college and the community at large. Dr. Torres has also previously served as an assistant professor, associate professor and department head at NMSU’s Department of English. There, she taught classes, advised graduate students and performed research. As department head she oversaw the operation of the department including curricular, teaching and administrative functions. Torres has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from NMSU. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in American Studies with an emphasis in Cultural Studies.
Pasadena City College Adjunct Faculty | HSI STEM hub key personnel
Dr. Jorge Iniguez earned a Ph.D. in Biological sciences from UC Irvine, and an undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). He has served as an instructor at CSUN and Pasadena City College (PCC). Dr. Iniguez is improving student success by providing research opportunities at PCC. His peer-reviewed publications facilitated a partnership with CSUN that brought the NIH BUILD PODER program to the biology department at PCC. He has received over $90,000 in scholarships and fellowships and plans to use his persuasive writing skills to provide additional funding for the project. He has experience working with students from diverse backgrounds and is committed to providing equitable access for all students to achieve personal development, critical thinking, information literacy and literacy competence.
NMSU Associate Professor | HSI STEM hub key personnel
Dr. Delia Valles-Rosales is Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at NMSU, where she received her Ph.D. She is originally from Mexico. Her research uses nature to inspire the development of innovative manufacturing processes, new processes of biomass utilization in the plastic industry, and models and algorithms for system optimization in agriculture, industry, and service areas. Dr. Valles-Rosales has been investigating various biomass resources as fibers to be coupled with polymers for fulfilling the need of new applications. Her research has studied the effect of materials and particle size on the mechanical properties represented by tensile, bending, impact resistance, and water absorption properties. Dr. Valles-Rosales is currently the NMSU Director of the Wheels of Change: A Consortium to Develop Champions in Agriculture in the Areas of Sustainable Energy and Natural Resource Management Program funded by USDA.
Dr. Gabriela Morales is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at NMSU. She earned her BA in Electronic Media (Digital Media) and MA in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at El Paso and her PhD in Culture and Health Communication from the University of New Mexico. Her research particularly focuses on communication and culture, health communication, health promotion (particularly the role of community health workers/promotoras), border health, and public health. She has also done research on health literacy, cancer communication, disability studies, and media studies. Dr. Morales has worked extensively with national and local health organizations using participatory action forms of research, regularly working with communities to be equal members in the research process as well as advocating for cultural competency.
Dr. Karen Mabry is an Associate Professor in the Biology Department at New Mexico State University. She earned her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from Clemson University, master’s in Ecology from the University of Georgia, and Ph.D. in Animal Behavior from the University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on the behavior and ecology of both insects and vertebrate animals living in spatially and temporally variable environments. She served as a Program Officer in the Directorate for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation from 2017-2020.
Sherwin Lau is a filmmaker and educator based in New Mexico. Since 2006, he has worked on independent films, documentaries, commercials, music videos and has collaborated with filmmakers all around the world. He has worked for clients such as Warner Brothers, Dolby Labs, Fueled By Ramen, Blackmagic Design, Organ Mountain Outfitters, and Gypsy City Music. His professional work has been featured in prestigious film publications like American Cinematographer. Sherwin is a DaVinci Resolve Certified Trainer and a professional member of the Colorist Society International. In addition to his filmmaking career, he teaches classes in Editing, Color Grading, Sound Design, Cinematography, Producing, Documentary, and Short Film Production and has taught in schools and conferences all over the world. His passion for filmmaking and education is rooted in his faith and leads his desire to use his platform as a visual storyteller and educator to be an encouragement to others.
Giovanna Garrido Blanco is an NIH-funded Bridges to the Doctorate Training Program (BDP) scholar who examines using technological interventions to promote health and educational outcomes for minority populations. As a community health psychologist, Giovanna works on projects with NASA JPL and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to examine the contexts and psychological mechanisms that influence how people interact with the world. Growing up in a low income, immigrant, household raised by a single mother influenced her commitment to developing and implementing patient- and family-centered practices – particularly those that are contextualized by the surrounding community, and equitable and holistic health services. She is currently earning her Masters in Psychological Sciences at California State University, Northridge – en route to obtaining her MD/PhD specializing in Family Medicine.
Miriam Gabriela Favela is an experienced Andrology Laboratory Scientist and Junior Embryologist from Sunland Park, NM. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from NMSU and has been a member of several research laboratories including Dr. Serrano at New Mexico State University, Dr. Brooks-Kayal at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Dr. Catterall at University of Washington, and Dr. Jaffe at University of Texas at San Antonio. She most recently worked at a reproductive clinic helping couples conceive through assisted reproductive technologies including invitro fertilization. Though she has a strong love for research and laboratory science, she is now pursuing a degree in medicine where she hopes to be an advocate and provider to underserved communities.
Jarod received his MBA at New Mexico State University. He was a camp director for three years at Gorham Scout Ranch, where he gained a passion for non-traditional education and leadership training. With a B.S. in Microbiology and a B.B.A. in Management, Jarod has a background of hybridizing STEM and organizational theory into new approaches to systemic problems. Jarod champions innovation from diverse perspectives and its resulting strategies. Having experience in higher education and student affairs, outdoor programs, STEM research, project management, and leadership theory, Jarod excels in cross-functional environments. He is proud to apply these approaches as a Project Manager with the HSI STEM Resource Hub.
Lorena Casiano graduated from New Mexico State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Genetics and Biotechnology. She has been an undergraduate student researcher in laboratories including Dr. Serrano’s at New Mexico State University and Dr. Freed’s at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Her areas of interest consist of neurodegenerative disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, and Epilepsy. She is on the path to continuing her education and applying to neuroscience PhD programs at multiple graduate schools, where she hopes to start in a program in fall of 2023.
Jacob Croft is currently obtaining his master’s degree in Biology at New Mexico State University where he is researching copepod interactions with rainbow trout. He earned his undergraduate degree at Arizona State University in Biological Sciences and has done educational outreach with the El Paso Zoo communicating information about animals, their habitats and conservation status with patrons of the community. He plans to work in the field of wildlife ecology after completion of his degree focusing on disease in conservation.
HSI STEM hub Senior Program Manager
Oct 2018-Sept 2019
Dr. Bleu Knight has diversified STEM at New Mexico State University over the last four years through coordinating research education activities for the Student Training & Research through United Partnerships (STARTUP) component of the Minority Biomedical Research Support Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program. Prior to that, she spent two years developing and teaching undergraduate curricula comprising professional development activities, scientific writing, and ethics training for underrepresented undergraduate students interested in neuroscience research careers (participants in the NIH BLUEPRINT_ENDURE Neuroscience Research Program) at NMSU. Her research uses transcriptomics to illuminate programs that underlie developmental and transformative biological processes.
HSI STEM hub Senior Program Manager
Margie Vela holds a Ph.D. in Water Science and Management from New Mexico State University and is a USDA NIFA Fellow. Dr. Vela has devoted her career to diversifying STEM through supporting and training underserved students. Her contributions to broadening participation of underrepresented groups in STEM include serving Delaware State University as the Assistant Director for the Science and Mathematics Initiative for Learning Enrichment; performing analysis on broader impacts as a National Science Foundation Summer Scholar; and serving Child, Youth, and School Services for Fort Lee, Virginia as the Project Director for the HIRED! Program. She has also designed and lead workshops for college students and researchers on various topics including interdisciplinary research, complex socio-environmental problems, and college success. As a researcher, Dr. Vela has successfully engaged community-based research focused on the relationships of water inequity and educational attainment for communities on the Southern U.S. Border while mentoring and supporting three undergraduate researchers during her doctoral studies. Margie has served as a USAID volunteer consultant for rural organic farmers in Colombia for water use and organizational development. Dr. Vela joined Amazon Web Services as Senior Program Manager in June 2022
HSI STEM hub Program Coordinator
Oct 2018- Aug 2019
Karen Garcia graduated from CSUN with her Bachelors of Arts Degree in Psychology. During her last 2 years, she was accepted into the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program and is where she met Dr. Zavala and became interested in research. She went on to work in a lab at CSUN and was accepted to the UCSD STARS Program twice as a summer intern. She just applied for her Masters in Clinical Psychology and hopes to get her Ph.D. in clinical health psychology and work with cancer patients in the Latino community.
Edmundo Medina holds a medical degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez (UACJ), where he found a passion for understanding different biological mechanisms. After working on the clinical side of medicine and as a professor for Medical Physiology, Human Physiology and Patient Management courses, he decided to expand his research skills, finishing an M.Sc. Degree in Genomics at UACJ. For his Master’s thesis, he directed a project in the characterization of an ion channel in a heterologous expression system where he developed expertise with neural cell culture and whole-cell patch-clamp techniques. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biology at New Mexico State University focused on projects that combine his clinical knowledge with neuroscience connectomics, molecular modeling, and lipid analysis.
Nicolas Mendez is a Master student in Industrial Engineering. He is from Bogota, Colombia and completed his Bachelor’s degree at La Salle University in 2018. During his professional career, he has worked in the pharmaceutical industry performing quality control, process analysis and cost evaluations. He is a member of the Recruitment Team for the Department of Industrial Engineering at New Mexico State University, working with middle and high school students to pursue a career in engineering. For his academic program he is working on research composites that will help to reduce waste in industry and re-use of environmental contaminant materials.
NMSU Associate Vice President for Research | HSI STEM hub key personnel
NMSU Regents Professor Dr. Luis A. Vázquez served as interim vice president for research from 2016-2018. From 2007-2011, he served as associate dean of NMSU’s Graduate School. From 2001-2007, he served as department head in Counseling and Educational Psychology in the College of Education. In 2006, Vázquez was selected as a Regents Professor. He served as an associate professor in Counseling and Educational Psychology from 1999-2005, being promoted to full professor in 2005. Vázquez holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Illinois State, a master’s in counseling and human development from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, also from the University of Iowa. Vázquez served as an assistant professor for graduate programs in the Division of Counselor Education from 1993-1995 and was a senior staff psychologist in the University Counseling Service from 1990-1993 at the University of Iowa.
Celina Morales earned her undergraduate degree in Public Health and Biology and is currently a Master of Public Health Candidate in Applied Epidemiology at California State University, Northridge. She is a MHIRT scholar, RISE scholar, and MARC scholar and her research interests include nutrition, violence, and sociocultural stressors among minority and immigrant populations. She plans to obtain her PhD in global health and as a future educator she is committed to breaking barriers to academic equity and success.
Fallon Murphy is a Master student in Communication Studies at New Mexico State University and received her undergraduate degree in Communication Studies and Linguistics. Her research interests are culture, identity and media & technology. She has worked in public relations for 4+ years for ASNMSU, a local family health organization, and a content architect firm in Colorado. She has sat as a voting member and ex officio member for the Continuing Diversity Board on campus, as well as a voting member for the Student Advocacy Board, representing students during the New Mexico legislative sessions. Currently, she is working on her master’s thesis on video gaming, avatar relationships, and identity.
Daniel is a doctoral student and ethnographic filmmaker at New Mexico State University. Academic works include an edited volume on multicultural children’s literature, and publications on Latinx identity and consciousness in pedagogy, digital andragogy, and social movements in Latino religious communities. He produces a film series exploring the experiences and pedagogies of Chicano visual artists. This series highlights connections between art, STEM, gender, and ethnicity. Daniel has consulted with NASA to improve collaborations with Latino communities and NATO on institutional and intercultural conflict. He serves on the editorial board of the Bilingual Review/Revista Bilingüe and has been a Senior Editor on the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy.
Shannon Rodriguez graduated with university honors from New Mexico State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy. As an undergraduate she was selected for a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) internship in the U.S. Senate. Her areas of interest are ethics, social justice, immigration, and public policy. Post-graduation, Shannon has worked in the New Mexico State Legislature and has been accepted for a Master of Science in Migration Studies at the University of Oxford where she hopes to start in the fall of 2021.
Resource for Hispanic Serving Institutions that promotes collaborations for STEM research education, develops research capacity, and enhances STEM pedagogy.