Efren Researcher Spotlight
Dec. 29, 2022

Efren Heredia is a senior majoring in Biochemistry in the College of Sciences. He was an awardee of the 2022 OUR Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Mentored by Dr. Ernesto Abel-Santos, Professor of Biochemistry, Heredia's research focuses on Stability Assay of Anti-germination Compounds. Heredia also presented his work as a lightning talk at the Fall 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium.

  1. Please tell us about yourself. What are your current research interests and future career goals?
    I am a Biochemistry student at UNLV and am interested in pursuing a career in biomedical research. My interests include protein-protein and protein-drug interactions as well as subsequent effects on cellular pathways as a result of altering said interactions. I’m also, currently, an undergraduate researcher in the Abel-Santos lab where I get to explore this field and make new discoveries.
  2. How did you first get involved in research?
    I was actually, kind of, recruited into research. Biochemistry II is notorious for being a difficult class at UNLV, but I absolutely loved it. I was always competing against myself to learn as much as I could. Anytime I studied for the class, I felt like Einstein drawing molecular structures and diagrams. Dr. Abel-Santos, who was teaching the class, took notice that I had an affinity for the topic, and he asked if I wanted to do research in his lab. It was an opportunity I simply couldn’t reject.
  3. How has the 2022 OUR Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship supported your personal and professional goals?
    The Summer of Undergraduate Research Fellowship allowed me to do research without the worry of having to work too much on the side. Students already have so many pressures having to deal with classes- financial needs just add to the difficulty of school. Being able to get funded for doing what I enjoyed was a sort of luxury. 
    Apart from the funding, having to present at a symposium and write reports for the fellowship became great opportunities to prepare for the future. The science field is full of Grant Proposals and Presentations; getting exposed to this early on is a great advantage researchers gain from this experience.
  4. Please describe the role of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) at UNLV. What are we doing best and what do you think we can do to help you better?
    The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) at UNLV is here to help students achieve their career goals in all sorts of different research fields. UNLV has achieved R1 status in the past and has been recognized for being very invested in research. The OUR hopes to encourage students to participate in research so that they may also represent UNLV and form part of its research community. 
    The OUR follows the vision of “improving the lives of [UNLV’s] diverse students and transforming our communities through education and engagement.”
  5. Please describe the impact of research involvement on your personal and professional development thus far.
    Research allows students to discover just how much lies beyond the classroom. Starting college, I had little to no direction and no one to guide me. Thanks to research, and Dr. Abel-Santos, I now have a newfound interest and a sense of direction set towards cultivating a future in the world of science. 
    Thanks to this experience, I was also exposed to idea of graduate school and will now be staring a PhD in Chemistry at UNLV in Spring of 2023. What most people don’t know is that Graduate Degrees in STEM are almost always funded. You could be tinkering away with what seems to be a limitless amount of lab equipment… and get college credit for it! 
  6. What advice would you give to future researchers?
    Never give up. Research is hard, and it always will be. Experiments will fail, things won’t always go in your favor, and obstacles will present themselves… but one should never give up. Science will do what science does; what we can do is learn from it and use it to our advantage. 
  7. What are you looking forward to professionally this upcoming year?
    I am a first-generation student, and by the end of this year, I will be the first person in my family to have received a bachelor’s degree. In January I will be the first in my family to go to Graduate School, and the list of things I want to do continues. The prospect of developing new experimental skills and acquiring the knowledge needed to establish and follow a path to a better future excites me A LOT.