CLS Student to Present at National Infectious Disease Conference
In early February, Brenda Baca, a senior in the Clinical Laboratory Sciences Program, received an invitation to present at the Tropical Infectious Diseases Gordon Research Conference, which will take place in March in Galveston, TX. The conference gathers together multidisciplinary scientists to discuss the latest field-based and translational research in tropical infectious and emerging diseases (TIED). At the conference, Baca will have an opportunity to participate with doctoral and graduate students in a poster session and to interact with thought leaders in the TIED fields – an opportunity made possible through her participation in the UTEP MHIRT (Minority Health International Research) program in the summer of 2018.
Research is a family affair for Baca whose cousin, Alba Dominguez-Arriaga, a current student in the Master of Science in Nursing program at UTEP, gave her glowing reviews based on her own experiences in the MHIRT program and encouraged Baca to apply for the summer 2018 cohort. Looking back almost a year later, Baca says the experience was both challenging and wonderful. “I wanted to have this research experience in another country. In my major (CLS), we’re in the laboratory setting. This was an opportunity to experience the whole research process, including conducting a literature review…and I liked it.”
After being assigned to a laboratory in Panama, Baca says that she realized quickly just how different the country is from the U.S., not only in the colloquial Spanish that differs from the Spanish spoken on the border, but also in how they manage resources. “Here (in the U.S.), we may use a set of gloves once and then throw them out. Not there. So you have to be less wasteful and open to learning their way of doing things…and not assume that our way is the only way.” She added that students interested in applying to the MHIRT program should look at it as more than an opportunity to travel to a different country. “You have to really like the idea of doing research. If you don’t like it, you won’t enjoy the whole experience because you’re going to be working on completing a project during your time in your assigned site,” she said. In Baca’s study, “Ecological interaction between invasive disease vectors Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in Panama,” Baca and her colleagues at INDICASAT, a UTEP MHIRT partner laboratory, investigated competitive behaviors between two container-bred mosquito populations to determine how the insects might behave in humid and dry climates in the country, an important component of infectious disease control programs.
Baca, who intends to pursue an MD degree, said her research experiences have inspired her to consider ways she can incorporate it into her professional goals. She’s currently looking at joint MD/PhD and MD/MPH degree options both locally and across Texas, as well as traditional MD programs. In the interim, she’s looking forward to graduating in May with her CLS degree and hopes to be named one of UTEP’s Top 10 Seniors.
To learn more about the Clinical Laboratory Sciences Program, please visit: www.utep.edu/chs/cls
To learn more about the MHIRT Program, please visit: www.utep.edu/chs/mhirt