FARMERS Scholars


USDA 2023-2024 FARMERS Graduates


Kimberly Sanchez

Research Interest: My research focuses on understanding how individual, social, and policy-level factors impact Latino and immigrant health. Specific topics of interest include nutrition, food insecurity, and obesity prevention.  

What I like most about research: The opportunity it provides to have an on-hand experience of using what we have learned in classes as well as being able to understand research done in the past to use as motivation for what research is possible in the future.


Melinda Gonzalez 

Research InterestHow different soil amendments can be used to increase soil health and reduce our reliance on inputs such as synthetic fertilizers. 

What I like about research: I enjoy research that allows me to be outside, physically collecting samples, and playing with soils. I’m glad that I can do all those things with my research! 


Yulissa T. Perez Rojas  

Research Interest:My dissertation is at the intersection of soil physics, microbiology, and climate. Through laboratory experiments and computational models, I am investing the significance of soil Carbon dioxide emissions caused by rare precipitation events. Outside of soil science, I am interested in sustainability, climate resiliency, and environmental public health.

What I like about research: Interconnections! I greatly enjoy learning how everything is interconnected, it’s a ripple effect. No matter what subject you study, there is always an opportunity to branch out and learn new concepts. 


Jose Martinez 

Research Interest:My research interests include designing/fabricating efficient engineering systems and redesigning them to be sustainable. My current research investigates methods for mitigating large amounts of freshwater usage and potentially fulfilling increasing produce demands by utilizing evaporative cooling in greenhouses taking advantage of high salinity drainage water. This will be accomplished by building a system that allows for full evaporation of drainage water in evaporative cooling of greenhouses with zero brine output, recovery of salts, and minimized environmental impact.

What I like about research: One of the most rewarding aspects of research is that it allows me to take learning to a higher level by discovery and application.


USDA 2023-2024 FARMERS Undergraduates


Diane Martinez-Gomez 

Research interests: My research interests encompass food-energy-water systems, life cycle assessments (LCA), renewable energy, social justice, and climate resilience in agriculture. Currently, I am conducting a life cycle assessment of alfalfa to better understand the environmental impact of alfalfa.

What I like most about research:Engaging in research offers me the chance to collaborate with individuals who share my research interests and allows me to cultivate skills such as data analysis, which I can leverage in my future career.


Niove Aragon

Research interests: I am engaged in researching a range of topics that are in my interest such as food and nutrition insecurity, the repercussions of environmental health, the effects on community well-being, air pollution, climate change, and agroecological systems. My research revolves around examining the diverse factors that influence individuals’ health. 

What I like most about research: I always had an interest in the impact of the surrounding environment on people’s well-being. Going into depth, my focus is on studying the different factors that affect people’s health. I enjoy how this research broadens my understanding and knowledge of environmental contributions to health outcomes.


Mario Paredes  

Research interests: My research interests are in physiology, specifically metabolism and conditions relating to metabolic syndrome such as hypertension, insulin resistance, and diabetes All of which are a common concern for the health affecting the US population and an even higher concern in minority populations. I’m interested in hormone treatments and medicinal cannabis treatments as well. Currently I’m researching how angiotensin receptor blockers improve glucose intolerance, systolic blood pressure levels, and reduce body mass in rats being fed a high cholesterol diet.

What I like most about research: I’ve always been motivated to keep learning, work hard and figure out solutions to problems. I fulfill these doing research and enjoy developing myself because every day I improve or learn how to improve the next day.  


Daisy Zapet  

Research interests: My research interests are exploring the field of medicine. I am currently researching the effects that cannabidiol (CBD) affects the protein, Protein Kinas B (AKT/PKB), in the heart of rats with metabolic syndrome.

What I like most about research:I have always been curious about medical research. I have wondered how we have so many medicines to help overcome diseases, but also testing theories of how medicine can help specific diseases


USDA FARMERS Alumni


Paul Anthony Arana 

Research interest: My research interest includes nephropathy and kidney damage through investigating the impact on advanced metabolic syndrome. Specifically understanding the effect of hydrogenated cannabidiol on nephropathy.

What I like most about research: The opportunity it provides to have an on-hand experience of using what we have learned in classes as well as being able to understand research done in the past to use as motivation for what research is possible in the future.


Suzzy Emily Campero

Research Interests: My research interests are in brown adipose tissue abundance in CBD-treated OLETF rats. OLETF rats are a model for human diabetes and obesity and this research is studying the effects that CBD has on these conditions, as well as other metabolic syndrome conditions. 

What I like most about research: I love having this opportunity to work on research that directly affects my ethnic community. It is a pleasure to be able to work in such a close team of students and        mentors alike.


Alexx Gonzales

Research Interests: My research interest includes the effect of disease on bodily organs and tissues, specifically those that release hormones into the bloodstream.

What I like most about research: I really enjoy the opportunity to work with professors and graduate students and in this way learn how to perform research properly. My goal is to become a professor myself and obtaining hands-on experience is such an honor and privilege! 


Steven Gonzalez

Research Interests: My research interests include looking at the manifestation and attenuation of metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes in the OLETF rat model.

What I like most about research: Research provides me a great opportunity to express my curiosity and make some meaningful contributions to important scientific questions.


Andy Hernandez Torres

Research Interests: My research interests include Geospatial Data Technologies and Municipal Wastewater Monitoring. Specifically, how innovation in epidemiology can be further allow us to accurately identify, trace, and map the spread of diseases across a given population. 

What I like most about research: What I like most about my research is that it promotes and highlights wastewater monitoring as well as provides open, up to date, data to anyone who wishes to see current wastewater monitoring efforts in their area. 


Brianna Lopez

Research Interests: My current research interest includes the study of almonds and nutrition with Professor Rudy Ortiz and agroecology with Professor James Sarria.

What I like most about research: It allows me to investigate and collect data on topics of my interest. It opens eyes to things I’ve never seen before. I learn something new each day with research.

Brianna will be studying at UCDC in 2022. 


Brian Martin 

Research Interests: My research interests include component design and how different materials and lubricants affect friction of non-traditional systems. In practice, this ranges from designing a testing system for refrigerant and lubricant mixtures to creating a human tongue replica to establish a correlation between friction and wine astringency. 

What I like most about research: What I find most rewarding is establishing links between physical phenomena and the underlying surface/material interactions that cause them.


Jennifer Mendez

Research Interests: My research interest includes materials science in the biological field and the attenuation of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Specifically, the use of efficient and affordable materials in the development of prosthetics for materials science in the biological field. Additionally, understanding ways in which the effects of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes can be reversed and lessen the impact on a person’s daily life.

What I like most about research: The opportunity to always learn more and push myself out of my comfort zone in the lab. Additionally, being able to present what I’ve learned to others and see it spark their interest.


Melisa Quintana

Research Interests: My research interests include soil health in agroecological systems, nutrient cycling in natural ecosystems, conservation and regeneration of biodiversity, land defense, food sovereignty, social justice, and climate resiliency. I’m currently researching how soil health amendments, specifically the addition of biochar and compost, can improve soil quality and increase carbon sequestration in conventional systems.

What I like most about research: I’ve always been curious about the world around me. My favorite part about research is being able to further my understanding about the natural world by asking questions and testing theories. 


Rene Rodriguez

Research Interest: My research interests are still evolving based on the many topics and concepts that are introduced to me. At the moment I am working on metabolism and its effects on the body.

What I like most about research: Research provides me with an opportunity to grow my scientific skills while also being able to make an impact in the scientific world by participating in these projects that could influence the next set of researchers.


Sammy Villa

Research Interests: I am interested in how cells regulate protein homeostasis during development and in response to changes in the environment. My project seeks to characterize the role of a deubiquitinase in regulating  protein translation during development and in response to cellular stressors.

What I like most about research: I like to figure out how things work at a molecular level. I also enjoy using research as a way to interact with and mentor students that are underrepresented in the sciences.


Gustavo Facincani Dourado

Research Interests: My research is on water management in the Central Sierra Nevada, California. I’m assessing the trade-offs between the multiple uses of water resources to balance the multiple human needs (flood control, hydropower generation, agricultural and urban deliveries) and environmental needs (environmental flows). To do that, I’m using modeling tools to assess alternative system designs and management policies (such as alternative environmental flow schedules and adoption of Flood/Ag-MAR), as well as alternative scenarios that further stress/alleviate the system, including climate change and greater/lower agricultural demands

What I like most about research: What I like about research is it’s interdisciplinariy and the breath of knowledge that we can dive into to learn how to identify and deal with different real-world problems to come up with creative solutions. My prior experience involves various practical fields in agronomy such as agricultural productionphytopathology, hydroponics, forest fragmentation and land use/land cover change. Now I’m studying water resources management and planning through modeling, which can help identify unintended consequences decisions before any practical action is taken. That has completely changed my perspective on the importance of research and its impacts on our daily lives.


Yumary Vasquez

Research Interests: My research looks at the co-evolution between hosts and their symbionts. I am specifically working with leafhoppers, which are agricultural pests and vectors of plant pathogens. With my work, we can develop novel pest management strategies that specifically target leafhoppers and their symbionts, without harming beneficial agricultural insects.

What I like most about research: To me, science is like a puzzle, and every single study I do means adding another piece to a giant unknown puzzle. My favorite thing about research is the chance to continue building these “puzzles” and sharing them with others who are just as excited as I am.


Manuel Cornejo

Research Interests: I am interested in diabetes and metabolic syndrome, specifically in the effects of body mass reduction interventions –caloric restriction and lipectomy- in the improvement of metabolic syndrome and changes in substrate metabolism  in an obese, insulin resistant rat model.

What I like most about research: The possibility to collaborate with undergraduate students in our lab and professors from other institutions; the opportunity to make our own contribution to a problem that had an increasing concern over the last decades.


Janna Emery 

Research interests: Diabetes and glucose homeostasis. My project focuses on caloric restriction (30%) impacts on glucose uptake and metabolism in liver. I am specifically interested in Hexokinase IV (glucokinase) activity and its possible relation to caloric restriction and insulin resistance. 

What I like most about research:  I love contributing to science and working with others who share the same passion towards furthering our knowledge about the unknowns of our world. 


Vicky Espinoza

Research Interests: My research addresses sustainable water management for global food, energy, and water security. I am analyzing how California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act could impact the retirement of more than 10% of San Joaquin Valley’s irrigated lands, and how those land use changes could affect already socioeconomically vulnerable communities within the region. Overall, my research will offer a blueprint for strategizing how and where to retire large blocks of land and suggest alternative land uses that will maximize benefits to the economy, environment, and our agricultural communities.

What I like most about research: Conducting research allows me to explore environmental issues from a creative standpoint and allows me to diversify my skill set and knowledge at every stage of my project. I appreciate that research allows my work to translate into broader insights that can inform water management and policy, while resulting in more equitable solutions for disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley, California and beyond.


Jose Godoy

Research Interests: Diabetes and metabolism alterations. My PhD work examines diabetic alterations in metabolism, mainly focused on lipid handling through the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). I am interested in lipid droplets (small fat-containing organelles inside the cell) and their dynamics changes in morphology and composition during various stress conditions (e.g. fasting, disease, exercise). Given that in our lab we work with rat models of type II diabetes I will be able to study the liver’s lipid droplets and be able to elucidate  mechanisms pertinent to the NAFLD pathology.

What I like most about research: What I like the most about my research is the fact that our publications can have such impact on the development of future treatments of disease. Elucidating mechanisms and exploring different pathways during the development of a disease is key to understand what are the changes that contribute to the derangement of our health so they can be targeted.


Paola Saldierna Guzman

Research Interests: My prime interest is bacterial adaptations to diverse habitats. My research focuses on understanding the interactions between endophytic bacteria and almond trees and helping to improve agriculture sustainability.

What I like most about research: I really enjoy collaborating with diverse research groups to develop biotechnological and sustainable approaches to minimize impacts on environmental health. Additionally, I would like to design educational programs and be an educator for children to promote science and the idea of sustainability.


Dora Alicia Mendez

Research Interests: My name is Dora Mendez and I am currently interested in the insulin signaling pathway specifically if mild caloric restriction (30%) can increase insulin receptor phosphorylation activation or have any downstream effect in insulin signaling pathway

What I like most about research: Science is persistently morphing and there’s so much that has yet to be discovered. What I like most about research is the hands on experience of working in a wet lab and the ability to contribute to new discoveries.


Salvador Rojas

Research Interests: My research interest includes molecular biology, cancer, and the nervous system. DNA damage is a prominent feature of aging and cancer cells, often observed in renewing tissues. Nonetheless, it remains elusive how cellular crosstalk may affect the behavior of cells with DNA damage during tissue renewal. My research focuses on identifying neural determinants regulating the behavior of cells with DNA damage during tissue renewal using the planarian flatworm.

What I like most about research: Having the opportunity to design, and work on new technique to answer a question is what I find fascinating about research. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with other colleagues on a variety of projects. Working with undergraduate students has allowed me to teach them techniques, and give them an insight as to what research consist of.


Yocelyn Villa

Research Interests: I am interested in sustainable management practices  on farms and ranches, soil quality and health, and carbon sequestration.

What I like most about my research: My research focuses on biosolids and how soils can store carbon for a long time. She shared her experiences as a first-generation PhD student on the “Live to Sustain” podcast about environmental sustainability in the Central Valley, where she discussed the issues of environmental justice in the Central Valley.


Diego Gonzalez

Research Interests: Approaches to analyzing satellite imagery and NDVI to detect areas of fallowed land.

What I like most about research: It’s one of the key steps in increasing our knowledge about the world around us. It provides us with a lot of insight into what we study while also opening the door towards more things to explore.


Marco Haro-Crespo

Research Interests: I am interested in how a change in proteins and their glycoform variations can have effects on blood pressure.

What I like most about research: I enjoy that research is often trying to solve a puzzle that has no guiding picture just an idea of what should be the end result should be, being able to fit the pieces together and discover something that was previously unknown makes it all the more exciting.


Samantha P. Navarro

Research Interests: I am interested in how genetics has a role in health and how certain genotypes are predisposed to specific types of diseases and disorders.

What I like most about research: I find research interesting because there is always something new to add to our current understanding and the overall process of investigation is exciting.