Victor Cabrera, a 20-year-old biology major in his junior year at the University of Bridgeport, has been selected by the University of Chicago’s Department of Molecular Genetics to participate in its National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates program (NSF-REU) this summer.
The prestigious NSF-REU program supports undergraduate students in mathematics, science, or engineering and assigns them to host institutions to participate in ongoing research.
Cabrera was awarded a $5250 NSF-REU grant to work within the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology.
The son of parents “who loved science,” Cabrera said he grew up talking about the natural world with his mother and father in their sylvan Guilford, Connecticut, community. “We were always in nature, talking about nature, and that shaped my interest,” he said.
Fascinated with how systems interact, Cabrera became enamored with biology, particularly multicellular organisms known as eukaryotes.
“Those are a domain of life that have very, very cool complex gene regulatory networks—that’s what I’m interested in studying. My ultimate goal is work in the field of synthetic biology. Using lab techniques, you can synthesize new functions of organisms,” he said.
An honors student, Cabrera serves on the executive board of the UB Biology Club, works as a TA/lab assistant for six undergraduate chemistry and biology classes, is a student ambassador for the Office of Admissions, and previously served as senator for the SGA (Student Government Association.)
Dr. Kathleen Engelmann, Cabrera’s adviser and a professor in the Department of Biology, and chemistry professor Dr. Amanda Petrus, a former NSF-REU participant, wrote letters supporting his application.
“He really is an amazing student,” said Engelmann. “One of the things about Victor that I think will make him a great researcher is his huge range of interests. He’s fascinated by the molecular-level details of living things and by the broad pattern of evolution spanning millions of years. I’m very impressed by the way he incorporated both of these areas into his research interests.”
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