Sac State students’ hands-on experience gets them job-ready

L

ong before he picked up his diploma in the spring, Cory Vierra’16 (Biochemistry) was making serious inroads as a scientist pursuing a method for stopping the spread of HIV.

science buildingHELP US ELEVATE SCIENCE EDUCATION--With Sacramento State's new Science Complex on the horizon, the University is seeking private funds to create extraordinary settings for teaching and learning. 

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As a member of chemistry professor Katherine McReynolds’ team of student researchers, Vierra conducted National Institutes of Health-supported research to develop a preventative agent that can be used in advance of HIV exposure, potentially decreasing the number of new cases.

Vierra and McReynoldsBiochemisry grad student Cory Vierra '16 and chemistry professsor Katherine McReynolds

According to UNAIDS, 1.9 million adults have become infected with HIV every year for the last five years. New HIV infections are rising, including a 57 percent increase in annual new infections in Eastern Europe and central Asia.

The chance to work on possibly life-saving work with his faculty mentor helped sell Vierra on Sac State.

“One of the reasons I came here and want to stay here as a graduate student is the direct contact you have with professors,” says Vierra, now a biochemistry graduate student. “Here I can work on a compound from start to finish that may have anti-HIV properties. That’s a very nice thing.”

Vierra originally considered pharmacy school but a research class convinced him he’d rather make medicine than give it out.

“What I teach in the lab is the most important type of teaching I do,” McReynolds says. “Because this is the hands-on, real-world stuff. This is what’s going to help them be successful.”

The experience also helps students like Vierra stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs or graduate and professional schools.

A new home for science knowledge

Employers are also placing increased value on the ability to work collaboratively. And the University’s capacity to help students expand those talents is front and center as the University plans its new Science Complex.

Chapman’s company was created as an “onramp” for young scientists to get into the workplace or into graduate school and employs Sac State students and graduates as interns and employees. On the job, they’re helping develop products that use the body’s own healing properties to improve wound care.

For Chapman, it’s that ability to supplement what is learned in class that makes the research experience so valuable for students.

“In the classroom setting they have a laid-out protocol to follow. They are learning a technique but they’re not answering a question,” Chapman says. “In the lab, it’s another gear. It’s the application of knowledge rather than knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It’s taking routine steps and applying it for a solution.”

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