Magaly Salinas
Magaly Salinas
Magaly Salinas

Student Spotlight: UTSA chemistry graduate student Magaly Salinas invited to attend Nobel laureates meeting in Germany

By Christi Fish
Public Affairs Specialist

(June 17, 2009)--This month, doctoral student Magaly Salinas will do what no Roadrunner has ever done before. A UTSA graduate student in organic chemistry, Salinas will attend the 59th Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in Lindau, Germany. At the meeting, scheduled for June 28 to July 3, Salinas will discuss scientific research, network and dine with the world's finest chemists and chemistry students.

Approximately 600 students from 66 countries are expected to attend the invitation-only meeting. Salinas is one of seven attendees from Texas and one of 72 students representing the United States at the prestigious event, which is slated to include such notable chemists as 2007 Nobel laureate Gerhard Ertl, who made significant advances in surface chemistry, and 1995 Nobel laureate F. Sherwood Rowland who, along with co-recipients Paul Xrutzen and Mario Molina, discovered that chlorofluorocarbons contribute to ozone depletion.

Salinas is one of many graduate students supported by the UTSA Minority Biomedical Research Support-Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS-RISE) program, which offers a monthly stipend, research training and other career-development support to minority students pursuing doctorate degrees in the sciences. She researches alongside George R. Negrete, the chemistry professor who encouraged her to apply to attend the Nobel laureates meeting this summer.

"Magaly is a very serious and committed graduate student, and she understands the Nobel Laureates meeting is a rare opportunity for personal and professional development," Negrete said. "As an underrepresented female student who is passionate about research, the impact of her participation will be felt by the others she will mentor throughout her career."

Salinas, however, lauds Negrete for making her aware of the elite opportunity.

"Dr. Negrete is eager to help his students," Salinas notes. "He's always looking for ways to expand his students' experiences -- to get them to attend scientific meetings. He brought this opportunity to me and encouraged me to apply."

Negrete's passion for teaching has resonated strongly with Salinas. Following his lead, the 25-year-old doctoral student intends to graduate with her Ph.D. from UTSA and aspires to have a career in science that includes an academic position at a university where she can do cutting-edge research as well as shape students' minds in the science field.

"I would be delighted to share my experience from this conference with the Hispanic community located in the Rio Grande Valley -- a region of South Texas that borders Mexico, where science is not a primary focus," said Salinas. "As an Hispanic female scientist, I hope to inspire students from all academic levels to become interested in a career in science. This once in a lifetime opportunity will not only help me develop as a scientist but also inspire students from weak science regions to pursue careers in this field. The knowledge to be gained from this experience will undoubtedly serve and foster my graduate career in chemistry, as well as make me a well-rounded scientist."

Ironically, Salinas wasn't one of those students who knew from early childhood that she wanted to be a chemist. Rather, she had her eyes set on pharmacy school, after earning her certificate as a pharmacy technician at her South Texas high school, a magnet school for future health professionals. Her plans changed the summer she went to work in a neighborhood pharmacy. Although she performed the job well, the environment didn't quite fit her vision of the future.

"It just wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," she said.

So, she turned to chemistry. At the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA), Professor Narayan G. Bhat introduced Salinas to organic chemistry. Under his tutelage, she explored the development of new synthetic methodology highlighting control of double-bond stereochemistry with the use of organometallic reagents. She completed her bachelor's degree in 2006 and continued at UTPA, where she received her master's degree two years later. Now at UTSA, Salinas is just a week away from meeting Nobel laureates.

So, what will Salinas pack to attend the chemistry party of the year? "" haven't packed yet; I hope I don't forget anything," she said.

Learn more at the Nobel Laureate Meetings at Lindau Web site.

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