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Chemistry student wins award at major STEM conference

Thursday, February 05, 2015

LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas undergraduate was selected to receive an award from the nation’s largest STEM diversity conference.

Marcus Florez, a senior majoring in chemistry from Bel Aire, was recognized with a 2014 SACNAS Student Presentation Award at the organization’s conference this fall. SACNAS is the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.

Florez was the only student from a Kansas university to receive recognition and was among 99 awardees selected from more than 900 student presentations. The student presentation award recognizes students for exceptional communication skills and command of their research topics.

Alzheimer’s disease is Florez’s research interest. His SACNAS presentation was titled “Investigation of TNF-5Z-7 Induced Cell Death.” Cell death plays a role in many diseases. For instance, excessive cell death occurs in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

“Marcus is an outstanding student and researcher,” said Estela Gavosto, associate professor of mathematics and director of the Office of Diversity in Science Training. “The undergraduate presentations at this conference are often mistaken for graduate level research. To make it into the upper tier of the talented students is a reflection of just how outstanding Marcus’ work is.”

Last summer, Florez conducted his award-winning research during an internship at Harvard University. Florez also has internship experience with Johns Hopkins University and in the lab of Elias Michaelis, a University Distinguished Professor in the KU School of Pharmacy.

Throughout Florez’s undergraduate career, the Office of Diversity in Science Training has provided him support as a developing scientist through its Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD). The IMSD at KU is funded by the National Institutes of Health. It prepares students for careers in research in biomedical and behavioral sciences through undergraduate research placement in KU labs and internships at other universities during the summer and other professional development opportunities. In addition to his involvement in IMSD, Florez is a participant in KU Multicultural Scholars Program.

SACNAS was founded over 40 years ago to unify and offer guidance to Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in the STEM fields. The national conference attracts nearly 4,000 students and professionals.

The Department of Chemistry is one of the more than 50 departments, programs and centers in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The College encourages learning without boundaries through interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.

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