NYC Student Grows Opportunities through Chemistry Research
By Felicia Krieg
As a high school student in New York City, Ambar Jimenez ’16 didn’t anticipate she would go on to work alongside her future college professors in a research team or have the opportunity to present original research at a national conference.
Jimenez, a biology major, is presenting research she has been working on with faculty members for the past year and a half at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Tampa, Fla. in November. She was awarded full funding to cover her travel expenses to the conference.
A first-generation college student, Jimenez was accepted to SUNY Plattsburgh through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) two days after she graduated from high school.
Jimenez was raised by her grandmother, Estebania Moreno, after Jimenez emigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic when she was 12 years old.
“For me, my degree is a way to thank her for raising me,” Jimenez said. “She wanted me to have a good education and reach the levels I wanted to reach.”
A conscientious student, Jimenez has studied hard in her classes, seeking to develop her natural academic curiosity.
“I like to do research that will have a direction to improve the living conditions of humans.”
“EOP has been very supportive to me in the most hard moments academically and personally,” Jimenez said. “When you take a rocky path, it takes a while to learn how to abate the hard moments and how to get up when you fail.”
‘Strong Motivation and Curiosity’
A year and a half ago, Dr. Rajesh Sunasee, assistant professor of chemistry, recognized Jimenez’s academic interest and talent and invited her to join a faculty research team. The group is looking at the design of sugar molecule-based nanomaterials for potential biomedical applications like cancer drug deliverance, for example.
“The purpose of doing this research is to be able to introduce new methods to help people with certain diseases without causing other medical issues,” Jimenez said.
Sunasee said he knows Jimenez’s will be successful beyond her time at Plattsburgh.
“She has a great work ethic, always dedicating time for her research,” Sunasee said.
“Her biggest strength is her continuous strong motivation and curiosity in the scientific field, in particular, chemistry, that will definitely lead her far in her future career.”
Jimenez is finishing her honors thesis on the research she presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. It’s also being refined into a research paper of which Jimenez is the first co-author along with co-authors Sunasee and Dr. Karina Ckless, associate professor of biochemistry, along with other collaborators from Canada.
Sunasee has instilled in Jimenez the importance of originality in one’s work, she said.
“What I have learned from him is how to be unique, how to not imitate other people.”
‘Research to Improve Lives’
Sunasee wants his students to be known for the way they think and work not as a reflection of others, but a reflection of themselves, Jimenez said.
Among Jimenez’s accomplishments during her undergraduate career is her work as part of Brown University’s Leadership Alliance Summer Research-Early Identification Program in the summer of 2016. The nine-week program is designed to help high achieving underrepresented undergraduate students develop experience with graduate-level research.
At Brown, Jimenez studied the toxicity of manganese to humans and wildlife who come into contact with water, seafood or air contaminated by the element. She worked with Dr. Agnes Kane, professor of medical science and chair of the pathology and laboratory medicine department.
“I like to do research that will have a direction to improve the living conditions of humans,” she said.
After graduation, Jimenez plans to enroll in graduate school and continue her research. She’s excited to see what discoveries biomedical researchers will make in the future as the field continues to evolve.
“I can’t wait for the next 15 years to see where it goes.”
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