Chemistry Graduate Student Recognized for Research Presentation

UC Riverside’s Consuelo Beecher received a 2013 SACNAS Student Presentation Award

Photo shows Consuelo Beecher.

Consuelo Beecher is a graduate student in analytical chemistry at UC Riverside.Photo courtesy of C. Beecher.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Consuelo Beecher, a graduate student in analytical chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, was recognized with a 2013 SACNAS Student Presentation Award at the society’s annual meeting that took place in October in San Antonio, Texas.

Beecher’s research work on heparin, a substance used to prevent blood clots from forming, was among a few that stood out for the judges at the three-day conference.  The conference, which showcases both undergraduate and graduate student presentations, featured more than 730 posters and 95 oral presentations this year.

Beecher is intrigued by the diverse structure of heparin, how crucial it is to protein binding, and how it is involved in a wide variety of biological processes.

“Its structure is very important for protein binding, with very small structural changes being capable of having a major — and sometimes negative — effect on the human body,” she said.  “I find the different methods to understand its structure fascinating, and I like contributing to these methods.”

Beecher’s presentation at the 2013 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans National Conference was titled “Profiling Enoxaparin SEC fractions by probing for 3-O-sulfo oligosaccharide using [H-1, N-15] HSQC NMR.”  On the project, she worked with Cynthia Larive, a professor of chemistry and a divisional dean in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

The research, all of which was done in the lab, involved first screening “SEC fractions by NMR,” and then repeated separations of these fractions to isolate samples of interest. SEC refers to size exclusion chromatography, a technique in which molecules are separated by molecular size in solution.  NMR refers to nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a technique used to determine the physical and chemical properties of atoms and molecules.

“What was challenging about this work was the amount of effort involved in isolating a significant amount of sample,” Beecher said.

Beecher grew up in Fontana, Calif.  She attended Fontana High School and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the California State University, San Bernardino, in 2009.  She joined UC Riverside in the summer of 2010 and expects to graduate in 2015 with a doctoral degree.  Her career goal is to be a professor in chemistry at a primarily undergraduate institution.

“I would like to teach and mentor students to become good scientists and researchers,” she said.

At first, Beecher did not want to attend graduate school after completing her undergraduate degree. She found a job at a pharmaceutical company in Corona, Calif., as a lab technician.  But after a couple of months there she decided she needed a bigger challenge.  She applied to the UCR Chemistry program.

“I am so glad I did!” she said.  “It has been an awesome experience.  In my first summer before beginning the program I was accepted into the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) research program where I was able to get a head-start on my lab research.  In my first two years, I was a chemistry teaching assistant, and that was when I realized I really enjoyed teaching.”

Subsequently, Beecher applied for, and received, a Graduate Research Mentoring Program award and a Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need fellowship.  She has been attending SACNAS conferences since her first year in graduate school, and received their student travel awards in 2011 and 2012.  She has also attended conferences that are specific to her field, including the American Chemical Society meetings and Experimental Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Conference.

“I feel very lucky to work with good faculty and people here at UCR,” she said.  “They have helped me get to where I am and I could not have won this award without them, especially my mentor, Dr. Larive.”

SACNAS was founded 40 years ago by career academics and research scientists committed to unifying their voice and offering guidance to underrepresented students in the STEM fields. Today, its national conference is a gathering of more than 1,400 students and nearly 2,000 professionals.

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