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The G-RISE at New Mexico State University is a program that provides a high level of funding support for Ph.D. students conducting research in the areas of biomedical / biobehavioral / bioengineering sciences. The program purpose is to enhance the training of students who will not only enrich the diversity of thought, culture, and discovery within the biomedical workforce but who will also become leaders and innovators within the research workforce after the Ph.D. degree.  G-RISE at NMSU is supported by the National Institutes of Health grant: 1T32GM148394-01. The program (NIH PAR-21-026)  states that: “The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognizes the need to diversify the scientific workforce by enhancing the participation of individuals from groups identified as underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences (collectively termed "biomedical") research workforce. Research shows that diverse teams working together and capitalizing on innovative ideas and distinct perspectives outperform homogenous teams. Scientists and trainees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences bring different perspectives, creativity, and individual interests to address complex scientific problems.” 


We will soon be accepting applications for the Fall 2024 Semester! 


G-RISE Scholars 2023-24



Hillary Bourger


Mentor: Dr. Christopher Baker, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Co-Mentor: Dr. Jessica Houston, Chemical & Materials Engineering

Hillary was born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 2021 at New Mexico State University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. Her dissertation focuses on developing small volume (nL – uL) exosome assays, utilizing and refining an in-lab-designed 3D-printed instrument for Taylor dispersion analysis. The exosome assays will then be applied to understand the role of exosome secretion in neurodegenerative disorders, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. The ultimate goal of her research is to measure the release of exosomes that carry characteristic membrane proteins such as CD9, CD63, and/or CD81 from mouse hypothalamic tissue slices cultured ex vivo in a microfluidic perfusion device designed and developed by her lab. Following the completion of her Ph.D., Hillary wants to pursue a postdoc in medical research. In her free time, she enjoys riding her bike and spending time with her family.



Thomas Cisneros


Mentor: Dr. Borys Drach, Mechanical Engineering

My name is Thomas Cisneros, a first-generation college graduate, obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2019 from NMSU. After graduation, I joined the master’s program at NMSU and then transitioned to the Ph.D. program in Engineering after being accepted to the RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) program. My research interest is in micromechanics of hard tissue biomaterials with a focus on the elastic/viscoelastic properties of cortical bone. I have co-authored two publications, one of which I am the first author. The concentration of my doctoral dissertation is the evaluation of micromechanical properties of cortical bone at the nanoscale employing Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and numerical mathematic technique by Finite Element Method (FEM). Research has elucidated information on the interaction between individual components of cortical bone, such as minerals, type I collagen, and non-collagenous proteins at the nanometer length scale. Through the opportunities available by this institution and the RISE program, I have learned a variety of techniques, such as Atomic Force Microscopy, Finite Element Methods, cantilever-based nanoindentation/analysis, high-resolution imaging/analysis, among others. My research is essential for understanding the effects of diseases on the structural integrity of bone, for the development of failure predictive models, and for the development of bone restorative techniques.


Anthony Cornwell


Mentor: Dr. Omar Holguin, Plant & Environmental Sciences

Co-Mentor: Dr. Yanyan Zhang, Civil Engineering

My name is Anthony Cornwell and I am a non-traditional student from Portland Oregon. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, which fed my love of the outdoors. I try to spend as much time as possible hiking and camping. This interest led to my eventual decision to research environmental issues. I moved to Las Cruces in 2016 and completed my bachelor's degree in 2019 at New Mexico State University. During my undergraduate time, I worked on studying the mutually beneficial associations between the sepiolid squid and V. fisheri. I transferred to the Ph.D. program in 2020. I am currently studying the remediation of pharmaceuticals from the environment utilizing microalgae as a bioremediation agent. This is an important issue because many hormones, endocrine disruptors, and other potentially harmful medications are being found at concerning levels in the environment. During my time as a student, I have learned many techniques that will aid my career as a scientist. I enjoy working with molecular biological tools such as gene modification, sequencing, and CRISPR/Cas9 technology. I have also learned many chemical analysis tools such as LC-MS and gas chromatography. After completion of my Ph.D., I plan on spending time at a postdoc position, before entering academia.


Francisco Lariz


Mentor: Dr. Kevin Houston, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Co-Mentor: Dr. Jessica Houston, Chemical & Materials Engineering

My name is Francisco (or Cisco) and I am originally from Chino, California.  I received my bachelor’s from the University of Colorado in 2014 where I majored in Biochemistry and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO) with a minor in chemistry and math.  My research focuses on tamoxifen resistant breast cancer cells and their link to insulin like growth factor binding protein (IGFBP) family. Tamoxifen is a drug used to treat estrogen receptor positive cancers. My project focuses on insulin like growth factor binding protein 6 (IGFBP6) and its possible role in tamoxifen resistance. The hope is to get a better understanding of the functions of the IGFBP family and their roles in tamoxifen resistance.  My plans after a PhD are to find a postdoc and hopefully transition into being faculty at a university some day. My hobbies include working out, cooking, and, more recently painting.


Samantha Valentino    


Mentor: Dr. Jessica Houston, Chemical & Materials Engineering

My name is Samantha Valentino and I spent my early years in Temple City, CA but moved to Las Cruces, NM in 2011. I consider Las Cruces to be my true hometown. I made the decision to pursue a career in chemical engineering in the 7th grade with the goal to use my knowledge to pursue a research oriented medical profession. I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical and Materials Engineering from NMSU in 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. I began as a master’s student that same year but developed a true passion for my project and decided to transition to the Ph.D. program in Fall of 2021. I work with applying time-resolved flow cytometry techniques to study the metabolism of NAD(P)H in breast cancer cells based upon the principles of fluorescence lifetime. Cells naturally contain NAD(P)H making it a relatively simplistic measurement as it does not require an additional labeling step to run on a flow cytometer. The goal of the project is to explore development of drug resistance to the hormone therapy Tamoxifen. Resistance is commonly developed in breast cancer patients treated with Tamoxifen and using fluorescence lifetime as a means of studying metabolism differences in responsive and resistant cancer cells could lead to resistance monitoring for guided treatment. Following completion of my PhD., I would like to continue pursuing a research based career in the medical field.


Genoveve Gutierrez

Bayler Barnes

Hailey Luker

Lee Estrada

Delaram Esmaeili



For additional questions contact PIs Jessica P. Houston or Charles Shuster

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