Cal State L.A. chemistry graduate experiences life in a ‘big way,’ from raising three kids as a single mom and running marathons, to helping understand diseases
Whether it’s running marathons, pursing her doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, or taking care of the needs of her three children as a single mom, Cal State L.A.’s (CSULA) master’s of chemistry graduate Rose Bustos draws on her larger-than-life personality to do things in a big way.
Bustos, an Alhambra resident, will be conferred a master’s in chemistry on June 11, at 8 a.m. during the CSULA’s 64th annual commencement ceremony. Bustos will walk with her peers from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry within the University’s College of Natural and Social Sciences. She has been accepted to the UC Davis School of Medicine where she will pursue a dual M.D. and Ph.D. degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.
“Cal State L.A. has prepared me as a scientist, in the most important way. Instead of just learning answers, I learned to ask the right questions,” said Bustos. ”The professors in the Chemistry Department have consistently gone the extra mile to invoke curiosity and zeal for the impact chemistry will have in solving current problems in ecology, biotechnology and medicine.”
Bustos is one of CSULA’s Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) Programs’ RISE MS-to-PhD research fellows. MORE programs are renowned for making the creativity and intellectual talents of minorities available to the scientific research community.
Before finding a home at CSULA, Bustos graduated from Loyola-Marymount University with a triple major in Latin, psychology and Chicano studies. With her degrees, she began teaching kindergarten, and though she found it gratifying, she wanted to do more. Bustos then enrolled at East Los Angeles College (ELAC) to gain some background in science.
While at ELAC, Bustos also became student body president in 2008, and a member of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees in 2008-2009, serving as a liaison between the Board and thousands of students.
She also met acclaimed Caltech chemist Professor Harry Gray at ELAC, and was invited to do her thesis research with him while pursuing the master’s degree when she transferred to CSULA.
“My interest in research began after attending a seminar featuring Dr. Harry Gray as the keynote speaker. It was a transformational moment when I realized that the science I was learning in my classes had powerful applications. By the end of the lecture I knew that my inquisitive nature had finally found a home in the field of research,” explained Bustos.
Rose’s thesis project with Gray investigated the electron transfer chemistry of P450, an important enzyme in metabolism, which could maximize applications for this unique protein, such as breaking down toxins in contaminated soil or predicting how a new medicine will be metabolized by humans. Results from the project were published in the March issue of the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry.
In the summer of 2009, Bustos conducted research at the University of Debrecen in Hungary to evaluate methods for detecting Temozolomide, an important alkylating anticancer drug that is used for the treatment of advanced stage astrocytoma. The findings of this research were published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Chromatography.
Bustos’ journey has been one of endurance and persistence. When she finishes her dual M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, she hopes to combine her leadership experience with scientific and medical training to effect health policy changes desperately needed in community medicine.
In her “free time,” Bustos likes to compete. She has completed eight marathons and several triathlons.
“My new active lifestyle has taught me the profound concept of endurance. I was once a woman who could not run down the street without gasping for air. I began running blocks, then miles, and before I knew it, marathons,” explained Bustos. “Crossing the finish line at my first race brought me the important realization that with persistence and planning, I could reach even my loftiest goals. Nothing felt impossible, and running marathons gave me the courage to pursue my medical school dream, publicly and relentlessly.”
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