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Department ofChemistry and Biochemistry


2020 Beckman Scholar to focus on cancer research

Chemistry major Adriana Gutierrez Ramirez ’22 will continue research with the Abbyad Lab as this year’s Beckman Scholar.

Chemistry major Adriana Gutierrez Ramirez ’22 will continue research with the Abbyad Lab as this year’s Beckman Scholar.

Over the next 15 months, rising junior Adriana Gutierrez Ramirez (Chemistry) will be expanding what we know about cancer cells as a 2020 Beckman Scholar. Santa Clara University’s second Beckman Scholar, she will be studying under the mentorship of Paul Abbyad (Chemistry & Biochemistry), focusing on sorting cancer cells for RNA analysis to explore differences in gene expression. 

“Our research is aimed at understanding how cancer cells with high metabolism differ from those with lower metabolism,” says Gutierrez Ramiez. “There is evidence that cancer cells with higher metabolism exhibit abnormal glycolytic activity, which is a biomarker associated with cancer cell malignancy. This research is important because it will allow us to achieve a better understanding of what genes influence the metabolism and glycolysis of cancer cells.”

A Bay Area resident, Gutierrez Ramirez has been working with the Abbyad Lab since the spring of 2019. Initially focused on the isolation of cancer-cell subpopulations, the work she did was centered around how to isolate the cells. As a Beckman Scholar, she will continue with the research utilizing the “how”—microfluidic devices—to explore the differences in gene expression between the sorted cell populations.

“I am most excited to continue conducting research and starting work on this new project,” she says. “What initially interested me about the Beckman Scholars Program was the focus that was placed on ensuring scholars get the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research continuously during its 15-month long program. Now, during this program, I hope to further advance my academic and professional skills by dedicating more time to laboratory research.”

Through this program, Gutierrez Ramirez will be building upon an already impressive resume. She spent last summer conducting research as a Clare Boothe Luce Scholar, which supports women in the natural sciences or engineering fields. She presented the work of the Abbyad Lab at the October 2019 Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference, and is a co-author on a recent paper in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

“Adriana is a great scientist, conscientious and hard working,” says Abbyad. “She has shown an aptitude for research from the start, and has already made major contributions to the research in our lab, producing results for a recent publication. This prestigious award will ensure her continued success. She also joins a nationwide network of Beckman Scholars that will open up doors for her both during her time at SCU and afterwards.”

After completing her degree at Santa Clara, Gutierrez Ramirez intends to go into the field of forensics—where microfluidics is an emerging tool for the analysis of evidence—possibly working in a crime lab doing analytical evidence and research work for the police department.

Founded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 1997, the Beckman Scholars Program recognizes and supports outstanding undergraduate students in chemistry and life sciences research at select universities across the United States. The program aims to promote scientific discoveries, and foster the invention of methods, instruments, and materials that will open up new avenues of research. Santa Clara University was one of 13 universities across the United States to receive funding from the Beckman Foundation in 2019, intended to support four students over four years. In 2019, Kat Xia ’20 (Biology) was named SCU’s first Beckman Scholar. 


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