On December 04, 2020, the SDSU NIH-funded Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) and Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Programs hosted their 13th Annual Current-Ph.D. Panel where  SDSU alumni who are currently enrolled in Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. programs throughout the nation are invited to return to the SDSU campus to empower students and answer pressing questions about how to survive and thrive in doctoral programs. 

The IMSD and MARC programs are part of an SDSU umbrella program, the Center for the Advancement of Students in Academia (CASA).  Under the CASA umbrella, there are a variety of distinct support programs that span multiple departments within SDSU’s College of Sciences, College of Engineering, and College of Health and Human Services. These programs collaborate to provide students with opportunities to tailor their education and are as diverse as the students they serve. There are programs that provide support to students at all educational levels including transfer and graduate students.  IMSD and MARC, along with many other CASA programs, share a centralized mission to serve and prioritize students of marginalized and vulnerable communities. These NIH-supported research programs prepare underrepresented students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), in addition to behavioral health disciplines, for direct entry into Ph.D. programs.

This year, 11 doctoral students (10 SDSU & 1 CSU San Marcos Alumni) were able to volunteer their time to mentor approximately 50 students from the SDSU College of Sciences and College of Engineering, as well students from partner programs at Southwestern College and San Diego Mesa College.  The panelists exemplify a successful graduate tenure, in addition to a successful career in various specialties. As social justice-oriented programs, IMSD and MARC students continue the tradition of giving back to their communities after reaching success, to better pave the path of equity and opportunity.

Former SDSU MARC and IMSD Program Scholars Give Back

Panelists meet with IMSD/MARC staff and administrators prior the start of the 2020 Virtual Current PhD Panel

Panelists hailed from diverse disciplines including biology, chemistry/biochemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics, and neuroscience/psychology. The initial main panel session included common, non-discipline specific questions submitted by students ranging from topics of how to prepare for and apply to graduate school as an undergraduate, to funding opportunities, and factors to consider when selecting a school, program, and faculty mentor. In addition, panelists addressed some of the challenges of graduate study and shared some coping strategies they have personally found helpful. This advice was well received as many students reported learning the importance of building social support among peers, seeking mental health services, and setting boundaries in order to help manage stress and find work/life balance as a Ph.D. student. Following the general main panel, participants dispersed into separate discipline-specific breakout sessions, where students had the opportunity to engage with panelists in a small group setting and ask any remaining questions they may have had. Next semester, the IMSD & MARC Programs will also host their 14th Annual Post-Ph.D. Panel where SDSU alumni who have completed their Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. will come back to SDSU to mentor our current STEM students.  

The IMSD and MARC programs, in conjunction with the CASA office, will continue offering seminars and networking opportunities for SDSU undergraduate students throughout the academic year. Anyone interested in obtaining more information regarding events planned for the Spring 2021 semester can contact the IMSD (maltemus@sdsu.edu) or MARC (thelma.chavez@sdsu.edu) Program Staff. Undergraduate students who are passionate about research and dedicated to earning a Ph.D. can learn more about these programs and find information on how to apply on the MARC (https://marc.sdsu.edu/) and IMSD (http://sci.sdsu.edu/imsd/) websites. 


SDSU CASA Program(s)

Graduate Institution & Doctoral Program

Carlo Quintanilla


University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center – Cell and Molecular Biology

Kevin Tenerelli

MARC at CSU San Marcos

UCSD – MD/Ph.D. Program

Erik Alvarez


Louisiana State University –

Organic Chemistry

Amanda Brambila


UCSC – Biomedical Sciences and Engineering: Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Track

Mya Brown


University of Georgia – Analytical Chemistry

Daniel Delgado


University of South Florida –

Environmental Engineering

Miguel Correa


Notre Dame- Physics

Nadia Ott


University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – Mathematics

Rifqi Affan


Boston University  – Neuroscience

Manuel Gonzales


UCSD/SDSU Joint Program – Clinical Psychology

Ellyn Pueschel


USC – Developmental Psychology

*Click here to access the full panelist biographies