UCR fourth-year bioengineering doctoral candidate Donovan Argueta, a first-generation college graduate, has received a Ford Foundation 2018 Dissertation Fellowship. The Ford Foundation aims to develop individuals to become role-models and mentors to an increasingly diverse student population. In receiving the one-year fellowship, Argueta will be receiving $25,000 along with the ability to attend an annual conference of Ford Fellows this upcoming fall. It is a fellowship that he claims will allow him the time to complete his doctoral degree while completing a search for a future postdoctoral position.

Argueta explained the application process in an interview with The Highlander. He said that it required him to develop a research and personal plan for the rest of his graduate studies. “(It) allowed me a chance to critically assess my progress and the work necessary to complete the dissertation; being first-gen, this has given me a more clear road map for what lies between now and graduation,” he explained.  

In completing the fellowship, Argueta will continue to be mentored by a guidance committee which he has worked with throughout his doctoral career. Nicholas V. DiPatrizio, associate professor of biomedical sciences, will continue to serve as his dissertation advisor. Speaking with The Highlander, DiPatrizio discussed his interactions with Argueta, stating that Argueta embodies the spirit of the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program through his devotion to science and teaching, along with the progress he has made with his experiment. He said, “I have no doubt that Donovan will grow into an outstanding independent research scientist and teacher.” He also drew emphasis on the fact that Donovan is not only a first-generation American, but the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. DiPatrizio also said he will continue to support Argueta as he completes his academic career and into his postdoctoral career.  

Argueta’s research will focus on identifying biological mechanisms in the gut that become dysregulated from obesity which result in overeating of high-energy foods. He said that his lab will focus on uncovering the molecular signals that tend to cause obesity. The ultimate aim is to achieve results that will inform novel therapeutics or behavioral interventions to treat and ultimately prevent obesity. DiPatrizio expanded upon this, stating that “he is performing his dissertation research that aims to identify key gut-brain signaling pathways that control food intake and become dysregulated in diet-induced obesity.”  

Argueta expects to graduate with his Ph.D. in July of 2019 and he aims to continue research as a postdoctoral scientist. His long-term career goal is to attain a tenure-track position as a research faculty member in a university setting.