Maximizing Access to Research Careers Program

MARC Dinner Speakers

Dr. Wilfred Denetclaw Jr. (Fall 2013)

Wilfred F. Denetclaw, Jr. is Navajo and was born on the Navajo reservation in Shiprock in 1959. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Fort Lewis College (Durango, Colorado). Among his many contributions and achievements are:

• He was the first Native American to get a PH.D. in the hard sciences (Zoology) at UC Berkely
• His research team made major discovery about the gene that causes muscular dystrophy
• He is on the board of directors of SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science
• He is also involved in several other organizations that promote scientific careers for Native Americans
• He helped develop a working model for skeletal myogeneration in embryos, which is named after him

Quotable Quote: "Don’t let other people tell you what is culturally right, you know, important. You should think about it yourself.." Wilfred F. Denetclaw, Jr.

Dr. Damon Jacobs (Fall 2012)

Dr. Jacobs is performing postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Jeff Krise in the Pharmaceutical Chemistry Department at the University of Kansas and is an instructor for a Biostatistics course at Haskell Indian Nations University. In the Krise lab, Dr. Jacobs is studying the intracellular distribution and trafficking of small molecular weight compounds in a Niemann-Pick type C model system. Niemann-Pick type C is characterized as a genetic disorder that leads to hyper-accumulations of cholesterol in lysosomes of many tissues, including neuronal. These studies are designed to reveal the molecular mechanisms of NPC disease etiology and potentially provide new strategies to combat disease progression.

Dr. Javier Read de Alaniz (Fall 2011)

Dr. Javier Read joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC, Santa Barbara in 2009. Born and raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico, he received his B.S. degree in Chemistry from Fort Lewis College (Durango, Colorado) in 1999 where he conducted undergraduate research under the direction of Professor William R. Bartlett. He obtained his Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Tomislav Rovis at Colorado State University in 2006. His doctoral research focused on asymmetric catalysis. Javier then moved to California, where he worked in the area of total synthesis with Professor Larry E. Overman at the University of California, Irvine. During that time he was the recipient of the University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Dr. Joslynn Lee (Fall 2010)

Joslynn Lee (Navajo/Acoma Pueblo/Laguna Pueblo) received a Ph.D. from Northeastern University (Boston, MA), working in the lab of Professor Mary Jo Ondrechen, researching protein structure and function relationships using computational chemistry techniques. Born in Farmington, NM, she received her B.S. degree in Chemistry and Cellular & Molecular Biology from Fort Lewis College (Durango, CO) in 2006. She conducted undergraduate research in the lab of Professor Les Sommerville with funding through the NIH-MARC U*STAR program. Upon graduation, Joslynn worked as a bioanalytical chemist at Vertex Pharmaceutical Inc. (Cambridge, MA) before beginning graduate school. While in graduate school, Joslynn received the prestigious and competitive National Science Foundation - Graduate Research Fellow (NSF-GRF) in 2010. She is AISES Sequoyah Fellow and member of SACNAS. Her future plans include a postdoctoral position and then finding a faculty and research position in biomedical research. Joslynn enjoys volunteering in K-12 outreach programs, local community efforts and undergraduate STEM research. Ms. Lee was also featured on the cover of Winds Of Change.

Other MARC Supported Speakers

Dr. David Wilson (Spring 2012)

As Director of American Indian Affairs and Policy, based in Washington, D.C., Dr. Wilson manages multiple programs, services and outreach related to American Indian programs and initiatives, and works closely with Federal agencies to collaborate and promote opportunities for the SACNAS membership. Dr. Wilson has held this position for two years. He earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Immunology from Arizona State University.   As senior research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, he participated in SACNAS Summer Leadership Institute in 2010, which profoundly impacted his life and career, prompting him to join SACNAS. Dr. Wilson continues to create opportunities and programs to diversify the STEM fields that will lead to a stronger and more economically viable nation.

Dr. Mary Jo Ondrechen (Fall 2012)

Dr. Mary Jo Ondrechen earned her Bachelor's degree from Reed College, Portland, Oregon and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry and Chemical Physics from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. After postdoctoral research appointments at the University of Chicago and also at Tel-Aviv University in Israel, the latter as a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, she joined the faculty at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts in 1980. Currently she is Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and also the Principal Investigator of the Computational Biology Research Group at Northeastern University.

Her current research activities include understanding enzyme function, modeling of biological macromolecules, development of predictive theory for functional genomics, and computational guidance of drug discovery. Members of her research team are studying the role of remote residues in enzyme catalysis and in predicting the function of Structural Genomics proteins of unknown function. Her group also performs the computational modeling for two ongoing drug discovery projects, one for the design of novel therapies to treat trypanosomal diseases and the other for the design of novel agents for imaging hypoxic tumors.

Professor Ondrechen is also a community leader and activist. She currently serves on the Board of Advisors of the Washington, DC-based Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC). She is President of the Board of Directors of the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB) and also is the current Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). She is active in promoting higher education and careers in science and research to young people, particularly in minority communities. She also actively promotes the use of innovative technologies to solve environmental problems.

A proud member of Mohawk Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy, she enjoys running and traditional cooking and is sometimes seen at powwows in full Iroquois regalia, doing the fancy shawl dance.

Dr. LeManuel Bitsoi (Spring 2013)

Lee Bitsóí (Diné), EdD, currently serves as a Research Associate in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology where he assists with the Diversity Action Plan for the FlyBase Training Program.  In addition, Dr. Bitsóí is the lead Native American scholar for an initiative focusing on men of color sponsored by the College Board.  As an advocate for minority scientists and scholars, Dr. Bitsóí has served as the Secretary for the Board of Directors for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Science.

Dr. Bitsóí previously served as the Minority Action Plan (MAP) Program Director in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, where he directed a recruitment plan for underrepresented minority students interested in pursuing genomic sciences at the undergraduate and post-doc levels.  He has also served as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Science at Georgetown University, and Director of Minority Training in Bioinformatics & Genomics at Harvard University.  In addition, he has worked at Dartmouth College and San Juan College, and as an Education Strategy Consultant for the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, DC.  Admirably, Dr. Bitsóí has devoted his career to enhancing opportunities for under-represented minority students to become scientists, science educators and scientifically-informed community members.

Dr. Bitsóí earned a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of New Mexico (1995), where he was initiated into the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.  He holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University (1998) where he was initiated into another prestigious honor society—Phi Delta Kappa.  Dr. Bitsóí earned a Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania (2007) where his research focused on the conditions that encourage and discourage American Indians from pursuing higher education, a subject upon which he has published.

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