CSUN BUILD PODER alumna publishes as first author

Share this posting on social media!

Contact Info: alina.adamian@csun.edu
Learn more about this article: Download Attachment

By Kirsten Cintigo

During the past year, Janelle Talavera, a recent graduate of California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and alumna of BUILD PODER, accomplished the nearly impossible feat of publishing as first author on her research regarding speciation. 

Coming from a Filipino-immigrant family, Talavera found being a first-generation college student interested in research difficult. However, she was recommended to the undergraduate biomedical research training program BUILD PODER by Jeanne Robertson, Ph.D., a personal mentor Talavera had been working with for a year. After Talavera applied and was accepted to the BUILD PODER program, Robertson became her BUILD mentor.

“Research is something that I fell in love with and knew I wanted to pursue,” Talavera said. “I felt like BUILD would be able to help me get on that path, which I’m currently on now.”

Janelle Talavera                                          

After joining the program, Talavera was able to fully focus on the research project she had been conducting with Robertson. The project mainly focused on speciation, which is how a new kind of plant or animal species is created by separating from the main group in the species and forming its own characteristics and understanding the evolution of reproductive isolating mechanisms within crickets through a genetic and behavioral ecological framework. This later became the basis of her now published research paper.

“What drew me most to this project was my strong interest in speciation,” Talavera said.  “I think just understanding how species evolve and come to be is truly amazing, especially since we see so much biodiversity in the world.”

Overall the fieldwork, genetic analyses and data collection took about two years to complete. From there, Talavera focused on writing the manuscript which took about a year to complete and be accepted. Throughout this entire three-year process, Talavera faced various challenges, including being stranded at one point and enduring a near-death experience during her fieldwork. Another challenge was the complications of the crickets themselves because they would die and she would have to scrap the data collected. Additionally, Talavera faced difficulties in finding a balance between her research life and student life. 

“It was difficult,” she said. “I found myself being burnt out a lot but later on I learned to take care of myself and my mental health. But there were definitely moments where I thought I might just drop out.” 

One of her biggest obstacles was writing the manuscript. According to Talavera, she felt like she couldn’t do it since she was an undergrad and had always associated this type of process with graduate students. At times, she even avoided writing altogether for weeks because she felt too scared to continue. 

“I didn’t think I was enough of a real scientist to be able to do it but I’m so glad my mentors pushed me,” she said. “It was like imposter syndrome. Eventually, I had to force myself to find the confidence to write. They don’t teach you about this in undergrad so I really had to delve into something new and go for it.”

Currently, Talavera is taking a year off from school and hoping to use this time to prepare for graduate school. She plans to enter a Ph.D. program in fall 2021 and focus on ecology and evolution.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
Need Assistance? Please contact our support team: info@diversityprogramconsortium.org .