Annual Newsletter

The Cellular and Molecular Biology Training Grant
(Report by Jorge Torres and Jonathan Lowenson)

      The UCLA Cellular and Molecular Biology training program was established in 1975 with Paul Boyer as its first director.  We are now in our 45th year on the NIGMS training grant and currently support 24 predoctoral students at a stipend of $24,816 per year, plus partial funds for UC fees, tuition, and travel to scientific conferences. In addition, there are limited finances available to support seminar programs on campus that may be of special interest to our trainees.

Trainees in this program are from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which includes the Biochemistry, Molecular & Structural Biology Ph.D. Program (BMSB) and the Chemistry Ph.D. Program, and the UCLA Graduate Program in Biosciences (GPB).  Our previous policy was to accept only students in BMSB and the Molecular Biology IDP, which includes four Biosciences Home Areas: Biochemistry, Biophysics, & Structural Biology; Cell & Developmental Biology; Gene Regulation; and Immunity, Microbes, & Molecular Pathogenesis.  This year, however, we have started to include students in the Chemistry Graduate Program and the other Bioscience Home Areas, as long as the student conducts research that focuses on techniques in molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, and/or structural biology.  We have continued our weekly Fall quarter research integrity class (Chemistry and Biochemistry C150/C250), as well as our research seminar series in the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters (Chemistry and Biochemistry 204), where students present their data to the other trainees, and the training faculty discuss their career choices and details about how to pursue and maintain a career in science.  We also have our advanced research integrity class (Chemistry and Biochemistry 203D) in the Spring quarter in which our third-year trainees and the training faculty participate in discussions about ethical issues affecting specific fields of research.  Many thanks go to the entire training faculty who participated in these important classes.  Many of the current and former trainees also presented posters, gave talks, and helped organize the annual MBI research conference which was held at Lake Arrowhead, California, last October.

We have also obtained supplemental funds this year from the Graduate Division to help cover the costs of tuition and fees.  Combined with funds from the NIH grant, we were able to cover more than 95% of the trainees' tuition and fees for the year.  

A major goal of the CMB Training Program is to help our trainees present their data at as many research conferences as possible.  Last year, trainees gave talks or presented posters at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX, the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in San Diego, Gorden Research Conferences in Galveston, TX, and Les Diablerets, Switzerlandthe Experimental Biology/ASBMB Conference in San Diego, the American Society for Microbiology Conference in Boston, MA, the Annual Meeting of the Protein Society in Barcelona, Spain, the Biophysical Society meeting in Los Angeles, the Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function in Lorne, Australia, the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center Spring Retreat at UC Berkeley, the Southern California Eukaryotic Pathogen Symposium at UC Riverside, the EMBOL Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and the Keystone Symposium (B Cells at the Intersection of Innate and Adaptive Immunity) in Stockholm, Sweden.

The trainees continue to be involved in mentoring underrepresented undergraduates, increasing the pipeline of future scientists.  One or more of our trainees attended the SACNAS Annual Conference and the Emerging Researches National (ERN) Conference in Washington DC last year.  Two of the trainees were involved with UCLA’s California Nanoscience Institute’s Community Outreach Program.  Three of the trainees worked with CityLab (, and one has recently been elected Education Director of this group.  Two trainees were tutors for School on Wheels, which links tutors with homeless children in order to keep them from falling behind in school.  Two trainees mentored STEM undergraduates at the UCLA Undergraduate Research Center.  Some of the trainees manned booths at UCLA’s annual “Exploring Your Universe” day, demonstrating chemistry to hundreds of children and their parents.  Finally, almost all of our trainees mentor either undergraduates or graduate students


Program Director - Professor Jorge Torres

Associate Director - Professor Elissa Hallem

Program Coordinator - Jonathan Lowenson, 638 Boyer Hall (

      Major decisions affecting the grant administration are made by the Program Director and members of the Advisory Committee: Professor Tracy Johnson, Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology; Professor Feng Guo, Biological Chemistry; Professor Robert Clubb, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Professor Alex van der Bliek, Biological Chemistry.  Besides deciding policy, the Advisory Committee is responsible for selecting the trainees for the coming year from the names submitted by each of the programs listed above.

New Appointments: Those who are joining the program in 2019-20 are as follows:
Armenta, ErnestChemistryUC RiversideK. Backus
Cano, ClaraBMSB: GRCSU Los AngelesK. Plath
DeMario, SamuelBMSBU. GeorgiaG. Chanfreau
Giafaglione, JennaMBIDP: CDBUC Davis

A. Goldstein          P. Boutros

Hebner, YukiMBIDP: GRWesleyan U.L. de la Torre-Ubieta
Jackson, NicholasMBIDP: CDBFramingham State U.      Tufts U.L. Jones
Lynn, NicoleBMSBCal Poly PomonaJ. Torres
Miller, MatthewMBIDP: IMMPUC BerkeleyM. Butte
Nguyen, LeAnnMBIDP: IMMPU. WashingtonM. Li
Sandoval, CarinaMBIDP: GRCSU FullertonO. Fregoso
Valencia, DylanBMSBUC DavisM. Quinlan            A. Nakano