REACH Faculty Mentors are Lehman College professors who deeply understand the processes and importance of research. REACH faculty mentors take on the responsibility of helping students find research mentors and identify different research opportunities. Once a research experience is identified, REACH faculty mentors further support undergraduates in developing their understanding of the field of research and guide them in the exploration of their career interest. REACH faculty mentors serve as secondary support to students after they have identified a research mentor and can assist students with problems that arise beyond the lab.
Columba de la Parra
Columba de la Parra joined the Department of Chemistry at Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY) as an Assistant Professor in the Fall 2019. She is an Engineer with a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from the ITESM Monterrey Campus (México) and Cornell University (Ithaca, NY). She has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Medical Sciences Campus of the University of Puerto Rico and postdoctoral training at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine.
She is passionate about science, research, and teaching. de la Parra’s research is focused on breast cancer, for which she has achieved several high impact peer-reviewed publications and obtained important recognitions, including a Pre-doctoral Fellowship award from the DoD Breast Cancer Research Program, Postdoctoral fellowship from the American Cancer Society, and The National Institute of Health (NIH).
The main motivation of her scientific career is to participate through her research in therapeutic strategies for advanced breast cancer and to contribute to the academic formation of the next generation of highly prepared and competent scientists. Her research interest includes health promotion and disease prevention, metabolism, translational control in cancer, protein synthesis, RNA-protein interactions, and bioactive compounds in natural products for anticancer activity.
de la Parra has mentored several undergraduate and graduate students in cancer research projects in Puerto Rico and New York. Now, as an Assistant Professor at CUNY, she continues her research on breast cancer metastasis in her lab, provides research experience to students, and instructs them on the significance of doing basic science for the advancement of the biomedical field.
Melissa is a native New Yorker and part of the first generation of her family to graduate from college. She earned a BA in Chemistry and an MS in Bio-Organic Chemistry at NYU before pursuing her PhD through the CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College. Her doctoral research on the use of radioactive metals for medical imaging involved conducting research at the nearby Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Melissa came to Lehman after her PhD for a post-doc in chemical education to focus on how chemistry classes are taught and study a flipped classroom model of general chemistry developed at Hunter and Lehman. The students and faculty at Lehman impressed her so much that she then joined the Chemistry Department as an Assistant Professor in 2017.
Melissa specifically enjoys interdisciplinary research that stretches from biomedical applications to nuclear physics and is happy to talk to students about chemistry and beyond. Outside of school, she can be found working on various craft projects, going to concerts and shows around the city, or watching nerdy shows and movies. Students are welcome to stop by her office for a chat and some candy!
Julio was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. He earned his BA in Biology at Universidad Complutense of Madrid, one of the oldest operating universities in Europe and the world (founded in 1293). He then pursued his PhD in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biomedicine at Fundacion Jimenez Diaz, a hospital associated with the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. His doctoral research focused on the study of organ damage induced by hypertension and its treatment with different therapies. After earning his degree, he was awarded with one of the most prestigious awards in Spain to perform a post-doc in cardiovascular diseases at the largest hospital in Madrid. During that time, Julio was invited to teach a course in cellular and molecular biology in the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (East Africa). He witnessed first-hand the devastating effects that malaria has in children and decided to make a big switch in his research topic.
Julio was awarded with a mobility program grant and moved to New York to research malaria at NYU School of Medicine. While in New York, he was offered to teach a master’s course as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College. That experience was so rewarding that he decided to dedicate his professional career to the two things he likes the most, research and teaching. In 2018, Julio was appointed as a new faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at Lehman College, and since then he has been mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. He has set up his laboratory to focus on severe malaria research using a multidisciplinary approach that he has developed after years of experience working in many different fields. In his free time, you can find him cooking a paella at home, growing tomatoes in the backyard or birdwatching in the park. During holidays, you will not find him in the office because he will be either visiting his family in Spain or travelling around the world hiking some mountains.
REACH Peer Mentors
As a part of REACH, undergraduates new to research have the opportunity to be paired with other undergraduates who have significant research experience. Students who are paired with REACH peer mentors will be able to obtain valuable information about the field of research from the student’s perspective. Who better to help guide you on your research journey than someone who is in similar shoes and working towards similar goals? Students feel comfortable talking to other students. Ask the questions you may be afraid to ask senior faculty and research mentors. Get some insight into the journey you are embarking on. REACH peer mentors serve the purpose of making students who are new to research feel more comfortable as they explore research and helps build a more close-knit community of researchers on campus.