CSUSB’s College of Natural Sciences to honor alumnus and students at commencement
Office of Strategic Communication
The College of Natural Sciences at Cal State San Bernardino will recognize three exceptional individuals at its graduation ceremony at noon, on Saturday, June 16, at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario: Robert Tanguay as the Outstanding Alumnus, Maylen Jackson as the Outstanding Graduate Student, and Rafael Alamilla as the Outstanding Undergraduate Student.
Tanguay graduated cum laude from CSUSB in 1988 with a bachelor’s in biology, and then earned his doctorate in biochemistry from UC Riverside in 1995. He served as an adjunct professor for a short time at CSUSB that same year.
He eventually became a faculty member at the University of Colorado, Denver and subsequently at Oregon State University, Corvallis, where he currently serves as the Distinguished Professor of Molecular Toxicology in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology.
Tanguay, who uses the zebrafish as a model to study systems toxicology and how hazardous chemicals assert their toxic effects, has been successful at securing research grants from numerous federal, state and private funding agencies.
Additionally, Tanguay has co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed paper and book chapters, and has mentored dozens of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
Maylen Jackson, the Outstanding Graduate Student, is graduating with a master’s degree in health science and human ecology, a major she chose due to her passion for helping others.
“Ever since I was young, I would help others with homework assignments, and while in college, I continued helping colleagues with projects,” she said. “In addition, outside college, I have chosen many times to volunteer and helped many friends, family and organizations during Thanksgiving, Christmas with donation collections to help the needy in the surrounding communities or Tijuana, Mexico.”
Jackson plans on taking the certified health education specialist exam later this year and wants to work for a local organization with either children, seniors or the prevention of HIV. She hopes to one day become a public health analyst.
Jackson says that many people have inspired her throughout her life, but one person who has notably pushed her is Monideepa Becerra, CSUSB assistant professor of health science and human ecology.
“Throughout my academic time of knowing her, she has always looked for professional development for herself,” she said. “I think that is amazing because it inspires me to continue looking for ways to learn more every day, to be better prepared for jobs out in the world.”
Jackson is the first in her family to go to college and earn her bachelor’s degree, and now her master’s, something she says is an accomplishment she is most proud of. And she achieved all of this while battling cancer.
“I have had to manage chemotherapy side effects while trying to meet project, and research paper deadlines,” she said. “Chemotherapy side effects are the most debilitating issue a cancer patient has to endure. Completing an infinite number of assignments and article readings at times was overwhelming for me, but I truly can say that doing this was a test of my personal strength, and I can look back and see how strong I am.”
Rafael Alamilla, the Outstanding Undergraduate Student, is graduating with a degree in kinesiology with an overall GPA of 3.98.
“When I was young, I had always been active (both competitively and recreationally). So, when I found out that I could make a career out of exercise, I immediately jumped on the opportunity,” he said. “Physical activity not only improves lives, but in some cases, it can give life back to those who lost it. For that reason alone, I am proud to be in this field.”
During his time at CSUSB, Alamilla carried out a number of community outreach service projects, including one where he worked with the fitness of SWAT team members of local law enforcement agencies.
Alamilla, who won the American Kinesiology Association’s National Undergraduate Scholar Award, has presented his work at regional and national conferences. He also presented the SWAT study data at this year’s CSUSB Research Competition, and in recognition of his work, he was selected to represent CSUSB at this year’s CSU Research Competition.
While achieving all of his academic goals, Alamilla did so while experiencing depression.
“While I have overcome my depression, it will always be a part of me,” he said. “However, my own struggles with mental health have taught me a great deal about myself and my motivations. Going through depression has given me a purpose … to help people.”
Alamilla credits Jason Ng, CSUSB assistant professor of kinesiology, for helping inspire him to grow as a professional and as an individual.
“Dr. Ng has always given me his belief, confidence and trust,” he said. “As a result, I have been able to have the confidence in myself to go forward and take every opportunity that was presented to me without hesitation.”
After graduation, Alamilla will enter the doctoral program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign to study physiology of exercise.
“Throughout my four years on this campus, I have been presented with numerous opportunities to develop myself as a professional and as an individual,” he said. “I can say with certainty that CSUSB provides their undergraduates with numerous opportunities not found elsewhere. Students have so much room to grow here. I am merely just one example of that.”