As they wrap up impressive undergraduate careers and receive their degrees on May 19, four science students are looking ahead with lofty goals of what they want to accomplish.

Alex Davis conducts underwater researchWith a couple of years of research already completed, Isael Rubio of Salinas, Kevin Johnson of Hollister, Eric Ross of Los Osos and Alexandra Davis of Albuquerque, N.M., are poised to make contributions in their fields.

All four are headed to graduate school courtesy of National Science Foundation fellowships, which provide $90,000 plus tuition and fees, to support three years of graduate education.

All four participated in rigorous research and demonstrated an elite level of scholarship as participants in CSUMB’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center or UROC.

Rubio worked with Dr. Carolee Bull at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research station in Salinas, investigating bacterial plant pathology. A biology major, he will attend the University of Wisconsin for his graduate studies in plant pathology.

Johnson, mentored by Dr. Aparna Sreenivasan, researched freshwater cyanobacterial algal blooms in the Monterey Bay area. A biology major, he will enter a Ph.D. program in ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Mentored by Dr. Susan Alexander, Ross conducted a number of projects, including mapping bird-nesting sites and investigating whether seabirds use smell to select mates. He is graduating with a degree in environmental science, technology and policy, and will attend the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Forestry and Wildlife Ecology.

Davis worked with Dr. Rikk Kvitek on mapping the California seafloor and conducted research on invasive species at the Perry Institute for Marine Science in the Bahamas. She will earn a degree in marine science at CSUMB and is deciding between Oregon State University and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science for graduate school.

The NSF graduate research fellowships went to 2,000 students across the country; 850 of them were awarded to undergraduates. With its four winners, CSUMB was the largest recipient in the California State University’s 23-campus system.

“These fellowships do more than recognize the fantastic achievements of our students,” said Dr. William Head, UROC director. “They validate the tremendous efforts of our faculty and campus to provide our students with world-class instruction, research opportunities and mentoring.”

According to the National Science Foundation, “The ranks of NSF Fellows include numerous individuals who have made transformative breakthroughs in science and engineering research, many who have become leaders in their fields, and some who have been honored as Nobel laureates.”

Learn more about UROC.

Photo: Alexandra Davis conducts research in the Florida Keys as part of a team of aquanauts working on Aquarius, the world's only underwater research station.