Former SCCC biology instructor and Bridges sponsor Dr. Todd Carter offers a glimpse into the story of honoree, Dr. Obdulia Covarrubias-Zambrano Perez.
“What do you say to a high school student that comes to your college office and says ‘I want to be a part of your program so I can get a bachelor’s degree and then go to medical school?’ Of course she comes highly recommended by her high school chemistry teacher and as a Latina, qualifies for the program. You tell her about the program, have her apply, and then you accept her into the program because she is driven, caring, and brilliant.
“You don’t tell her that only 22% of minority students pursing a science, technology, engineering, or math bachelors degree actually complete.
“You don’t tell her the completion rate is much lower for females and lower yet for immigrant females from Mexico.
“You get invited to family celebrations and you use your network to get her connected with the right people and then she takes control and completes the journey – Bachelor’s degree, PhD in chemistry, post-doctoral researcher addressing difficult problems. Driven, caring, humble, brilliant, understanding the investment others have made in her, and most certainly paying it forward.”
That’s Dr. Covarrubias-Zambrano. She graduated from SCCC in 2012, and seven years later, she is still earning high praise for her research projects into pancreatic cancer detection. Her work at K-State focuses on the development of a nanobiosensor for early pancreatic cancer detection by means of a simple blood test. Pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate because it is usually diagnosed at a late stage due to the lack of an efficient detection technique. Currently, detection techniques include MRI, CT and PET scans, which not only expose patients to radiation but are very expensive. A simple blood test would be less expensive and expose patients to fewer risks than current detection methods.
Those who feel a bit lost when confronted by all those terms, would do well to consider how Obdulia’s journey sounded to her brave and loving parents, who supported their daughter as she stepped into a collegiate, academic, totally alien world.
Although the older Covarrubias-Zambranos were visiting family in Mexico on the day of the SCCC Harvest Celebration, the event honored them, because it is a family victory. And it’s going to go on. Congratulations, Obdulia. We are so proud to claim a tiny part in your story.