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Professor Building USDA Connections Through HSI Fellowship

July 23, 2007

MERCED - As the University of California, Merced, pursues the
federal designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), one
biology professor has already gotten a taste of the benefits that
come with that status. Professor Andres (Andy) Aguilar recently
returned from four weeks in Washington, D.C. on an E. (Kika) de la
Garza Fellowship from the United States Department of Agriculture.
On this fellowship, he was introduced to various USDA grant
programs and potential collaborators in USDA facilities.

“In addition to opening doors for my research, this fellowship
will help me find opportunities for UC Merced students at the
USDA,” Aguilar said. “Students may not have been aware of the
educational and career opportunities there, but with more
connections I can now help them better.”

Aguilar studies population genetics of fish - specifically,
trout, steelhead and salmon - studying their molecular biology and
genetics in his UC Merced laboratory. While on his fellowship in
D.C., he had the chance to visit the USDA’s National Center for
Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture in Leetown, W. Va.

“It was a good experience to meet the scientists there,” Aguilar
said. “They’re using some of the same information I need regarding
a particular gene that could be help rainbow trout evolve to be
more disease resistant. It’s a possible point of collaboration for
the future.”

The de la Garza Fellowships are awarded annually to promising
young faculty members in HSIs recognized by the USDA, which
requires an institution to demonstrate that at least 25 percent of
its enrolled students are Hispanic. UC Merced meets that criterion,
which allowed Aguilar to qualify for his fellowship.

To receive HSI status from the U.S. Department of Education -
the designation that will make a difference for a large number of
grants and other programs for UC Merced - the campus still needs to
receive its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools
and Colleges (WASC), a process that is already well underway.