USC – CONACYT Postdoctoral Scholars Program

In collaboration with Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), this joint program provides postdoctoral scholars from Mexico with 1-2 year postdoctoral fellowships in fields related to science, technology, and innovation. The fellows receive a salary of up to $60,000 USD per year in addition to $8,000 USD towards a comprehensive benefits package.

This strengthens USC’s leadership in global research collaboration by promoting increased scientific capacity and technological innovation between the United States and Mexico.

USC News: Researchers are part of new collaboration between USC and Mexico’s Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología

Luis Alvarez Leon is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation at the USC Price School of Public Policy. His work focuses on the interactions between information, technological innovation, and regulation in the rearticulation of the capitalist space-economy. Leon has conducted research on the geographic, political, and regulatory dimensions of the digital economy on the geospatial, film and television, and Internet sectors. He is currently developing a research project on innovation patterns and trade in North America that asks the question of how patenting and intellectual property regimes have changed in Mexico and the United States as a result of trade treaties such as NAFTA and the TPP.

Matthew Lorenzen is a postdoctoral fellow at USC’s Price School of Public Policy. In 2016, he was a consultant at Mexico’s National Population Council (CONAPO), working on a project about the child and adolescent migrants traveling from, to and through Mexico. His research at USC focuses on the issues of mixed migration from Central America and the effects of and responses to recent changes in US and Mexican immigration policies. Matthew Lorenzen recently published a book, in Spanish, titled “Migración de niñas, niños y adolescentes: Antecedentes y análisis de información de la Red de módulos y albergues de los Sistemas DIF, 2007-2016” (“Migration of girls, boys and adolescents: background and analysis of information from the DIF Systems’ Network of offices and shelters, 2007-2016”). He has also published and presented work on migration and urbanization in central Mexico, particularly in the state of Morelos.

Rafael Figueroa-Hernández studied Sociology and Latin American Studies at the National University of México and got his Ph.D. in History and Regional Studies at Universidad Veracruzana. He is a researcher at the Centro de Estudios de la Cultura y la Comunicación de la Universidad Veracruzana. Figueroa-Hernandez is the author and compiler of more than 20 books, has been a radio and TV producer of shows devoted to Mexican and Caribbean music. In 2017 he will be studying and being part of the son jarocho scene of the United States as part of a multicultural, multinational community around this genre of music from México.

Rodolfo Pinto Almazan is an experienced research scientist that have conducted studies in the field of neurobiology, neuroplasticity and neuroendocrinology, particularly focused on behavioral, biochemical and molecular functions and action mechanisms of steroid hormones in the CNS. His findings have contributed to a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of neuronal plasticity and neuroprotection of steroid hormones and its effects on proteins and neurotransmitters that are markers of plasticity and damage in various neurodegenerative animal models. He received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the National University of Mexico (UNAM) and has published seven international articles in indexed journals to date.

Already a Trojan, Socrates Munoz received his Ph.D. in chemistry from USC Dornsife this past spring, following the completion of his B.S. in pharmaceutical chemistry and biology from the University of Guadalajara in 2009. At USC, Munoz worked with Professors George A. Olah and G.K. Surya Prakash on sustainable synthetic methodologies and the synthesis of organofluorine small molecules for medical purposes. Munoz will continue his work with Prakash in the field of medical fluorine chemistry.

Julio Cesar Ignacio Espinoza is another recent graduate who has spent time in the U.S. Espinoza received a Fulbright-García Robles Fellowship to pursue graduate work at the University of Arizona’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology, where he developed and applied bioinformatic, statistical, phylogenetic and visualization tools to study viral evolution in marine systems. He graduated in December 2014 and will work with Prof. Jed Fuhrman in biological sciences at USC Dornsife on studying the role of viruses in biogeochemical processes.

USC Viterbi School of Engineering will receive Kenya Díaz Becerril, a chemist who studies the synthesis of metal-organic frameworks – compounds that have both organic and metal components, which can be used to store gases, among other things. Díaz completed her Ph.D. at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, later accepting a position as a postdoctoral researcher at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Spain. There, she studied composite materials as well as the synthesis of metal-organic frameworks, and their application in the adsorption and separation of gases. Díaz will work with Prof. Stephen Cronin, developing hybrid nanomaterials for the storage and transport of methane.

Also heading to USC Viterbi School of Engineering is Rigoberto Castro, who received his Ph.D. from the Centro de Investigaciones en Óptica-León in Guanajuato in 2011. Since then, he has worked on nonlinear optics, integrated optical devices, and nanotechnology. Castro will work with Prof. Andrea Armani.

Neuroscientist Ismael Fernandez-Hernandez will arrive in Los Angeles by way of Mexico, Switzerland, and Spain. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at ITESO Jesuit University in Guadalajara in 2005, then earned a master’s degree in Molecular Biomedicine from the Autonomous University of Madrid. His Ph.D. work, completed at the University of Bern in Switzerland, focused on the use of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism to analyze adult neurogenesis – Fernandez-Hernandez is interested in using the flies as an experimental platform to find genetic and pharmacological cues that may help the brain to counteract degeneration from aging or injury. At USC, he’ll be working with Prof. Michael Bonaguidi at the USC Keck School of Medicine, Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute.

Currently an investigator for the Epidemiological and Health Services Research Unit of the Mexican Social Security Institute, Katia Gallegos-Carillo will tackle public health issues with Professors Jonathan Samet and Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati at the USC Keck School of Medicine. Gallegos-Carillo connects lifestyle to the risk of contracting non-communicable diseases. She received her master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico and has published studies that relate lifestyle choices (think: physical activity and diet) to physical health and well-being, as well as interventions to increase physical activity levels among patients suffering from hypertension. Gallegos-Carillo will take advantage of her time in Los Angeles to conduct comparative studies between the US and Mexico.

Antonia Herrera-Ortiz also comes to USC from the field of public health – she’s an investigator with the Centre for Research on Infectious Diseases of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, where she received her Ph.D. in health sciences. Her research focuses on two major public health issues facing the world today: malaria and sexually transmitted infections. Though she’s currently performing epidemiological studies of STIs in populations including sex workers, youth and men who have sex with men, and men living with HIV; at USC she’ll work with Prof. Shou-Jiang Gao at the USC Keck School of Medicine to investigate the role of nitric oxide in Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, a cancer-causing virus that particularly impacts individuals with AIDS.

A public policy researcher with interests that span the entire continent, Iván Farías Pelcastre will spend his time at USC transforming his doctoral thesis – The Institutionalization of Regional Integration in North America – into a book manuscript. In it, he plans to propose a clearer understanding of the process of integration across Mexico, the United States, and Canada. He argues that “despite the absence of supranational bodies, current developments in the region give proof of the emergence of transnational policy arenas between the three countries, which most studies have failed to acknowledge.” He hopes his research will inform policymakers working to support, improve and expand the capacity of regional institutions in North America – promoting freer trade. Farías Pelcastre received his Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom and will work with Prof. Robert Suro at the USC Price School of Public Policy.

Marcela Vélez, who received her Ph.D. from the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste, studies free radicals, oxidative stress – and sharks. Oxidative stress occurs when a cell isn’t able to rid itself of reactive species of oxygen, which can cause damage. Vélez analyzes indicators of oxidative stress in different types of fish, including mako sharks. At USC, she plans to work with Prof. Kelvin Davies of the USC Davis School of Gerontology to explore what types of physical processes are affected at the transcriptional – DNA – level by free radicals.

Another biologist, Victor Alejandro Arias-Esquivel will work with USC Dornsife’s Prof. James Moffett on the evaluation of iron distribution at the Mexican Oxygen Minimum Zone, located off Manzanillo coast. His working hypothesis is that the absence of oxygen increases the offshore transport of iron from the Mexican coast, making the region a major source of iron on its way to the interior of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Arias-Esquivel received his Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Connecticut and was a Research Associate Professor at Universidad del Mar and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Autonomous University of Baja California.

José Bravo will work with Prof. Ralf Langen at the USC Keck School of Medicine, studying the way glycoprotein crystalizes when forming gallstones. Bravo earned his Ph.D. at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla in Mexico and was attracted to Langen’s lab because of his structural biology research – especially in protein misfolding in diseases. Certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, are described as “proteopathic,” meaning that they cause proteins to adopt abnormal structures that interfere with their ability to function properly. On Langen’s team, Bravo will study a specific misfolding that is associated with Huntington’s Disease.