Summer Research Experience Step Toward Med School for Aspiring Orthopedic Surgeon

Cell molecular biology and chemistry senior Brenda Dominguez, who participated in the New Mexico Idea Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence Summer Experience and who aspires to become an orthopedic surgeon

© Western New Mexico University

Cell molecular biology and chemistry senior Brenda Dominguez participated in the New Mexico Idea Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Summer Experience this year. Her poster presentation, Antimicrobial properties of bacteria isolated from NMSU Intramural Fields soil samples, earned her the Outstanding Undergraduate award at the program’s concluding symposium.

“I want to do med school. Usually having some sort of research experience helps you stand out,” she says of why she applied for this summer research project. “This program introduced me to Ph.D. programs and the different possibilities out there.”
Brenda was trying to find new antibiotics in soil, specifically ones that would treat infections picked up in hospitals. “That’s how the first antibiotic was found by accident. We were trying to see if anything else we isolated would have antibiotic properties,” she says.

Learning new techniques and tools was a challenge, Brenda says, and so was the actual research.

“We kept failing and trying again. I got some cool results at the end of it. The chemicals I found in my bacteria did kill the pathogens, but they also harm us, so it wouldn’t be a viable source of antibiotics.”

There were several others conducting the same research, so Brenda drew on advice she’d received from Dr. Illya Medina of WNMU. “She’d given me ideas on how to set up and present my poster. They also grade you on how you present it, how well you know the materials, so I used her tips there but was still surprised when the announced the award,” she says.

Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Juarez, Mexico, Brenda moved back to the U.S. and came to WNMU on a golf scholarship. She chose to study science for a variety of reasons. “My mom’s an accountant and my dad is an engineer, and I never really enjoyed what they do. In high school, I needed two science classes and really enjoyed them. When I got here, I fell more in love with science thanks to my professors and the experiences I had,” she says.

The aspiring orthopedic surgeon thinks that path will help her stay in touch with her athletic side. “There’s lots of room for research in that field,” she says.

If you are interested in this Summer Research Experience contact WNMU Undergraduate Research and Grant Coordinator Joe Doyle at 575-538-6658 or

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