It’s not every day that a mentee/mentor team has the opportunity to present their research overseas, but for UTEP BUILD junior Luisa Castillo and ASU assistant professor of nutrition, Corrie M. Whisner, Ph.D., that’s how they wrapped up 2017.

The chemistry major, anthropology minor presented her poster titled, “The effects of sleep and depression on markers of bone health in college students” at the 10th International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis (ISNAO 2017) in Hong Kong, China on November 28-December 1.

Her poster was based on the research that she conducted during the past two summers at Arizona State University (ASU) under the direction of Dr. Whisner at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. Each summer, UTEP BUILD scholars are paired with mentors from across the country to conduct a 10- week summer research project at one of 12 research-partner institutions.

The symposium isn’t typically a conference that undergraduates attend since it’s often hosted internationally and can come with a hefty (travel) price tag. Castillo, who received honorable mention and was the sole undergraduate attendee, said she met scientists from all over the world including Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, and China.

“ISNAO attracts all of the most famous and successful bone health researchers and for Luisa this was an opportunity I couldn't let her miss. I want her to go to the best programs and work with the best people in the field and being able to attend ISNAO was a once in a lifetime experience to meet potential graduate school mentors,” said Whisner. “I also want her to be brave, expand her horizons and not doubt herself.”

When Castillo was asked about her recent trip she immediately credited BUILDing SCHOLARS and her mentor for having a huge impact on both her professional and personal life.

“[BUILD] has brought us way more opportunities at our age or state in our professional development that we wouldn’t have had because it’s not so often that an undergrad gets to do research three out of the four years that they’re an undergrad… [we] do.”

Castillo said that she was always inclined to go into industry, but saw “the way that you can change someone’s life” as a university professor and researcher. “[Whisner] has helped me a lot in my own confidence, personally and professionally.”

Whisner and Castillo also co-authored an article in Calcified Tissue International in October 2017.

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