Cecilia Villanueva

Headshot of Cecilia Villanueva


Major: Microbiology

Describe your work in a few sentences that we can all understand: I am helping to develop a vaccine against Salmonella by looking at the immune response of sera from animals that were immunized with our vaccine candidate. 

Q: Who mentors your project?

A:   Dr. Wendy Picking and Dr. Bill Picking are my mentors. I also have a lot of help form Olivia Arizmendi and Francisco J. Martinez-Becerra.


Q: What surprised you about doing research?

A: How much you are able to learn in such a small amount of time. I started my research career the summer of my freshman year. It is safe to say that I knew nothing. I could barely hold a pipette, let alone use it correctly. By the end of the summer not only was I able to correctly use a pipette, but I had learned how to amply and isolate DNA, purify a protein and many other valuable techniques.


Q: What did you find most challenging about getting involved in or doing your project? What advice would you offer to students facing similar challenges?

A: Finding the courage to ask a professor to be a part of their research lab. I remember I was afraid my lack of experience would cause a professor to reject me. My advice for students facing this similar challenge is do not let your fear of a professor saying “no” to you get in the way of you asking for a research position in their lab. If you are met with a no, try another professor; you are bound to stumble upon someone that is searching for help. Also, do not worry about how much experience you do or do not have. As long as you put in constant effort and strive to learn while in the lab setting, you are bound to succeed.


Q: What do you like most about your project?

A:  I love analyzing the data of experiments that I conduct because that is when I am able to determine if it was a success. Even if the results are not desirable, they are still significant and they tell me what may have gone wrong and help me decide what step to take next.


Q: What advice would you give to a friend wanting to get involved in research?

A: Get involved as soon as you can. The knowledge that you gain is priceless and it will help propel you to do better in your current and future academic and professional career.


Q: How do you spend your time when you're not working on your research?

A: I have the wonderful opportunity to call Miller Scholarship Hall my home and most of my spare time is spent focusing and completing my vice president duties of the hall to ensure it runs smoothly. In addition to that, I love spending time with my friends and of course watching Netflix.