McNair Scholars Profile: CWU Connections Helped Graduate Figure Out His Future

Juan Flores sometimes has to pinch himself when he thinks about how far he has come since graduating from high school in 2011.

The first-generation college graduate and first-generation Mexican immigrant didn’t know what career path he wanted to pursue. So, he attended Wenatchee Valley College for two years before transferring to CWU, where he completed a BS in chemistry in 2017.

Now, the former McNair Scholar is a PhD candidate in physiology at the University of California-Davis, researching how human learning is affected by timing at the cellular level—a phenomenon called “connective plasticity.”

“There is a timing aspect to how we learn, and we are looking at which proteins are responsible for changes in plasticity,” said Flores, who moved to Quincy with his family at age 8. “What we are finding is that plasticity is limited if humans introduce more than one learning stimulus at the same time. We learn better if we have a break in between sessions of learning.”

Flores, 29, often looks back on his time in Ellensburg as setting the stage for his current success. He points to the personal connections he made in the Chemistry Department and McNair Scholars program as the catalyst. He thanked Central professors Allison Scoville and Carin Thomas, and many others, for mentoring him.

“The reason I enjoyed my experience so much was the faculty support I received,” Flores said. “Everyone at CWU is so accessible, and because CWU is smaller, you really get to connect with people. There is a sense of community you get there that is hard to find other places.”

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