MEDIA: Shelley Pressley, Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, WSU Undergraduate Education, 509-335-5488,

Emma Epperly, Communications and Marketing Junior Assistant, WSU Undergraduate Education, 509-335-9458,

Read our previous article from 05-06-2016 about Luis’ invitation to present at the Gordon Conference.

PULLMAN, Wash.—Luis Cortez researches a family of enzymes (APOBEC) that exist in mammalian cells and damage viruses that have invaded the cell as part of an innate immune response. As an undergraduate Cortez received support from the Office of Undergraduate Research among other organizations to attend the Gordon Research Symposium on mechanisms of mutagenesis and genome alterations in Girona, Spain. The symposium is for young researchers, and is part of the prestigious Gordon Research Conference.

Cortez attended the symposium and conference in early June 2016, just weeks following his undergraduate graduation. He gave an oral presentation on his research at the symposium and also presented a poster during the symposium and the conference. He won an outstanding research poster award for his poster presentation— one of just six awarded.

Cortez said he enjoyed the symposium because it was a smaller gathering than the conference (about 40 people versus 100). All of the symposium participants were early career scientists, like Cortez, which, he said, made it easy to make connections and discuss research.

Cortez received support to attend the symposium and conference from the Office of Undergraduate Research, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), the SMB, and Multicultural Student Services. He is a first-generation student and is from Othello, Wash.

There’s also a mentorship component at the symposium where established researchers talk about their own career paths and give advice to new researchers about various career pathways, he said.

While at the Gordon events in Spain, Cortez was able to take a few tours and experience Spanish culture firsthand. His favorite adventure was a Costa Brava boat trip. Cortez said it was a “nice clear day and the coast was beautiful” plus he got to swim in the Mediterranean Sea.

Cortez’s presentation at the Gordon conference and symposium advanced his research progression. He recently submitted an article as a contributing author and hopes it will be published in the next few months.

After his graduation in May, Cortez has continued his research at WSU in the lab of Steven Roberts. He hopes to apply to MD-Ph.D. programs soon, as his ultimate goal is to be a primary investigator at a medical university. He would continue to pursue research in DNA damage and repair as a molecular basis of disease, and hopefully translate laboratory discoveries into patient treatments.