MariaElena Zavala, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology

Dr. María Elena Zavala is a graduate of Pomona College (AB) and the University of California, Berkeley (PhD). She has worked at the United States Department of Agriculture, Yale University, and Michigan State University. Currently, she is a full professor of biology at California State University Northridge (CSUN). She has spent most of her career studying plant development, particularly roots. She was the first scientist to show the distribution of a plant hormone, cytokinin, in roots. She has published the results of her work on plants in various scientific journals. The Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Institutes of Health have funded her research efforts. In addition to her interests in plants, she is interested in educational equity issues, has worked to develop science curricula for K-12 teachers, has worked to improve teaching and learning in STEM, and has established and directed programs that seek to increase the number of minorities in the sciences. She has also worked on projects that seek to increase the participation of women in science (American Women in Science, Women In Science and Engineering and Women In Cell Biology) and minorities (American Society of Plant Biologists Minority Affairs Committee and American Society for Cell Biology Minority Affairs Committee). She is a contributing author to an award winning book “Flor y Ciencia: Chicanas in Mathematics, Science and Engineering”. She has served on the National Institutes of Health advisory boards, and has reviewed proposals for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the United States Department of Agriculture. She was the first Chicana president of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, the premier minority scientific organization in the United States, and has been recognized by CSUN and the California State University system for her outstanding accomplishments in mentoring students. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Society for Plant Biologists. She is a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, awarded to her by William Jefferson Clinton.

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