Jacob Contreras: A student, but also a mentor

Image with caption: Jacob Contreras
Jacob Contreras
The graduate students at UNMC represent a dizzying array of specialties and ambitions. In each issue of UNMC's Graduate Posts, we will introduce you to one of the students currently working toward a degree at UNMC. Today, we meet:

  • Name: Jacob Contreras
  • Program: Cancer research
  • Undergraduate institution, major and degree: University of Texas at El Paso, B.S., microbiology

Tell us about your work here at UNMC. What is your focus?
I am graduate student in the cancer research gradute program. I am in my third year of graduate school, and my current research focus is in designing, synthesizing and evaluating small molecule inhibitors for cancer therapy. I work under the supervision of Amarnath Natarajan, Ph.D., in the Eppley Science Hall. As a graduate student in Dr. Natarajan's lab, I am able to work on chemistry projects as well as biology projects, which is why I chose his lab.

You are very involved in outreach efforts to young students. Why do you think these types of activities are important for scientific/medical role models?
As an undergraduate student, I struggled to become involved in research activities. It was the graduate students who really motivated me and introduced me to the thought of pursuing a graduate degree. As a current graduate student, I often think about what careers are available for me to pursue. Often, academia is the first option that comes to mind. As a future educator, I hope to never lose sight of where we all started. Aside from conducting research, one of our main goals should be to educate future generations. What better time to start than now? I currently participate in the TeamMates mentoring program, founded by Tom and Nancy Osborne, and so far it has been a great experience! If anyone would like to join, please contact me and I will do my best to set you up with information.

What made UNMC the best fit for you?
UNMC is an institution that offers a diverse selection of programs. I joined UNMC through the biomedical tesearch training program. The BRTP allowed me to rotate in labs from a variety of the programs that UNMC offers. It is because of the BRTP program that I chose to attend UNMC. While here, I have grown to appreciate the faculty and have bonded well with my classmates. Coming from Texas, I am a long way from home, but Omaha has been a really great place to live. The receptive community has not only facilitated my transition from home but has inspired me to give back.

List three things people may not know about you.

  • I married my high school sweetheart, we bought a house and had a baby within about one year.
  • I love chick flicks.
  • I plan to visit every single national park in America.


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Yvonne Holguin
March 03, 2014 at 9:16 AM

That's awesome Jacob! Your Tio and I have so many rights. Keep up the good work and don't loose focus of the great things in life.