Cristian Cortes Cortes

Cristian Cortes Cortes '20



Degree and Class Year

BA ’20


Gervais, Oregon


Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Gente Latina Unida (coleader), Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (peer mentor), Phonathon ambassador

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Predominately white institution

What’s your favorite class? How has it expanded your knowledge?

General Chemistry with Assistant Professor Casey Jones has been a great course. Casey does a fantastic job in engaging with the class and the lecture. The material of the course is fascinating and I am excited to continue with chemistry. The course has challenged me intellectually, but it has also taught me the wonders and complexities of chemistry and I’ve learned to not be afraid of chemistry. I am confident with the lab work that I have done over the semester and I am comfortable working in a lab with chemicals. Overall I really enjoyed the course, and the professor. This chemistry course is the reason why I am equipped with the knowledge and tools to succeed in upper-division chemistry and biology courses.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

The three major factors that aided me in deciding where to attend for undergrad were the small class sizes, the fact that it is close to home, and the financial assistance that Lewis & Clark provides for students to succeed. The small class sizes have been a positive attribute because I am able to engage with the course in a comfortable space, but also I get to know the faculty on a personal level and vice versa. The second is having the option of going home. Home is about an hour or so from Portland which is a plus for me because I am able to be far from home and grow as a person, but also have the option of going home as I please. The final factor is financial aid through scholarships and grants. LC does a great job assisting students to attend a private liberal arts college, but not let it be a burden which will prevent students from attending. Lewis & Clark gives its best effort to help you in the best way they can.

Why did you choose to do the Xplore program?

The Xplore program aims to assist first-generation students in the STEM field to have the appropriate tools and knowledge to succeed in college. Taking part of the Xplore program offers first-generation students an introduction to the resources available to them on campus. It also helps make the transition from high school to college a lot easier. It helps connect students of similar backgrounds and experiences who all have common goals and dreams. Xplore gave me connections with professors and departments. It helped me see that professors are approachable and are truly just there to help you succeed in college. The week that I spent on campus through Xplore helped me connect with the campus that I would be a part of for the next four years as an undergrad.

What was the best thing about the Xplore program?

I am glad I attended the Xplore program because I was able to build great relationships with the cohort of students who participated in the program. I also grew great connections with the leaders who coordinated the program. However, above all, the resources and workshops I participated in throughout the program were the best things Xplore had to offer to me. I’m thankful I have a space and peers to ask for help when I need it.

Have you had the chance to do research with a professor? If so, describe that experience.

I am currently involved in a neuroscience lab with Associate Professor Todd Watson. His focus of study is neurocognitive; he is passionate about his work and I have the opportunity to partake in his research. I started working in the lab late October of 2017 and will continue throughout my years here at Lewis & Clark. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a lab as an undergrad because at state colleges I wouldn’t have this chance to do work until graduate school.

Our area of interest is to understand and explore intuitive eating and the neurocognitive correlates of foods cues among healthy young adults. We are able to assess this by performing an EEG study in which we look at brain activity—specifically, we are interested in the N200 amplitude—all while participants complete our modified flanker task. The EEG study allows us to look into detail for brain activity. We do this by first putting what looks like a swimmer cap on the participants, in which I insert a salt-base gel to each of the 32 electrodes on the cap. The cap helps us looks at the impedance level of each of the electrodes and any other form of activity. Once the main task is completed, I help input data into our files for further analysis. The best part of the study is that I am able to interact with a variety of students and learn a great amount of detail about neurocognitive work.

How has your research enhanced your L&C experience so far?

I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate student. I believe being exposed to a number of ideas or techniques is what enhances the liberal arts education. Coming from a high school that was poorly funded and under-resourced to an institution where money isn’t a big issue has benefited me in having a strong academic connection to my field of interest. I take my time in the lab seriously because I have the chance to work one-on-one with a professor who mentors me along the way. I compare this to a large university, where undivided attention is lacking and being able to work in a lab is very competitive. Overall, I am proud of being able to add to the academic literature of psychology. My time as a research assistant has aided me intellectually; it has been a great professional development opportunity as well.