Meet Your Faculty Mentor: Dr. Roland Cooper

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At Dominican University of California, research is woven throughout the undergraduate program in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with students offered hands-on opportunities thanks to the expertise, reputation, and connections of faculty mentors such as Dr. Roland Cooper.

Dr. Cooper, who earned his PhD from the University of Arizona and his master’s in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, came to Dominican to combine his love of research and his commitment to mentoring undergraduates. Dr. Cooper’s specialty is malaria; he has been investigating the molecular mechanisms how drugs work against this blood parasite known as Plasmodium falciparum, for more than 20 years with the help of funding from the National Institutes of health and several private foundations.

All science students can begin working in the lab their freshman year as part of the University’s unique Research Methodology program. Through undergraduate research, student gain lifelong skills: how to structure an experiment, use laboratory equipment, record results, analyze data, and present their findings for peer review. 

This hands-on curriculum provides a unique experience for undergraduates, contributes to the success of faculty research programs, and prepares students for success in industry, graduate school, and medical school.

In collaboration with scientists from UCSF and other research institutions across the United States and abroad, Dr. Cooper is studying how the Plasmodium parasites become resistance to drugs and how this knowledge guides development of new compounds to treat malaria.

Dr. Cooper invites Dominican undergraduates to participate in the malaria research, both in his Dominican laboratory and, during the summer, on field studies in Uganda. He also studies parasites at a laboratory in the west African country of Burkina Faso, where he and his team have started a new research program.

Through his mentorship, students learn to think and work as researchers. He has inspired future MDs and PhDs to not limit their ambitions. Among the Dominican alumni whose lives Dr. Cooper has impacted are:

  • Stephanie Huezo, DNP,  ’12 BS, ’15 MS spent two summers working with Dr. Cooper in Uganda, before graduating and accepting a position as a technician in a microbiology laboratory at UCSF. She now is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Provider Healthcare. 
  • Dr. Jordan Rode ’14. The summer before Jordan began working on his medical degree at University of California Davis School of Medicine, he traveled to Uganda with Dr. Cooper to work at Tororo District Hospital studying the evolution of drug resistance in malaria parasites from blood samples from infants. Today Jordan is an emergency medicine physician at University of Utah Health.
  • After rotating through several research labs at Dominican and completing a summer internship at Stanford, Dimitrios Camacho ’19 was the first Dominican MHIRT fellow work with a collaborator of Dr. Cooper in Malawi, on a malaria project. Dimitrios received a Minority Health International Research Training Fellowship (MHIRT), funded by the NIH through UC Berkeley’s Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases in support of his studies abroad. Dimitrios became a PhD candidate in the Merchant Lab in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley.
  • Stephanie Rasmussen ’15 BS, ’17 MS spent three summers working in Uganda and was the lead author on a paper describing her work, published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy plus is a co-author on five additional papers. This year she graduated from the UC Davis School of Medicine with honors and began the residency program at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.
  • Sevil Chelebieva ’20, went to Uganda in 2019, also with an NIH-MHIRT fellowship to study malaria. There she worked in the lab to assess the sensitivity of malaria parasites to new antimalarial compounds in blood samples from malaria patients. She has since appeared as a co-author on several peer-reviewed research publications and is currently an ophthalmic technician.


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