Featured Alumni

Chantale L. Johnson

Current Title and Position: Assistant Laboratory ManagerChantale Johnson

Institution: Food Safety Net Services – Grand Prairie, TX


  • 2008 – MS, Biology, California State University, Fresno
  • 2003 – BS, Biology, Xavier University of Louisiana


Growing up in Fresno, CA, I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career in the science industry. This desire was immensely strengthened during my attendance at Bullard High School in Thomas Atkins’ Physiology and Anatomy class. I went on to complete my undergraduate coursework at Xavier University of Louisiana and my graduate coursework at California State University, Fresno. At CSU, Fresno, I began to develop a stronger desire to work specifically within the field of microbiology.

I was first introduced to the food science industry at a CSU Career Fair. Soon after, I began working as a technician in a food science laboratory where I helped to conduct testing to identify the presence/absence of E. coli O157:H7, Listeria spp., Salmonella spp. and additional potentially harmful microbes in food products before they could be released to the consumers for consumption. Since then, I have transferred to Food Safety Net Services (FSNS), where I began four years ago as a Laboratory Technologist and since have been promoted several times to now serve as the Assistant Laboratory Manager for FSNS in Dallas, TX.

FSNS is a network of accredited laboratories, equipped with state-of-the-art instruments, to meet our clients’ testing needs while staying open 24/7, year round. Daily testing includes, quantitative and qualitative analysis following standardized and validated methods such as Association of Analytical Communities, United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, as well as others. My role is to assist in the supervision of forty five plus personnel during daily laboratory operations with emphasis on microbiological and chemical techniques, including processes, quality control, reporting, and interpretation of results.

What role attending Fresno State’s Biology graduate program played in your career?

I’ve had a number of experiences that have served as catalysts in my desire to work in the science industry but the most impactful was the time that I spent in the graduate program at California State University, Fresno. While conducting graduate research, I was able to take part in innovative research that helped to develop my solid intellectual and cognitive abilities, as well as the sequential analytical skills that allow me to better see cause and effect relationships. These are now essential elements of my daily responsibilities as certain decisions that I make have a direct impact on public safety.

While at CSU, Fresno, I was able to develop a healthier respect for conducting quality work with a sense of urgency. It is important to be achievement-oriented while also remaining rational and logical in approaching problems and decisions. The faculty at CSU, Fresno was very supportive and challenged me to be a better scientist. Dr. Rawat, my thesis advisor, dedicated a significant amount of time and effort to ensure that I developed while working in her laboratory and it is because of the dedication and hard work displayed in Dr. Rawat’s lab that I have grown to love science even more.

In the graduate program at CSU, Fresno, I was also afforded the opportunity to be a teaching associate within the biology department as well as present research at several symposiums. Through these opportunities, my ability to modify instruction to accommodate those who learn differently was strengthened. This is a skill that I am able to utilize even today in performing personnel laboratory training, reviews, and creating personal growth plans.

I have always believed that commitment is what transforms a person’s potential into a reality. Attending California State University, Fresno provided me with the support, guidance, and opportunities to learn and grow within the science field. My commitment to the graduate program at CSU, Fresno, and all that the program offered, instilled in me essential components that have propelled me to where I am in my career today.

Denise Lopez, M.S., P.H.M. II

Current Title and Position: Public Health Manager, ELAP Lab Director Denise Lopez
Institution: Tulare County Laboratories

Denise was born in southern California and moved to the Central Valley when she was very young.  After graduating from Redwood High School in Visalia, CA, she began attending the College of the Sequoias (COS). At COS, she discovered her passion for science and decided to pursue her BS in Biology at Fresno State University.  She transferred there in 2001 and, in her senior year, took a Medical Microbiology course, which changed her educational and career path to the one she is on now.

What role attending Fresno State’s Biology graduate program played in your career?
Once my BS was complete, I was planning on entering a professional training program to obtain a license and enter into a career right away. During my junior year, I was intrigued by a Medical Microbiology course and approached the instructor, Dr. Mamta Rawat, about volunteering in her research laboratory in-between classes.  I enjoyed it so much, that I dedicated more and more time towards my work there, and decided to pursue my Masters degree.  The Fresno State Biology Department staff is incredibly supportive of their students.  I had the opportunity to work with faculty directly every day.  High priority is given towards facilitating new opportunities for students.  For example, I had the opportunity to learn valuable new techniques, conduct research, travel to regional and national conferences to present my research, and compete for scholarships and grants.  I was awarded the Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which fully supported 2 years of my graduate study, along with numerous other scholarships and grants.

My experiences at Fresno State directly contributed to my success as I transitioned from a student into a professional.  I knew I wanted a career in the field of microbiology and my interest in medical microbiology continued to grow.  University faculty work hard to connect students to career opportunities and brought a new training opportunity to my attention during my second year of graduate study.  As a result, I was hired on as a Public Health Microbiologist Trainee at the Tulare County Public Health Laboratory. It embodied what I enjoyed most during my time at Fresno State, the satisfaction of learning and applying new skills to tackle important challenges.  It also gave me the opportunity to make an immediate, positive impact in the community I grew up in.

The Fresno State Biology graduate program taught me the value of being resourceful, independently motivated, and collaborative.  My experiences are still incredibly valuable as I continue to draw and build upon them as I progress in my career.