Since joining the faculty at California State University, Northridge in 1988, Dr. Zavala has afforded intensive research experiences to 112 undergraduate students, including 89 underrepresented minorities and 81 females, primarily from families with no history of university attendance. Under Dr. Zavala's tutelage, students analyze and present journal articles, and learn to write applications and favorably present themselves. Dr. Zavala accompanies them to national conferences where they present their research in a scientific forum, and meet scientists from different institutions. Under her reassuring guidance, students quickly gain self-confidence as they learn what is expected of them as scientists and how to think like scientists. To date, 70% of Dr. Zavala's mentees have begun graduate studies with 52% of them continuing in doctoral programs.
Dr. Zavala also conducts pre-college science teaching outreach. As president-elect of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Dr. Zavala further extends her national influence.