Judy Mark was observing her students working in their four-person groups in her Autism Media Lab when she noticed one group quietly working on their laptops. No one was talking with each other.
View highlights from Undergraduate Research Week 2019 including Research Poster Day, Friends of Research Luncheon, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Award Ceremony, Oral Presentations, and the Sciences, Math and Engineering Award Ceremony.
Photos 1-7: Reed Hutchinson
Photos 8-20: Todd Cheney
Scholarship recipients had a unique opportunity to meet their donors and share their achievements at the UCLA 2019 Scholarships Luncheon on March 3.
The annual brunch was held in Carnesale commons and celebrated scholars from across the campus including those supported through the UCLA Division of Undergraduate Education. Students had the opportunity to meet with their donors over coffee, tea, and hors d’oeuvres, before joining them at their tables. The brunch program featured remarks by Chancellor Gene Block, leadership staff, and UCLA students who shared their own scholarship stories.
Undergraduate Education philanthropist guests included Dick and Eve Bergstrom, Rica and Ellen Rodman, Dennis and Michael Lau, David Brady and Stephen Petty. Collectively support from these individuals, families and foundations have helped fund three students in the Academic Advancement Program (AAP), four students conducting research in physical sciences or life sciences, and one transfer student.
Leslie Hwang, a senior majoring in neuroscience, received a scholarship from the Bergstroms through AAP. She said the brunch was “inspiring,” and she enjoyed meeting the Bergstroms in person. They wanted to know more about her hobbies and goals, and shared more about themselves – including some great book recommendations.
“The brunch felt like a celebration of achievements and a sense of community where our diversity – backgrounds, races, cultures, genders – are able to mingle and build a network of support,” Hwang said. “Each person has his or her own share of hardships and at least for me, the speakers did a wonderful job of sharing their personal narratives and passions that resonated within me. I found their perseverance inspiring and the entire time throughout the brunch was just absolutely amazing.”
Rochelle Ellison received a Lau scholarship for her research in the life sciences. A junior molecular, cell and developmental biology major, she said the scholarship allowed her to spend more time working on her research project in Dr. Stephen Young’s lab at UCLA Medical Center instead of worrying about getting a job on top of her classes, studying and other commitments.
Although Stanley Lau passed away, Ellison was able to meet his family at the brunch, who told her how important it was to him to support UCLA students.
Ellison was touched to learn that Lau kept the thank you letters that “his students” wrote to him near his bed so that he could read them from time to time.
“I appreciated being able to hear stories about Mr. Lau to form an image in my mind of the person I will forever be grateful to,” Ellison said. “I also enjoyed being able to personally thank the Lau family and to tell them how much their generosity means to me.”
Akiva Nemetsky, who graduated from UCLA in 2018 with a degree in film, television and digital media, has won a prestigious Knight-Hennessy scholarship, the largest endowed graduate scholarship in the world.
Whenever his teachers would give his class a writing assignment, the other kids would groan, but Nathan Mallipeddi was always secretly relieved. He much preferred writing over oral presentations because his stutter made it almost impossible for him to say the ideas in his head clearly in front of the class.
Sarina Morales is a self-proclaimed “city girl.” Born and raised in San Fernando Valley, Morales had never worked on a farm, planted her own food, or chased chickens. But all of that changed this summer.
UCLA has been awarded a four-year grant from the Amgen Foundation to continue providing hands-on laboratory experience to undergraduate students across Southern California through the Amgen Scholars Program. The Amgen Foundation is expanding the Amgen Scholars Program, bringing the program to a total of 24 premier institutions across the U.S., Europe, Asia and, for the first time, Australia and Canada, to provide undergraduates with financial support and hands-on summer research opportunities in biomedical and biotechnology fields.
Douglas Yao discovered his passion for research as an undergraduate at UCLA. Now, he’s embarking on a PhD at Harvard in pursuit of his goal to run his own lab in the field of bioinformatics.
Yao, who graduated in June with a bachelor of science in cell/cellular and molecular biology, said he entered UCLA as a pre-med and first began working in labs on campus during his freshman year in order to prepare for applying to medical school. But he found that he enjoyed spending time in the lab so much that he wanted to make research his career.
Yao worked in four different labs throughout his undergraduate career as he attempted to hone in on which research topics he was most interested in. Ultimately, the labs of Thomas Graeber, professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, and Eleazar Eskin, assistant professor of computer science and human genetics, sparked his newfound passion for a field called bioinformatics, in which scientists collect and analyze biological data.
“Bioinformatics brings together three disparate fields: biology, computer science and statistics,” Yao said. “I saw that as a good opportunity because there has to be a breed of scientist who knows all three subjects.”
Yao presented his original research projects twice at Undergraduate Research Week and currently has a paper in review, about gene expression and genomic instability in cancer cells.
This summer, Yao began his first year in Harvard’s bioinformatics and integrative genomics PhD program. He hopes to become a professor and run his own lab one day, a goal that he acknowledges would be much harder to reach if he hadn’t gotten his start at UCLA. He’s seen how valuable the undergraduate research opportunities are at UCLA, and how they inspired and prepared him for his career ahead.
“If you don’t go to a big research school it’s so much harder to get those research experiences,” Yao said. “I was really lucky to have picked UCLA because of the research environment.”
The opportunity to conduct his own research not only taught him new skills such as how to analyze research papers and participate in scientific discussions, but also introduced him to the world of being a professional academic and researcher. He realized how much he loved learning.
“I don’t think there are a whole lot of careers that let you consistently learn every single day,” he said. “There’s so many interesting things out there in the world and we know so little. I think [research will] help me appreciate just how weird and amazing the world is.”
Chancellor Gene Block offered encouragement to UCLA’s newest entrepreneurs during his visit to Startup UCLA’s Summer Accelerator in early August.
As UCLA undergraduate Jendalyn Coulter spoke to the several dozen professors, students and educational leaders about her research on former foster youth who go on to college, she was poised and commanded the room.