Megan Williams

Meet recent UCLA graduate, Megan Williams, who majored in Mechanical Engineering. Megan recently published a paper based on her undergraduate research conducted in Dr. Laurent Pilon’s lab in the UCLA Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. “Effect of dew and rain on photovoltaic solar cell performances” is published in Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells.

Post graduation, Megan has started working at Abbott as a systems engineer in the Cardiac Rhythm Management division. Her R&D work focuses on implantable medical devices that monitor and manage irregular heart rhythms in patients.


How did you first get involved in your research project?

At the beginning of my third year at UCLA I wanted to get involved in a research lab, so I looked into different labs within the Mechanical Engineering department and was interested in the ongoing projects in Prof. Laurent Pilon’s lab. Thus, I reached out to Prof. Pilon and we scheduled a meeting with me to discuss my interests further. I expressed that I was especially interested in performing experimental research, so he partnered me with one of his PhD students, Eylul Simsek, and I began helping with their droplet studies.

How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

I enjoyed my research experience at UCLA. Through my time in Prof. Pilon’s lab, I was able to gain hands-on engineering and research experience outside of the classroom, which strengthened my overall technical skills as an engineer. In addition, I met a lot of people through my work in the lab and gained mentorship from Prof. Pilon and Eylul.


What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

My biggest piece of advice is to look into different labs on campus and reach out to any professors or graduate students you’re interested in working with! A lot of people are looking for extra help in their labs, so don’t feel afraid to put yourself out there and reach out.


What are your future career goals?

Currently, I’m working at Abbott as a systems engineer in their Cardiac Rhythm Management division. So far, I’m loving my new job and I’m very interested in the innovation currently taking place in the medical technologies field, so my future career goals involve continued R&D work on medical devices.

Indya Weathers

Meet Indya Weathers, a UCLA graduate who majored in Biochemistry. Indya was recently published as first author for her undergraduate research conducted in Dr. Guillaume Chanfreau’s lab in the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. “Protocol for High-Resolution Mapping of Splicing Products and Isoforms by RT-PCR Using Fluorescently Labeled Primers” is published in STAR Protocols. 

Indya is now a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics at the University of Chicago.

During her undergraduate years, Indya was a part of our CARE Fellows/IMSD program.


How did you first get involved in your research at UCLA?

During my transition from community college to UCLA, I applied to the Minority Science Bridges to the Baccalaureate program at the University of California, Irvine. I worked with the faculty. postdocs, and graduate students to learn how to conduct a research project and perform lab experiments. I was invited to present this research at the ABRCMS 2017 National Undergraduate Research Conference where I met scientists and other students interested in biomedical science. My desire for scientific research grew and I decided to join a lab once I transferred to UCLA. During my first year, I applied for and was accepted into the IMSD program funded by the NIH to conduct my own independent project in the lab of Dr. Guillaume Chanfreau. Through the support of my graduate student mentor, Charles Wang, the mentorship of my PI, and the resources provided to me by Dr. Tama Hasson through the IMSD program, I was able to present my work at various research conferences and gain experiences that prepared me for success in my future research career.


How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

My research experience at UCLA was incredible due to the constant support of the URC Sciences department, the resources provided by the IMSD program, and the mentorship of my PI Dr.Guillaume Chanfreau. I was able to work with mentors and successful underrepresented STEM professionals to gain skills in research, presentations, and leadership which helped me prepare for graduate school as well as my future in research as an underrepresented female in science. I was able to present my research at UCLA Undergraduate Research Symposiums to incoming freshmen in programs for underrepresented students in order to inform and inspire them to pursue research in their careers. I was also able to present at the ABRCMS National Undergraduate Research Conference three years in a row on my projects that I was researching. From this work, I was able to publish my first author research paper which was my biggest accomplishment as an undergraduate because it recognized my hard work and potential to become a successful professional in the field. Overall, research at UCLA was one of the most exciting times in my life and set up a foundation for me to excel in my future career.


What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

There is no such thing as too early or too late to get involved in research at UCLA. The URC Sciences department provides so many resources available that will guide and support you to find the right faculty and students to mentor you. No matter how much prior experience you have had in research, the professors and students will help you learn the concepts that they are studying, many lab techniques, and the skills necessary to become a successful future scientist.


What are your future career goals?

I am interested in many potential careers including academia, industry, and other alternative careers in science. In my future career, I want to provide mentorship to underrepresented groups and provide new ways of increasing diversity and inclusion. Not only do I want to become a leader in the field of research, but also an inspiration, resource, and opportunity for people interested in research to have increased accessibility.


What are you doing post-graduation from UCLA?

Currently, I am a rising 2nd year PhD student in the department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics at the University of Chicago. I will soon begin my thesis work studying 3-dimensional protein structures, their dynamics, and their functions. I plan to become a leader among my peers in providing broader access to research resources to underrepresented groups in science. I am excited to contribute to broadening the field of knowledge in the biological sciences and make it available and accessible to a diverse group of students.

Amanda Hagen

Meet recent UCLA graduate, Amanda Hagen who majored in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. This past Spring, Amanda was awarded the Undergraduate Science Journal’s Best Review Article for, “Modeling Germ Cell Development to Advance In Vitro Gametogenesis.”

As an undergraduate Amanda was a part of Dr. Amander Clark’s lab in the Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology.


How did you first get involved in your research?

I first got involved in research at UCLA through the club Environmental Student Network. I was recommended to join the LA Mammals research group my freshman year at UCLA and spent around a year working on a project studying transmission of the bacteria Leptospira among mammals. After switching my major to Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, I decided to pursue different research opportunities. I discovered my love for molecular biology research after working as a summer research associate at UCSB in the Clegg Lab studying macular degeneration using stem cells. The following year at UCLA I joined the Clark Lab where I have spent the past two years using stem cells to study germline development.

How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

My research experience at UCLA, particularly my time in the Clark lab, has been the most beneficial learning experience in terms of career preparation and growth as a scientist in all my time at UCLA. I had amazing mentors that taught me everything from molecular biology laboratory techniques to scientific presentation skills. Although, above all I found life-long friendship in the fellow scientists working in the lab.

What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

My biggest piece of advice for other students wanting to get involved in research at UCLA would be to join the Biomedical Research minor. This program offers many classes that prepare students for research and most importantly help students get into a lab of their choice!

What are your career goals and/or your plans post-graduation?

After graduation, I am moving to Boston to work in the Biotechnology field. I will be joining the company GC Therapeutics as a research associate and will be researching stem cell therapies. My long-term careers goals are to study molecular biology and bioinformatics in graduate school after working for a few years.

Alexa Terrazas

Meet recent UCLA graduate, Alexa Terrazas who majored in Geology. This past Spring, Alexa was awarded the Undergraduate Science Journal’s Best Physical Science Article for her article titled, “Evolution of Hydroclimates in Southeast Arizona Over the Past 20,000 Years.” She was also awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue her PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA this Fall.

As an undergraduate Alexa was a part of Dr. Aradhna Tripati’s lab in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.


How did you first get involved in your research?

I found Dr. Aradhna Tripati’s Climate and Geochemistry Lab by participating in the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. As a geology major, I became interested in using the geological record to reconstruct past climate states (paleoclimate), which Dr. Tripati and her group specialized in. I contacted her in the fall of my junior year and expressed my interest in participating in research.


How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

Overall, my research experience at UCLA has been an extremely fun and positive one. I was able to get both field and laboratory research experience, which has been invaluable to my training as an aspiring earth system scientist. I was also mentored by graduate student Alexandrea Arnold throughout undergrad, which was an incredible opportunity to engage with more experienced scientists and learn how to use the machines in the lab.


What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

For students thinking about getting involved in research, I’d recommend looking through the different faculty researchers in your department of interest. From there, read a couple of their papers to get an idea of what kinds of questions they are interested in addressing. Lastly, I’d reach out to those faculty members and express interest in their research as an undergraduate student. Getting started is difficult, but once you do, it’s wonderful!


What are your career goals?

I plan to further my education in the earth sciences by pursuing my Ph.D. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA in the fall of 2021. I was awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue my doctoral degree and probe questions that interest me in my field in my research. As an undergraduate, I investigated how atmospheric dynamics that influence the water cycle evolved in the southwestern United States since the Last Glacial Maximum, roughly 20,000 years ago, by using geochemical proxies in concert with modeling to see if climate models are capturing trends that are observed in the geologic record. In graduate school, I hope to continue this work and apply our methodology for the LGM to other geologic periods like the Pliocene, which occurred 5 to 3 million years ago.