2021-2022
Andrea Garcia Angulo
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathrin Plath

Andrea is a third year undergraduate biology major at UCLA. She is a first generation college student, a member of PEERS, and aspires to become a physician scientist in the future. She recently joined Dr. Kathrin Plath’s lab which  studies the mechanisms by which epigenetic changes affect the pluripotency of stem cells. 

To this end, Andrea is working on better understanding how long-noncoding RNA’s Xist and Tsix as well as higher-order reconfiguration of chromatin structure mediate  X chromosome inactivation in mouse embryonic stem cells in order to present a clearer understanding of the dynamic mechanisms of reprogramming and differentiation. 

Ava Bignell
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elissa Hallem

Ava Bignell is a second-year student from Ontario, California. She is involved in the campus
organization Donation of Tissues and Organs along with the sorority Alpha Delta Chi. She
has been conducting research in the Hallem Lab since September of 2021. Using
Caenorhabditis elegans and Strongyloides stercoralis, a parasitic nematode, the Hallem Lab
studies sensory behavior through neural systems. This behavior may be altered due to the
organisms’ experiences or environmental conditions. As a CARE Fellow, Ava is studying the
response of C. elegans to carbon dioxide, specifically how the metabolic activity of bacteria
affects the response of C. elegans. To study this, Ava will use paraformaldehyde to create
bacteria that are metabolically inactive and grow C. elegans on this bacteria. Next, a
chemotaxis assay will be used to calculate the attraction or repulsion, which will be
compared to that of the response of C. elegans grown on bacteria that is metabolically
active. This research will give insight into how behavior of C. elegans is shaped by bacterial
metabolism. In the future, Ava’s goals include obtaining a PhD and continuing to do
research along with being an educator.

Bezawit Danna
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ajit Divakaruni

My name is Bezawit Danna. I am a sophomore Biochemistry major. I joined the
Divakaruni Lab in Winter 2022. The Divakaruni Lab studies energy metabolism and cellular
substrate preference. The main focus of the Divakaruni Lab is mitochondrial metabolism in cells
and general mechanism of metabolic controls. The lab uses bioenergetics, analytical chemistry,
and live cell imaging to characterize mitochondrial metabolism and develop mitochondrial
pathways as therapeutic drug targets. I am working on brain energy metabolism. We focus on
Mitochondrial Metabolism in brain cells to find potential therapeutic drug targets for
neurodegenerative diseases like Alizihemer and parkinson disease. In Particular, we research on
Mitochondrial Pyruvate Carrier to inhibit pyruvate uptake in mitochondria. Currently, I am
helping with doing BCA assay with BSA standard solution to quantify synaptosomal protein.

Cindy Ly
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elissa Hallem

Cindy is a second year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major who recently joined the Hallem lab where she studies the host-seeking behaviors of Strongyloides. In particular, she studies how mechanosensation, a host-emitted sensory cue, may affect how they find and locate hosts. Cindy uses the infective larvae of the rat-parasitic nematode Strongyloides ratti as a model system to measure and compare the nictation rate of S. ratti infective larvae in the presence and absence of 50 Hz vibrations. The lab hopes that these results could help develop novel preventative and therapeutic measures against infections by Strongyloides stercoralis, which poses a significant disease burden in underdeveloped countries.

Daniel Meza
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Pavak Shah

Daniel Meza is a second year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology major at UCLA. The Shah lab uses C. elegans as a model organism to study the mechanisms that drive the neural circuits that form during development. Daniel is currently investigating the efficacy of various iterations of GCaMP, a genetically encoded calcium indicator, for use in embryonic C. elegans. With newer versions of GCaMP being recently developed, their time to protein maturation in C. elegans is unknown. Because the development of C. elegans is on the scale of hours, slight improvements in the time needed to have a functional GCaMP can be very significant. Through microinjections, Daniel produces transgenic C. elegans containing the desired GCaMP for testing.

Derick Diaz
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Cohn

I am a first generation rising second-year with a future career goal in research. Currently, I am enrolled in the Cohn lab studying skeletal disorders. My role will be to learn how to isolate DNA from mutant mouse tissues. Next, I will then determine their genotypes using PCR amplification, gel electrophoresis and DNA sequence analysis. These studies will then form the basis for evaluating the effects of a Trpv4 mutation on skeletal development, the main goal of the study.

Jasmine Gonzalez
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Pre-Human Biology and Society
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Yalda Afshar

Jasmine is a sophomore working under the guidance of Dr. Yalda Afshar’s translational lab at the UCLA Health, Divison of Maternal and Fetal Medicine. Her research primarily focuses on high-risk pregnancies, such as fetal congenital heart disease and placenta accreta spectrum disorders.

As a CARE Fellow, Jasmine investigates the signaling alterations in endothelial mechano-transduction within placental vascular endothelial cells by studying abnormal flow patterns observed in fetal congenital heart disease (CHD). These vascular cells were found to respond to different types of environmental conditions such as the flow direction of blood. Individuals who have CHD exhibit a halt in cellular growth, and are unable to mature in comparison to those who do not carry CHD. Jasmine collects data to understand this abnormal vascular phenotype by isolating human umbilical endothelial cells, running flow experiments, and conducting immunofluorescence staining and imaging to understand downstream complications in vascular cellular growth.

Jasmine would like to thank the CARE Fellows program for this research opportunity, as well as Afshar lab group for their invaluable guidence and mentorship.

Jose Munoz
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ryan Howe

Jose is a second-year Biochemistry major at UCLA and has been working in Dr. Koehler’s lab for the past year. The Kohler lab studies the mechanism of protein import into mitochondria and how defects in mitochondrial protein translocation can lead to disease. Ultimately the lab wants to determine the molecular basis of the Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome.

As of August 2021, Jose has been working on the project of identifying if DNA samples from zebrafish carry the recessive mitochondrial mutation. Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome causes deafness, blindness, and dystonia, which are the result of DDP1, the homolog to Tim8 which is a Mitochondrial import inner membrane translocase subunit. He is currently running Polymerase-Chain Reactions(PCR) to investigate the DNA of the zebrafish. He creates specific master mixes using Taq-polymerase that help in obtaining optimal results in each PCR. He also performs gel electrophoresis in order to identify which specimens have the recessive mutation. His work, under the guidance of Ryan Howe, is then used to further analyze the mutation of the zebrafish in order to determine the molecular basis of the disease.

Jose would like to thank the Koehler Lab for providing him with this opportunity, as well as the CARE Fellows for funding his research this academic year.

Karen Navarro
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Sears

I am a rising sophomore majoring in Biology and also part of the Solid Gold Sound,
PEERS, and a CARE Fellow member. I am involved in research within the Sears lab
under the mentorship of Dr. Karen Sears.
In the Sears Lab, I study the cellular basis of post-natal development in mammals.
Post-natal growth is essential to mammalian physiology and is highly variable
across species allowing them to grow in a range of body sizes. These growth rates
are high in early life, but then tend to decrease rapidly as the organism reaches full
adult size. This decline following early post-natal growth results from the decrease
in the rate of cellular proliferation caused by a downregulation of the
growth-regulating genetic program.
In the lab, I am collaborating on an extensive genome study in mice and opposum
to establish the roles of particular genes responsible for the epigenetic regulation
in cellular processes (proliferation, apoptosis, etc.).The hypothesis is that
proliferation rates will decrease in tissues from mice and opposum starting from
birth to sexual maturity, but that the specific pattern of decline varies among
tissues and species. The methods in the lab I am utilizing include collecting tissues
from mice and opossums. The tissues then are embedded, cryosection, stained for
cell processes, and finally, are photographed and analyzed using microscopes to
quantify the changes occurring during post-natal development among these species
and different tissues.

Kelechi Onwuzurike
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Douglas Black

Kelechi Onwuzurike is a second year Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology major at UCLA that started working in Dr. Black’s RNA splicing lab in the fall quarter of the 2021-2022 academic school year. The Black Lab extensively studies the pre-mRNA splicing reaction mechanism. The errors in this mechanism can found to contribute to human diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration, and inherited genetic disorders.

Kelechi and his mentor Xinyuan Chen study the role of splicing regulators and their cis elements in the splicing of Myc-dependent cassette exons in prostate cancer. Through cloning techniques, DNA & RNA extractions, cell culture, and RT-PCR, Kelechi hopes to study splicing change of these exons when cis-elements that bind to splicing regulators are manipulated to understand how they can promote exon inclusion. With this mind, the long-term goal is to gain a mechanistic understanding of splicing regulation in Myc-driven cancers.

After his undergraduate degree, Kelechi would like to pursue an MD-Ph.D to become a Physician-Scientist. Kelechi would like to thank the Black Lab, specifically his mentor, Xinyuan Chen, and Principal Investigator, Dr. Black, for their pristine guidance, patience, and support in his research endeavors. He would also like to thank the Care Fellows Program and staff, and his donor, Dr. Koretz for funding his research experience.

Kimberly Vasquez
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paula Diaconescu

Kimberly is a sophomore chemistry major at the University of California, Los Angeles. She
recently joined Dr. Paula Diaconescu’s lab where she is part of the NSR center efforts. She is
helping in researching the formation of polymers through redox-switchable catalysts.
Redox- switchable catalysts is a method that can generate and control numerous active species
with different reactivity. This method helps control the sequence and regularity that can affect
the material properties of copolymer building blocks. It is important to use switchable catalysts
since they have the ability to imitate the two biological processes called spatial and temporal
control. Redox- switchable polymerization catalysts give us the opportunity to synthesize
multiblock copolymers that are prepared from biodegradable materials which are inexpensive.
The goal of this lab is to switch a catalyst form between their oxidation state and their reduced
state to ultimately create a compound that demonstrates orthogonal reactivity for different
substrates and give catalysts the ability to reduce. Overall, with the development of redoxswitchable
catalysts we can look forward to new materials and reactions and can expect the
expanding of switchable polymerization .
Kimberly would like to thank the Diaconescu lab for their mentorship and support. She would
also like to thank the CARE Fellows Program for the opportunity.

Savannah Lopez
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Neuroscience
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Adriana Galvan

Savannah is a current sophomore majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Disability Studies at UCLA. She is currently working within Dr. Galván’s laboratory on the DAYS project (Development of Anxiety in Youth Study). The research focuses on studying how brain development is linked to anxiety in early adolescence.

The research aims to model neural activity during risky decision-making simulations in youth. Participants will perform decisive tasks while undergoing fMRI, and completing self-report, behavioral, and psychophysiological measures. In the lab setting, under the DAYS project, Savannah aids in running MRI scans, coding to create brain videos out of structural scans, and collecting data that assess behavioral patterns. As anxiety disorders are most common among adolescents, it is important to examine brain maturation and its connection with levels of anxiety. The study uses a dimensional approach in understanding the persistence of anxiety symptoms during the “key development window” where symptoms and functionality worsen.

Savannah would like to thank Care Fellows, Dr. Galván, and her fellow lab members for their guidance and support in aiding her growth as a scientist.

Sugey Garcia Galvan
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paul Barber

Sugey is a rising third-year Biology major and has recently joined Dr. Paul Barber’s lab this
winter quarter.
As a CARE Fellows student, Sugey is participating under a graduate student’s project assessing
the role of seagrass Zostera marina (eelgrass) in the Port of Los Angeles, a highly disturbed
marine environment. Overall, seagrass are a foundation species, which means they provide
biological, chemical, and physical support to marine environments. Since the Port of Los
Angeles is a disturbed area, acknowledging whether the eelgrass is able to provide refuge for
other organisms is important. This is determined by characterizing biodiversity using
environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding from samples collected at the site. Based on the
results, conservation efforts can be made for the eelgrass beds along the coast of these highly
distubed areas.

Tony Luu
2021-2022
Home University:
Class: sophomore
Major: Neuroscience
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Caius Radu

I am a first-generation student at UCLA. I am from San Bernardino and become interested in the medical field after exploring different career options at Pomona College. I wanted to explore the pharmaceutical aspect of medicine and applied to the Radu lab where I assist the lab with experiments, publications, and maintaining lab cleanliness. What I am currently working on is the manipulation of certain pathways in the body’s innate immune system to increase the immune response in a person’s body to target tumor cells.