Alumna Nako Nakatsuka (PhD ’17) was chosen to serve as one of two student processional marshals for the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony.
At the 2018 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on June 14, 2018, Nakatsuka and her co-marshal, Eric Hosbach Newman from the Department of English, led the march of graduates in and out of Royce Hall, delivered a brief welcome, and introduced the Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor at the beginning of the ceremony. Nakatsuka was nominated for the honor by Professor Paul Weiss and Dean Miguel Garcia-Garibay.
“It is an incredible honor to represent the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry by serving as a Student Processional Marshal for this year’s doctoral hooding ceremony” Nakatsuka said. “What truly differentiates this department is the commitment and support the faculty provides to help students to succeed. On my first day at UCLA, I met Professor Bill Gelbart who I was teaching with that quarter. His passion for teaching was contagious and he remained a close mentor to me for the rest of my time at UCLA. I took my first challenging physical chemistry course with Professor Yung-Ya Lin and his then TA, Dr. Zhao Li, and without their patience and willingness to help me at every office hour they offered, I would not have survived the class. These are just two of many examples I recall during my time here. The collaborative spirit that the faculty and students in this Department has taught me will shape the way I conduct science for the rest of my life.”
Nakatsuka speaking as the student processional marshal for the doctoral hooding ceremony. UCLA Graduate Division
“Being a joint graduate student between Professors Anne Andrews and Paul Weiss was a truly enriching experience. We went through many tough times together, but our perseverance and teamwork resulted in receiving a Transformative R-01 Grant, a 5-year support grant from the National Institute of Health” Nakatsuka said. “This award was based on generations of amazing graduate students and post-docs that came before me that established the design rules to enable my dissertation research on the design and development of DNA-based electronic sensors to monitor neurotransmitters in the brain. I truly value the mentorship I have received during my graduate education that culminated in this moment.”
Nakatsuka received a B.S. in chemistry with a bioengineering focus from Fordham University in 2012 and when on to receive her Ph.D. in chemistry with a specialization on biophysics from UCLA in December 2017. As an undergraduate student researcher, Nakatsuka harnessed peptide-based biosystems for tissue engineering, drug delivery, and gene therapy and during her Ph.D. career she designed, fabricated, and validated DNA aptamer-chip-based technologies to investigate brain chemistries.
In 2017, Nakatsuka received a competitive travel award for her presentation at the “Brain in Flux: Genetic, Physiological, and Therapeutic Perspectives on Transporters in the Nervous System” meeting in France. She also starred in a video produced by BuzzFeed for Pfizer, “Kids Teach Science”, and illustrated a children’s chemistry book. During her time at UCLA, she was also a proud member of the UCLA Triathlon Team and after a bad bike crash in 2014, founded a website to raise cyclist awareness.
Since January 2018, Nakatsuka has been a postdoctoral scholar in the groups of Professors Anne Andrews and Paul Weiss and has trained and led a team of graduate and postdoctoral researchers in the area of aptamer-based field-effect transistor biosensors for in vivo neuroscience.
Outside Royce Hall, Nakatsuka and her Ph.D. advisors Professors Paul Weiss and Anne Andrews. Courtesy of Paul Weiss.