2nd Annual OCDS Spring Science and Engineering Showcase

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The Organization for Cultural Diversity in Science (OCDS) held its second annual Spring Science and Engineering Showcase for local community college students.   

On Saturday, May 19, 2018, OCDS volunteers hosted several local community college students at UCLA for a day-long symposium featuring a poster session by current UCLA undergraduate/graduate student researchers, lectures by diverse Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) faculty at UCLA, lab tours, and a workshop/panel with past community college transfer students/UCLA undergraduates who are current graduate students in STEM at UCLA. 

The event was featured in an article in UCLA’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Bruin.

group photo of students

The visiting community college students pose for a photo with their UCLA hosts.

By hosting such events, OCDS hopes to help the visiting students learn about the resources available to UCLA students in STEM, in particular, the many financial assistance options. Obtaining funding for college is one of the most significant barriers faced by underrepresented minority students entering into STEM fields.

The day began with breakfast and informal meetings with current graduate students and a poster session.  The visiting students were given an opportunity to network with current UCLA students and to also learn about the various types of research being conducted at UCLA by students.  

students speaking with graduate students

OCDS volunteers spoke informally with the visiting community college students during the morning breakfast meeting.

students at poster session

During the poster session, the visiting students had the opportunity to learn about the research being conducted at UCLA and to chat with current graduate students.

UCLA Assistant Professors Jose Rodriguez (Chemistry & Biochemistry) and Yvonne Chen (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) gave talks about their research projects and discussed how it could be used to solve current societal problems. Rodriguez and Chen each gave a summary of their journey in science including their upbringing, their inspirations to pursue science, and how they came to be faculty members at UCLA. Rodriguez spoke about his lab’s efforts to study infectious proteins called prions. He discussed why it is important to study these proteins in atomic detail and he elaborated on the ways his lab is improving the structural biology methods used for these studies. Chen spoke about her research to use engineered T-cells to more effectively combat cancer.  

Faculty members speaking in front of screens

Professors Jose Rodriguez (left) and Yvonne Chen gave talks about their current research projects.

During lunch, Professors Al Courey (Chemistry & Biochemistry) and Suzanne Paulson (Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences) joined graduate student volunteers to visit with the students and answer questions about pursuing a STEM education. 

The last portion of the day involved a workshop/panel and lab tours.  Half of the visiting students toured faculty research labs while the other half stayed for a workshop/panel discussion. The lab tours were organized by Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate students Priera Panescu, Alexandra Mendoza and Evan Hurlow.  The visitors toured the Chemistry & Biochemistry labs of Professors Patrick Harran and David Eisenberg as well as several engineering labs.  During the workshop portion of the afternoon, three graduate student panelists who themselves attended community college before coming to UCLA  — Jason Fell, Kersti Haatveit, and David Gonzalez — answered questions about transferring to a UC school and/or pursuing a STEM career.

Students speaking to visitors in auditorium

(Left) Kevin Cannon welcomed the visiting students.  (Right) Panelists Kersti Haatveit, David Gonzalez, and Jason Fell answered questions about being a student at UCLA and pursuing a STEM career.

The primary organizers of the event were OCDS outreach chairs Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate students Kevin Cannon and Ethan Rosser, with supervision from co-presidents graduate student Janice Lin (Chemistry & Biochemistry) and David Gonzalez (AOS).  

Many thanks to OCDS social media chair Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate student David Boyer for providing the article and photos.