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Alumna Ramya “Maya” Pathuri (’19, Spokoyny group) shares her experiences as an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Phillips Scholar in new video. 

The video can be viewed here

Pathuri was an AFRL Scholar during the summers of 2018 and 2019. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCLA in June 2019. “I graduated on Saturday and flew to New Mexico the next day to start working with the AFRL,” she said.

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Pathuri joined Professor Alex Spokoyny’s group as an undergraduate researcher in 2017. Spokoyny told her about the AFRL Scholars program and encouraged her to apply. The bulk of Pathuri’s research work in the Spokoyny lab has been in collaboration with the Air Force Research Lab. She develops materials for use in electrochemically adaptive spacecraft technology, doing much of the synthesis work here and then at the Air Force Research Lab doing the majority of the device implementation and testing. Pathuri is pictured right at her UCLA graduation with Professor Alex Spokoyny. 

“I loved everything about the AFRL,” Pathuri said. “It’s such an interesting experience because they really don’t have any training wheels. You show up and on day one they expect you to get to work and have an idea of what you want to be doing, but at the same time, the staff are always so available to guide you. Still, no one is telling you what to do. It was so scary when the first time I went there but then I settled into the rhythm of it. Any undergraduate student who is interested in working with an organization like the AFRL should apply. It’s just such a lovely place to be.”  

Pathuri continues to conduct research in the Spokoyny lab and is waiting to start graduate school in the Fall. She has been accepted to a few programs but hasn’t decided where she will go yet until she has visited the schools. In the meantime, Pathuri volunteers as a chemistry tutor four to five hours a week for Alpha Chi Sigma. “I love teaching!” she said. “There is always a moment when it clicks for people, when you explain it a certain way and they have that moment of ‘Oh, actually, that makes sense now!’”.  

Pathuri grew up in a small town in Georgia and credits her high school science teacher, Matthew Mihordea at Chattahoochee High School, for sparking her love of science. “He was the first person who had ever looked at me and said ‘You can accomplish quite a lot if you just set your mind to it.’ His class was the first time that I really paid attention to science and I loved it from the very beginning.”

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,