Recent graduate receives Chancellor’s Service Award & Dean’s Prize

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Amylynn Chen (’16) (Kaner group) received the Chancellor’s Service Award for her service work & the Dean’s Prize for her undergraduate research work.

Chen recently graduated from UCLA with magna cum laude honor. For the past year, she has been conducting independent research in Prof. Richard Kaner’s group which she will continue while she submits her applications for graduate school. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry with a concentration in materials science. While applying for graduate school Chen will also continue her part-time job with the Aerospace Corporation where she is part of the contamination control group, where she applies her chemistry knowledge to analyzing and characterizing non-volatile residues on material surfaces relevant to space systems. 

Chen transferred to UCLA in 2013 as chemistry major from Foothill College (Los Altos, CA). She was part of the departmental scholar program which allowed her to earn Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in chemistry simultaneously. She completed her Master’s thesis that focuses on her research in incorporating metal organic frameworks (MOFs) into graphene-based supercapacitor electrodes for highly capacitive energy storage. The fabricated hybrid electrodes not only exhibit both electrostatic separation of charges and reversible Faradaic charge-transfer behaviors, but also obtain excellent areal capacitances that are approximately four times higher than pure graphene electrodes. MOFs are a class of the crystalline materials that was popularized in 1995. Since then, numerous applications of MOFs have been developed in various fields. However, its potential in electrochemical energy storage is not yet well understood. This work could potentially open up a new application for MOFs in electrochemical capacitors. Her research was supported by the UCLA Undergraduate Research Scholar’s Program (URSP) scholarship—Lau Award. 

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During her last year as a departmental scholar, Chen served as the graduate student adviser for the Student Member of American Chemical Society (SMACS), where her coordinated outreach programs and science fair events targeted to high schools and elementary school students around LA communities. SMACS involves with outreach programs geared to teaching new scientific concepts to high school students and teachers. Along with the club principle adviser, Kaner, the SMACS members went to local high school classrooms via a college preparation program and presented a series of lectures named “Fun with Chemistry”. As a first generation college student and an immigrant, she hopes to inspire students with immigration background or from under-privileged areas to purse higher education. She went back to these classrooms to present chemistry topics herself, and also shared her academic experiences with the students. 

“A large percentage of students I encountered in these outreach programs are African American and Hispanic students. I realized many of them could not receive the help they need in school from their family or the people around. It is similar to what I have experienced growing up,” Chen said, “I shared my experiences with them, because I really wished someone could have done the same for me. For example, I told them about how to obtain scholarships and grants, how to get an internship position to gain work experience and pay off some student loans while in college.”

By sharing her personal experiences, she hoped to demonstrate to the students how education could help them gain independence, enhance personal growth and open up incredible career opportunities. Besides high school outreach, the SMACS members also presented at science fairs targeted to elementary school students, such as STEAM Nation, Exploring Your University and Warner Science Slam. Using fun and simple experiments, they explained the chemistry behind it; the biggest reward for the SMACS members was to feel the excitement and energy came from these kids. 

“From these events, I realized only the students’ passion and interest toward learning can enrich their education experience, and our goal is to make learning fun and interesting,” she said.   

Chen also volunteered with the Watts Tutorial Program, which aims to enhance study skills of the Watts district students, provide moral support and engage learning by one-to-one interaction. In addition, she joined the Care Extender Internship Program at UCLA Health in February 2014 and completed the program with 321 hours of service. This year, she received the Chancellor’s Service Award, which honors graduating students who made significant contributions to UCLA and/or the surrounding Los Angeles community.

To learn more about the Kaner group research visit their website