Six HBCU students conduct research at UCLA this summer

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Six undergraduate students from five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) will contribute to research projects this summer.

For the fifth year, the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry is hosting undergraduate students from various Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields for the UCLA Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Geoscience HBCU Summer Research Program.

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Our visiting HBCU students – top row from left – Kaleb Damptey, De’Larrian Knight, Stephen Thompson, bottom row from left – Kaylynn Robinson, Darrell Harry, Ngozi Obuseh, .

The UC-HBCU Initiative seeks to increase the number of scholars from HBCUs enrolling in UC academic doctoral programs by investing in UC-HBCU relationships. This year, the program has expanded to include undergraduates from a larger number of HBCUs. Undergraduate students from Tuskegee University, Southern University and A&M College, Howard University, North Carolina Central University, and North Carolina A&T State University were selected to conduct research with faculty members in the department.

The students will complete an eight-week rotation in either a chemistry, biochemistry, or geosciences laboratory, culminating in a poster presentation that will allow them to showcase their research projects. The Summer Programs for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) poster presentation will be held in the Neuroscience Research Building Auditorium on Thursday, August 15, 2019, from 2-5pm.

The program participants have been matched with a faculty member whose research aligns with their scientific interests. Each student will have the opportunity to learn about different areas of scientific research while working alongside faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers, providing an opportunity to explore academic interests. They have also each been paired with a graduate student mentor from their research group to guide them through the summer and answer any questions about the graduate school experience. Members of UCLA’s Organization for Cultural Diversity in Science (OCDS) will also support the participants through various events and workshops.

Throughout the program, the undergraduates will attend faculty lunch seminars, participate in workshops, attend socials, and visit UC Santa Barbara to learn about other graduate school opportunities at the University of California. HBCU students will also visit the El Segundo-based Aerospace Corporation to learn more about careers in the science field outside of academia. 

The department’s HBCU summer research program is a subset of the Summer Programs for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which offers undergraduate students with outstanding academic potential the opportunity to work closely with faculty mentors on research projects. The programs are designed for students who wish to learn more about the graduate school experience and possibly pursue an academic career in teaching and research, while attracting them back to the university for their graduate research.  

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Kaleb Damptey 

is a rising junior at Tuskegee University, where he is majoring in Chemical Engineering. His hometown is Indianapolis, Indiana. This summer, Kaleb is participating in research with Professor Chong Liu and his graduate student mentor is Jesus Iniguez. His scientific interests include bioenergy and renewable energy, and he is considering pursuing a career in industry after graduation. Kaleb is looking forward to gaining lab experience and working on projects in the Liu group this summer that align well with his major and interests.  
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Darrell Harry

 will be a senior this fall at Southern University and A&M College, where he is studying Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. He is originally from Nigeria. Darrell will be working with Professor Sarah Tolbert this summer, and his graduate student mentor is Sophia King. He is interested in nanomaterials, green chemistry, and energy sustainability and conservation, and hopes to continue pursuing research and academia as a career after receiving his degree. Darrell chose UCLA for his summer research because of the opportunity to work alongside influential scientists in the field.
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De’Larrian Knight

, from Monroeville, Alabama, is a rising junior at Tuskegee University. He is a Chemical Engineering major with an interest in attending medical school to become an ophthalmologist. De’Larrian is conducting research in Professor Guillaume Chanfreau’s group, and his graduate student mentor is Charles Wang. He is interested in the overlap of chemistry and engineering, and how continued research can improve medical efficiency. De’Larrian chose this summer research program because of the chance to sharpen his scientific understanding in a hands-on way, along with the opportunity to make connections with members of the department.
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Ngozi Obuseh

 is a rising senior at Howard University, where she is working towards earning a degree in Nutritional Science with a minor in Chemistry, with a pre-med focus. She is originally from Waxhaw, North Carolina. Ngozi plans to pursue a career as a pediatrician, where she will be able to use her nutritional science background to instill the importance of healthy eating in the growth and development of her patients. This summer, she will work in Professor Jorge Torres’ group with her mentor, Dr. Ankur Gholkar. Ngozi is looking forward to gaining hands-on lab experience and working on projects related to what she has studied in her chemistry coursework.
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Kaylynn Robinson

 is from Burnsville, North Carolina, and will be entering her senior year at North Carolina Central University. She is majoring in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry. Kaylynn will be working with Professor Anne Andrews and her graduate student mentor, Liv Heidenreich. Her scientific interests lie in biomaterials, nanomaterials, biochemistry, and chemical and biological sensing. Kaylynn is excited for the opportunity to work in the Chemistry & Biochemistry department this summer, and is looking forward to making connections in the department and with other summer researchers who share similar interests.
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Stephen Thompson

, from Washington, D.C., is a recent graduate of North Carolina A&T State University. He received his degree in May 2019 in Chemistry, and he plans to work as a chemical oceanographer after pursuing a graduate degree in Marine Sciences with a concentration in Biogeochemistry. This summer, Stephen will work with Professor Robert Eagle, who holds joint appointments in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Stephen will also be mentored by Tanner Waters and Dr. Ina Benner. Stephen hopes to gain valuable experience this summer through his work in understanding ocean acidification and the impact of changing pH levels.

We are excited that these six promising researchers have chosen to come to UCLA this summer, and we look forward to seeing what they accomplish this summer and beyond!

Many thanks to Graduate Student Affairs Officer Annie Carpenter for writing this article.