Student represents UCLA at meeting with state legislators.

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Valdez Crystal

Graduate student Crystal Valdez, a member of the Alexandrova group, met with lawmakers to explain the value graduate research brings to California.

Excerpt from UCLA Newsroom: On April 28, 22 UC graduate students, including four from UCLA who are doing cutting-edge work in fields ranging from engineering to nutrition, [joined] UC President Janet Napolitano at the Capitol to highlight the value graduate research brings to the state.

“I want state legislators to know that research is exhilarating and continuously inspires young minds to do work that makes the world a better place,” said UCLA chemistry graduate student Crystal Valdez, who [represented] the university at these meetings. “With the ever-expanding amount of information on the Internet, learning basic concepts is something anyone can now do at home. But research is knowledge being discovered now. No textbook can ever keep up-to-date with the speed of research.”


Crystal Valdez is one of four UCLA graduate students who [went to] Sacramento to
inform lawmakers about the value and breadth of their research to benefit California.

Working in the lab of UCLA professor Anastassia Alexandrova, Valdez is helping to engineer naturally occurring enzymes to improve drug manufacturing by making it cheaper and less toxic. Through the design and use of computer modeling, she aims to give scientists a recipe to help them modify particular enzymes to spur the chemical reactions they need. Those enzymes provide an alternative to harsh chemicals and can cut cost, energy use and toxic byproducts associated with current drug production.

“Metalloenzymes are extremely efficient and specific when it comes to catalyzing different reactions, making them superb targets for producing drugs and other materials,” Valdez explained.

Valdez was drawn to chemistry when she was 12 and discovered that “we are composed of tiny microscopic cells. “The ability to understand and draw information from the atomistic level — from matter that cannot be seen by the naked eye — to explain things that affect our everyday lives continues to fascinate me.”

Read the complete UCLA Newsroom story here

Learn more about the Graduate Research Advocacy Day here.