UC LEADS Scholars

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Chemistry & Biochemistry undergraduate students Luke Elissiry and Andy Nguyen have been accepted into the prestigious UC LEADS program. 

The University of California Leadership Excellence through Advanced DegreeS (UC LEADS) program is one of the most prestigious fellowships awarded by the University of California system. Each year this honor is awarded to up to nine UCLA upper-division undergraduate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The program provides the students with educational experiences that prepare them to assume positions of leadership in academia, industry, government, and public service. UC LEADS scholars work closely with faculty mentors and graduate students on research projects for a two-year period and participate in activities, events and workshops designed to help prepare them for graduate education. Professor Craig Merlic is the faculty advisor for the program.

As UC LEADS Scholars from spring 2019 through spring 2021, Elissiry and Nguyen will each receive a research stipend both during the academic year and in the summer. In addition, they will receive funding for travel to scientific conferences and professional meetings and participate in weekly UC LEADS Journal Club and a leadership seminar.

About Luke Elissiry

Elissiry%2CLuke 150Luke Elissiry is 2nd year chemistry major with a computing specialization. He is the Science Fair and Recruitment Co-Chair of The Bruin Experiment, a student organization that guides underprivileged LAUSD middle schoolers through the scientific method to complete a science fair project, and he is the Service Chair of the Student Members of the American Chemical Society, a student community of chemistry-related majors which provides professional development, research, and service opportunities. After graduation, Elissiry plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry. “I am excited for the opportunity to continue my research through the Amgen Scholars and UC LEADS programs,” Elissiry said. “My desire is to utilize application-based research to help develop answers for 21st century challenges, and this goal drives me to continue to develop my research abilities. I would like to thank Professor Liu for his continued guidance as my faculty mentor, as well as the other members of the lab that have supported me in my research journey.”

Elissiry joined the laboratory of UCLA chemistry professor Dr. Chong Liu as an undergraduate researcher in March 2018 and is currently a part of the Undergraduate Research Fellows Program. Elissiry is developing a replacement for traditional fertilizers utilizing symbiotic bacteria. The bacteria are encapsulated within a protective silica gel which can be sprayed onto crop seeds as microbeads. This novel technique of inoculant application aims to maintain long-term viability of the microbes during storage and inoculant delivery. This research will contribute to the advancement of microbe carriers and offers a promising pathway to environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

About Andy Nguyen
Nguyen%2C%20Andy 150Andy Nguyen is a 2nd year undergraduate student majoring in biochemistry and minoring in history. In high school, Nguyen was fascinated with how interdisciplinary chemistry and biology were to each other. “Learning about how the body worked and all of biochemical processes that occur in the body sparked my interest,” Nguyen said. “I decided to major in biochemistry and, in my junior year of high school, I began conducting research in a pathology and human anatomy lab at Loma Linda University. I was fascinated with how research was essentially a group of individuals with such different backgrounds and experiences, working together to solve one common thing. This experience really solidified my passion and enjoyment of research.”  

Nguyen’s research interests include drug development and natural product synthesis, and after graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in pharmacology or biochemistry. “The idea of discovering new lead compounds, designing better synthetic strategies, and learning about the effects of different types of substances on the human body excites me,” Nguyen said. 

Nguyen is a UCLA Achievement Scholar, a Dell Scholar, and a member of UCLA Circle K International (a community service organization on campus).

Penny Jennings, Communications Manager, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.