UC LEADS Scholars

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Chemistry & Biochemistry undergraduate students Tim Duong (Neuhauser group) and Daniel Torres Pomares (Spokoyny group) 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 2023 through spring 2024, Tim and Daniel 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 Tim Duong

Tim Duong

Tim Duong is a 2nd-year chemistry major with a concentration in physical chemistry. He currently conducts research in Professor Daniel Neuhauser’s group, focusing on stochastic electronic structure theory and quantum dynamics.

“From being Tim’s TA his freshman winter quarter to becoming his current research graduate mentor, I can confidently say that Tim exhibits all the traits of an excellent researcher,” said graduate student Minh Nguyen. “Given his intelligence, work ethic, and energetic personality, Tim will succeed in any endeavor he chooses. He has made great progress in the little over the year I’ve mentored him and I expect nothing but great achievements in his future. I am blessed to have Tim not only as a mentee but also as a friend.”

Tim is an intern for SMACS (Students Members of the American Chemical Society) where he teaches others about chemistry as both a subject and a professional career while volunteering at various events such as Exploring Your Universe to foster an interest in science among young children. He is also a Learning Assistant in the Undergraduate Learning Assistant Program where he encourages student discussion and engagement in lower-division chemistry and math classes, while guiding them through the course material.

“In high school, I had always enjoyed learning chemistry,” Tim said. “Performing various experiments in my chemistry classes while also learning the science behind them was the most enjoyable part of my high school academic career. This led me to major in chemistry where I can now continue learning about what I love and pursue it as a career.”

Tim’s current research interests lie in the calculation of quasiparticle energies of very large systems, and he is grateful for the opportunity to continue this research by being a part of UC LEADS. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry.

About Daniel Torres Pomares

Daniel Torres Pomares

Daniel Torres Pomares is currently finishing his second year at UCLA majoring in chemistry with a computing specialization. Since the beginning of this academic year, he has been an undergraduate researcher in Professor Alexander Spokoyny’s group.

“Daniel is exceptional – his passion for chemistry is palpable, and his motivation is unwavering,” said his graduate student mentor Yessica Nelson. “His drive to learn and grow in the field is impressive and inspiring to me and others around him. Daniel’s unique combination of intellectual curiosity and heart makes him a joy to mentor. His dedication and hard work are admirable, but what truly stands out is his genuine desire to make a difference. Daniel is poised to profoundly impact the field and the people he touches throughout his career.”

“This experience has been great and Dr. Spokoyny and his graduate research team, in particular Yessica Nelson and Nima Admami, have mentored and inspired me to strive for the highest level of achievement in academic research,” Daniel said.

Originally, Daniel assisted in the synthesis of organically coordinated gold complexes that selectively react with cysteine in peptide chains to form bioconjugates to be used in medicinal treatments. Presently, his research involves the use of boron chemical species in bioinorganic applications as well as their physical properties in solid state electrolytes. After graduation Daniel plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry and work in the development of pharmaceuticals to combat neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases.

“I feel fortunate to have found an academic major that fulfills my passion for learning about the atomic realm and chemical synthesis and commitment to creating new therapeutic drugs to improve the lives of others,” Daniel said. “Since freshman year I have shared my enthusiasm for chemistry by tutoring underserved high school students in chemistry, hoping to encourage them to pursue degrees in STEM fields. I am immensely grateful to all those connected with the UCLA Undergraduate Research Center for selecting me as a Fellow in the UC LEADS Program that offers me the opportunity and support to continue my research and achieve my career goals.” He is also a 2022-2023 CARE Program Fellow.

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