UCLA 2023-24 Graduate Council Diversity Fellowship

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AJ Addae

First-year chemistry graduate student AJ Addae (P. Weiss group) has been selected to receive a prestigious 2023-24 UCLA Graduate Council Diversity Fellowship (GCDF).

The purpose of the Graduate Council Diversity Fellowship is to support UCLA graduate students who exemplify values of diversity in their academic, professional, and service activities. Addae’s fellowship will be for the 2023-24 academic year.

Addae joined UCLA’s chemical biology graduate program in 2022, working in the group of Professor Paul Weiss, where she is studying the optimization and application of metallic oxide-based UV attenuators at the nanoscale for use in sunscreen formulations. Her work in the Weiss lab has brought forth collaboration with dermatologists from the medical school, as well as professors from around the world.

Before coming to UCLA, Addae founded SULA LABS, a cosmetic research and development lab that develops and tests skincare products geared towards people with darker skin tones, with products in retailers such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty. In April 2023, SULA LABS closed a $1M seed round.
AJ received her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Northeastern University, conducting research in the Biomaterials Design Lab under the supervision of Dr. Leila Deravi. During her undergraduate studies, she had a six-month internship with a skin care startup and later graduated to begin a full-time position in clinical research and development at a medical-grade skin care company. After discovering how infrequently darker skin tones are researched and clinically studied, she left her job to launch SULA LABS in September 2021 — starting out in a bare-bones space with some equipment — with a grant from #VanguardSTEM’s The SeRCH Foundation, a nonprofit that advances social justice via science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects.

This year, Addae is an inaugural recipient of the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Samantha T. Mensah Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion award.

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