UCLA Alumni Association Graduate Fellowship Award

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Day Rachael

Fourth-year chemistry graduate student Rachael Day (Sletten group) has been awarded a prestigious UCLA Alumni Association Fellowship.

The one-time $10,000 award, which is funded by a grant from the UCLA Foundation, was given to Rachael by the UCLA College of Letters and Sciences in recognition of her achievements. 

Rachael Day is a fourth-year chemical biology student in Professor Ellen Sletten’s group working on perfluorocarbon nanotherapeutics. This work entails stabilizing droplets of fluorous solvent in water and loading them with biologically active molecules. Rachael has explored a panel of surfactants and analyzed their effect on nanoemulsion performance in cellulo. Additionally, she has loaded perfluorocarbon nanoemulsions with photosensitizers and demonstrated that these are exceptional materials for photodynamic therapy. Currently, Rachael is developing methods to deliver the perfluorocarbon nanoemulsions to specific cell types. 

Rachael has also been a teaching assistant for the Chemistry of Biology course, a cross-listed course for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. This is a relatively new course, giving Rachael an opportunity to make significant contributions in the classroom. Rachael’s career goal is to obtain a faculty position at a primarily undergraduate institution where she will continue her scholarship in the laboratory and classroom.

In addition to conducting research and teaching, Rachael has served as lead on the Sletten group’s outreach projects. She built a fun, fluorescent twist on a photobooth, called a “PHOTONbooth”, that teaches children how light interacts with molecules and materials. Rachael built the structure, gathered fluorescent props and has coordinated demos and posters, which go along with the main event of the “PHOTONbooth”, and organized demonstrations at local schools and at UCLA’s Exploring Your Universe. 

“Rachael has had an incredibly successful graduate career and made critical contributions to our group,” Sletten said. “In addition to her research accomplishments, Rachael she set up our biology laboratory, has mentored numerous junior students within the group, is the leader of our outreach, and has been a fantastic teaching assistant for graduate chemical biology.”

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