Congratulations Nathan Mallipeddi- Strauss Scholar (2018) and Fulbright Scholar (2020)

Nathan Mallipeddi, Biology and Political Science, Senior

SRC: Which scholarships have you won?

NM: I was fortunate enough to receive both the 2018 Donald A. Strauss Foundation Scholarship and 2020-2021 Fulbright Research Award to India

SRC: Can you tell us about your Strauss Scholarship Project? How did the scholarship help you?

NM: In California today, most families cannot afford private speech therapy. And, special education classrooms do not provide the specialized resources necessary to fully support children who stutter. Having grown up stuttering, I understand the negative impacts of this condition, and I empathize with the amount of emotional and professional support required to overcome this disability. In response, I started the SoCal Stuttering Service (SCSS). SCSS has 3 goals : 1) sponsor the private speech therapy for individuals from marginalized communities 2) form national support groups for individuals who stutter and 3) host workshops at local middle and high schools to education students with disabilities on the opportunities available to them. The scholarship helped tremendously and served as the catalyst for our growth. We are on track to expand sponsored therapy to 100 participants. Additionally, we have secured $45,000 from service grants and corporate sponsorships and are expanding the program to India and Canada.

SRC: What are your plans for next year, after graduation?

NM: I wanted to further develop my global perspective by pursuing a Fulbright Research Award in India. I will conduct a project assessing the state of speech impairments in the public health system in India, which will provide both a unique perspective and opportunity for personal growth.

SRC: You were also a finalist for other top scholarships! What was that experience like?

NM: Interviewing and being selected as a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, Rhodes Scholarship, and Schwarzman Scholars program was a tremendous honor. The best part of that experience was meeting like-minded young adults who were focused on making an impact on the world. I formed many friendships that I still cherish and I know that we will likely cross paths someday. I think another underrated aspect of these scholarships is the ability to really refine your story. The ability to communicate who you are and why you do what you do will be critical for the rest of your life. These high pressure situations helped me tremendously in that delivery and also aided in solidifying my future goals.

SRC: What advice do you have for students who are considering applying for nationally competitive scholarships?

NM: Even though these scholarships may seem daunting, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of putting yourself out there. I too was very intimidated by the entire scholarship process, but I learned so much about myself, my goals, my story, and made spectacular connections with people who I would not have met otherwise. Win or lose, you will become a better person for it. Furthermore, the SRC is amazing in the amount of resources and support that they provide; I am truly grateful for everything that Rebecca Blustein did to help me with my application. She went above and beyond to support me throughout the years and because of individuals like her, I knew I was not alone in this process. Good luck to you!

Congratulations Nathan Mallipeddi, Strauss Scholar, Fulbright Scholar

Congratulations 2019 Strauss Scholar Ahmad Elhaija

2019 Strauss Scholar Ahmad Elhaija

Ahmad Elhaija, third year Psychobiology major, won the Strauss Scholarship in 2019.

SRC: What is your Strauss Scholarship Project, and how is it going? How did you use the funds?

AE: My Strauss Scholarship project is the International Collegiate Health Initiative: Maywood and Bell Community Clinic. The project has been going well- we are making a great impact in the Southeast Los Angeles community and working to expand the types of services we can provide. I actually saved the Strauss funds to go towards purchasing a medical clinic van for our organization.

SRC: What are your plans for the organization?

AE: Going forward we will provide more types of medical services, partner with more service organizations, and open chapters at other universities.

SRC: What advice do you have for students who are considering applying for the Strauss Scholarship?

AE: I would say to create your proposal as if it would not matter whether or not you receive the scholarship. The strongest projects from my year all had development in the projects prior to applying for the scholarship. The Strauss board will be able to see who put in the work for their project and how much thought was put into organizing the different aspects of the proposal.

Congratulations 2020 Marshall Scholar Leia Yen

Congratulations Leia Yen, UCLA Marshall Scholar!

SRC: What do you plan to study in the UK using your Marshall Scholarship?

LY: Digital Humanities/Digital Culture and Society

SRC: What attracted you to that field of study?

LY: I love that digital humanities fosters creativity in technological innovation and research while also providing the space to ask critical questions about their impacts. I believe that digital humanities education can play a role in addressing the social, cultural, and economic inequalities that technology both creates and surfaces.

SRC: What were your most meaningful experiences at UCLA, at your community college, and in the community?

LY: Mentoring transfer students with the UCLA Transfer Center, coaching debate with El Camino College and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Debate League, developing original research with great mentors (Dr. Danny Snelson, Dr. Ramesh Srinivasan, Dr. Ashley Sanders-Garcia to name a few!), and being a part of the church family at Lighthouse Community Church in Torrance.

SRC: What advice do you have for other students considering applying for the Marshall Scholarship? Any advice specifically for transfer students?

LY: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are no self-made Marshalls; we each had mentors, friends, and communities who spoke into our journeys. Sometimes that kind of support isn’t readily accessible, so it may mean being brave and reaching out on your own. For fellow transfer students, try not to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others (it’s so easy to feel self-doubt as you read profile after profile on the scholarship websites!). Rather than being ashamed of the differences in your college pathway, help scholarship committees see why your unique experiences and the perspectives you’ve gained from them are what make you a great candidate.

Congratulations 2019 Goldwater Scholar Carla Pantoja

SRC: What has been your most significant research experience at UCLA? What attracted you to the project?

CP: My most significant research experience at UCLA has been joining the Gomperts Lab! I have been fortunate enough to participate in the entirety of science research: from conducting experiments, troubleshooting, co-writing a manuscript and ultimately being able to celebrate our work with others in academia!

SRC: What are your plans for the upcoming year, after you graduate?

CP: I will be taking two gap years while I apply to MD/PhD programs. In the meantime, I hope to be conducting research at the NIH!

SRC: What advice do you have for students who are thinking about applying for the Goldwater Scholarship?

CP: The Goldwater scholarship application can be time intensive, so set aside time to truly fine-tune your application to put your best foot forward. I found this period to be very introspective and allowed me to truly evaluate my career plans and passions.

Congratulations to 2019 Goldwater Scholar Carla Pantoja!

Congratulations 2019 Goldwater Scholar Abby Thurm

SRC: What was your research career like at UCLA? Any updates since receiving the Goldwater Scholarship?

AT: I have co-authored four published or submitted peer-reviewed articles (two as first author) and one article in the UCLA Undergraduate Science Journal, am named as a contributor on two UCLA Invention Reports, one of which is in the process of being filed as a U.S. Provisional Patent, and I have presented six posters at five undergraduate symposia and one professional international conference. For these accomplishments, I have been awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the UCLA Undergraduate Research Scholars Program fellowship, the UCLA Chemistry/Biochemistry Raymond and Dorothy Wilson fellowship, and was named a UCLA Amgen Scholar for summer 2019 and Harvard Stem Cell Institute Intern for summer 2018.

Outside the lab, I was also involved in research-based outreach clubs, volunteering with underprivileged elementary school kids, and was president of the club equestrian team.

My most significant research experience at UCLA by far was working in the Gelbart/Knobler lab, where I was given the independence to direct and shape my own projects that resulted in the first-author papers – they taught me how to become confident and scientifically curious, and nurtured me into becoming the scientist and person I am today.

SRC: What are your main goals as you look ahead to your MD/PhD program?

AT: My goals for the MD/PhD are to gain a wider clinical perspective through my medical training even as I pursue a PhD in biophysics, so I can contextualize my research in terms of current medical issues and better focus the projects I work on. I eventually want to be a PI leading a lab in translational science.

SRC: What advice would you give to students who are planning to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship?

AT: My advice for the Goldwater scholarship would be to identify strong letter-writers, hopefully people like your PI/research mentors who can speak positively toward your abilities as a young scientist, and to put a lot of time into the research statement – make sure you can easily articulate the goal of your project, and emphasize the role you specifically had in that project’s development and progress.

Congratulations to 2019 Goldwater Scholar Abby Thurm

Congratulations 2020 Goldwater Scholar Spenser Talkington

2020 Goldwater Scholar Spenser Talkington

SRC: What has been your most important research experience at UCLA, and what attracted you to the project?

ST: I’ll talk about the research experience that led to my Goldwater scholarship. During my sophomore year, I took a solid state physics course with HongWen Jiang, and got to know him through class and office hours. He then offered me a summer position in his lab and I worked with his group. Fairly quickly I ran into an issue: my simulations of quantum dot qubits had extra oscillations. After a few weeks of careful consideration and comparison we determined that the oscillations were real: Landau Zener interference. I then optimized the algorithms for my simulations and wrote a paper.

SRC: What are your plans for the upcoming year?

ST: Graduate school and fellowships have preoccupied my thoughts a lot lately, however concrete academic goals I want to achieve in the coming year are: (1) complete my studies of the delocalization transition in Chern insulators (2) develop my knowledge of correlation functions and the renormalization group, phrase my work in this language, and write my thesis (3) create course materials for Physics 1C (4) learn more about ARPES and ultrafast spectroscopy.

SRC: What advice do you have for students who are planning to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship?

ST: Be interested in your research, work thoughtfully, and revise your application carefully. I wasn’t passionate about my first research experiences in synthetic chemistry, and artificial intelligence hardware, but found projects in condensed matter physics that I am excited to put my entire efforts into. If you are interested in something, you will have fun, be better at it, and be determined to continue through adversity. Be thoughtful; research is about questions, so ask questions and learn how to answer them through thinking, reading, and talking with others. Applications are tough. Nothing is guaranteed, but nothing is impossible. I think this is well conveyed by the story of Carol Greider who won the Nobel Prize in 2009 and was rejected for a grant later the same day. The Goldwater application is about three times longer than the application that got you into UCLA. Put in your best effort; write and revise thoughtfully. Make every word count.