I am competitive. UCLA was always my first choice for college, and as a freshman in high school, I read about the low acceptance rates and about how difficult it was to get in.  I knew I could do it though, so I found out what UCLA was looking for in freshman applicants – advanced classes, community service, extracurricular activities, leadership roles – and I did it all.  

I’ve always been interested in the medical and pharmaceutical fields, so when I came to UCLA as an undeclared Physical Sciences major I was able to experience many different areas before I transferred into the School of Engineering as a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Major. 

As soon as I transferred to Engineering, I immediately became involved in the clubs and programs that interested me.  I currently serve as the Internal Vice President for AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers), the President for PIE (Pilipinos in Engineering), and the Treasurer for ISPE (International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering).  These student organizations have given me the opportunity to help lead events and competitions, work closely with faculty and staff, network with alumni, and provide other engineering students with professional development opportunities.  This year I’m also a member of the SCC (Senior Class Campaign) Committee because I understand the importance of helping to sustain our School’s excellent reputation and providing for its future.

I’ve been able to do a lot of research during my time at UCLA as well.  Before I transferred to Engineering, I worked with Dr. Bookheimer at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience on research that focused on analyzing functional and structural MRIs for children with autism.  After taking Life Science 2 (Cells, Tissues, and Organs), I was really interested in learning more about how the body works and I wanted to engage in any research that would help explain it. I thought Dr. Bookheimer’s lab  would be interesting since one of my second cousins is diagnosed with autism, so learning more about the different responses in the brain had a personal appeal to me.

This past year I worked with Dr. Tang in Chemical Engineering whose research essentially aims to kill cancer cells by delivering specific proteins to the cancer cell.  Dr. Tang had emailed my bioseparations class to ask if anyone was interested in research in his lab regarding expression and purification of a protein sample in their nanocapsule project. I was really interested in gaining more research experience because I love and value the opportunity to have a hands-on application of everything we learned in class.

I recently started working in Dr. Liao’s lab, whose research focuses on the potential of isobutanol as a biofuel.  Two of my classmates and I are helping him design a new module (a lesson plan that encompasses multiple experiments under a certain topic)  for next year’s Chemical Engineering 104D/DL class as well as, hopefully, for other chemical engineering classes at other universities. Currently, the 104D/DL class has six modules that provide students with an introduction to molecular biology and biochemistry methods as they are applied in biotechnology. The goal of the class is to cover the biotechnological production process from gene to product with an emphasis on molecular techniques and to give us great hands on experience that will translate to real world experience.

For those of us in the biomolecular option of our major, a class like this is important because it helps us gain exposure to different bench scale techniques and practices that may be used in the biotechnology and/or pharmaceutical industries. College is supposed to prepare you for “the real world” so it is great that we have laboratory classes which teach us practices that may be applied in in the working/professional world.

I think Dr. Liao’s work is important because “traditional energy sources are becoming problematic due to rising costs and environmental damage” (as my friend Vincent eloquently worded it—which I agree with and I’d rather not use his exact words without giving him any credit). Thus, producing isobutanol as an alternative source of energy via Ecoli is a very important and relevant breakthrough that his lab is spearheading.

There is a lot I have been involved in around campus too – the OSA Mentorship Program, the Club Bowl on the hill, and University Catholic Center (UCC) Families are just a few.  One of my favorite activities has been participating in Samahang Pilipino Cultural Night.  For four years, I’ve participated in this annual showcase about Pilipino culture and the different issues facing the Pilipino/Pilipino-American community today. All the extracurricular and cultural activities are part of what attracted me to UCLA and I’ve really enjoyed being able to experience all that our School also has to offer. 

Right now I’m taking advantage of all of UCLA Engineering’s career fairs and applying to jobs in the pharmaceutical field.  While I haven’t decided what I’ll be doing after graduation, I know I want, one day, to be able to create drugs to save lives and I know that my competitive drive and education at UCLA Engineering will help me get there.