Student Research Symposium

Saturday, October 20, 2018, 9am-12pm

Student Bios

Numerous students were on campus at Cal Lutheran conducting research through the summer. Some were volunteers; others were funded by fellowships or departmental funds. The biographies that follow include primarily those students who were officially funded with the assistance of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship to conduct mentored scholarly projects, full time throughout the summer.


Nakeissa Abbassi

Major: Political Science
Class: 2019
Hometown: Woodland Hills, California

Nakiessa M. Abbassi is from Woodland Hills, Ca. She is a senior pursuing a BA in Political Science and a minor in Environmental Studies. After graduation, she plans on continuing graduate study in environmental policy for a career in policy analysis and research. Of the summer research program, Nakiessa says, “This summer has been an incredible experience and allowed me to research a topic I am truly interested in. This project would not have been possible without the guidance and support of my mentor and advisors, as well as the generous funding from California Lutheran University. The research and professional skills I have learned during this time will not only help me as I continue this particular research project but will be imperative during my continuing studies in graduate school.” Nakiessa’s mentors are Dr. Michael Brint and Mario Tofano. Her work was funded through the Pearson Scholars Summer Program for Leadership and Engagement in a Global Society.


Stephanie Allen

Major: Mathematics
Class: 2019
Hometown: Oak Park, California

Stephanie C. Allen is from Oak Park, CA. She is a senior, pursuing a BS in Mathematics. Upon graduating, she hopes to enter a Ph.D. program in Mathematics and Statistics. Her long-term professional plan includes continuing to pursue research opportunities, with the hope of finding new ways to use numbers to explain the world around us. When speaking of her summer research experience, Stephanie says, “I feel that research this summer has given me the confidence to believe that I can belong in the scientific community and has deepened my love for math.  I am so grateful to California Lutheran University, and all of the donors, for making it possible for students like myself to have this opportunity to prepare for our futures while pursuing our passions.” Stephanie’s mentor was Dr. Christopher Brown, and her work was funded by ALLIES in STEM.


Jamie Alvarado

Major: Exercise Science
Class: 2019
Hometown: Thousand Oaks, California

Jaime Alvarado is from Thousand Oaks, California. He is a senior, pursuing a BS in Exercise Science. Following graduation, he plans to continue his education by pursuing a Masters Degree in Sports Performance, as well as becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Eventually, he strives to become a strength and conditioning coach for the professional soccer teams Los Angeles Futbol Club or Los Angeles Galaxy. Of the summer research experience, Jaime says, “California Lutheran University really helps students find their purpose by preparing students for future careers by providing opportunities to conduct research in their area of interest. By performing research at CLU, I learned how valuable problem solving, critical thinking, as well as building professional relationships can be to better myself as a person and student. These skills will continue to grow and develop which will become very useful in everyday life especially in pursuing my career.” Dr. Michele LeBlanc was Jaime’s mentor, and his work was funded by the Project Acabado Aperture Transfer Student Research Fellowship. 


Emily Armbruster

Major: Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Simi Valley, California

Emily Armbruster is from Simi Valley, California.  She is a senior at CLU pursuing a Biology major and Chemistry minor. After graduation, she plans to enter a master’s or Ph.D. program in Developmental or Molecular biology and eventually work in a research lab or in education.  Her mentor was Dr. Paloma Vargas and her research this summer was funded by the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.  Emily says, “This summer’s research project taught me how to apply my critical thinking skills and improved my confidence in the lab setting.  I have learned about many key techniques used in molecular biology research and the associated skills I developed will be extremely valuable in my future education and career.  My work in Dr. Vargas’ lab has also helped me clarify what areas of study I would like to focus on in graduate school.”


Alicia Asmundson

Major: Chemistry
Class: 2019
Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Alicia Asmundson is a senior from Seattle, Washington, pursuing a BS in Chemistry and a minor in Math.  Upon graduation, she hopes to go into pharmaceutical research.  Her long-term professional goals include pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry and a career in drug research.  Of her experience with summer research, Alicia says, “This summer was the first summer I was involved in research, and my experience was invaluable.  I got to spend the summer doing what I love while also learning research skills that have really helped me grow as a person and a scientist.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the importance of persistence and determination when faced with problems.  I’m extremely grateful to Cal Lutheran for having such great opportunities for undergraduate research as well as my mentor and lab mates for truly making this a great experience.”  Alicia’s mentor was Dr. Jesus Cordova Guerrero and was funded by the Project Acabado Aperture Transfer Student Research Fellowship. 


Vanessa Avaloas

Major: Biology
Class: 2020
Hometown: Fresno, California

Vanessa Avalos is a junior from Fresno, California. She is majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. After graduating, Vanessa plans on attending a Ph.D. program in Genetics. Her current long-term professional goal is a career in genetic counseling. She has had the honor of working under Dr. Grady Hanrahan and received funding from the McNair Scholars Program. Vanessa states, “This summer research program has helped me improve my problem-solving skills. I learned that research is a process that includes setbacks and successes – just because an obstacle arises does not mean that the project is a failure. The setbacks that may occur are opportunities to teach yourself how to solve an unfamiliar problem. I have gained a larger appreciation for research and the growth it has provided for my character.”


Shant Balci

Major: Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Porter Ranch, California

Shant Balci is from Porter Ranch, CA. He is a senior, majoring in Biology. Upon graduating, he hopes to enter Veterinary Medicine School, where he will pursue a DVM. Eventually, he would like to own and operate a private veterinary hospital where he may treat pets with integrity and volition. Of the summer research experience, Shant says, “This summer, my first involvement in campus research, allowed me to have a firsthand experience into the fascinating world of biology. Through this experience, I have learned how great role patience, as well as dauntlessness, play in the research process. The classes I have taken at California Lutheran University have allowed me to gain valuable insight in scientific study and this research has not only allowed me to apply that but to also to be a more holistic student in my pursuit of higher education.”  Shant’s mentor was Dr. Kristopher Karsten, and his work was funded by the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Tyler Berry

Major: Computer Science
Class: 2020
Hometown: Thousand Oaks, California

Tyler Berry is from Thousand Oaks, CA. He is a junior, pursuing a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. Upon graduating, he hopes to pursue a Masters’ program in Data Science. His long-term professional plans include entering the industry to work towards implementing machine learning techniques for the manipulation of large datasets. Tyler says, “Being a research fellow this summer has afforded me a wonderful opportunity to be exposed to research in an academic setting, and focus on pursuing research that I am passionate about.” Tyler’s mentor was Dr. Craig Reinhart, and his research was funded by the Project Acabado Aperture Transfer Student Research Fellowship. 


Sara Beylik

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Filmore, California

Sara Beylik is from Fillmore, CA. She is a senior, pursuing a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy. Her eventual goal is to work as a pharmacist in a hospital setting. Reflecting on her summer research experience, Sara says, “Participating in research this summer has improved my time management skills and gave me a chance to practice independent thinking. This experience has also allowed me to plan and problem solve with others when help was needed. Both the personal and professional progress made this summer will be valuable to me in any future coursework or research projects I am involved in.“ Sara’s mentor was Dr. Kenneth Long, and her work was funded by a Swenson  Science Summer Research Fellowship for Biological Science.


Deana Bitar

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Porter Ranch, California

Deana Bitar is from Porter Ranch, CA. She is a senior, pursuing a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Following graduation, she plans to attend Pharmacy School in California to pursue a Pharm.D. Her long-term professional goals include working as a pharmacist in an industrial or clinical setting. Of her summer research experience, Deana says, “This summer has been an experience that has taught me a lot about both myself and the research process. I learned to be patient, hard-working, and independent. I learned to enjoy the challenging parts of research and to celebrate the small victories that come with a new discovery. Thanks to California Lutheran University and Dr. Hoffmann, I have developed skills that will better prepare me for my future as a graduate student and eventually a pharmacist.” She was mentored by Dr. Katherine Hoffmann and was funded by ALLIES in STEM.


Kayla Cross

Major: Biology
Class: 2020
Hometown: Bakersfield, California

Kayla Cross is from Bakersfield, CA. She is a junior with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Upon graduating, she hopes to pursue a Masters or Ph.D. program in either Medical Microbiology or Cellular and Molecular Biology. Eventually, she would like to pursue a career in medical research regarding infectious disease or cancer biology in addition to leading her own lab as a PI. Of the summer research experience, Kayla says, “Utilizing the opportunity to participate in summer research has allowed for me to grow personally and professionally. Personally, I have been able to take another step in solidifying my graduate and career goals, become close lifelong friends with my lab partners and develop a mentoring relationship with my P.I. Dr. Paloma Vargas. Professionally, I have been able to develop my public speaking skills, independence in the lab, project management, resiliency, critical thinking skills, and develop my laboratory skills. California Lutheran University, OURCS, Dr. Paloma Vargas, as well as the Swenson Family, has prepared me with lifelong skills that I can invest in the classroom, interviews, and my career”. Kayla’s mentor was Dr. Paloma Vargas and was funded by the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Nathan Delacth

Major: Biology
Class: 2020
Hometown: Brockton, Massachusetts

Nathan Delacth resides in Moorpark, CA, but is originally from Brockton, Massachusetts. He is a junior, pursuing a BS in Biology. After graduation, he plans on attending medical school in hopes of becoming an orthopedic surgeon or dermatologist. On his field research in Brazil over the summer, Nathan says, “conducting field research in the Amazon is truly a humbling experience. The obstacles I endured collecting data on wild squirrel monkeys strengthened my skills as a biologist. Moreover, the challenges of experiencing and submerging in a culture foreign to my own ultimately strengthened my character and compassion, which are invaluable to a future physician.” Nathan’s mentor was Dr. Anita Stone, and his work was funded by a Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Connor Dominici

Major: Exercise SCience
Class: 2019
Hometown: Santa Clarita, California

Connor Dominici is from Santa Clarita, CA. He is a senior, pursuing a B.S. in Exercise Science.  He intends to find employment in a physical therapy or occupational therapy clinic while preparing applications for graduate school. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Kinesiology and conduct research in sports (rock climbing) performance and rehabilitation. Of the summer research, Connor says, “This experience has shaped me into a more confident, goal directed person. Critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance, and determination are some of the valuable skills I have enhanced during the research process. California Lutheran’s Exercise Science Department along with the campus summer fellowship programs truly educate and prepare students to be professionals in the field of their choosing. These studies will be presented at research symposiums as well as professional conferences, further improving students’ analytical, communication and presentation skills.” Connor’s mentor was Dr. Michele LeBlanc and his work was funded by the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Cole Elpel

Major: Computer Science
Class: 2020
Hometown: Redwood City, California

Cole Elpel is from Redwood City, California. He is a junior, pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science. Following graduation, he plans to enter a graduate program in Computer Science. Eventually, his goal is to work as a Software Engineer. In regard to his independent research, he says, “I’m thankful to have been allowed to continue my work from my old project last summer. Continued work on my project allowed me to learn a wide variety of new skills that will aid me in working with and understanding topics that may have seemed difficult at first in my field of study. I’m glad that I was able to participate in this research program and I would love to do it again in the future.” Cole’s project was mentored by Dr. Chang-Shyh Peng and was funded by a fellowship from the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Giselle Gallardo

Major: Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Burbank, California

Giselle Gallardo is from Burbank, CA. She is a senior pursuing a degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and Dance. Following graduation, she plans to continue research in Artificial Intelligence at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center prior to applying to medical school where she hopes to further her studies in Oncology and the intersection between medicine and technology. Of the summer research experience, Giselle says: “This experience has really taught me how to work through the dynamic research process independently. It has taught me just how creative the scientific method is and how a nurturing and collaborative environment can amplify the yields of research.” Giselle’s mentor was Dr. Theresa Rogers and her research was funded by the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Alyssa Gee

Major: Marketing Communications
Class: 2020
Hometown: Glendora, California

Alyssa Gee is from Glendora, CA. She is a junior, pursuing a BA in Marketing Communications and a minor in Multimedia. After graduating, she plans to get her Master’s Degree in Marketing. Her long-term professional plans include working in the marketing department on a university campus. In regard to the summer research experience, Alyssa says, “This was an amazing first experience of taking a deeper look at marketing research. The weeks I spent this summer with my professors and our research allowed me a first-hand experience to a side of my field that I have yet to study in an undergraduate course. The research program also gave me the opportunity to elaborate on my education and grow professionally.” Alyssa’s mentors were Dr. Jean Sandlin and Dr. Monica Gracyalny and her work was funded by the Culver Behavioral Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Johnathan Goldstein

Major: Exercise Science
Class: 2019
Hometown: Camarillo, California

Jonathan Goldstein is from Camarillo, CA. He is pursuing a BS in Exercise Science with an emphasis in Human Performance. Following graduation, he is preparing to pursue graduate studies in a field related to Kinesiology. His research efforts will be centered around high level athletic performance, injury mechanisms, and injury prevention. His professional goals include working as an athletic performance coach or as a part of a university strength and conditioning staff while also contributing to sports performance and injury research. His overall long-term goal is to open a performance development and research facility that would serve high level amateur or professional athletes in addition to the general public. Of the summer research experience, Jonathan says, “This summer research helped me set realistic expectations for my life and future endeavors. I am more comfortable and confident in my career path and have found ways to bring my research into my everyday professional and educational life. Most importantly, I believe this experience has helped with the development of my practice and professionalism as a student, professional, and researcher.” Jonathan’s mentor was Dr. Travis Peterson and his work was funded by ALLIES in STEM.


Eliana Goncuian

Major: Biology
Class: 2021
Hometown: Calabasas, California

Eliana Goncuian is from Calabasas, CA. She is a sophomore at California Lutheran University working towards a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Following graduation, she plans to attend Medical School, where she will pursue an M.D. or a combination M.D. and Ph.D. Her eventual goal is working in medicine, as well as carrying out a career in clinical research. Eliana says, “This summer research experience at California Lutheran University has taught me persistence, discipline, and independence. It showed me the different aspects of research and made me rethink what career I want to pursue. This program teaches undergraduate students the process of designing and completing a research project, as well as, valuable professional and personal skills.” Eliana is mentored by Dr. Katherine Hoffmann and her work was funded by Dr. Katherine Hoffmann’s National Science Foundation Grant. 


Gevona Hernandez

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Mission Hills, California

Genova Hernandez is from Mission Hills, CA. She is a senior, pursuing a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Upon graduating, she hopes to enter Medical School where she will pursue an M.D. with which she intends to work with the organization Doctors Without Borders. Her long-term goals are to help underserved communities in the Los Angeles area. Of the summer research experience, Genova says, “This summer, being my third summer involved in research, and my first at Cal Lutheran, has truly helped to develop my independence and confidence in the lab setting. Problem-solving and troubleshooting has developed my patience and tenacity for achieving desired results. The successes and failures I have experienced in researching this summer have shaped me as scientist and have helped me grow a new set of skills which I can apply at every point of my career.” Genova was mentored by Dr. Katherine Hoffmann and was funded by ALLIES in STEM.


Helen Hong

Major: Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Horten, Norway

Helen Hong is an international student from Horten, Norway. She is a senior and will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Biology. Upon graduating, her plan is to enter a Ph.D. program in Neuroscience, which has been her field of interest since the beginning of college. She eventually plans to work at a research lab. Hong says “This summer program has been an eye-opening experience. I got a greater insight into research and realized my passion for it. This summer I learned to not take unsuccessful trials as failure, but rather learn from them and continue towards success. I feel less intimidated by the idea of conducting research. All this valuable knowledge that I gained will help me pursue my future career.” The principle investigator of her project was Dr. Kenneth Long and was funded by California Lutheran University through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF).


Gregory Hovhanessian

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Valencia, California

Gregory Hovhanessian is from Valencia and is a senior at California Lutheran University. He is a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major who wants to attend Pharmacy School in California. In the long term, he plans on either going into research or opening his own local retail pharmacy. He was working under Dr. Jesus Cordova Guerrero on the crystallization of Metal-Organic Frameworks this summer funded by the John Stauffer Research Fellowship for the Chemical Sciences. The fellowship entitled him the opportunity to exercise his research in conjunction with the Graduate Students at the University of Central Florida. Gregory says “My summer research has taught me to not only be more independent but gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the chemical research process. This project has taught me how to do various types of chemical synthesis, be more efficient, and persevere to reach my end goals.


Yoojin Jang

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Yoojin Jang is from Seoul, South Korea. She is a rising senior, with Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in major and Mathematics in minor. Upon graduating, she plans to enter pharmaceutical school to pursue Pharm.D. Eventually, she would like to work as a pharmacist in hospital settings and to, perhaps, work in medicinal research if opportunity allows. Regarding the summer research experience, Yoojin says, “This summer research experience has provided me to work in perseverance and to build confidence. The guidance and mentorship, which were gratefully given to me, opened up a room for growth on critical reasoning and professionalism in communication. Even though there were moments of frustration and unknowns, it was still satisfying to find small headway that got us one step closer to the goal. This wholesome experience not only gifted the skills us students need to carry on but also offered adventurous endeavors in our fields/majors.” Her project was co-mentored by Dr. Katherine Hoffmann and Dr. Jason Kingsbury and was funded by Dr. Hoffmann’s NSF grant fund.


Charnpreet Kaur

Major: Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Bakersfield, California

Charnpreet Kaur’s hometown is Bakersfield, CA. She is a senior pursing a BS in Biology and two minors in Chemistry and Business Administration. Upon graduating, she plans to enter USC for her Master’s in Public Health followed by Medical School, where she will pursue an MD. Her long-term professional plans include practice of medicine in a hospital setting. Of the summer research experience, Charnpreet says, “This summer has given me the opportunity to engage in rigorous academic research alongside travel in another country. The cultural and societal aspects were built into the lab environment allowing me to experience the different work culture and enhance my problem-solving skills. I was able to develop research skills in an international context and expand my knowledge on the existing foundation of Immunology. Living and researching abroad were both eye-opening and rewarding.” Charnpreet’s mentor was Dr. Charlotte Lawson, and she was funded by a STEM Research Study Abroad Fellowship from the OURCS office.


Harleen Kaur

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2020
Hometown: Oxnard, California

Harleen Kaur is from Oxnard, CA. She is a junior, pursuing a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Upon graduation, she hopes to enter medical school to pursue an M.D. in Emergency Medicine, or to complete a post-baccalaureate program for a year before applying to medical school. Harleen says, “This summer has been a challenging but rewarding summer. It has given me greater insight into what research looks like outside of a lab course. It has taught me critical thinking skills and taught me how to make decisions independently. This research experience has made me realize that failure is the biggest success, in that we learn so much from our failures.” Her project was mentored by Dr. Jesus Cordova Guerrero and was funded by the Summer Research Fellow program through the ALLIES in STEM program.


Jason Krastein

Major: Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Camarillo, California

Jason Krastein is from Camarillo, CA. He is a senior, pursuing a B.S. in Biology. Upon graduating, he hopes to enter Medical School, where he will pursue an M.D. His long-term professional plan is to work in clinical medicine. Of the summer research experience, Jason says, “This summer, being my first summer involved in on-campus research, has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. Determination, persistence, and problem solving have been valuable skills imparted to me through this process. I feel that California Lutheran University truly prepares students through the summer undergraduate research programs to experience eight weeks of experimental design, problem-solving, critical reasoning, and professional camaraderie. All of which are invaluable skills to these students, like myself, going on to pursue higher level education.” Jason’s mentor was Dr. Robert Richards and his work was funded by ALLIES in STEM.


Christopher Kromm

Major: Mathematics
Class: 2019
Hometown: Moorpark, California

Christopher Kromm is from Moorpark, CA. He is a senior, pursuing a B.A. in Mathematics and minor in Economics. Upon graduating he plans to work in the industry as a Data Analyst.  His long-term professional goal is to be a Statistical Consultant. Christopher says, “This summer has given me a solid understanding to a variety of mathematics used in predictive modeling. This experience enabled me to work with large datasets and gave me assets that are useful in the workplaceA particularly useful aspect of this fellowship is that it allows for the presentation of mathematical material to layman and technical audiences.” Christopher’s research mentor was Dr. Christopher Brown and his research was funded by the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship. 


Kevin Hwa Lee

Major: Computer Science and Mathematics
Class: 2019
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Kevin Hwa Lee is a senior from Los Angeles, California. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. Upon graduating, he plans to enter a Ph.D. program in Computer Science to prepare for a professional career in computer vision and machine learning. His long-term goal is to become a scientist at a research lab or a professor at a university. Kevin says, “My summer research experience was enjoyable as it allowed me to explore a new subfield of computer science. It has made me a better researcher as I was challenged to be independent and take ownership of my work and progress”. Kevin was mentored by Dr. Craig Reinhart and his work funded by theSwenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Tyler Lindholm

Major: Physics and Mathematics
Class: 2020
Hometown: London, Engalnd

Tyler Lindholm is originally from London, England, but now resides in Ventura, CA. He is a student from Oxnard College transferring to UCSB as a junior pursuing a B.S. in Physics and a B.S. in Mathematics. Upon graduating he hopes to enter a Ph.D. program for theoretical physics or particle physics. His long-term professional plans include conducting research in a lab or facility for physics and possibly teaching physics at the university level. Tyler Says, “This summer gave me greater insight into research methods and team building tactics. The applications of physics on the human body opened my eyes to new wonders. This research taught me to have discipline and consistency.” Tyler’s mentor was Dr. Michele LeBlanc and was funded by the Project Acabado Aperture Transfer Research Fellowship.


Anna Lundsten

Major: Global Studies, POlitcal Science, and Psychology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Hugo, Minnesota

Anna Lundsten is currently a senior at California Lutheran University. Originally, she is from Hugo, Minnesota. At California Lutheran University Anna triple majors in Global Studies, Political Science, and Psychology. Following her graduation, she plans to join the Peace Corp, and is currently being reviewed for a secondary school English teacher position in Malawi. Anna’s long-term professional plans involve working for the United Nations, specifically in the Human Rights Sector. Of this summer research experience Anna says, “This summer research has made me grow as a person and researcher. I learned how to gain research through simple observation while also adjusting to foreign cultures. I have grown as a person and student and am excited for that to be reflected in my upcoming coursework.” Anna’s mentor was Dr. Gregory Freeland and her funding was through the Pearson Scholars Summer Program for Leadership and Engagement in a Global Society. 


Nodirkhon (Nodir) Mamatov

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Tarzana, Califonria

Nodirkhon (Nodir) Mamatov is from Tarzana, CA. He is a senior pursuing a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in Mathematics. Upon graduating he hopes to enter a Ph.D. program in either Pharmacology/Toxicology or in Medicinal Chemistry. His long-term professional plans include working in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as conducting pharmaceutical research in academia. Of the summer research experience, Nodir says, “This summer has illustrated to me the significance and importance of hands-on experimentation. Analytical thinking, patience, and concentration on a given task were critical to my understanding of the research process. Hands-on experimentation has embodied verbal lectures and clarified the meanings of often ambiguous definitions and concepts. California Lutheran University’s summer research opportunities illustrate the irreplaceable value and importance of hands-on experimentation.” Nodir’s mentor was Dr. Robert Richards and their work was funded by the McNair Scholars Program and ALLIES in STEM.


Amir Mejia

Major: Biology
Class: 2021
Hometown:

Amir Mejia is from Banning, California. He is a sophomore student studying Biology at California Lutheran University. This summer he received a fellowship from the ALLIES program to student with School for Field Studies. This allowed him which to conduct research in Costa Rica.


Drew Miles

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2020
Hometown: Castaic, California

Drew Miles is from Castaic, CA. He is a junior, pursuing a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Upon graduating, he hopes to go to graduate school, where he will enter a Ph.D. program in Organic Chemistry. His long-term goals include becoming a professor at a university and continuing to conduct research or working in private industry. Of the summer research experience, Drew says, “This summer allowed me to build an unwavering determination to overcome obstacles, when inexorably, you encounter them in an experiment. Being confronted with unanticipated problems in my research taught me to exercise critical thinking and perseverance to resolve them and explore alternative means of keeping my research moving forward. Through this summer Research I have acquired what I believe to be the most essential characteristic of a researcher, that of the independent thinker. I learned to design my own experiment and to troubleshoot problems.” Drew’s mentor was Dr. Katherine Hoffman and his work was funded by a John Stauffer Summer Research Fellowship for Chemical Science.


Yasi Mojab

Major: Biology and Chemistry
Class: 2019
Hometown: West Hills, California

Yasi Mojab is from West Hills, CA. She is a senior pursuing a B.S. in Biological Sciences, a B.A. in Chemistry, and a minor in Art. Upon graduation, she hopes to enter dental school or pharmacy school. Her long-term professional plan includes becoming orthodontist or clinical pharmacist and perhaps pursuing a career in dental research contribute to oral health or pharmacological research. Of the summer research experience, Yasi says, “I learned how to apply all my prior knowledge and coursework experiences in problem-solving. I was challenged to work independently. I also learned to be patient when it comes to troubleshooting and never be disappointed. After all, what truly matters is how much time and effort one puts towards a goal.  I was truly passionate about my project and greatly value my research experience. My structural studies helped me develop my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This unforgettable research experience taught me skills that I can apply to my workspace in the future and prepared me for advance & rigorous coursework in grad school. I realized that research has to be part of my life in the future.” Yasi’s research wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of her mentor, Dr. Katherine Hoffmann. Her work was funded by John Stauffer Research Fellowship for Chemical Sciences.


Kathryn Monohan

Major: Economics
Class: 2018
Hometown: Bellingham, Washington

Kathryn Monahan is from Bellingham, Washington. She graduated from California Lutheran University in 2018 with a major in Economics and a minor in Philosophy. She is currently enrolled in the Cal Lutheran Masters Quantitative Economics program. In the future, she would like to work for a firm that evaluated current public policies outside of politics to see if data finds the policies to be effective in benefiting the United States. Her mentor is Dr. Matthew Fienup. She received funding the Overton Summer Research Program in Economics. Of the summer program, she says, “This summer’s fellowship taught me to be persistence in my research and to try multiple methods of analysis if I found roadblocks in my data. It also taught me creative thinking in attempting to come up with new solutions to these roadblocks.”


CJ O'Brien

Major: Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Windermere, Florida

CJ O’Brien is from Windermere, FL. She is a senior, pursuing a B.S. in Biology. Upon graduating, she hopes to enter a Graduate or Ph.D. program in Marine Sciences with an emphasis in conservation. Her long-term professional plans include conducting research as a professor or with an organization studying anthropogenic effects on the marine environment. Of the summer research experience, CJ says “The skills I have acquired this summer have definitely prepared me for graduate school and my future career goals. I have learned how to take care of marine organisms in a tank, how to problem solve independently, and how to run complex biochemistry techniques. I feel extremely lucky to have studied something I am so passionate about as an undergrad and I thank California Lutheran University and the Swenson family for giving me this opportunity.” CJ’s mentor was Dr. Kwasi Connor, and her work was funded by the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Alberto Ortiz

Major: Computer Science
Class: 2019
Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Alberto Ortiz is from Los Angeles, CA. He is a senior, pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science and has minors in Psychology and Business Administration. After graduation, he hopes to enter the workforce in a start-up company. His long-term professional plans will be to hopefully begin his own company or move towards security sector as a developer. Of the summer research experience, Alberto says, “I am really honored to be able to be involved in something that I created that will aid my own professional development because it has taught skills that I feel are essential in the real world. This summer gave a glimpse of what I can be doing after college and has allowed me to see the various opportunities that are available to me.” Alberto’s mentor was Dr. Chang-Shyh Peng, and his work was funded by the ALLIES in STEM.


William Parquette

Major: Physics
Class: 2019
Hometown: Yucca Valley, CA

William Parquette is from Yucca Valley, California. He is a senior pursuing a B.S. in Physics and a minor in Mathematics. Upon graduating, he plans to attend graduate school and study electrical engineering or high energy physics. His ultimate goal is to work in industry as an electrical engineer or work at a particle physics research lab. His faculty mentor is Dr. Carron Montero and he was funded through ALLIES in STEM. Of the program, he says, “My research experience this summer has taught me how to work in a collaboration, but also be more independent. I have also learned how work in a professional setting and participate in professional camaraderie. My research has given me invaluable experience and knowledge for my field, and has improved my problem-solving skills.”


Angelika Pasion

Major: Biology
Class: 2020
Hometown: Huntington Beach, California


Melissa Pepper

Major: Biology
Class: 2020
Hometown: Redlands, Califonira

Melissa Pepper is a junior from Redlands, CA. She is pursuing a B.S. in Biology and upon graduating she hopes to enter medical school. Her long-term professional goal is to specialize in dermatology and perform MOHS surgery to help patients with skin cancer. Melissa says, “This summer research experience not only expanded my laboratory skills and techniques but also taught me valuable problem solving and critical thinking skills I can apply to other fields and opportunities throughout my educational journey. Summer research at California Lutheran University teaches students how to tackle obstacles with determination, persistence, and passion.” Her project was mentored by Dr. Kwasi Connor and was funded by the Project Acabado Aperture Transfer Student Research Fellowship.


Luis Perez

Major: Mathematics and Computer Science
Class: 2020
Hometown: Oxnard, California

Luis Perez is from Oxnard, CA. He is a junior, pursuing a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science. Upon graduating, he hopes to enter a Ph.D. program in Mathematics. His eventual goal is to work in academia as a professor at a Research 1 university.  After the research experience, Luis states, “This research experience has given me a competitive advantage in that it has given me a taste of what graduate school will feel like. It has also allowed me to become passionate about a specific field of study. I can now visualize a clear path towards graduate school.” His project was mentored by Dr. Villalpando and was funded by the Ronald E. McNair Program.


Maria Rodriguez

Major: Sociology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Camarillo, California

Maria J. Rodriguez’s hometown is Camarillo, CA. She is a senior, majoring in Sociology. Upon graduation, she is planning on entering a Ph.D. program in Sociology focusing in the area of immigration. Eventually, she would like to pursue a career in the academia, obtain a Ph.D. degree and continue to conduct research and potentially teach immigration courses at the university level. Maria Says “This summer gave the knowledge and tools to the process of academic interviewing. It allowed me to embrace the challenges as well as the excitement of conducting academic interviewing. The valuable tools that I have gained throughout this process will be extremely useful in graduate school and in my future career plans.” Her mentor was Dr. Akiko Yasuike, and her work was funded by the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.


Emma Rumpf-Snavely

Major: Psychology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Highland, California

Emma Rumpf-Snavely is a senior from Highland, CA. She is pursuing a Psychology degree with an emphasis in clinical and behavioral applications and a minor in Gender/Women’s studies. Upon graduating, she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in counseling and guidance to assist in her dream to become a school counselor. During the summer, she received a Cal Lutheran Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to conduct her own original research alongside her faculty mentor Dr. Andrea Sell. She said this of the research experience: “It is very empowering to know that you are capable of finding new results for something never before explored. Having a faculty advisor and a school that believed in my capabilities to achieve greatness is something I will never forget. All this hard work has shown me that I can handle anything that comes my way.”


Jessica Shin

Major: Chemistry
Class: 2019
Hometown: Ojai, California

Jessica Shin is from Ojai, CA. She is a senior, pursuing a B.S. in Chemistry. Upon graduating, she hopes to enter graduate school, where she will pursue an M.S. or a combination M.S. and Ph.D. at CalPoly SLO studying Polymers & Coatings. Her long-term professional plans including working in organic chemical research also include becoming a certified interpreter in American Sign Language and working for the Rochester Institute of Technology working with Deaf students who are passionate about the STEM. Of the summer research experience, Jessica says, “This research experience has been an absolute blessing. It has further solidified my passion for chemistry and my pursuit of working in the field of research. The priceless experiences in the lab have deepened my passion for the pursuit of knowledge. I cannot wait to utilize these experiences and apply them in the near future.” Jessica’s mentor was Dr. Jesus Cordova Guerrero, and her work was funded by the John Stauffer Research Fellowship in the Chemical Sciences. 


Jamie Shultz

Major:
Class: 2020
Hometown:


Caroline Sinclair

Major: Mathematics
Class: 2019
Hometown: Thousand Oaks, California

Caroline Sinclair is from Thousand Oaks, CA. She is a senior, completing a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. Upon graduating, she hopes to enter a Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program before pursuing Ph.D. in Genetics. Her long-term professional goals are to do research in the genetic mechanisms of chromatophores in cephalopods. Caroline says, “This summer’s research project has been instrumental in my abilities for critical thinking and problem-solving. The intersectionality of mathematics with many fields boosts my convictions that this summer research and the following year will prepare me exceedingly well for my long-term pursuits.” Caroline’s mentor was Dr. Christopher Brown, and Caroline’s work was funded by the Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship in Mathematics.


Kayla Sircy

Major: Biology
Class: 2021
Hometown: Burbank, California

Kayla Sircy is from Burbank, California.  In the fall, she will be a sophomore at California Lutheran University, working towards a Biology major and Psychology minor.  After graduation, she plans to pursue a dual M.D., Ph.D. in molecular pathogenesis or regenerative medicine.  In her professional future, she hopes to work in biomedical disease research as well as being a physician in her own private practice.  Of the summer research experience, Kayla says, “Participating in research this summer has been a valuable experience that allowed me to develop myself academically, as well as personally.  Through research, I have been able to learn more technical lab skills, improve my ability to speak publicly, and better problem solve both scientific and non-scientific issues.  I have been fortunate enough to form close friendships with my lab mates and a mentoring relationship with my P.I., Dr. Paloma Vargas.  I am so grateful to have taken part in this opportunity, as it has presented me with a new career path I hadn’t considered in the past.  I look forward to continuing my research in the future and pursuing higher education.”  Kayla’s research mentor was Dr. Paloma Vargas, and her work was funded by a Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.    


Ruth Smitherman

Major: Theatre
Class: 2019
Hometown: Roy, Washington

Ruth Smitherman is from Roy, Washington. She’s a senior and a theatre major with a sociology minor. When she graduates, she hopes to move to LA and continue to pursue dramaturgy, improv, and acting.  “This summer has connected me with working actors, directors, and dramaturgs who look forward to supporting me in my future endeavors and I look forward to supporting them. This was an incredible opportunity which not only taught me how to be a professional in my industry but will also help me start my career.” She’d like to thank her mentor Dr. Michael Arndt for his support and kindness through the process, as well as the Cal Lutheran Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship scholarship for this incredible opportunity.


Alexandra Stewart

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Class: 2020
Hometown: Santa Maria, California

Alexandra Stewart is from Santa Maria, CA. She is a junior majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. After she graduates from Cal Lutheran, she plans to attend graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. Her long-term goal is to become a professor at a university and teach chemistry or biochemistry while also conducting research. Of her research experience this summer, Alexandra says, “This research experience opened my eyes to all of the possibilities out there for me. I feel more prepared for what comes next after I graduate because I learned how to think critically and push through difficult problems. I am also more confident in myself and my abilities as a result of the hands-on experience I gained while working in the chemistry lab.”  Alexandra’s mentor was Dr. Jesus Cordova Guerrero, and her work was funded by the John Stauffer Research Fellows Program.


Danny Suarez

Major: Computer Science
Class: 2020
Hometown: Thousand Oaks, California

Danny Suarez is from Thousand Oaks, CA. He is a junior, with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in the field of Computer Science. His long-term goals include working at a company as a software engineer and continuing to conduct research. Danny’s work was funded through the Swenson Summer Science Research Fellowship, and he was mentored by Dr. Graham Matthews. Danny says, “This research has taught me improved ways to tackle Computer Science problems and has allowed me to apply the knowledge that I have gained here at CLU to real-life applications. I am excited to hopefully continue to conduct research and see what I can accomplish next.”


Claire Thompson

Major: Marketing Communications
Class: 2020
Hometown: Thousand Oaks, California

Claire Thompson is a Thousand Oaks, CA native and a junior at Cal Lutheran studying Marketing Communication. After graduating, she will pursue a career in the music industry in marketing or artist management and hopes to fulfill one of these positions indefinitely. Regarding her research experience, Claire says, “This summer has not only deepened my knowledge of communication as a student and researcher but has also shown me how communication professionals can benefit from such projects. Additionally, I have discovered how much I enjoy qualitative research; the analytical skills that the process develops are valuable in countless disciplines and situations. I’m grateful to my mentors for giving me this opportunity and teaching me how to be a fruitful, self-sufficient researcher.” Her work contributed to the project of Dr. Jean Kelso Sandlin and Dr. Monica Gracyalny and was funded by the Culver Behavioral Science Research Fellowship.


Leslie Tran

Major: Chemistry
Class: 2020
Hometown: Canoga Park, California

Leslie Tran is from Canoga Park.  She is currently a junior majoring in Chemistry. When she graduates, she plans to enter a Ph.D. program in Chemistry to eventually obtain a job in a research laboratory. She has also considered becoming a Chemistry teacher later in her career. This summer she worked under the guidance on Dr. Grady Hanrahan. Of the program, she says, “This experience has been a great learning opportunity for me as I was exposed to a new field of study and I also learned a lot about myself. Through this opportunity, I learned self-discipline, independence and problem solving as like most machines, the ones I used in my research had a couple of problems during the summer. All of these skills make me a better research and definitely prepare for a lifetime or laboratory work”.


Austin Truong

Major: Biology
Class: 2019
Hometown: Chino Hills, California

Austin Truong’s hometown is Chino Hills, CA. He is a senior, pursuing a B.S. in Biology. Upon graduating, he hopes to enter Medical School, where he will pursue an MD/DO. His long-term professional plans include becoming a Pediatric General Surgeon at a teaching hospital in Southern California. Austin says, “This opportunity to conduct summer research, being a continuous project from the academic year, has really helped me grow professionally. There is a level of determination, self-discipline, and problem solving involved in this process that will better equip me for my future endeavors as a physician. The skills gathered from having the opportunity to create and execute my own research project is something unique not a lot of people get to do.” Austin’s mentor is Dr. Andrea Huvard, and his work was funded by a Swenson Science Summer Research Fellowship.


Heather Wilson-Hooker

Major: Marketing Communications
Class: 2019
Hometown: Carona, California

Heather Ashley Wilson-Hooker’s hometown is Corona, CA. She is a senior, pursuing a BA in Marketing Communications and a minor in Legal Studies. Upon graduating, she plans to continue her education in a graduate program for either Public Policy or Strategic Communications. Her long-term professional plans include working in political communication as Press Secretary, and has hopes to work at Disney as their Director of Governmental Relations. Heather says, “I feel as if this summer research has taught me how to strategically plan and self-discipline myself to stay on schedule. I feel as if I learned valuable tools for graduate school as well as any future long-term course work or projects.” Heather’s mentor was Dr. Monica Gracyalny and funded by the Cal Lutheran Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

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