Academic excellence, passion earn students Edison scholarships

Carolyn Kan

Edison Scholars program is funded by $1 million endowment to the University’s Honors College

The five Cal State L.A. students have ambitious dreams.

One strives to ensure justice for all by pursuing a career in criminalistics. Another aspires to conduct research for the treatment of autism. A third hopes to become a neural engineer to discover new technological advances. The fourth student wants to be a family-care physician and work with underserved communities. And the fifth one seeks to bring science to the masses by making technology accessible and personal.

Francisco Sepulveda, Pranati Pillutla, Nastassja Carusetta, Carolyn Kan, and Paulo Arguelles make up the Edison Scholars for 2014-15 at Cal State L.A.

The Edison Scholars program is funded by a $1 million endowment from Edison International to the University’s Honors College. Scholarships are awarded to each scholar for their academic excellence and their passion for the sciences. They receive scholarship support annually until they graduate from Cal State L.A. Below are their stories:

Francisco Sepulveda is a biology major with a minor in forensic science. He has wanted to work for the Los Angeles Police Department or the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department since he was in high school. Watching crime shows on television only deepened his interest in criminalistics. He wants to use his education to help determine whether evidence collected at a crime scene incriminates a person. “I want to help the community so the guilty are brought to justice and the innocent are set free,” Sepulveda said.

He graduated from Bell Gardens High School and was accepted into the Honors College program at Cal State L.A. He credits the program for helping him think outside the box. “This way of thinking is very important in forensics because you have to take into consideration any and all possible explanations as to why and how a piece of evidence is where it is,” he said.

Pranati Pillutla, a biochemistry major, hopes to pursue a medical or doctoral degree. Her goal is to find a treatment for autism. Her brother, who is diagnosed with autism, has inspired her to focus on a career in biomedical research. She also wants to serve as an educational and health advocate for the special needs community. “My goal to become a physician-scientist and make a difference in the lives of those with special needs,”

She was admitted to Cal State L.A. through the Early Entrance Program in the Honors College at age 14 after finishing ninth grade at Simi Valley High School. As an undergraduate student, she had the opportunity to participate in Dr. Robert Vellanoweth’s molecular biochemistry lab, conducting research in cell signaling. Studies show that autism may be associated with altered cellular signaling.

Nastassja Carusetta is an Honors College student majoring in electrical engineering with a minor in biology. She began her studies at Cal State L.A. at 16 through the Early Entrance Program after attending South Pasadena High School for a year.

Edison Scholars 2014-15Carusetta intends to pursue a career inbiomedical engineering. Her ambition is to become a neural engineer and create new technology that will advance treatments for patients who have suffered from spinal cord injuries. She wants to make new discoveries and create new medical devices and therapies that will make medicine safer, more effective and more efficient for patients. “My engineering degree will give me the foundation of critical thinking and technical skills that I need in order to produce new ideas that become helpful products for those in need,” she said.

Carolyn Kan is a biochemistry major who aspires to become a physician. After a traumatic childhood incident where she was hospitalized, she became interested in learning more about the human body. She is interested in the molecular mechanisms of how the body operates and reacts. “I hope to use my degree to help alleviate healthcare gaps and disparities in the surrounding communities,” she said. 

At age 15, Kan began studying at Cal State L.A. through the Early Entrance Program under the University’s Honors College. She conducted research in Yong Ba’s lab on nanoparticle drug delivery. Her research won Cal State L.A.’s prestigious Phi Kappa Phi Travel Award. She was selected as one of only 20 inaugural Teach for America STEM Fellows in Los Angeles for her work in serving underrepresented populations. This fall, Kan will be heading to the Boston University School of Medicine to pursue an M.D.

Paolo Arguelles is an electrical engineering major who dreams of a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “My ultimate career goal is to bring science to the masses by making technology so personal that it is worthy of being a seamless complement to our daily routine,” he said. “The more we make science personal for everyone, the more we will understand why it is without a doubt the best investment our global community can possibly make.”

Arguelles is also interested in history and science, and represented Los Angeles in the National History Bee. At age 14, he was admitted to the Early Entrance Program at Cal State L.A. through the University’s Honors College. He has served as president for the program’s sophomore class. When time allows, he enjoys cross-country running, singing and performing in musical theater productions, as well as volunteering at charitable organizations in his community.

Photos: Top, Carolyn Kan speaking at this year's Honors College senior reception.  Bottom, from left to right: Natassja Carusetta, Carolyn Kan, Paolo Arguelles, Francisco Sepulveda, and Pranati Pillutla. (Credit: Cal State L.A.)

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