Student Highlights

After Angel Chavez’s mother expressed disappointment in his poor grades earned during high school, Chavez vowed to improve his performance and work towards a better academic future. Chavez, the youngest of three children, understood that education is essential in upward mobility and realizing his dreams. He enrolled at Cal State LA as an undergraduate and was introduced to Professor Daphne Liu, a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics. With her encouragement, he applied and was accepted to Cal State LA’s NASA Data Intensive Research and Education Center in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (DIRECT-STEM) program, where he developed his research interest under the tutelage of Professor Liu. The program recruits highly competitive and historically under-represented students to provide NASA research experience in scientific computing and data analysis. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he continued his studies as graduate student in the department’s master’s program and the NASA DIRECT-STEM program
Chavez cherished his time with the NASA DIRECT-STEM program.

“The DIRECT-STEM program provided me with ample network opportunities. Through the program, I interned at NASA-JPL and UC Irvine, which greatly expanded my network.”

Chavez also credits the program in expanding his knowledge of other STEM fields.

“The program offered monthly seminars where we learned about other subjects… not just math. For example, I gained knowledge in data science and weather science, which I think has made me a more rounded future scientist.”

This fall, Chavez will continue his graduate education at the University of Minnesota, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. He aims to become a professor and found a version of the NASA DIRECT-STEM program where he teaches.

“I owe part of my success at Cal State LA to Dr. Liu. She was a strong guiding hand who was always patient and understanding with me. When I felt like slacking off, she was there encouraging me to keep going. I aspire to be like her.”

While he will miss the familiar atmosphere at Cal State LA, Chavez is excited to begin the next phase of his academic career. He is also encouraged to face any future challenges due to the training he received at Cal State LA. Above all, he marvels at the pride his mother bestows on him as he views his success as the fruit of her labor.

Jacob Parres-Gold The Barry Goldwater Foundation for Research Excellence awarded the 2019 Barry Goldwater Scholarship to Jacob Parres-Gold, an undergraduate majoring in biochemistry. The scholarship program is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics fields, and seeks to identify and support college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate exceptional promise of becoming the nation’s next generation of research scientists.

After graduation, Parres-Gold plans to obtain a Ph.D. in biochemistry and pursue a career as a researcher, and ultimately, a professor. In his undergraduate career, Parres-Gold has gained research experience through his work in Professor Yixian Wang’s (chemistry and biochemistry) lab, and the Amgen Scholars Program at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Parres-Gold is the second Cal State LA student to be named a Goldwater Scholar and is member of the University's Early Entrance Program. In his spare time, he serves as the president of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club, and is an avid practitioner of parkour.

Serena Zadoorian Like many students at Cal State LA, Serena Zadoorian is a first generation college student whose family moved to the United States in search of a better life. Zadoorian completed her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Irvine and began pursuing graduate degree at Cal State LA shortly after. Last month, Zadoorian graduated with a master’s degree in psychology and was named the college’s Social Science Recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Student Award at the April Honors Convocation ceremony. She earned a perfect grade point average (GPA) while working part-time to fund her education.

Zadoorian’s interest in psychology stemmed from her high school coursework in American Sign Language (ASL) when she noticed the distinctive visual attention of ASL users.

“Soon after I started working with members of the deaf community, I noticed that there was something unique about their visual attention – especially in the periphery of their visual field. Ever since, this observation has helped shape and focus my research interest and master’s thesis.”

Zadoorian’s academic work at Cal State LA has earned her numerous awards including the opportunity to conduct research under the tutelage of Joel Ellwanger, a faculty member in the psychology department.

“I love Cal State LA. I am forever grateful for the resources that I benefitted from as a student. I received one-on-one mentoring from Dr. Ellwanger, and had the opportunity to present my research findings at the Western Psychological Association (WPA) and the American Psychological Society (APS) conferences. In fact, I will presenting at the American Psychological Association conference later this summer.”

This fall, Zadoorian will continue her graduate education at the University of California, Riverside while pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology.

“Without the support of several psychology faculty members like Dr. Hu, Dr. Dennis, and Dr. Fernando, I would not be where I am today. I am excited to embark on the next phase of my academic career with the hopes of becoming a professor and mentor to others.”

Feeling frustrated at the lack of resources available to pre-med students on campus, Tatiana Eiley (pictured second from right) and her friend and classmate, Jamie Sperati, established the Pre-med Club. Eiley describes the club as having three objectives: to provide resources to students such as full length practice exams, mock interview and personal statement workshops; to serve as an information hub for students seeking to go on to medical school after graduation and; to provide a supportive atmosphere for pre-med students on campus.

Eiley, who serves as the club’s current president until the end of the semester, has seen the club double in the size of active membership since its establishment.

In addition to her work with the club, Eiley is a member of the labs of Edward Eivers, Ph.D., and Paul Naguzian, Ph.D., where she gained hands on research experience.

“I definitely made the most of my time on campus and in the college. I am going to miss all the faculty and staff who have helped me along the way, including Maite Villareal Rodriguez, who in addition to being the club’s advisor, was a great resource for me during the last two years. I will also miss my professors and mentors, Dr. Recinos, Dr. Eivers, Dr. Lanning, and Dr. Narguizian.”

In May 2018, Robin Sehler graduated with her master's degree in geosciences, a feat she once deemed impossible.
“I am so over the moon to finally earn my degree though it was not easy getting here,” says Robin.
Robin enrolled in the Department of Geosciences and Environment in 2016 as an eager student, a wife, and a new mother. As a geology major in her undergraduate career, Robin sought to pursue higher education to make a difference in the world.
“I read an article in the LA Times that featured scientists who worked for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) warning the public about the California drought. Soon after, the Governor declared a state of emergency in regards to water usage in California. I was so inspired by the scientists' ability to enact change that I knew I wanted to work for JPL one day.”
Robin specifically chose to study geosciences at Cal State LA after researching the esteemed NASA DIRECT-STEM program and realizing that acceptance in the program would grant her access to JPL.
Though she was a step closer to her goal, she was apprehensive on how to fulfill her role both as a dedicated mother and wife while meeting the demands of a rigorous academic coursework. She credits a Cal State LA professor (and student at the time), for instilling confidence in her herself on how to balance school and family life.
“Dr. Claudia Espinosa was my saving grace. I remember having lunch with her the first day of graduate school. She told me that the key to balancing school and family life is scheduling – eating, studying, family time, and even relaxing. That first interaction gave me courage and helped me with prioritization.”
Robin’s time at the College of Natural and Social Sciences was indeed rewarding and life-changing. Her research primarily focused on water cycle, soil moisture, precipitation and how they interrelate. She was awarded an internship with JPL where she utilized NASA satellite data to compare precipitation data to soil moisture data using MATLAB and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). With her work in JPL being GIS intensive, Robin credits her education at Cal State LA (and especially the geosciences department's focus on GIS) in preparing her for sucess during her internship.
As graduation approached, Robin reflected on how grateful she is for having three strong women in her graduate career that she has looked up to: Dr. Ye, geosciences and environment department chair, Dr Li, her faculty advisor, and Dr. Lopez, geosciences and environment faculty.
“Dr. Li, Dr. Ye, and Dr. Lopez gave me wings to help in my internship. I was able to benefit from Dr. Li because of her engineering background and Dr. Ye's dedication to the students is evident throughout the program. I feel lucky to have so many female leaders,” says Robin.
Robin recently won a research internship position at Princeton University’s Cooperative Institute for Climate Science. For 10 weeks over the summer, she will stay at the university to work with renowned scientists at the National Oceanic Atmopheric Administration and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (NOAA/GFDL), a world-leading center of earth system modeling, research and prediction.
“My family and I will take a road-trip to New Jersey before I begin my internship and they will be with me throughout the summer. I am so lucky that my husband’s job is flexible which means he is able to travel with me.”
Looking to the future, Robin will continue with her internship at JPL with the hopes of attaining a staff position in the applied science department.
“One of the reasons why I enjoyed our graduate program was the close relationships I formed with my classmates and of course, faculty. Students at Cal State LA truly uphold the model of ‘pushing boundaries.’ Cal State LA students are willing to grow; they have hearts of champions. We work hard and encourage one another.”