Maria Escamilla

Maria Escamilla


College of Natural and Social Sciences

Maria Escamilla knew she wanted to pursue chemistry after taking an introduction course at East Los Angeles College (ELAC).

That experience led the 26-year-old East Los Angeles resident to Cal State LA, where she will graduate in June with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and then enroll at Case Western University to pursue a Ph.D.

Passionate about protecting the environment, Escamilla says she wants to use chemistry to create a healthier planet. She admits that chemistry can be a daunting subject to tackle, but she was—and is—dedicated to her studies. For anyone who might be discouraged by challenging classes, Escamilla offers this advice: “Keep studying and persevering. Keep going.”

Maria Escamilla
Photo: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA

At ELAC, she was able to participate in the Bridges to the Future Program, which prepares students of color attending community colleges for the rigors of university science studies and careers in biomedical research.

Bridges to the Future is one of the Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) Programs at Cal State LA, which enhance the development of students of color who wish to pursue research careers in science, mathematics and engineering.  

“The MORE Programs have been an excellent foundation to get to grad school,” Escamilla says.

As a part of the MORE student advisory committee, she helps plan activities for students during the summer. The events provide opportunities for people within the program to get to know each other and give them a chance to experience research retreats and learn how to make their own presentations. Escamilla says she enjoys being part of a welcoming, nurturing community that allows students to grow and learn together.

She has also participated in the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program, another feature of the MORE Programs. The MARC program provides students with opportunities to enhance their academic careers through involvement in biomedical research under the guidance of faculty research directors. Through the MARC program, Escamilla received a summer research fellowship at Columbia University, where she studied the use of polymers in gene therapy.

This year, Escamilla was selected to attend the CSU Advocacy Day in Sacramento, where she joined Cal State LA President William A. Covino and other students to speak to elected officials about supporting the California State University system.

She received multiple acceptance letters to grad schools but chose Case Western Reserve University, a top-ranked private research university in Cleveland, Ohio. After visiting the campus and speaking with professors and graduate students, she realized the research they do is exactly what she wants to pursue. The university provides a great support system for students. That sense of community, Escamilla says, is just as important as the program.

As a dedicated supporter of the environment, she is specifically interested in materials and energy research. She stresses that there is a high need for more environmental-friendly materials in order to better protect our world.

Ultimately, Escamilla would like to pursue a career in industry, but she is also open to the idea of working in academia. Whatever path she chooses, Escamilla says, she will use her knowledge and skills to create a safer, cleaner planet using sustainable materials.