News Release| Commencement; Diversity; CSULA; Cal State L.A.; Los Angeles; CSU

Note to editors and news directors:  For a group photo of the Early Entrance Program grads at Cal State L.A., go to

A videoclip introducing some of this years EEP grads is available at

22 early entrance grads in CSULA’s Class of 2009

Youngest, 17, off to Princeton for Ph.D. in theoretical cosmology

Los Angeles, CA – With their sights set on careers in law, teaching, medicine, scientific research, social work, theatre, film, public relations, psychology and engineering, 22 Early Entrance Program (EEP) students—most of them still teenagers—will receive their baccalaureate degrees at Cal State L.A.’s two-day Commencement ceremonies Friday-Saturday, June 12 and 13

EEP admits extraordinarily gifted youngsters, some as young as 11, directly into Cal State L.A. and provides them with monitored evaluation, counseling, and the opportunity to study with like-minded peers.

Here is EEP’s Class of 2009 (17- to 20-year-olds):

Lubabah Ben-Ghaly (Temple City), 19, biology major.

Ben-Ghaly plans to work as a laboratory assistant for a year before applying to graduate school next summer. With an interest in languages, he hopes to also learn more Spanish and some Mandarin. At Cal State L.A., he served as treasurer and president of the American Medical Student Association and as a study-skills presenter for the University Tutorial Center. A Deans List student, he was a member of the EEP Elder Council and the Phi Kappa Phi, Beta Beta Beta, and Golden Key Honor Societies.

Jennifer Chemel (Woodland Hills), 20, economics major; math and political science minors. Chemel, who hopes to pursue a career in law in the future, will first spend about a year in Israel after graduation. As part of the OTZMA Project, she will learn Hebrew, conduct volunteer work, and explore Jewish and Israeli history and society. Chemel served as president of the Pre-Law Society; vice president for external affairs and treasurer for the G.E. Honors Club; and president, vice president, chief justice, secretary/treasurer, and a college representative for Cal State L.A.’s Associated Students, Inc. student government. She is a recipient of a Golden Eagle Award of Excellence and an Alumni Association Scholarship. She also won first-place honors at the 2008 Chinese Poetry Recitation Contest and the 2006 Parliamentary Debate.

Angela Chen (Temple City), 18, telecommunications and film major.  Chen, who would like to become a filmmaker and professor, will apply to graduate school this winter. A Dean’s List student, Chen served as editor for the Early Entrance Program’s 2007-08 yearbook. She volunteered at Futurelink School in Arcadia as a tutor helping students grades K-8 with their homework. She also worked at the Clinton St. Theater in Portland, OR. She also enjoys playing the piano, violin and viola. She is graduating summa cum laude.

Roy Cheng (Arcadia), 19, psychology major. Cheng, planning to apply to graduate school after Commencement, served as vice president of the American Medical Student Association. He is a research assistant for Professor Kaveri Subrahmanyam in Cal State L.A.’s Media and Language Laboratory. He is also a member of the Pre-Law Society, Team Flight, G.E. Honors Club, Pi Sigma Alpha, and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. He is a recipient of a 2009 Early Entrance Program Scholarship and a 2009 CSULA Department of Psychology’s Charles Wang Scholarship.

Theresa Cheng (Alhambra), 19, philosophy and biology majors. Cheng will soon be teaching 9th grade biology through Teach for America, a program that trains top students to teach in poor communities. She has volunteered at the Huntington Library and Botanical Garden in Pasadena and at the Literally Healing Program at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. At Cal State L.A., she served as vice president and treasurer of the Philosophy Club; and as president, secretary and publicity coordinator for the American Medical Student Association. Recipient of a 2009 James Bright Wilson Award and a 2009 Alumni Association Scholarship, Cheng is graduating summa cum laude.

Alexander Connelly (Azusa), 19, biochemistry major; management minor. Connelly has applied to medical school to pursue his goal of becoming a cardiologist. He volunteered at the LAC/USC Collegiate Medical Volunteer Program, Claremont Senior Center and Boy Scouts. Soon he will begin volunteering at Pomona Hospice. He served as treasurer and social/publicity director for the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club, and he was involved in the Music Club, Physics Club, Chicanos for Community Medicine, and Mock Trial Club. He is also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi, Beta Beta Beta, and Golden Key Honor Societies, and the G.E. Honors Program.

Christine Do (Altadena), 18, biology major; math minor. Do plans to apply to a master’s program before heading to medical school. A Dean’s List student, she has studied the effects of dietary jojoba oil on HDL concentration in white rabbits in Professor Ray Garcia’s biochemistry lab at Cal State L.A. She was secretary of the American Medical Student Association and historian of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club. A semifinalist for Miss Vietnam of Southern California in 2008, she is also a recipient of a David Cameron Memorial Fellowship and an outstanding poster presentation award at Cal State L.A.’s 2007 Student Research Symposium. She volunteered at Huntington Memorial Hospital in the neonative intensive care unit and post-anesthesia care unit, and at the North Lake Villas assisted-living facility in Altadena.

Steven Gee (La Palma), 19, biochemistry major. Gee will be enrolled in UC San Francisco’s neuroscience Ph.D. program this fall to pursue his goal of becoming a professor or industry researcher. He has also been accepted to graduate programs at UCLA, UC Irvine and Yale University. At Cal State L.A., he conducted research on determination of contaminants from Ballona Creek samples with Professor Scott Nickolaisen, and on overexpression and purification of Fabl in A. baumanni with Professor Howard Xu. He is a member of the Golden Key, Phi Kappa Phi and Bete Beta Beta Honor Societies.

Maggie Julienne Herskowitz (Los Angeles), 18, psychology major. Herskowitz, whose goal is to become a theatre actress, will attend the Boston Conservatory of Music as a musical theater major this fall. She will be playing Young Vi in “Violet” at the Alex Theatre June 15. Additionally, she will be studying composition and lyric-writing at Berklee College of Music. She was a research volunteer at the Los Angeles Zoo and an assistant director at the Children’s Theatre Group of Southern California. She served as secretary of the Horticulture Club and publicity chair for the Early Entrance Program Club. She is also a member of the Golden Key Honor Society, G.E. Honors Club, and Psychology Club. 

Andrea Kulier (Placentia), 17, physics and mathematics major. Kulier—at 17 the youngest graduating senior at Cal State L.A.—will be heading to Princeton University this fall to focus on theoretical cosmology research. Admitted to the Princeton astrophysical sciences department with paid tuition and $33,000 fellowship, she was also accepted to Ph.D. programs at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, Harvard, UC Santa Cruz, Caltech, and the University of Chicago. Kulier served as recording secretary for the General Education Honors Club and event captain for the 2009 Science Olympiad. She is also a member of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS). She will be graduating with summa cum laude honors.

Margaret Lee (Pasadena), 19, biology major. Lee will be applying to graduate school in the fall to pursue a career in genetic counseling. She volunteered at the Sally Ride Science Festival held on campus to inspire schoolgirls to think about careers in science. She served as a recording secretary for the American Student Medical Association and president, yearbook chair and secretary of the EEP Club. She is a member of Golden Key and Beta Beta Beta Honor Societies, G.E. Honors Club, and Chemistry and Biochemistry Club.

David Nagy (Encino), 19, philosophy major. Nagy, who hopes to pursue a joint JD/Ph.D. in philosophy, will be studying in Japan this fall through the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies program. He volunteered at the Los Angeles Food Back and the Soup Kitchen. He is the founding president of the CSULA Mock Trial Club, and served as newsletter editor for the G.E. Honors Club. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and G.E. Honors Program. He is a recipient of the Philosophy Department’s James Bright Wilson Award and a second prize for the 12th annual Japanese Speech Contest.

Nika Pari Nourmohammadi (Newport Beach), 18, communication studies major. Nourmohammadi, who hopes to pursue a doctorate, will be attending Johns Hopkins University in the fall to complete a master’s degree in communication studies. Founder of the CospLAy student organization, she also served as president for Lambda Pi Eta, Eagle Eye Public Relations Club, The RhetOracles, and People for Animal Care and Kindness. She was also vice president of the CSULA Forensics Team, publicity coordinator for the American Medical Student Association, student life assistant for the EEP Club, editor of the The Colloquy: Journal of Communications, and contributing writer for the University Times. A Dean’s List student and a recipient of the College of Arts and Letters Honors, she is a member of the Golden Key Honors Society and G.E. Honors Club.

Zeeshan Ott (Baldwin Park), 17, social work major. Ott, who completed a Child Maltreatment and Family Violence Certificate at Cal State L.A., will enroll in Columbia University’s social work master’s program in the fall. Interested in social policy, he hopes to pursue a law degree and work with children and families. Having volunteered for his grandmother’s cultural nonprofit, Urdu Markaz International, he also participated in the AIDS Walk, Homeless Walk, and Wednesday’s Child Reunion (to work with foster youths). He worked as a counseling intern for the South El Monte School District. He was an academic senator for the Associated Students, Inc.; president and junior representative for the Association of Student Social Workers; and president of the School of Social Work Lobby Days Caucus. Recipient of a Health and Human Services Certificate of Honors, he is also a member of the the Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key Honor Societies.

Swapneel Patel (Burbank), 18, biochemistry and physics major. Patel, who aspires to become a physician or scientist, studied molecular biology with Professor Robert Vellanoweth. He volunteered at the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. He also served as treasurer of the EEP Club, president and vice president of the G.E. Honors Club, and secretary of the Physics Club. He is a recipient of the 2007-08 G.E. Honors Scholarship and the Douglas L. Currell Scholarship (for outstanding achievement in classroom biochemistry).

Sharon Ready (Downey), 20, electrical engineering major; mathematics minor. Ready, who plans to apply to graduate school, would like to work for DirecTV, Thomson Elite or Lathamand Watkins in the near future. At Cal State L.A., she served as chair of the ECST Council and a college representative for the Associated Students, Inc. She was a member of the Early Entrance Program Club, the Humanitarians On Campus, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, People for Animal Care and Kindness, G.E. Honors Club, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. A Boeing Day volunteer, she also developed a see-through stucco stud detector as part of a senior design project sponsored by DirecTV.

Lea Richardson (Glendale), 20, biology major. Richardson, who plans to apply to graduate school, volunteered at The Break neighborhood junior high program tutoring kids and at an elementary school teaching math concepts to fifth-grade students. She was actively involved with the G.E. Honors Club, Chemistry and Biochemistry Club, and the American Medical Student Association. Named Organic Chemistry Student of the Year in 2007, Richardson is also a member of the Beta Beta Beta, Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key Honor Societies.

Stephanie Sung (Torrance), 20, biochemistry major; political science minor. Sung, who would like to become a health ambassador,

will be working as a marketing consultant for the nutraMetrix program for doctors. A volunteer at the Huntington Hospital, she also participated in community service activities, such as AIDS Walk, Day of the Child, and Beach Clean-ups. At Cal State L.A., she served as community affairs representative for the Associated Students, Inc., president of the American Medical Student Association, president of Chemistry and Biochemistry Club, and pledge service VP and secretary for Alpha Phi Omega. She was also a member of the NSS Student Council, G.E. Honors Club and Pi Alpha Sigma, and the Golden Key, Beta Beta Beta, and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies.

Claire Weinan (Torrance), 19, electrical engineering major; mathematics minor. Weinan, who plans to apply to graduate school this fall, will spend this summer interning at the Aerospace Corporation. She organized a blood drive with SoCal Blood Services at Shepherd of the Hills United Methodist Church and volunteered for Free Arts for Abused Children at the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court. She served as president of the Engineering, Computer Science, Technology Student Council; internal vice president and recording secretary of G.E. Honors Club; vice president of Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society; and activities coordinator for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She is a member of Cal State L.A.’s Cross Country and Track and Field team, having garnered the All-CCAA Academic Award, CSULA Athletics Department Academic Achievement Award, the CSULA Cross Country and Track Outstanding GPA honor, CSULA Golden Eagle Award of Excellence, James M. Rosser Endowed Scholarship, and more. In 2006, her team placed fourth in the NCAA Division II Cross Country Nationals.

Debbie Yen (Laguna Hills), 17, biology major. Yen, who will be heading to UC Berkeley in the fall, was also accepted to graduate programs in Boston University, Emory, Georgetown, University of Notre Dame, UCLA, University of Texas, and the College of William and Mary. She conducted research in Professor Robert Nissen’s genetics lab. Her research, entitled “The dyrklb gene is essential for inhibition of Nodal pathway signaling,” placed second in the biological sciences-molecular category in the 2008 Cal State L.A. Student Research Symposium.

***Details on Lara Roizen and Alex Stevens were unavailable at press time.

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Working for California since 1947: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 205,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds—reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to a unique university center for gifted students as young as 12. Programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH- and Rockefeller-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, housed in the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center.