News Release| Commencement 2011; Cal State L.A.

June 9, 2011

Note to editors and news directors:  For a group photo of the Early Entrance Program grads at Cal State L.A., please contact the CSULA Public Affairs office at (323) 343-3050. For Commencement info: /univ/commencement/index.php

24 early entrance grads in CSULA’s Class of 2011

EEP grads range in age from 17-21 years old

Los Angeles, CA Twenty-four 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 10 and 11

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 2011, ranging from 17-21 years old (listed alphabetically):

Faisal Abdullah (Fontana), 17, political science major. A Dean’s List student, Abdullah was recently accepted for an Arabic language intensive program hosted by CSU San Bernardino for the summer of 2011 and was awarded a scholarship from its World Languages and Literatures Department for this summer program. In the fall, he will begin studying both Arabic and Urdu at an institute in South Africa for one academic year. After that, he hopes to attend a doctoral program in Near Eastern and Islamic Studies, specifically the Hanafi School of Law, specializing in Islamic law and jurisprudence. At CSULA, he served as chief and associate justice for the Associated Students, Inc.; president, vice president and social secretary of Amnesty International; editor for the G.E. Honors Newsletter; treasurer of the Pre-Law Society; and class president for the entering EEP class of 2007. In the community, he has volunteered for the Ron Paul Presidential Campaign in 2007 and the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign in 2008. He will be graduating magna cum laude.

Caroline Chen (Miami), 18, biochemistry major.  Chen, who will be graduating cum laude, has been accepted to the Florida International University to pursue a master’s degree in chemistry. She will spend the summer working in the Agricultural Research Service lab of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A Dean’s List and G.E. Honors student, Chen served as vice president and founding member of the Cancer Awareness Club; treasurer of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club; and tutor, proctor and mentor for EEP. An active member of the American Medical Student Association, she has studied the synthesis and characterization of the anti-cancer drug Melphalan-TEMPO under direction of Professor Yong Ba. She has also volunteered for the Chemistry and Biochemistry’s Terrific and Scientific event, the CSULA Sally Ride Festival, and the Cancer Awareness Club’s inaugural Run-a-thon for Cancer Research.

Catrina Chitjian (Monterey Park), 17, biochemistry major. Seventeen-year-old Catrina Chitjian—the youngest graduating senior at Cal State L.A.—will receive her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with honors. A Dean’s List student, she is a member of the G.E. Honors Club and CSULA’s Phi Kappa Phi chapter. Chitjian is very active on campus, having served as secretary of Humanitarians on Campus, vice president of People for Animal Care and Kindness, and social chair of the Early Entrance Program Club. At CSULA, she also conducted research on mechanism of life span determination in Professor Robert Vellanoweth’s chemistry lab. She has volunteered at the Alhambra Retirement Community and for the annual Sally Ride Festival to interest 5th-8th grade girls in the science fields. After graduation, Chitjian plans to work part-time as a tutor while applying to graduate school to pursue a career as a synthetic chemist.

Christine Chow (San Gabriel Valley), 18, TV, film and media studies major. Christine Chow, who will be graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in TV, Film and Media Studies, will head to Stanford University in the fall. A San Gabriel Valley resident, she was offered admission to Stanford’s School of Education’s Learning, Design, and Technology program with a paid fellowship as well as internship opportunities. Chow is the first Merkin Honors Scholar at CSULA. A Dean’s List student and a member of the CSULA’s Phi Kappa Phi honor society, she was also a recipient of a Golden Eagle Award of Excellence. In addition to developing several film projects, she created a documentary about robotics and renewable energy vehicles in collaboration with CSULA instructor Zanj Avery. She currently serves as a teacher’s assistant for actress Nancy Kwan, who is a part-time faculty at CSULA. A regular contributor to the school newspaper, she also was a tutor for EEP and at the University Writing Center. Chow indicated that her goal is to become an educator, working on the development and applications of media technologies that enhance the learning experience.

Cristina Marie De Cesare (Pasadena), 19, computer science major and mathematics minor. De Cesare, who began working full-time as a software engineer starting this month, will graduate cum laude. She hopes to apply to graduate school next year to enhance her career in software design or software development. A Dean’s List student, she has been a recipient of the SEMPRA Corporate Scholarship, Al and Ann Jicha Endowed Scholarship, Intel/NIAF Scholarship, G.E. Honors Scholarship and the Undergraduate Alumni Scholarship Award. She is currently a webmaster for CSULA Formula Society of Automotive Engineers. She also served as treasurer of the CSULA Music Appreciation Club and membership coordinator of the CSULA Student Alumni Association. Additionally, she developed software to advance a robotic cargo manipulator at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for one summer and collaborated with fellow CSULA students and faculty for a CSULA Scientific Visualization Laboratory software project another summer.

Crystal Fang (Hacienda Heights), 18, business arts/prelegal major and economics minor. Fang, who will be graduating summa cum laude, will be heading to the University of Virginia this fall. She plans to pursue a career as an entertainment and business attorney, working in one of the top 20 firms in either Los Angeles or New York. A Dean’s List student, Fang is an active member of the University’s Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, G.E. Honors, EEP Club, Prelaw Society, and Mock Trial. She also served as interim chief justice and chief justice for the Associated Students, Inc. at CSULA. Off campus, she volunteered for the Eden Foundation for the Disabled and at the Pasadena Rose Parade, and attended the 2008 Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. Fang has interned at Anschutz Entertainment Group in Shanghai and was selected to speak at Peking University’s 2010 Annual International Student Festival. She also published articles in the California Business Foundation’s monthly magazines regarding politics and her experiences studying abroad last year at Peking University.  

Tori Irons (Santa Clarita), 18, finance major and economics minor. Irons, who plans to work full-time after graduation, will consider applying to an MBA program with an emphasis on investment banking in the future. At CSULA, she is an active member of Beta Alpha Psi, Accounting Society and G.E. Honors Club. She also served as vice president for the Financial Management Association. In the community, she was a summer mentor for the Ocean Park Community Center.

Troi Irons (Santa Clarita), 18, psychology major. Irons, who enjoys singing and playing piano and guitar, has been admitted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. She hopes to pursue a career in music, while continuing to help the homeless. A Dean’s List student, she was an active member of Humanitarians on Campus and Martial Arts Club at CSULA. In the community, she has volunteered for the Ocean Park Community Center’s Homeless Shelter.

Vincent Matthew Johnson (Sierre Madre), 18, business administration-finance major and economics minor. Johnson, who will be graduating cum laude, will be applying to an MBA program with an emphasis in marketing. A two-time first-place winner of the West Coast Ragtime Piano Society Youth Competition, he also hopes to continue a career as a composer-pianist. At CSULA, he served as treasurer for both the G.E. Honors Club and the EEP Club. He was also an active member of the Music Appreciation Club and People for Animal Care and Kindness.

Kostya Kavutskiy (Van Nuys), 18, business administration-finance major and economics minor. Kavutskiy plans to become a professional chess player and teacher. He was a champion of the CSULA Chess Club for 2008 and 2009. He is also an active participant of the Forensics Team at CSULA.  

Jillian Kwong (La Habra Heights), 21, political science major. Kwong, who will be graduating cum laude, is considering applying to a master’s program in communication studies or to pursue a career as a human rights lawyer. Through the CSU International Programs, she studied in Florence, Italy, for one academic year. At CSULA, she is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha (National Political Science Honor Society) and the Golden Key International Honor Society. In 2009, she was a member of the CSULA delegation that participated in the National Model United Nations Conference in New York. Her delegation, which represented Cuba, received Outstanding Delegation and Outstanding Position Papers awards.

Frances Lee (Walnut), 19, biology major.  Lee, who plans to apply to grad school or medical school, is currently working as a tutor and teaching assistant at School Connection, a center that offers tutoring services and after-school classes. A Dean’s List student, she is a member of the Music Appreciation Club and the American Medical Student Association at CSULA. Under the direction of CSULA Professor Wayne Tikannen, she helped to develop a chiral, Lewis-acid catalyst of importance to the development of pharmaceuticals. In the community, she volunteered at the Monterey Park Cherry Blossom Festival and the Walnut Family Festival as well as for the Alhambra and Citrus Hospitals. She will be graduating magna cum laude.

Lawrence Mak (La Puente), 20, history major. Mak will take a year off and volunteer at his local library before applying to grad school to pursue a career as a librarian. At CSULA, he has served as public relations chair for the EEP Club.

Brian Mui (Los Angeles), 20, philosophy major. Mui will be taking time off to explore before applying to grad school or for a full-time job. A Dean’s List student, he is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key honor societies. He has served as social chair and assistant social chair of the EEP Club, G.E. Honors Club, and the Humanitarians on Campus. He has tutored inner-city kids for the Central City Action Committee and volunteered for the University’s Terrific Scientific event and the Sally Ride Festival.

Raj Shah (Burbank), 18, philosophy major and history minor. Shah, who will be graduating summa cum laude, will be going to the UCLA School of Law in the fall. He has also been accepted to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and the UC Hastings College of Law.

Avijit Sharma (Valencia), 18, biology major. Sharma will be attending Ohio State Medical School in the fall to pursue a career as a surgeon. A Dean’s List student, he has served as president of Amnesty International, social secretary of the G.E. Honors Club, and recording secretary of the Golden Key Honor Society. In addition to conducting research in developmental biology with Professor Robert Nissen, he has volunteered at the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. He will be graduating magna cum laude.

Eugene Shvarts (Sherman Oaks), 20, math and physics double major. Shvarts, who plans to become a research professor in mathematical physics, will be pursuing his M.S. in mathematics at CSULA in the fall. A Dean’s List student, he is a member of the Golden Key and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies. In 2009, he received the CSULA Physics Department Grant Scholarship. At CSULA, he has served as class president of the EEP Club, treasure of Humanitarians on Campus, and treasurer of Humanists Association. A member of the Math and Physics Clubs at CSULA, he was also involved with the Sci-Vi Laboratory and the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect Lab on campus.

Aviva Sterns (Los Angeles), 18, psychology major. Sterns hopes to conduct neuroscience research with an M.D./Ph.D. in neuroscience, working as a certified psychiatrist, or to work at a research/teaching hospital, devising new treatments for those with depressive and anxiety disorders. She will apply to a pre-medical post-baccalaureate program after graduation. A Dean’s List student, she is a member of the G.E. Honors Club. At CSULA, she has served as vice president and president of the Humanists Association, academic senator for the Associated Students, Inc., and vice president of internal affairs for the Student Action Coalition. She has also conducted research with CSULA Professor Alicia Izquierdo regarding “effortful” decision-making and the various regions of the brain that are involved.

Justina Tain (Long Beach), 19, microbiology major. Tain plans to take a year off to conduct research, volunteer abroad and intern as a clinical care extender at St. Mary Medical Center before applying to medical school to pursue a career in pediatric medicine. A member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, she has received a BioSecurity Scholarship offered by the Department of Homeland Security. At CSULA, she has served as secretary for the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club, Humanitarians on Campus and G.E. Honors Club, and treasurer for the Cancer Awareness Club and BioSecurity Club. Currently, a member of Professor Howard Xu’s applied microbiology and biotechnology lab, she has conducted research in ovarian and breast cancer as a summer research assistant at UCLA and in bacterial pathogenesis as a summer intern at the National Research Council in Ottawa, Canada.

Lea Urpa (Pasadena), 20, biology major and geology minor. Urpa will take a year off before applying to grad school to pursue a Ph.D. in biology. A Dean’s List student, she has received an Undergraduate Mentors in Environmental Biology Program fellowship. For three years, she has served as social events coordinator for the EEP Club. She spent two summers conducting field work at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Center in BC, Canada, under the direction of CSULA Professor Carlos Robles. She has also volunteered at the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.

Sasha Verma (Tarzana), 19, English major and history minor. Verma plans to work full-time in a public relations firm, focusing on entertainment public relations, before applying to an MBA program. She has already completed multiple internships within the industry. At CSULA, she was a public relations representative for the CSULA Model United Nations club. She has garnered an Outstanding Position Paper award at the Huntington Beach Model U.N. Conference for solo performance. For two consecutive years, she also attended the National Model U.N. Conferences in New York with the CSULA Model U.N. team, which won Outstanding Position Papers and Distinguished Delegation honors both times. In addition to assisting with the University’s Sally Ride Festival and serving as a proctor for the EEP testing on campus, she has volunteered at the Kaiser Permanente’s OB/GYN unit for a year.  

Tin-Shuk (Timmy) Wong (Monterey Park), 19, computer science and mathematics double major. Wong plans to acquire some work experience before pursuing a career conducting research in mathematics and theoretical computer science. He is currently working as a paid intern at Teradata in the city of Santa Clara.

David T. Wang (Walnut), 19, biochemistry major. Wang is one of only 57 students nationwide to be selected for the prestigious $5,000 Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship for the 2011-12 academic year. Wang—who will be graduating summa cum laude—will pursue a Ph.D. through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program starting this fall. A Dean’s List student, Wang is a recipient of the CSULA General Education Honors Progam’s 2008 Student of the Year and its Honors Scholarship, and the CSULA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s 2011 Katherine Carter Award in Scientific Writing. Also at Cal State L.A., Wang currently serves as vice president of the EEP student government and is a member of the Student Affairs Subcommittee in the College of Natural and Social Sciences. He has also been actively involved with the University’s Associated Students, Inc. and the CSULA Amnesty International. Additionally, he works as a research assistant in Professor Ellis’s geology lab at CSULA, leading a team in developing stable isotopes as tracers of chromium contamination in groundwater. He also conducted research on drug resistance in ovarian tumors with the Dorigo group at UCLA as a volunteer in the summers of 2008 and 2009, and as an Amgen Scholar in the summer of 2010.

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***Details on Sueyoun (Suki) Kim was unavailable at press time.

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