UPLIFT Fellows

2016 Cohorts | From left to right: Helen Vuong, Santiago Pineda, Jenny Link
Photo credit: Reed Hutchinson

Sunny C. Chang
Department of Medicine-Cardiology
2017 UPLIFT Cohort

Bio

I grew up in New York City and attended a math and science specialized high school. I traded in the hustle and bustle of the city for sunshine at the California Institute of Technology where I received my B.S. in Chemistry. I pursued Ph.D. at UCLA in the Dept of Chemistry and Biochemistry with Dr. Todd Yeates, studying X-ray crystallography and Bacterial Microcompartment proteins. Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Jessica Wang and co-sponsor Dr. Jake Lusis in the Dept of Medicine-Cardiology. Under the direction of my sponsors, I apply my background in structural and molecular biology to basic research in Heart Failure and Inherited Cardiomyopathies. We use in vivo and in vitro approaches to identify novel genetic factors contributing to disease, both from the clinic and from animal models. In addition, I enjoy doing science outreach activities with the Organization for Cultural Diversity in Science.

Goals

I have been lucky to be the recipient of a great STEM education that has allowed me to persist toward degrees in STEM. However, the traditional STEM education leaves many students behind and much reform is needed. I believe using evidence-based practices is the key to improving the way we teach science and even to increasing diversity in science. With the UPLIFT fellowship in partnership with CSULA mentor Dr. Jamil Momand in the Dept of Biochemistry, I aim to learn new methods of teaching & assessment and prepare for an academic career in research & teaching.

Santiago Pineda
Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
2017 UPLIFT Cohort

Bio

I was born in Bogota, Colombia and immigrated to New Jersey at 6 years of age with my family. We lived there for 5 years as my father, a psychiatrist, finished his residency training. He obtained a sponsored position in Indiana and we moved there when I was 12. I stayed in Indiana through college, a master’s program (Masters of Science in Medical Science through IU Med school), and work as a technician in Dr. Anthony Firulli’s cardiac development lab. I then applied to graduate school and was fortunate enough to be accepted and attend UCSD Biomedical Sciences PhD program in 2010. There I worked with Dr. Rolf Bodmer on ion channel and idiopathic cardiac arrhythmias using Drosophila as a model. I graduated in 2016 and am now in the lab of Dr. Leanne Jones working on the characterization of factors that influence cell fate decisions of stem cells and their progeny, also using Drosophila as a model system.

Goals

My ultimate goal is to teach as a main lecturer in a primarily undergraduate institution while also taking my passion for teaching and research skills into my own lab.

Jenny Link
Department of Medicine
2016 UPLIFT Cohort

Co-Instructor for BIOL1200
Cal State, Los Angeles
jennychen+CSULA@ucla.edu

Bio

I have been passionate about and committed to scientific research and education for several years. Currently, I am working in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Vallim, studying how bile acids, which are metabolites derived from cholesterol, interact with the body in health and disease. I received my Ph.D. in Molecular Biology under the excellent training of Dr. Karen Reue at UCLA. My doctoral thesis work focused on sex differences in obesity and related metabolic disorders. As a graduate student, I worked for the Undergraduate Research Center, helping students find research opportunities and convey their work to their peers. Because I enjoy communicating science to people of all ages, I volunteer at the Natural History Museum of LA County on weekends.

Goals

By becoming a professor dedicated to both research and education, I aim to increase scientific literacy among our future generations, and further our understanding of human health.

Helen Vuong
Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology
2016 UPLIFT Cohort

Bio

I received my B.S. in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2009 and PhD from UCLA in 2015. I am a recipient of the Jules Stein Eye NIH Pre-doctoral Fellowship and the Jules Stein Eye Institute Research Excellence Award. Currently, I am studying the influence of the maternal microbiome on neurotransmitter biosynthesis and fetal neurodevelopment. My interest is in an academic career focused on teaching neuroscience to undergraduates in addition to innovative research. In my free time, I enjoy hiking in national parks and cooking.