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2018-2020 UC LEADS Cohort

Summer 2018-2020 Cohort

Miguel Flores Martinez

Major: Chemistry

Home City: Los Angeles, CA

Contact: mfloresmartinez@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Yue Jessica Wang

Miguel Flores Martinez is a second year from Los Angeles, CA.  He is majoring in Chemical Science emphasizing in Material Science expecting to graduate in Spring 2020.  Miguel decided to step out of his comfort zone at the University of California, Merced.  Since freshman year, he has been part of Student Advocating for Law and Education (S.A.L.E.), an organization created to empower undocumented students; today he serves as the Counseling Coordinator, he creates events to try to connect more undocumented students together and bring a support system.  Also, since his second year, he has been part of the Wang’s Structural Organic Electronics group. In his free time, he enjoys going to the gym and exploring new boundaries. Miguel aspires to earn a PhD in a Chemistry, ultimately to motivate and encourage more minority students to peruse their goals and dreams.
 
Creating Solid-State Hydrogels Utilizing Conjugated Polymers
 
Miguel Flores Martinez, Robert Jordan, PhD, and Yue Jessica Wang, PhD; School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
Conjugated polymers are a class of materials that exhibit excellent electrical and mechanical properties that uniquely complement traditional metals conductors. To date, a large number of applications that utilize conjugated polymers have been reported, but their inclusion in complex micro scale objects is still in infancy. We have designed a system which allows for the creation of conjugated polymer containing hydrogels with good dimensional. Specifically, we have developed a novel resin for use in stereolithography (layer-by-layer 3D printing) that created complex hydrogels consisting of poly-2-acrylamido-2- methylpropane sulfonic acid (PAMPSA) and poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDA). After washing and swelling we demonstrate that the conducting polymer polyaniline (PANI) can be successfully grown with in the gels using an interfacial polymerization method. These gels display a 10 fold drop in resistance compared to gels without PANI. This type of material can potentially diminish pollution of inorganic material.

Anthony Garcia

Major: Chemistry

Home City: Desert Hot Springs, CA

Contact: agarcia464@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Son Nguyen

Anthony Garcia is a third year UC Merced undergraduate from Desert Hot Springs, California. This student is scheduled to graduate with a B.S. in Chemistry in the fall of 2019. Once this has been accomplished, Anthony Garcia plans to attend graduate school where he will work towards obtaining a PhD in Chemistry. Currently, Anthony Garcia is making a great step in this direction by participating in SURI this summer as a UC LEADS scholar. He will be conducting research on photo catalysis which is the study of light as a catalyst in chemical reactions. Anthony Garcia's greatest accomplishment is making the academic comeback necessary to complete his short and long term goals after encountering several obstacles in his personal life and having a troubled high school career. As for clubs and organizations, Anthony Garcia was a member of DARTS (Degree Attainment for Returning and Transfer Scholars) last semester and is eager to join more groups in the fall semester. Anthony hopes that after he has completed his education, he can look back and say with earnest that he truly made a difference in the community and the lives of others.
 
Accelerating Chemical Reactions using Light and Gold Nanoparticles
 
Anthony Garcia, Hnubci Vang, Ziliang Mao, PhD, and Son Nguyen, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
Catalysts are often used to speed up chemical reactions to help satisfy our large demand for manmade materials and natural resources. Unfortunately, most industrial catalysts only work at extreme reaction conditions such as high temperatures and elevated pressures. To alleviate these issues, we are working on a catalyst that can be used at ambient conditions when exposed to light. Our catalyst, which we denote as a photocatalyst, consists of colloidal gold nanoparticles (GNPs) in an aqueous solution. We developed a model reaction between iron ion (Fe3+) and the GNPs so that we can expand our understanding of the catalytic mechanism of this photocatalyst. The data collected indicates that smaller GNPs will catalyze the reaction faster because a particle with a smaller surface area will have more light-activated electrons in the particles that can advance the reaction. This result enabled us to expand the scope of our study into organic reactions; which lead to the successful catalyzed conversion of styrene into ethylbenzene and 4-nitrophenol into 4- aminophenol. Our study demonstrates the effectiveness of GNPs as a photocatalyst under mild reaction conditions. Continuing efforts will be made to optimize the conditions of our photocatalyst for future study and applications.

Barbara Gomez-Aldrete

Major: Applied Mathematics

Home City: San Diego, CA

Contact: bgomez-aldrete@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Francois Blanchette

Barbara Gomez-Aldrete is an incoming third year undergraduate student at the University of California, Merced and is expected to graduate Spring 2020. Barbara has recently began her first research experience, but is also involved in non-STEM related organizations like the CARE office, Lambda Alliance, and VOICES. She believes that she could contribute to the world of academia, but also her community by staying involved. As a form of self-care, she likes to take walks and enjoy a movie with her loved ones. Since her childhood, Barbara has wanted to work for her doctorate degree and has now set her goal on getting her PhD in Applied Mathematics. She wants to be able to help her community and demonstrate that with effort our goals are obtainable.
 
Using Random Walkers to Build Marine Aggregates
 
Barbara Gomez-Aldrete, Camille Carvalho, PhD, and Francois Blanchette, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
Marine snow or marine aggregates are large collections of microorganisms. Those microorganisms can begin at the ocean's surface and some eventually land on the ocean floor, forming aggregates along the way. Marine snow helps bring carbon down to the ocean floor, therefore, providing an essential contribution to the carbon cycle. Understanding how marine aggregates form could help us get valuable insight about the oceanic carbon cycle. This project focuses particularly understanding how microorganisms aggregate. To do so, the mathematical model we consider are random walkers. Random walkers are mathematical objects that take steps randomly based on predetermined rules. We developed a Matlab code to simulate the microorganisms as random walkers with various sets of rules, and observe the resulting aggregates. Through numerical simulations we will be able characterize the speed of aggregate formation, and the shape of the aggregates. We will provide statistical descriptions of the aggregates as a function of their size and as a function of the various conditions in our code.

Christian Lopez Garcia

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home City: Sacramento, CA

Contact: clopezgarcia2@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Ashlie Martini

Christian López García is a second year undergraduate student from university of California Merced, Ca. Expected to graduate in spring of 2020 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Christian has already begun to make his mark at the University of California Merced by conducting research and being an active member of ingenieros unidos (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers). Christian was also the electrical team lead for a rover project for ingenieros unidos, that lasted all of spring semester. Christian plans to peruse higher education, but as to what area of mechanical engineering is still to be determined.
 
Effect of Temperature on Optical Particle Counter
 
Christian Lopez Garcia, and Ashlie Martini, PhD; School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
Fully formulated oils are used to prevent metal to metal contact in machinery. These oils contain a variety of additives such as foam inhibitors, viscosity index improvers, and detergent agents. Foam inhibitor additives reduce the foam build in oils. The lower the foam build up, the more separation there is between the lubricating pieces. This comes at the cost of perceived cleanliness, because foam inhibitor droplets are detected by optical particle counters that detect particulates; which have the potential to cause wear. In this research the goal is to measure particle count data, and use that data create a formula that can predict the particulate counts at varying temperatures. Also, to extrapolate this data to predict particle counts at other temperatures and on other instruments. Two separate particle counters were used to test 8 oil samples. Each oil had a different concentration of foam inhibitor and was tested at temperatures ranging from 20 °C to 60 °C on both optical particle counters. Results showed that oils starting at higher particle counts tend to decrease as temperature increases. Oils starting at low particle counts increase in particle counts as temperature increases. At intermediate particle counts, the measurement did not vary with temperature. This data can potentially be used to create a standard to compare the effectiveness of foam inhibitors measured at different temperatures.

Hansell Perez

Major: Applied Math

Home City: Los Angeles, CA

Contact: hperez5@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Suzanne Sindi

Hansell Perez is a third year Applied Math student at UC Merced working for his bachelors degree and whose expected graduation date is Spring 2020. As a knowledge hungry individual he seeks to one day earn his PhD in math. He may have been sluggish as a freshman but he quickly picked up the pace his second year. After being reluctant to become involved in any sort of activity, he now forms part of the PALS team as a math tutor. Not having been satisfied with landing a great job with PALS he applied for another as a "Reader" for Math 032 and spent his nights feeling at the top of the world while grading reports. Again, this being seemingly insufficient work for the 3.57 gpa Regents Scholarship recipient he now conducts research at the university.
 
Investigating the Ability to Estimate the Population Mutation Rate Under Neutral Evolution
 
Hansell Perez, and Suzanne Sindi, PhD; School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
 
Population genetics considers differences in the gene sequences of present-day individuals. Common forces impacting genetic variation are drift, mutation and selection. Selection favors beneficial sequences, and thus decreases variation. Similarly, drift decreases genetic variation by promoting fixation of neutral genes. In contrast, mutation introduces changes to gene sequences and thus is the dominant force that increases genetic variation. The population mutation rate (θ) is one of the most fundamental parameters in genetics and ecology. Because we cannot directly observe mutations, numerical methods have been developed to estimate θ directly from present-day genetic sequences. These procedures estimate θ to be the expected value of a theoretical evolutionary process. However, less work has been done to understand the variance and accuracy of these estimators. In this work, we investigate the accuracy of a common estimator for θ through forward simulations inspired by the Infinite-Sites Model (ISM) introduced by Kimura in 1969. Our Multiple-Sites Model simulates the evolution of a gene of finite length in a population of N individuals under drift and mutation. We estimate θ by using the total number of alleles (versions of the gene present) and the number of segregating sites (positions in the gene which differ between individuals). We study the variation in our ability to estimate θ as a function of the gene length, population size and time.

Angelica Pineda

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home City: Riverside, CA

Contact: apineda6@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Ashlie Martini

Angelica Pineda is a fourth year undergraduate student from Riverside, California. She is expected to graduate in Spring 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Pineda is an active member of the professional engineering fraternity, Theta Tau, where she is the Community Service Chairman.  Pineda is also a member of Women in STEM and Society of Women Engineers. In her free time, she hangs out with friends and volunteers with foster youth. Pineda’s goal is to obtain a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. She hopes to inspire women to pursue a degree in STEM.
 
ISO Code and Temperature in Base Oil and Foam Inhibitors
 
Angelica Pineda, and Ashlie Martini, PhD; School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
Tribology is the study of friction, wear, and lubrication. Lubricants decrease the amount of wear in mechanical component systems. Foam inhibitors are used to decrease the quantity of foam in the lubricant base oil. However, foam inhibitors are also detected by optical particle counters so perfectly clean oils with foam inhibitors can appear dirty. Different quantities of silicone foam inhibitor are added to base oil and the samples are then blended together. Afterwards, the number of particles per millimeter is determined using two test instruments and two particle counters. These test instruments differ by the ability of one to allow filtration. Both rigs are exposed to different temperature levels. It was found that both particle counters displayed similar characteristics for temperature and particle counts. Which leads us to the conclusion that there is a correlation between measured particle count and temperature.

Alondra Ramirez Gonzalez

Major: Chemistry

Home City: Modesto, CA

Contact: aramirezgonzalez@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Rudy Ortiz

Alondra Ramirez Gonzalez is a second-year undergraduate student from Modesto, California. She is expected to graduate in Fall 2020 with a BS in Chemistry and an emphasis in Biochemistry. Alondra wants to become a role model for underrepresented minority groups in higher education, specifically other Latina women, through demonstrating its importance. She began volunteering in her hometown of Modesto, since 2011, and received the title of Modesto Mayor Top Teen as a leader and a volunteer in her community. At UC Merced she continues as an active volunteer throughout the community and became Bobcat Leadership certified. She has begun her journey of research at the University of California, Merced and prepares for future research in the upcoming years as she aspires to receive a PhD in the STEM field. When Alondra is not in school, she can be found on the tennis courts, oil painting or playing her ukulele. She also enjoys spending time with her close friends and traveling both in and out of the United States. Her ultimate goal is to inspire others to pursue a higher education, which is crucial to a life of success, and hopes to give back to her home in the Central Valley by impacting lives and leaving a legacy in both the science and Latino communities.

Ariell Smith

Major: Bioengineering

Home City: Los Angeles, CA

Contact: asmith85@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Kara McCloskey

Ariell Smith is an upcoming third-year undergraduate student from Los Angeles, CA. Expected to graduate in Spring 2020 with a BS in Bioengineering. Ariell begun her journey at the University of California, Merced as a peer mentor for the Bright Success Center, a Young Life leader at Hoover Middle school, and an active member of Theta Tau. As a first year undergraduate, Ariell received the Distinguished Leadership Award for her exceptional leadership skills and contribution to the Merced community. On her spare time she loves to attend concerts of her favorite artist, go to the gym, and spend time with her family/friends. She aspires to achieve a PhD in Bioengineering specializing in tissue engineering, and her ultimate goal is to inspire more African American first-generation students to obtain a degree in engineering.
 
Development of Gravity-Guided 3D Muscle Formation: A High Throughput Tissue Engineering Technique
 
Ariell Smith, Rachel Hatano, and Kara E. McCloskey, PhD; School of Engineering, University of California, Merced
 
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in both the United States and many developed countries. These high mortality rates stem are complicated by the heart’s limited regenerate capability following acute ischemia or myocardial infarction. Tissue engineering has ushered in new techniques to generate patient- specific cardiomyocytes for cell replacement therapies. Among the more widely adopted methods is the formation spheroids of cardiac muscle cells using hanging drops, microwells, or cell culture agitation. Our studies aimed to diversify the potential applications of gravity-guided self-assembly of cells. C2C12 mouse myoblast cells were suspended in 40μL droplets at concentrations of 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 cells/mL. Results show that cells filtered through 70μm pours form relatively uniform tissue spheres that increase in area respective to initial cell concentration. While these protocols are capable of efficiently producing uniform cell spheres for high throughput applications, they lack the ability to scale-up tissue size or control more complex tissue shapes. Future work will use the optimized on human induced pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. We will also construct more complex tissue strips and rings while analyzing for cell shape, organization, and density for tissue uniformity.