Engineering Students Receive Rose Hills Foundation Support

Pictured, clockwise top left, are graduate students Ariane Jong, Joanne Ly, Sarah Maxel, Aaron Ramirez and Megan McCarthy.

Oct. 27, 2020 - The Rose Hills Foundation has awarded five graduate fellowships and 15 undergraduate scholarships to UC Irvine engineering students this year. Each graduate fellow will be granted $10,000, while undergraduate scholars will receive an amount equal to work study and loan amounts.

The Rose Hills Foundation has had a long-standing interest in supporting California’s STEM students, summer researchers and young faculty. It first awarded support to UCI students in 2014. Rose Hills Scholars must be Southern California residents majoring in a STEM field, have a high GPA and have financial need and/or be first generation or transfer students.

Following are the five engineering graduate students, all working toward doctorates, who received the graduate fellowships.

Ariane Jong, civil and environmental engineering, said she felt honored and excited when she heard she’d received the Rose Hills Foundation Fellowship award. “It validates the importance of the work I'm doing to help communities prepare for post-fire flood risks here in Southern California,” she said. “We are working with the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District to model flood risk maps for the developed areas downstream of the recent Apple and El Dorado burn areas that can be used for emergency planning purposes.”

Joanne Ly, biomedical engineering, is working on a technology that would help clinicians who care for premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. She is creating a device that would monitor breathing of preterm infants while they are feeding to measure how well they are developing. “This technology would provide physicians and nurses an objective measurement to support their care recommendations, reduce the number of days preterm infants stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, as well as help hospitals save millions of dollars annually,” said Ly, who is grateful for the fellowship support. “It enables me to focus on my research and devote more of my time to develop programs and opportunities to elevate others, personally and professionally.”

Sarah Maxel, chemical and biomolecular engineering, is examining microbial chemical production, a promising, more sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels and commodity chemicals. Maxel’s focus is primarily the application of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering strategies to develop tools to address fundamental inefficiencies in current bio-based chemical production.  “One application of my research is the development of a series of easily accessible, high-throughput screening tools within a model bacterium, Escherichia coli,” she said. “These platforms will accelerate enzyme engineering efforts and enable the rapid selection of practical biocatalysts to be applied in renewable chemical production.”

Maxel is thankful to the Rose Hills Foundation and faculty who nominated her for the fellowship. “It’s exciting to know there is so much support for my research; receiving this fellowship is especially motivating after months of uncertainty in this pandemic,” she said.

Megan McCarthy, materials and manufacturing technology program, is conducting research in computational materials science, using simulations to explore atomic-scale defects in metals and alloys. These nanoscale defects can act to both weaken and strengthen metallic structures. “Though we have made amazing progress in the past decades in nanoscale imaging of materials, and have some of the most cutting-edge facilities for this right here on campus at IMRI, observing the dynamic behavior of these defects is still a challenge. Simulations can bridge gaps in understanding,” said McCarthy.

“Receiving this fellowship was an incredibly happy surprise! It means a lot to me and I am deeply grateful to the Rose Hills Foundation for their generosity,” she said.

Aaron Ramirez, chemical and biomolecular engineering, is developing a vaccine platform that would help researchers design more effective vaccines for infectious diseases such as the flu and Q fever, as well as for those that currently don’t have a vaccine. He plans to engineer a protein nanocapsule that mimics a virus and is loaded with disease antigens, causing antigen presenting cells to readily uptake the nanocapsule and induce an adaptive immune response of antigen specific antibodies and T lymphocytes. “Our goal is to develop a vaccine platform capable of eliciting a targeted adaptive immune response toward antigens of infectious diseases,” he said. “With this opportunity, I hope to continue to improve as a student, researcher and a member of the UCI community. I truly appreciate the support from the Rose Hills Foundation.”

And finally, here are the 15 undergraduates who received Rose Hills scholarships:
Cheran Vindinu Ganewatte, aerospace engineering
Deepak Gupta, aerospace engineering
Melissa Lepe, aerospace engineering
Kylie Mae Brown, biomedical engineering
Luis Gerardo Escalante, biomedical engineering
Emily Nicole Barragan, chemical engineering
Patrick Yang, chemical engineering
Laisha Linnet Alanis, civil engineering
Lucas Gabriel Mandujano, civil engineering
Alexa Pelayo-Huezo, civil engineering
Vivian Lam, computer engineering
Cynthia Mendez, electrical engineering
Kristine Tamnhu Nguyen, environmental engineering
Ruben Saucedo Chaidez, mechanical engineering
Taylor Jazzmeen Ozuna, mechanical engineering.

– Lori Brandt