2019 Scholarship Awardees

Kim Kelley, MiraCosta College

Desirae Mellor, UCSD

Barbara Perez, Mesa College

Sofia Sanchez, USD

My Tran, SDSU

Honorable Mentions

Hannah Rutledge, UCSD

Aurian Seleh, UCSD

Sabrina Younan, SDSU

Anamika Agrawal, UCSD

Cecilia Barnhill, USD

Jeongin Choi, San Diego City College

Claudia Palomino La-Torre, UCSD


Kim Kelly is a second year student at MiraCosta College and will be transferring to UCI or UCSD this fall. Her major is Human Biology and she wants to become an Optometrist after earning her B.S. She is currently interning at an optometry clinic in Carlsbad and enjoys working with patients as an optometrist technician. At school she is a Student Ambassador and is also a member of the Chemistry Club and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She also enjoys music and is a piano teacher, an organist, and volunteers for her church's choir.

Kim Kelly

Barbara Sade Perez Escareno has always been enchanted by how living things work, but her absolute delight is learning about genetics. She developed a major interest in genetic disorders through her exposure to the hardships of cystic fibrosis, by following the journey of various social media influencers battling the disorder, and by taking a human heredity honors class in community college that allowed her to develop a research paper on hemophilia and a presentation on the CRISPR-Cas9 technique. She believes that what you do with knowledge is what matters; one is not supposed to simply absorb information, but instead work towards its expansion and application, which is why she decided to pursue a career in bioengineering and plans on obtaining a PhD that will allow her to perform research on genetic disorders. Currently she is a STEM tutor at her community college, from which she will transfer this fall, who strives to be a mentor to the students that she helps through tutoring, especially to Hispanic women in STEM.

Barbara Perez

My Tran received her Bachelor's Degrees in Speech, Language and Hearing Science & Psychology from San Diego State University in May 2019. She is an aspiring physician-scientist and plans to pursue a joint MD/PhD degree following her undergraduate education. She hopes to continue her research work in elucidating the underlying mechanisms of various neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s diseases), while simultaneously working in the medical field to directly help and support these patients.

My Tran

Desirae Mellor attended California State University San Marcos where she earned a B.S. in Biochemistry. She is currently working towards a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of California San Diego where she studies fatty acid biosynthesis in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Desirae is a military spouse whose husband is currently serving as a United States Marine stationed on Camp Pendleton. She has two children, ages 4 and 7. She is currently also involved in local outreach programs. This year she led the development of a Science Olympiad program for the middle school students in her neighborhood on base. She hopes to obtain an academic position after earning her PhD and conduct research in the field of drug discovery.

Desirae Mellor

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Sofia Sanchez currently attends the University of San Diego where she is studying mathematics and Spanish. Passionate about exploring ways in which she can help students who struggle with math overcome their fears and struggles, Sofia is also obtaining her single-subject teaching credential. In general, Sofia is interested in working with historically underrepresented communities to help foster change and growth, and to shift this misconceived mindset many seem to have on these communities with respect to the STEM subjects. Upon becoming a teacher, Sofia is looking forward to being a changemaker and innovative math teacher in secondary educational mathematics.

Sofia Sanchez


Anamika Agrawal is a 3rd year PhD student in Physics at the University of California, San Diego. Her research in the Koslover group at UCSD focuses on using physical and computational models to study how brain cells regulate their metabolism to ensure their proper functioning. Along with the Pekkurnaz group at UCSD Neurobiology, her work discovered the physical limits and relevance of glucose-dependent mitochondrial motility in metabolic regulation in a neuron. In the future, she hopes to make use of her training in Physics and Quantitative Biology in developing methods and techniques for the study of neurological disorders. Apart from her research pursuits, she has also been involved in outreach activities like the Tech Trek program and the Young Physicists Program to make Physics accessible to all. 

Anamika Agrawal


Jeongin Choi was born and raised in South Korea where she lived until she turned twenty-one. Thereafter, she moved to San Diego in 2016 for her college studies. In her youth, she had a passionate curiosity about the natural phenomena in the world around her. Her interest in science intensified as she grew older. In 2017, she enrolled into San Diego City College as a biology major. The coursework alone was challenging, but on top of that she was learning in a second language. However, she was undeterred and the language barrier would not stop her from pursuing her passion and dream. Jeongin's effort and enthusiasm led to participation in various activities including the IRACDA SURF Program at UCSD and volunteering at the UCSD hospital and college. She loves learning and experiencing various activities, and is excited about her future career in the biological sciences!

Jeongin Choi


Hannah Rutledge received her BS in chemistry from Rice University and is currently a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego where she is working toward a PhD in chemistry. She studies bioinorganic chemistry and is conducting research in Dr. Tezcan’s lab on the complex enzyme nitrogenase. In addition to performing experiments in the lab, she also enjoys mentoring undergraduate students in chemistry and guiding them on their own independent research projects.

Hannah Rutledge


Sabrina Younan specializes in semiconductor surface morphology and catalysis of two-dimensional materials in photoelectrochemical water splitting. Currently a master’s student in Dr. Jing Gu’s research group at San Diego State University, next fall she will begin her PhD studies in San Diego State University’s Joint PhD program with the University of California, San Diego. As her passions lie within renewable energy conversion and storage, her PhD thesis will dissect the role electrocatalysts play in biomass degradation and hydrogen energy storage. Upon completion of her PhD and post-doctoral fellowship, Sabrina intends to establish a company focused on developing cost-effective methods of hydrogen generation and administer free educational programs to public schools to provide hands-on experience researching renewable energy topics to society’s youth. Ultimately, Sabrina’s goals are to contribute to global scientific intelligence, furnish economical methods of clean energy production for societal gain, and develop free educational programs in clean energy generation for our future generations.

Sabrina Younan


Cecilia Barnhill is a junior at the University of San Diego. She is earning a B.S in Computer Science and a B.A. in Music. She holds a 3.94 GPA and is a member of the Honors program. She works at Cubic Transportation Systems and volunteers teaching children and engaging with the unsheltered. Cecilia is the President of the Engineering Exchange for Social Justice and Eta Kappa Nu, and holds leadership positions in Mortar Board, Global Engineering Brigades, Mu Phi Epsilon, and Theta Tau. She was selected as a member of Cohort II of the Industry Scholars as well as the 2018 Knapp Scholars. Cecilia wants to combine humanitarian work and computer science to create technology that benefits the world.

Cecilia Barnhill


Claudia Palomino is an undergraduate at UCSD majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Four years ago, she moved from Chile to the U.S. to start her research career. Currently, she works in Dr. Skowronska-Krawczyk’s laboratory at UCSD studying the molecular mechanisms of age-related diseases by using the eye as a model system. During her two years working in Dr. Skowronska-Krawczyk’s lab, she has worked on several projects and contributed to research papers and a grant proposal. Palomino assisted a postdoc in studying the potential use of nanoparticles as gene therapy in eye diseases. As a Genentech scholar, Palomino conducted her research project studying the therapeutic effects of novel drugs to treat primary open-angle glaucoma. She presented her research findings at the Summer Research Conference 2018 at UCSD. Her goal is to conduct research and collaborate with scientists to develop treatments for patients with neurodegenerative and age-related diseases.

Claudia Palomino


Aurian Saleh is a first generation Masters student at UCSD with a degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Her current research focuses on the contribution of transposable elements to the developing brain. She plans on pursuing an dual MD-PhD degree to become a future physician-scientist, helping to bridge the gap between medicine and science research. In her free time, she enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and practicing yoga.

Aurian Seleh