2022 UC Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences Undergraduate Achievement Awards

From left to right, Travis Dabbous, Freddy Guzman, Omar Antonio Ocegueda, Shayla Nguyen Ngo.

In 2020, Founding Dean Jan Hirsch, BS Pharm, PhD, created a department fellowship for graduating seniors who stand apart in academics, research and service to the school. Every year, SPPS students, faculty, and staff submit nominations for the UC Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences Undergraduate Achievement Awards. This year, the Student Affairs Committee received many qualified nominations and had difficulty selecting the finalists.
After careful consideration, the committee has chosen four students: Travis Dabbous, Freddy Guzman, Omar Antonio Ocegueda, and Shayla Nguyen Ngo.

Travis Dabbous

What’s next? Attending UC Irvine’s PhD in Pharmacological Sciences program this fall

What’s a fun fact people don’t know about you? I have a new hobby every few months.

Who was impactful during your time at UCI? Dr. Civelli has been my mentor and friend. He has helped develop my research skills and always guides me on the right path. I am incredibly grateful for his belief in me. Dr. Alachkar, Andrea Anema, and Erin Harper have also been incredibly helpful and impactful in my education and time at UCI.

  • Graduated Winter 2022
  • Member of Dr. Civelli’s lab since the Fall of 2020
  • Working to find the molecular mechanism(s) as to how the extract of Corydalis yanhusuo prevents morphine tolerance and dependence in mice
  • Exploring the orphan G-protein-coupled receptor known as GPR139
  • Co-Author of a review paper titled “The Analgesic Properties of Corydalis yanhusuo,” published in the journal Molecules.
  • Participated in UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and UCI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program
  • Seminar Assistant for PharmSci 1, helping guide new transfer students 

Freddy Guzman

What’s next? Entering the Pharmacology & Molecular Sciences Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University this fall.

What’s a fun fact people don’t know about you? I like to run! I hope to finish a marathon one day.

  • Research Trainee in the Minority Science Programs (MSP) at UCI since Spring 2019. The guidance from the program coordinator, Dr. Marlene de la Cruz, encouraged me to pursue future research careers.
  • Undergraduate researcher in the NIH Maximizing Access for Research Careers (MARC) program since 2020, which provides funding and training for students from underrepresented communities in STEM. 
  • Researched with the lab of Dr. Claudia Benavente, focusing on the role of the epigenetic regulator UHRF1 in osteosarcoma and other RB-mediated cancers. 
  • Projects in the Benavente Lab focused on the effects of UHRF1 domain mutagenesis on transcription and osteosarcoma progression (2019-2020) and the selection of RNA aptamers to target the UHRF1 domain function (2021-2022).
  • 2021 Summer Intern at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, working under Dr. Netzahualcoyotl Arroyo-Curras in developing an analysis of the performance of aptamer-based vancomycin sensors

Omar Antonio Ocegueda

What’s next? Becoming a teaching professor is a plan I hope to accomplish first by attending UC Irvine’s PhD in Pharmacological Sciences program this fall.

What’s a fun fact that people don’t know about you? I’m an aspiring amateur card magician. I was really into it in high school, and I’m trying my best to get back into it!

Who was impactful during your time at UCI? Dr. Susan King (who teaches the CHEM 51 Organic Chemistry series). I was blown away by Dr. King’s dedication to her students’ understanding and learning of the complex material presented in organic chemistry. Her class served as an incredible foundation for my success in my upper-division pharmaceutical sciences course. Through that success, I was able to find my passion for researching topics within the broad field of pharmaceutical sciences.

  • Graduating Summa Cum Laude
  • Joined Dr. Sam Schriner‘s research group in Fall 2021.
  • Received a UROP award of $535 for a proposal for my project, “The Anti-Aging Effects of Urolithin A on S. cerevisiae.” 
    • I focused on running the standard yeast protocols to obtain information on the effect of the dietary metabolite on yeast lifespan.
  • Assisted the graduate student and senior undergraduate researcher in training newer lab members and providing guidance as they settled into the lab. 
  • The recipient of the Regent’s Scholarship from 2018 to 2022.
  • Member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Shayla Nguyen Ngo

What’s next? Working for a year before applying for a Clinical Laboratory Scientist program.

What’s a fun fact people don’t know about you? I play Valorant during my free time! I also play badminton for UCI’s team.

Who was impactful during your time at UCI? Being in the Paegel lab was a highlight of my time in college because everyone in the lab was so nice and knowledgeable. I learned so much and found my passion for working in a lab.

  • Involved in Peers Under Pharmaceutical Sciences (PUPS) since sophomore year, starting as an intern, then progressing into Academic Chair, and then transitioning into President of PUPS in my last year.
    • Dr. Schriner is a great advisor for PUPS; he always comes out to support our events and has a great sense of humor, making it a joy for me to speak with him!
  • Undergraduate research assistant in molecular biology in Dr. Brian Paegel’s lab
    • DNA cloning, plasmid preparation, colony PCR, qPCR, bacterial protein expression, and running in vitro translation assays to detect fluorescence.

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