Ashley Navarro and My Trang Thi Nguyen are the inaugural recipients of the Anteaters in Pharmacy Alumni Scholarship, awarded to students in the Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences program at UC Irvine.
Anteaters in Pharmacy, the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences alumni chapter, recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic put the field of pharmacy into the spotlight, highlighting the importance of educating our next generation of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists. In fall 2020, the chapter’s leaders discussed ways to give back to current undergraduate students.
“As the Anteaters in Pharmacy Alumni Chapter, our mission is to connect and engage alumni involved in the field of pharmaceutical sciences and services, to establish a lifelong community dedicated to the dispensing of knowledge, and to promote the legacy of excellence and advancement of UC Irvine,” Director of Alumni Relations Meredith Kwok said.
A campaign was planned for Giving Day 2021 to raise funds for a new alumni-supported scholarship. Giving Day is an annual 24-hour online giving campaign bringing the UCI community together to celebrate the Anteater spirit. With the help of supporters and their gifts, money was raised to launch a new scholarship to assist undergraduate students that stood out as the new generation of healthcare leaders to accelerate scientific, clinical, and educational innovations.
Ashley Navarro is a third-year, first-generation pharmaceutical sciences student at the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. She worked at the financial aid office and helped promote the general scholarship application when she came across the Anteaters in Pharmacy Alumni Scholarship.
The initial spark in interest for her studies at UCI started in high school while taking AP Biology.
“I read some interesting research papers in class and became interested in drug development,” Navarro said. “I was fascinated that research in academia could go on to inspire pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs and therapies that could positively impact peoples’ lives. I want to be a part of that impact.”
Navarro completed a summer internship with Constellation Pharmaceuticals in 2021 and is involved with PharmSci Alternative Careers Association (PACA), a student organization. She says she wants to work in cancer therapeutics and diabetes, as those are areas that could directly impact her family members, including her grandparents, who have diabetes.
“Insulin prices are soaring, so it’s necessary to find a long-term solution versus a short-term insulin,” Navarro said.
In speaking about her family background, Navarro shared that her mother motivated her academic endeavors from a young age.
“I remember taking the bus to go to the library when I was younger and that she advocated for the elementary school to receive more funding and support from our district,” Navarro said. “Those lessons about giving back and how hard work pays off are things I still carry with me today.”
Navarro is expected to graduate in 2023.
My Trang Thi Nguyen
My Trang Thi Nguyen is a second-year, first-generation pharmaceutical sciences student at the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. When she saw that pharmaceutical sciences was a major at UCI, she knew it was the right career choice because it was at the intersection of her interests.
“I remember my parents telling me as a kid that pharmacists are good, helpful people,” Nguyen said. “My studies at UCI will open the door to a career that will help me fulfill my life mission of helping people, giving back to the community and pursuing a career in science.”
With family members who have a range of health issues, Nguyen wants to learn more about medications. Her love for crime documentaries sparked her curiosity about how the brain works and how drugs affect its function. She is interested in Professor Amal Alachkar’s research in schizophrenia and hopes to learn more about the science behind medications.
Nguyen spent her first year learning remotely, so with a new scholarship, she was looking forward to spending time on campus, meeting new people and joining clubs to establish connections.
Nguyen was looking for ways to cover her tuition for the academic year when she received the email congratulating her on being one of the inaugural scholarship recipients. She said it was, among other things, what motivated her for the 2021-22 academic year.
“My parents and my sister push me to do my best, and they’re my biggest supporters,” Nguyen said. “We immigrated here from Vietnam when I was in the third grade. I look up to my older sister, who graduated from UCI in Mechanical Engineering. She reminds me that I can do it too.”
Nguyen is expected to graduate in 2024.
The Anteaters in Pharmacy Alumni Scholarship selection committee members include Meredith Kwok, Director of Alumni Relation; Erin Harper, Undergraduate Student Affairs Advisor; Sam Schriner, Professor and Vice Chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences; and former alumni board members Alex Shahverdian ’19 and Rachel Roehl ’19.
The UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences’ alumni chapter, Anteaters in Pharmacy, was established in 2019. Anteaters in Pharmacy is the official UCI alumni chapter dedicated to pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, and the overall sector. Members engage in our community, build their networks, volunteer together, and contribute to UCI.
If you are interested in giving and supporting future recipients for this scholarship, visit the Zot Funder page here.
Undergraduate pharmaceutical sciences students may apply for this scholarship here.