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Graduating biochemistry senior credits researchers with his drive for success

Bryan Ugaz

Bryan Ugaz.

April 20, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Deciding on a college is an important decision that will impact a student’s career opportunities. Bryan Ugaz, who is graduating from the School of Molecular Sciences this semester, came to ASU because of the reputation of the researchers and the variety of interesting research taking place.

“ASU has a wide array of talented faculty, meaning there were a lot of opportunities to get into many different fields of research,” he said.

Ugaz made the most of those opportunities, working for associate professor Marcia Levitus to study how DNA flexibility affects DNA repair. He found this research to be both challenging and rewarding.

“These experiences, while often frustrating, have given me a heightened sense of respect for research and the amount of time and effort that goes into it,” he said.

Ugaz also credits Levitus as a mentor who not only fostered his scientific skills, but also pushed him to strive for higher goals.

“Because of Dr. Levitus’ support and encouragement, I earned an REU at Cornell University.” (REUs are Research Experience for Undergraduates sponsored by the National Science Foundation.)

Originally a material science engineering student, Ugaz became interested in chemistry though professor Ian Gould’s organic chemistry class. Another pivotal moment came while taking professor Julian Chen’s biochemistry class.

“I constantly felt in awe at the complexity and multifaceted levels of control that exist on the cellular level,” he said.

Ugaz's efforts were recognized by the School of Molecular Sciences, which awarded him the 2020 Therald Moeller Scholarship. Additionally, Ugaz was part of the winning teams of the ASU Academic Bowl in both 2018 and 2019, which provided supplementary scholarship awards. He is also the recipient of the 2021 ACS Organic Chemistry Award.

After graduating, Ugaz will pursue a PhD in chemistry with an emphasis in chemical biology at Stanford University. As he begins his next steps, Ugaz offers advice for incoming students.

“Be as engaged as possible in every class. Show up and ask questions. Attend office hours. Get to know your professors. My professors have been invaluable in my success at ASU, but also in being prepared for graduate school. Your education is much more than your grades.”

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