Program Helps Aspiring Chemists

Vanessa Aguirre

“Words are cheap, show me your data.”

For those aspiring organic chemists, Glendale is now offering a winter research program that could possibly lead to $30,000 fellowship.

The program, which is geared toward getting students involved in research, also teaches them to apply it toward real life, all while adding a little extra something to their graduate school applications upon transferring and earning a bachelors degree.

Not only does this program give students majoring in the sciences, like biochemistry, the preparation they need to go into a graduate program, it also teaches them to collaborate with other future chemists.

With a $15,000 contribution from Carlos Gutierrez, a professor at Cal State L.A, the program provides weeks of hands on training, research opportunities as well as a glimpse into the life of a chemist. Not to mention the fabulous supplies and equipment that are at students disposal during this program.

“[During the program] the authoritative figure was gone,” said Asmik Oganesyan, program instructor. ” … we became colleges.” They worked hand in hand with Oganesyan not as students, but as individuals working toward one goal.

Students went through one week of training, then were put in groups of three the rest of the term, where they worked to synthesize compounds that can potentially be used in the pharmaceutical industry.

Keep in mind this isn’t the average organic chemistry class. The level of work these students did was that of PHD students, and is very challenging. Only nine of the 75 applicants were chosen for the 2009 winter session, two of which were accepted into the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) summer program.

The MARC summer program gives students, particularly minorities, the opportunity to undertake in research projects in university laboratories, that that of UCLA, during the summer. The program also pays for tuition, fees and provides students with special mentoring and preparation via honors courses and workshops.

“We took our first real steps into the scientific community,” said Julius Nazareno, 19, a biochemistry major.

Nazareno was one of the two students in the 2009 winter research program who was accepted into the prestigious MARC summer program.

Students interested applying for the program must take chemistry 105 or 106 prior to applying, have dedication as well as general love of science. Those who are chosen to participate are the “top strawberries in the basket” as Oganesyan would say.

Oganesyan, who is volunteering her time to this program with no pay, further added to the students’ motivation to do well by taking away the pressures thats come along with grades. By doing so the students found they focused more on achieving results and acquiring the results faster then the other groups.

“I loved [the program]” said Daria Baciu, 23, a biochemistry major. “She [Oganesyan] made it easy.” With just nine in the program there was more time for one-on-one help and the students made good use of the time that was given everyday. With hands on instruction the students were able to get more out of the experience than they would have in a regular organic chemistry course.

The course is now being offered every winter in hopes of improving science majors’ chance of acceptance into graduate programs upon receiving their bachelors degree.