Luis Cuevas, B.S., biochemistry and molecular biology
Class of 2023 graduate Luis Cuevas, B.S., biochemistry and molecular biology. (Steve Zylius/UCI)

It’s hard not to feel excitement when listening to Luis Cuevas talk about the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the promise of phage therapy in fighting these pathogens. His interest in biology and chemistry was sparked in community college, and transferring to UCI allowed him to immerse himself in his studies. Cuevas sounds downright giddy when discussing his research in the lab of chemistry professor Michael T. Green, where he explored the potential of synthesizing an enzyme that breaks down carbon and hydrogen to harness its potential for pharmaceuticals and the removal of toxic substances from soil and water. “Research helps us understand the universe around us and make better decisions for the future,” Cuevas says. The first-gen college student from Moreno Valley was able to navigate academia and manage his personal life with support from UCI’s Counseling Center and Basic Needs Center. Just six months ago, he and his wife welcomed baby Capri. The three reside in one of UCI’s student family housing communities. Cuevas, who has made the dean’s list every quarter, plans to continue working in lab and classroom settings as he applies to doctoral programs. “I want to get a Ph.D. and teach at the community college level or at a research university,” he says. “That’s my passion, and I’m just starting to scratch the surface.”

Can you describe a time you felt most proud to be an Anteater?

I felt most proud to be an Anteater during my first Welcome Week. There were so many events and opportunities for students to get involved on campus. We played games, did scavenger hunts and watched movies in Aldrich Park. The students were all so friendly. It was the best first impression of what it means to be an Anteater. But I anticipate that I’ll feel even more proud on graduation day when we’re throwing our caps in the air and congratulating each other.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to continue working as an instructional assistant for a microbiology lab at Santa Ana College, and I also plan to work as a UCI lab technician to gain more research experience before applying to graduate school.

“Luis has an infectious curiosity that one rarely sees in undergraduates, not only about course material but about research. He has a remarkable passion for science, with rare motivation and creativity, and frequently comes up with unique ideas to solve problems in biomedical science.”

– David Fruman, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

Who has been your biggest influence at UCI?

My biggest influence at UCI was professor Pavan Kadandale. He taught me how to analyze data and think critically in all his classes. I’m inspired by his teaching style and plan to incorporate some of those strategies in my teaching when I become a professor.

What advice would you give to your first-year self?

I would advise myself that research experience is the way to go and to start looking into labs. I would also encourage more involvement with campus groups and clubs and meeting professors and building relationships with them early on.