Hassan Shaikh
Class of 2024 graduate Hassan Shaikh, B.S., biological sciences (Steve Zylius/UC Irvine)

Some might say Hassan Shaikh was born to be a scientist, because the topic was ever-present as he grew up. He recalls dinner table discussions led by his father, who teaches biological sciences at Southern California community colleges, on a wide range of scientific issues. “It was something I was always exposed to,” Shaikh says.

After graduating from Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel, he became a biological sciences major at UC Irvine, where he has thrived in both the classroom and the laboratory. Shaikh conducts bench research in the lab of Marcelo Wood, professor and chair of neurobiology & behavior, exploring the role of the epigenome in regulating gene expression in long-term memory processes.

Befitting his fascination with all things scientific, Shaikh landed a marine biology summer research internship in 2023 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “I worked with sea turtles in La Jolla,” he says. “It was pretty cool.” 

“And I got to learn more about how the research the agency does translates to policymaking to ensure that marine health stays good and that marine health translates into human health,” he adds, “because spills are happening at the beach, contaminating water that affects the health of millions of people here in the United States.”

Shaikh plans to take a gap year after he graduates to prepare himself for his next step: medical school, where he’d like to combine his interests in environmental science and human health. He hopes to remain in California – “which has the best medical schools in the country” – and would be happy to stay at UC Irvine for its integrative medicine training program. “It’s new, and it provides a lot of opportunities,” Shaikh says. “I’d like that.”

Who at UC Irvine has been an influence or made a significant impact on you?

It’s hard to single out one person at UC Irvine who has made a significant impact on me because UC Irvine has fostered my growth in so many ways. However, a few individuals stand out for their profound influence.

First and foremost, my research mentors, [postdoctoral research fellow] Ashley Keiser and Marcelo Wood, have been instrumental in my success. They’ve gone above and beyond, teaching me not just research skills but also the researcher mindset. From guiding me through projects to providing support with conferences and recommendation letters, they’ve been invaluable. I can’t thank them enough.

Beyond research, professors like Steven Allison [ecology & evolutionary biology, as well as Earth system science] and Joshua Grill [neurobiology & behavior and psychiatry & human behavior] significantly affected me. Their unconventional teaching approaches sparked my enthusiasm and made learning truly engaging.

Finally, the friendships I’ve built at UC Irvine, especially within the Muslim Student Union, have enriched my journey beyond measure. They have been a constant source of support, laughter and shared experiences, making my time at UC Irvine truly beautiful and rewarding.

What makes you a proud Anteater?

Coming to UC Irvine, I was excited about the academic opportunities, but what surprised me most was the incredible personal growth I’ve experienced. The supportive environment here has allowed me to step outside my comfort zone, challenge myself and discover new strengths. The vibrant atmosphere at UC Irvine, with its diverse student body and strong sense of community, makes me a proud Anteater and is something I’m truly grateful for.

“Hassan is a brilliant student and an incredible undergraduate researcher. He has performed some exceptional research in understanding how the epigenome encodes a previous experience that subsequently affects how the brain encodes new information into long-term memory. Throughout his time in my lab, he has demonstrated wonderful curiosity, excellent scholarship, and an innate ability to problem-solve and complete complex experiments. Those personality traits and skills will make Hassan an exceptional physician, and I am very proud to have been able to work with him these past few years.”

– Marcelo Wood, professor and chair of neurobiology & behavior

Read more #IamUCI – Class of 2024 stories