Anteater Express featuring UCI’s Shining Stars
Appearing on the sides of the Anteater Express buses are images of this year’s group of UCI’s shining stars. These 10 exceptional undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni are fiercely dedicated to enhancing lives in our community, either through their teaching, cutting-edge research or public service. Be sure to be on the lookout for these stellar Anteaters driving around campus! #UCIPride
Take a look at who’s on the bus:
Business administration undergraduate, Paul Merage School of Business
Keyvon Robinson is pursuing his bachelor’s in business administration and fulfilling his lifelong dream of attending a prestigious university while studying at the Paul Merage School of Business. From a young age he saw that a degree in business would open doors and push him to one day excel in a career that will stimulate him personally and professionally. He gives back to the university as a student worker, connecting with alumni and finds community at UCI with his fraternity Phi Kappa Psi.
Asian American studies and film & media studies undergraduate, School of Humanities
Rehana Morita is a writer, editor and research assistant. As part of UCI’s “Stories from the Sea: An Oral History Project,” she combed through the Crystal Cove Conservancy archives to create a photo essay about Japanese American farmers. The conservancy then hired Morita as an intern to expand her project into a virtual history tour for its website. In addition, she manages digital publications for Her Campus Media and the UCI Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and she works as a representative for Campus Trendsetters at UCI. A first-gen Japanese-Libyan American, she is passionate about authentic representation in publishing, communications and education. In 2022, the School of Humanities honored her with its Undergraduate of the Year Award in Asian American studies.
STUDENT WELLNESS WARRIOR
Medical director, UCI Student Health Center
As medical director of the UCI Student Health Center, Dr. Chang leads the effort to maintain students’ mental and physical well-being. It’s a serious responsibility, and especially so during the global pandemic. Fortunately, Dr. Chang can confer with UCI’s public health specialists, virologists and infectious disease experts. Nurturing a “smart and safe” culture at UCI led to a 98 percent vaccination rate among students. The Orange County-born son of Taiwanese immigrants is also sensitive to the needs of UCI’s first-generation and international students. The Student Health Center focuses on whole-student care and incorporates mental health screenings for students when they are treated for physical ailments.
Assistant professor, Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing
Dawn Bounds joined UCI Nursing with the goal of creating a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program in the school’s DNP program. She is passionate about working with teens in community settings and has treated vulnerable populations, such as the unhoused in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Mental health intervention and social support are key to her work, which includes working with teens. The teenage years can be rife with risk-taking behavior that, in serious cases, can lead to homelessness, drug abuse and sex trafficking. Still, Bounds sees hope in this age group. Her research focuses on establishing support systems so that at-risk teens don’t fall through the cracks, coming in the form of stronger ties to school, faith communities and other networks.
School of Physical Sciences alumna
As an Anteater, Erin Joy Araneta did it all. In the lab of UCI Chancellor’s Professor of chemistry Jenny Yang, she worked on new ways of sequestering planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And when she wasn’t involved with limiting the effects of climate change, she was helping girls discover the wonders of chemistry. Her children’s book series, called the Adventures of Chemist Clara, follows a young, budding chemist as she discovers the innumerable ways chemistry manifests in the natural world around her. Araneta said that she sees herself as Clara, and, true to form, she’s continuing her own journey of discovery in chemistry as a graduate student studying sustainable chemistry at USC.
Developmental & cell biology Ph.D. candidate, School of Biological Sciences
Graduate student researcher Brendan Finicle uses small molecules to make a big impact. As a cell biologist in the lab of Aimee Edinger, a professor of developmental & cell biology, Brendan uses state-of-the-art molecular biology tools and assays to find therapeutics that target the RNA within our cells. This method of targeting RNA has huge potential to treat disease and improve human health. Brendan has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including being the first nominee from UCI to receive the National Cancer Institute’s Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award. He was also one of 600 scientists selected to attend the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, at which Nobel Laureates and invited scientists network, attend lectures and exchange ideas.
Dance undergraduate, Claire Trevor School of the Arts
Mafer Reyes, a third-year student, is a dance devotee and community champion committed to giving back to her community. She divides her time between tutoring at a local high school, teaching dance classes at the K-12 level for CTSA’s Creative Connections program and being an active member of UCI Dance’s Community Student Advising Committee. Reyes is also a Claire Trevor Society Scholar for community arts outreach. Above all, Reyes recognizes that what she wants most out of a long-term dance career are community ties. “It’s making me realize how much I want to work with my community” she says. “Also, as a Latina, I want students to feel represented; I want them to know that someone who looks like them can pursue an arts career.”
Professor of physiology & biophysics, School of Medicine
Director, UCI Vaccine Research and Development Center
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Philip Felgner helped heal the world. His work on the transfer of nucleic acids into cells laid the groundwork for the development of messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccines. The technology also holds great promise for creating preventative vaccines and for treating cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. He is one of two scholars to win the prestigious 2022 Robert Koch Prize for his pioneering infectious diseases treatment technology. He was also awarded Spain’s prestigious Princess of Asturias prize for technical and scientific research in recognition of his contributions to designing COVID-19 vaccines.
School of Social Ecology alumnus and former Anteater Express bus driver
Jaylen Davis put himself through UCI by driving an Anteater Express bus. Transportation was not just a job for Davis – it’s a passion, too. He earned a bachelor’s in urban studies with a minor in social ecology and is interested in pursuing a career exploring the use of alternative energy in the trucking industry. His student job was so central to his experience at UCI that he posed for his graduation photos atop an Anteater Express bus. The images went viral, with more than 1.7 million likes on Instagram, and Davis’ story was featured in local news broadcasts.
Logic & philosophy of science Ph.D. candidate, School of Social Sciences
Can science help us make more ethically aligned decisions? UCI logic & philosophy of science Ph.D. candidate Jessica Gonzalez believes so. She studies the cognitive processes behind moral intuitions and judgements. Using philosophical inquiry to examine the natural and social sciences, she’s working to understand factors that influence moral behavior, and how and when changes can be made to help us live more moral and ethical lives. “Sometimes our cognitive processes, like implicit bias, can steer us away from making moral judgments that line up with principles like fairness,” she says. “By learning how our moral processes work, we can make behavioral changes that will help us live up to our values.”