Goldwater scholars Shayan Saeed and Ryan Gates; and U.S. Fulbright scholars Jacqueline Aguirre de la O and Zehra Qazi are recipients of two of the nation’s most prestigious awards.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is one of the country’s most competitive honors in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, or STEM. The application process is rigorous and asks students to think deeply about their research and long-term goals.
Saeed and Gates were among 409 recipients out of more than 5,000 applicants. Each accolade is attached to a one-time financial award of up to $7,500.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the leading international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Students are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the plans to study abroad in 2020, these Fulbright scholars will be traveling during the 2021-22 academic year.
Meet this year’s Goldwater scholars:
Shayan Saeed: He starts as a fourth year Middle East and Islamic studies student this fall. For the past two years he has been conducting research in the lab of Manuela Martins-Green lab in the Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology.
Saeed’s current research interests are in chronic wound healing. His project seeks to find potential therapies that may resolve wound chronicity, meaning a wound’s inability to heal in a timely manner. Shayan also received a summer fellowship from the Wound Healing Foundation.
Saeed wants to pursue a career as a physician scientist. His Middle East and Islamic studies major will support his career as he plans to “educate others about the beauty of the religion of Islam and the Middle East to hopefully break barriers and remove stereotypes.”
On campus, Saeed is the incoming co-editor-in-chief of the Undergraduate Research Journal and a mentor in the Student Engagement Center’s STEM Peer Mentor Program. In 2020, Saeed received the Chancellor’s Research Fellowship.
Ryan Gates: Gates will be starting his third year in the fall. The biochemistry major conducts research with Ernest Martinez in the Department of Biochemistry. Gates wants to discover a new drug target to help patients suffering from breast cancer.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Gates will apply to a doctoral program focusing on translational cancer research.
“Upon completing my program of study, I aim to start a biotech company with an emphasis on developing early-stage cancer detection methods and treatment options,” Gates said.
At UCR, Gates is the special events coordinator for the Maximizing Access to Research Careers - Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research student organization. Gates is also a part-time writing tutor for the University Writing Program.
In his free time, Gates has been training for a sprint triathlon in the summer of 2022.
Meet this year’s Fulbright scholars:
Jacqueline Aguirre de la O ’20: The COVID-19 pandemic interfered with Aguirre de la O’s study abroad program, but in January she will be traveling to South Korea to teach English to secondary education students for a year.
Aguirre de la O, who graduated in summer 2020 with a bachelor’s in sociology, fell in love with Korean culture in high school. At UCR she had already participated in a study abroad program in Korea, was a peer advisor for UCR’s Education Abroad office, and worked at the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies.
Now, as she’s preparing to travel again, she is also researching master’s programs to apply to once her yearlong visit to Korea is completed. Eventually, her goal is to work for the state or federal government’s education affairs unit. Aguirre de la O is currently interning for the United States Census Bureau.
“The Fulbright is an incredible opportunity. I think it’s something that I was disregarding at first because I didn’t think I would get it, but I want other Latinos to know that it’s possible,” Aguirre de la O said. “I’m going to Korea because it’s a way to step out of my comfort zone and represent the diversity of the U.S. abroad. I want to share my Mexican culture. I look at it this way: What can I bring to the students? My culture, a little piece of SoCal, and I want to share things they don’t know, things they don’t see in the movies.”
Zehra Fatima Qazi ’20: Like with Aguirre de la O, Qazi’s study abroad plans were put on hold last year. But in early 2022, she will make the trip to South Korea for the one-year program.
Qazi majored in public policy with an international and social and economic policy concentration. After graduation she has been working temporary jobs, including COVID-19 contact tracing with San Bernardino County.
While completing her undergraduate education, Qazi had already participated in a study abroad program to Korea in spring of 2019. Her life goal is to create “a safer and more hospitable environment for areas in border crises.”
“I have always wanted to work with people and travel, but I became interested in nonprofit and international organizations once I realized I had a hard time agreeing with many government standpoints,” said Qazi, who will be teaching primary school in South Korea.
When she’s not teaching, Qazi will be researching Indian-Pakistani and Korean culture, politics, and society for her graduate studies.
“I hope to work to research and mitigate the consequences of various border crises around the world,” Qazi said. “I want to write policy that will help reduce these consequences and improve the lives and culture of people.”