Welcome to UCLA, new Bruins!
Congratulations on being accepted to the number one public university in the nation! My name is Praneel (he/him), and I’m a third year studying Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (MIMG). I’m also pursuing minors in both Global Health and Community Engagement & Social Change (CESC), a testament to the interdisciplinary coursework you will have access to as a UCLA student. On campus I’m involved in GlobeMed at UCLA, where we brainstorm and fundraise for water access and sanitation initiatives with our partner, Mpoma Community HIV/AIDS Initiative in South Central Uganda. I am also a part of Pages for Pediatrics, where we write, illustrate, and distribute children’s books about underrepresented pediatric disability and illness to children’s hospitals around the nation. The over 1,200 student organizations we have access to here at UCLA is one of the many reasons why a lot of UCLA students have the opportunity to explore fields or communities outside of their primary learning. One of my personal favorite parts about UCLA, however, are the unique classes that complement traditional learning. To give you an idea of some of the classes you might be able to take, here are some that have really highlighted my UCLA experience, and hopefully yours too!
As an MIMG major, once you begin your upper-division courses as a third and a fourth year, you have a “research immersion” experience to prepare you for real world application from a lot of the microbiology research techniques you spend weeks learning about in class. In MIMG 103AL, Research Immersion Laboratory in Virology, you literally discover a bacteriophage, a type of virus that infects bacteria and is currently being researched for use as therapy to a huge array of diseases. However, since bacteriophage research is still a relatively small area of study, you as an undergrad are able to take the reins, and even get published for in depth sequencing and reporting of new bacteriophage species. I just finished collecting my soil sample that I will use to isolate and propagate my own bacteriophage!
An interesting class I was able to take through my CESC minor is CESC M147, Critical Analysis of Strategies toward Environmental Justice. The CESC minor is unique because by working directly with the UCLA Center for Community Engagement (CCE), students learn and perform research by hands on experiential learning. Instead of only learning in a classroom, students have the opportunity to interact directly with members of the Los Angeles community to better orient community work. Through CESC M147, our student group of about 20 worked directly with the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative (LARC) to design a community advisory group research model for guiding future interventions on inclusive climate change initiatives. We worked in the field directly with nonprofit executives and advocates, and the final we submitted was a proposal that is currently being used by LARC in their work! As a UCLA student, you have access to a toolkit that allows you to make real world change in whatever field you choose.
Finally, if you are looking for a general education (GE) requirement to complete for your coursework, look no further than MAT SCI 33W, Materials Structure and Technology in Archaeology and Architecture. Not only do you learn about the physical properties of the different construction materials used in ancient architecture, but you also get to recreate many of the techniques used by the ancients. In the lab portion of the course, I built a pot using clay, a faience using Egyptian Blue, and I even got to recreate a fresco painting using mineral pigments.
At a top academic institution like UCLA, the classes you take push the limits of what you can do in a classroom. The path you can pave is truly your own, whether you want to stay in the lab, go out into the field, or build new things. I love UCLA because I am able to choose my own adventure here, and curate both an academic and experiential portfolio I can be proud of. The work you do here will bend the definitions of what you may think a specific field or subject is all about. For me, reimagining how we learn about health and provide care is only possible because of the breadth of classes I have been able to explore. If you happen to find yourself in an MIMG lab, ask the professor if they remember a “Praneel”!
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