Undergraduate Student Spotlight

Josh Marquez, Class of 2021 

Chemistry BS with Biochemistry concentration Major

Start by introducing yourself!

My name is Josh Marquez and I’m a fourth year Chemistry major with a concentration in Biochemistry. I am the first openly gay member of my Mexican-American family as well as the first to pursue a degree in STEM. Like any UCSC student I enjoy hiking, music, photography, and film.

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience – has there been a highlight? What have you overcome?

As an intersectional minority in STEM, my journey hasn’t always been easy but it has been worth it! Initially, I struggled with impostor syndrome, finances, and finding my community within the realm of science, however, after joining STEM Diversity in the Spring of 2020 and later beginning work in the McKinnie lab I have been met with nothing but support and open arms.

I’m sure everyone can agree that 2020 wasn’t the easiest year for students. Each of us were met with our own trials and tribulations that pushed us to our limits and showed us the true definition of persistence. I personally was evacuated several times from Santa Cruz this year due to the onset of the pandemic, wildfires, and finally after my grandfather passed away from COVID related complications on his 71st birthday. Despite these hurdles, I returned time and time again, determined to persevere through my degree and research project.

What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry?

My decision to pursue a degree in chemistry started in high school, though my passion for the subject didn’t fully bloom until I enrolled in organic chemistry my sophomore year at UCSC. After discovering the versatility and practicality of the field I fell in love with the subject and became determined to pursue this discipline to its fullest extent by enrolling in a doctoral program for natural products synthesis and bioorganic chemistry. 

What are your goals/plans for the future?

My main goal for the future is to participate in a graduate program to advance the fringes of science while simultaneously advocating for and mentoring underrepresented students that are eager to enter this field of work. Ultimately I hope to teach at the university level and create a program designed to encourage minority participation in STEM.  

Josh Marquez - Student Spotlight Winter 2021

Allison Browne, Class of 2020 

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate experience – has there been a highlight?

I have grown and learned a lot over the course of my four years here and am grateful for everyone who has supported me along the way. A highlight of my undergraduate experience was realizing that I really enjoyed the major that I had chosen kind of on a whim and want to pursue biochemistry as a professional career.

What has your experience been like as a woman in STEM? (What have you overcome? Highlights?)

A lot of my friends are also STEM majors and successful in their respective fields which is so encouraging to me to be surrounded by incredible and supportive women lifting each other up.

What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry?

I was a proposed Biology major but soon discovered that I loved chemistry as well and was able to learn about the best of both through Biochemistry. Also after taking the biochemistry series, I realized that I really enjoyed the content and was inspired by my professors and the research they are conducting into DNA and proteins.

Have you faced any challenges being a female in STEM? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

Being a mixed race women in STEM I have struggled with Imposter Syndrome, but I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of ambitious women and people of color and first generation students overcoming obstacles of their own to earn their education and have been so inspired by their journeys and their support. Also I have looked up to my female professors who have been amazing role models for me, showing me what is possible with hard work and passion for the subject.

Do you have any words of advice for other students who may be interested in pursuing this sort of research/major?

A word of advice would be to find a good group of people to study who are also interested in the same things or who are in your major because you will have classes with them all four years. Also take full advantage of the resources available to you like ACE, MSI, and make connections with TAs and professors through office hours because they do really want to help you out. Also get involved! I was part of Crown Student Senate and the Random with a Purpose dance showcase which both gave me a chance to meet so many wonderful people I wouldn't have met otherwise.

What are your goals/plans for the future?

I am planning to take a year off from school after graduating to pursue a job in biotechnology and later potentially a Masters in Pharmaceutical Chemistry after gaining industry experience.


Kareem Bdeir, Class of 2020 

Chemistry BS with Biochemistry concentration Major

My name is Kareem Bdeir and I am a graduating senior majoring in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry. I am a Palestinian American born in San Francisco, CA. Some of my hobbies include cooking and growing and caring for plants.

It’s hard coming up with a defining moment in my undergraduate experience because it has been a journey since day one. I started at UCSC as a Biology major but quickly switched to Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and then eventually to Chemistry with the concentration. It was somewhat unexpected how my undergraduate career managed to shape itself around what I liked. I gained inspiration from great professors and they unknowingly helped me realize that I want to teach chemistry.

Being a first generation student in STEM proved to be as difficult as people said it would be. The rigor of my classes paired with the pressure from my family has made these past four years difficult. Something that I learned about myself, however, is that I strive under pressure.

My current plan is to apply for a graduate program at the end of next year. I will work in research until my program begins in 2021.



Shaneen Britton Acevedo, Class of 2020 

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate experience – has there been a highlight?

I began college as a Bioengineering major, however, it did not take long for me to realize I loved the chemistry and biology classes more than all others. So I changed my major and became a Biochemistry & Molecular Biology B.S. major. It is still one of the best choices I’ve made. Other great decisions I’ve made in college are to tutor for the classes I had already taken, the material becomes so much clearer when you teach it, so I would encourage everyone to try it.  

What has your experience been like as a woman in STEM? (Highlights?)

As a Latina immigrant in STEM, having community has always been crucial for me. Here in Santa Cruz, I am surrounded by supportive people as a part of the EOP, ACE and the MSI community. In my research lab, UC LEADS and the STEM Diversity community, I am continuously encouraged and challenged. Being a part of these communities at UCSC has been a blessing, and I would say they are all the highlights of my experience here as a student. As a minority woman in STEM it was definitely a challenge to pursue a degree where you are not the norm, but having these communities strengthened me to pursue my goals.

What are your goals/plans for the future? 

Doing research in the Millhauser Lab opened my eyes to a career path I was unaware of before university. Now my plans for the future are to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology and continue to practice science beyond that."