See stories and progress from The CENTENNIAL Campaign for
Promoting and celebrating students who are passionate about undergraduate student research, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Walter Mancia M.S. ’15 was 15 years old, knew no English and had little education, yet he left Honduras on his own and made the harrowing trek to Los Angeles, where he’d hoped to find his long-lost father. Instead, he found two new fathers in the couple Alphons Smit and Clifford Lee.
Impressed with Mancia’s intelligence and strong drive to succeed, Smit and Lee informally adopted him and enrolled him in English language classes. Mancia soon earned his GED and continued his education at a community college, where he discovered his love for science and research. Applying to UCLA seemed like a natural choice, given his intellect and ambitions.
Diana Azurdia, an assistant director at UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Center, met Mancia shortly after he enrolled at UCLA. Azurdia learned about his aspirations and helped him find opportunities to reach his goals, such as the UC LEADS (Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degree) Program. Offered through the Undergraduate Research Center, this prestigious two-year undergraduate fellowship was awarded to Mancia by the University of California system, providing a great source of financial support. Mancia is now obtaining his Ph.D. at University of California, San Francisco, where he’s conducting stem cell research.
The Undergraduate Research Center serves students like Mancia and faculty in all areas of life and physical sciences, engineering and mathematics, as well as for the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Our primary mission is to promote, develop, and celebrate undergraduate student research with the overall goal of enhancing education and preparing students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, for academic and research careers.
Give today to the Assistant Vice Provost’s Discretionary Fund to ensure UCLA will continue to support the innovative researchers of tomorrow, who might not otherwise make the journey.
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