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I Am a Researcher

Bernice Lozada


Major(s): Bioengineering: biotechnology; minor in general biology

College: Revelle

UC San Diego graduation year: 2024

Which research programs/experiences have you been a part of (Names and Dates)? I participated in the Regents Scholars Research Initiative (RSRI) program during my first two years of college (2020-22), the Faculty Mentor Program (FMP) in 2022-23, and did a research internship at Ionis Pharmaceuticals this past summer.

What are you researching (or did you do in the past)? While in RSRI, I worked in Dr. Sandip Patel’s lab at Moores Cancer Center on a retrospective Phase I clinical trial to determine the relationship between 50 late-stage lung cancer patients’ genomic alterations and their response to Ipilimumab and Nivolumab combination therapy. During my internship at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, I worked on applying a gene construct for high-throughput siRNA screening. I’m currently in Dr. Ester Kwon’s lab, where I research how to use peptides to target lipid nanoparticles to inflamed endothelial cells in the blood-brain barrier for treating traumatic brain injury.

Why and how did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research? I was admitted to UCSD as a Regents Scholar and therefore invited to participate in the Regents Scholars Research Initiative (RSRI), where you are matched with a lab that fits your interests and begin researching there during your first quarter. I did not do research in high school but enjoyed being in the lab during my science classes, so I took the opportunity. After two years in that clinical trials lab, I wanted to experience a wet lab environment. I also became interested in nanomedicine after taking NANO 175 for my bioengineering technical elective. One of my friends in my current lab told me about a recent opening under a graduate student I previously had as a TA, and I have been there ever since.

What has been the most exciting/interesting thing you've discovered through your research? One of the highlights was the first time I made lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) myself. It was incredible working with something I learned about in class, especially since the Moderna & Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are lipid nanoparticles themselves. I was also very excited about presenting my research at URC 2023 and OURS 2023, as that has been a goal of mine since starting college.

What advice would you give to students starting research? It is okay to realize you are not as interested in a research topic as you thought once you join a lab. Learning that you don’t like something is still valuable information you can use when switching projects or labs.

What are your future plans? I’m currently looking into applying to bioengineering Ph.D. programs to continue studying nanomedicine! Afterward, I hope to work in the biotechnology industry, specifically with targeted drug delivery.

Anything else you want to share? I promise I have a life! In my free time, I enjoy going to the beach and watching sunsets, making jewelry, (very badly) crocheting, and trying new restaurants on Convoy.