Rebekah Le, a graduate student in Professor Ken Cho’ s laboratory, recently received the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award from the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). Rebekah is one of ten recipients of the award for 2015, in what was a highly competitive process with 300 impressive nominations from universities across the country. Carol Geary Schneider, AAC&U’s president, stated that “The winners represent the finest in the new generation of faculty who will teach and lead higher education in the next decades.”
Rebekah believes that having an understanding of how scientific research is carried out – and how it relates to everyday life – is a critical component to being an informed citizen. This passion has driven her growing career in teaching as well as research.
During her undergraduate education, Rebekah took two interactive classes that she credits for driving her passion for teaching, which she has expanded upon while in the graduate program in the Ayala School. Rebekah has participated in Professor Diane O’Dowd’s HHMI fellows program, been a teaching assistant for several classrooms, and recently co-created the upper division elective course Bio Sci D140: How to read a science paper. This course focuses on the critical analysis and evaluation of primary scientific literature and was co-created with former graduate student Dr. Anne Phan and supervised by Developmental and Cell Biology faculty Professor David Gardiner and Dr. Justin Shaffer, Lecturer PSOE.
After developing her own course through Bio Sci D140, Rebekah became interested in education research and received one of UC Irvine’s Developmental and Cell Biology GAANN fellowships. Under the guidance of Dr. Debra Mauzy-Melitz, Lecturer PSOE, Developmental and Cell Biology, Rebekah led a research study examining D140 student attitudes regarding scientific skills and research experiences, and presented the results at several conferences.
On the research side, Rebekah first pursued undergraduate research at UCLA where she studied the gene regulatory network controlling seed development. That sparked her interest in programs underlying cell specification, so she joined the Ayala School’s Ph.D. program to work with Dr. Ken Cho on the endoderm gene regulatory network in frogs (Xenopus). Rebekah’s research focused on how a key signaling pathway – the Nodal signaling pathway – is involved in controlling the endodermal fate – information that could ultimately be used in the field of regenerative medicine.