Jonathan Riggs | November 3, 2022
Only 16 students nationally were chosen to receive prestigious National Institutes of Health undergraduate scholarships for 2022–23.
And three of them are Bruins.
Fourth-year students Marinza Marzouk of Covina, California, and Monica Soliman of Los Angeles, and third-year student Samuel Zamora of San Diego were chosen from a national pool of applicants. The scholarship is meant to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue education and career opportunities in biomedical research.
Each of the UCLA honorees will receive up to $20,000 per year for up to four years. In exchange, they will complete 10-week, paid summer internships in NIH laboratories and, after they graduate from UCLA, work as full-time employees in NIH labs for one year per year of scholarship support they receive.
“I am proud of these three remarkable students and all they have accomplished thus far,” said Adriana Galván, UCLA’s dean of undergraduate education. “This scholarship is an inspiring vote of confidence on the national stage for their future potential, and I have no doubt they will exceed all expectations.”
Marzouk is a neuroscience major who transferred to UCLA from Pasadena City College. She moved with her family to the U.S. from Egypt when she was 13.
“It was very overwhelming, especially with the language barrier, and I had a lot of self-doubt — I never even thought I could dream of going to UCLA,” Marzouk said. “But I kept challenging myself to get here.”
Marzouk volunteers in the research lab of Professor Edythe London, a UCLA psychiatrist and biobehavioral scientist. She hopes to continue her studies in medical school, with the goal of becoming a psychologist or neurologist.
“It means a lot to me to have gotten this scholarship,” she said. “I still cannot process that I am where I am, and doing what I am doing, but I am just so happy to be making my parents and myself proud. My parents sacrificed a lot for me, and this scholarship shows them that their efforts were not in vain and that I am taking advantage of all the opportunities available to me here in America.”
Soliman is majoring in human biology and society and minoring in Arabic studies. Like Marzouk, she came to the U.S. from Egypt at a young age; Soliman was 10, and her family was seeking religious asylum after the 2011 revolution there.
“Coming from a country where women do not always have the opportunity to pursue higher education, I was determined to become one of the first in my family to receive a college degree,” she said. “Coming to UCLA helped me find community and a sense of belonging.”
Soliman hopes to enroll in an M.D.–Ph.D. program in sports medicine. An intern with the UCLA Athletics sports medicine staff, Soliman has also served as a field research assistant for the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program and an NIH-funded project to improve concussion assessment and treatment in children and teens.
“I feel honored to have been selected to earn such a competitive scholarship and to have the opportunity to work at the NIH and develop skills that are necessary for my journey,” Soliman said. “UCLA provided an environment that has allowed me to grow, and I’m grateful.”
Zamora, who’s majoring in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, moved to California with his family from Tijuana, Mexico, when he was 10.
“Like many other first-generation students, my parents didn’t attend college and knew nothing about the process, which meant I had no sense of direction and struggled to find resources,” he said.
Key to helping him adjust to campus life and find his path, Zamora said, was his involvement with Hermanos Unidos de UCLA, a student organization that helps male Latino and Chicano students bond over their academic successes, community service and personal growth.
Zamora has gained experience in multiple research labs on campus. He’s currently a research intern in the lab of Professor Xiaojiang Cui, where he’s studying the implications of RNA splicing on breast cancer development. Although he hasn’t ruled out medical school, he also has an interest in continuing his clinical laboratory research.
“Earning this scholarship gives me a feeling of victory,” Zamora said. “Aspiring to make a change in this world through the beauty of science is the reason I push myself.”