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Undergrad Experience: Gehad Elhanafy

February 19, 2021

Gehad ElhanafyName: Gehad Elhanafy

Year: Second

Major: Bioengineering

Hometown: Merced

What is a memorable project that you worked on during your time at UC Merced?

In the summer of 2018, as an upcoming high school senior, I had the amazing opportunity to conduct research at UC Merced as part of the Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Machines’ (CCBM) Science and Technology Enrichment Program (STEP). I worked on creating microfluidic channels as part of Professor Bin Liu’s lab and it was memorable as it was my first time performing research. It was like entering a new world, learning about equipment and technologies I’d never seen before was exciting. I also had great mentors who guided me and ensured I understood what I was doing. Getting exposure to research allowed me to choose a career path that is best for me. I am glad UC Merced is reaching out to students and providing them with this kind of exposure to allow them to explore the world around them.

What did you learn personally and academically by participating in this?

My current work on biosensors, as part of Professor Victor Muñoz’s group and under the supervision of Project Scientist Mourad Sadqi, brought a greater understanding of the world around me, especially during the pandemic. I was able to better understand how COVID-19 tests work and why vaccines are designed the way they are; it was exciting because they’re the same concepts we use in the lab to create our biosensors. Knowing that my work can be applied and used to benefit humanity led to my goal of the democratizing technology and ensuring that what we create, as scientists and engineers, is available for anyone who needs it.

UC Merced has a lot of opportunities for experiential learning. What would you say to a future student who wants to be involved?

It is never too early to get involved! I started research in the summer of 2018, as an upcoming senior in high school and since then I have taken every opportunity I can. Because of this experience, I was able to become part of my current lab in my first semester of freshman year, and I don’t think that would have been possible elsewhere. UC Merced has a lot to offer and it is only a matter of putting yourself out there and not being afraid to ask. We are a small campus and the benefit to that is if you can’t find the opportunity you need, you can create it yourself. We have supportive faculty members who will go out of their way to ensure our development.