ABPDU Alum Ace Aguilar Celebrates Successes

Ace Aguilar has spent over two years researching biopolymer processing as an undergraduate research assistant at ABPDU. This spring, he graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley. 

While at ABPDU, Aguilar was mentored by Chang Dou and Ning Sun

“I owe most of what I’ve learned about being an effective researcher to Chang,” Aguilar said. “I am grateful he took a chance on me. Chang’s commitment to mentoring me extended beyond most normal working hours, often late at night, on weekends, and even during holiday breaks.” 

Dou, a Process Analytical Chemist at ABPDU, commented that Ace made great accomplishments while at ABPDU, including participating in multiple projects and co-authoring two manuscripts.

“Ace diligently took ownership of the projects assigned to him,” Dou said. “His attention to detail was extremely important for analytical chemistry work.”

Training the next generation of engineers and scientists is part of ABPDU’s mission, Dou added.

“It’s rewarding to educate young scientists and contribute to workforce development,” he said. 

Aguilar credits his experience at ABPDU as what allowed him to graduate with honors and receive the George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education. The award recognizes a graduating senior “who has carried out undergraduate research, is planning to go on to graduate education in chemistry or a related field, and is a member of the first generation in his or her family to be privileged to attend college.” 

Recently, Aguilar began an internship at Amyris, working on high-throughput screening. Following his time there, Aguilar will begin a two-year program at Stanford University.

“As a ChEM-H research associate in the Khosla Lab, I’ll study polyketide biosynthesis and use it as a platform for drug discovery,” Aguilar said. “This experience will be vital to helping me pursue a PhD in chemistry.”

Aguilar said he hopes to use his experience navigating STEM to help future students with a similar background. 

“I find it surreal as a first generation, low-income, and queer student, to say I have a degree from UC Berkeley,” he said. “Wherever I end up, I want to leverage my experiences and positions to make education, academia, and employment more equitable to underrepresented groups.”