Hello, everyone my name is Kevin Ayala and I am an undergraduate physics and mathematics major here at UNLV and I have the honor and privilege of being a Keynote Speaker for OUR’s Undergraduate Symposium this year. Thank you guys for being here and I love research – that’s the 1st thing I’ll say. Approximately 5 years ago, I was in a time where I didn’t even know what I was going to do for my life. I was lost in a sense. I was asking so many questions – so many questions.

At the time, though, I got myself into biology, because I thought to myself, “Well, what do most first generational students do? What to my parents think I should do?”. So, I wanted to become a doctor, right? And that’s what I did. That’s why I chose biology.

But afterwards, I was like, “Okay, I can either become a doctor or a biologist”.

I didn’t know, but afterwards, I went through an experience in a medical hospital. I didn’t know that this was going to be for me. At the same time, though, I was taking a course in a bacteriaphage actually. This was the first time that UNLV offered it.

It was amazing because at this time, I was able to be in a wet lab, do experimental work, and also theoretical work.

It was an amazing experience, because we were guided by awesome biologists – Dr. Strong, Dr Regner, even Dr. <inaudible>. They are awesome people and at the end of the year, our group ended up publishing two peer reviewed articles in a biological journal. From there, it was just awesome.

At that time with biology, after that hospital experience, and I went into physics and math, because I just fell in love with it. During that time, I was also taking a class with Dr. <inaudible>. I figured out that her husband was a physicist and that kind of started, I made a connection with it. Right?

At that same time, I mean, that same semester, actually, I made an appointment with the Office of Undergraduate Research advisor and through this, we delved into Dr. Pravica’s work. And seeing if I liked it or not, and I did, of course, and they help me prepare myself to go talk to Dr. Pravica.

I did, and then, boom! Instantly, I was in his research lab and that’s where my research experience really skyrocketed from there because that same year, I got funded by CSUN OUR.

I was able to join McNairs at the same time and I started making those connections with professors like Dr. Dellasalla, who is the head coordinator for McNairs, Carry Underwood, and Micajah Daniels as well now. It was just amazing to be part and still be part of it.

At the same time, OUR kept on helping me build that funding opportunity and that’s when I got funding by the NIH and the NSF as well.

From here, I recently, with Dr. Pravica’s group, have been able to be co-authored in two more peer reviewed journals in a physics environment. That has been a blessing in itself.

All of this that I’ve been able to accomplish. I’ve had a lot of support, specifically from the Office of Undergraduate Research, and the networks I’ve been able to build through them.

Research in itself, the importance of undergraduate research is tenfold because it is an area where you can engage in the academic setting, right? In the environment, you can apply your coursework. You can build department relationships that will last a lifetime and will allow you to get to that next step of your life. Whether that might be grad school, medical school, the industry…whatever it may be!

Undergraduate research will help you build them and I can guarantee you. If you are a 1st year, a 2nd year, a 3rd year, 4th year, 5th year, or a senior in high school that’s a trying to apply to college, I really encourage you to look into what research interests you because in this area, you can really start to try to see the trajectory of where your future may lie.

Like I said, you will build that professional background. You will be able to obtain opportunities, new opportunities through undergraduate research, such as internships, <inaudible>, and relationships. I can’t emphasize those relationships enough.

Lastly, you will be able to bear fruit education in itself and really, diving into it will allow you to see what this universe is all about.

Thank you guys for being here. I encourage everyone to dive into research because it is an amazing opportunity. Thank you, Office of Undergraduate Research, for being amazing.

I really do hope everyone has an awesome time here. You guys you’re awesome and I hope everyone enjoys it.

Thank you.

Kevin Ayala Pineda
College of Sciences, Department of Physics and Astronomy
College of Sciences, Department of Mathematics