Kalsuda Lapborisuth entered UCLA as a political science major, thinking it the surest way to help address the social inequalities of her native Thailand.
But as she gained experience and confidence at the college level, she decided that technology and data science may be the best tools to close the gap between theory and practice in social work.
“It inspired me to enroll in a lot of STEM classes, from math and computer science to biology,” says Lapborisuth, who is now in her senior year.
Despite her limited background in STEM, Lapborisuth’s enthusiasm propelled her to change her major to computational biology — mathematical modeling of the biological world — to advance medical diagnosis and treatment for neurodegenerative and mental disorders.
In the furtherance of that ambition, Lapborisuth recently took part in the Stanford Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program to spend a summer doing virtual research with chemical engineering professor Roseanna Zia and doctoral candidate Jen Hofmann. Lapborisuth’s project, studying how amyloid proteins build up in the brain and lead to Alzheimer’s disease, expanded her understanding of neurodegeneration.
She hopes to one day apply what she is learning about biology and computer science to further her understanding of this devastating disease and to improve the quality of life for patients. “It’s a perfect blend of advocacy and practicality,” she says.
At UCLA, Lapborisuth volunteers to pass on her enthusiasm for STEM with underserved students in Los Angeles. She says she came away from her summer with SURF believing that the program is helping to build a diverse community of STEM undergraduates and provide them with the resources to succeed.
“I hope to find many ways to share that spirit and sense of community I experienced at SURF,” she says.