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On First Year Anniversary, Bakar Fellows Program Welcomes New Undergraduate Ignite Scholars


By: Niki Borghei

The Bakar Ignite Scholars Program was founded in the summer of 2023 to encourage undergraduates to apply entrepreneurial thinking to research. Since the inception of the program, we have welcomed 19 Ignite Scholars who will become the next generation of biotech leaders. 

Dedicated to igniting the sparks of innovation and nurturing the aspirations of ambitious undergraduates, the Bakar Ignite Scholars Program continues to illuminate the academic horizon at UC Berkeley. With its unwavering commitment to empowering students, the program provides a distinctive pathway for students to gain high-demand experience in biotechnology research. 

In the latest wave of applications, the program witnessed an overwhelming surge of interest. However, being a competitive process, we were only able to select a handful of the many talented applicants. We encourage students who have not yet been selected to apply for future semesters.

This summer, among the many exceptional candidates, seven new Ignite Scholars have been selected, in addition to two candidates from the Spring 2024 semester. Scroll to learn more about our new cohort of students: 

Spring 2024

Gina Wu

Gina is a senior in Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS) at UC Berkeley. Her current research interests lie in the intersection of computer vision and 3D reconstruction. She is involved with the EECS community at UC Berkeley through volunteering in HKN and teaching. 

Meera Devine

Meera enjoys taking initiative in leading projects that impact the local Berkeley community. She recently launched a healthcare club called “ClinicConnects.” With over 50 volunteers, this organization aims to set up projects with local clinics to help improve the quality and outreach of their healthcare services by connecting them with other healthcare partners in the Bay Area. 

Summer 2024

Hanni Yu

Hanni is a second-year student at UC Berkeley studying Genetics and Plant Biology. They love learning about different aspects of plant biology, like ecology, physiology, and biochemistry, and how they tie in with one another. Their favorite plants are sage, because it smells and tastes good and the flowers are pretty; and lupine, because the leaves are soft and have a pretty shape like flowers. In their free time, Hanni likes taking walks in nature, volunteering at gardening and habitat restoration events, and playing orchestral and chamber music.

Zachary Zane

Zachary is a rising sophomore intending to major in biology and business. He has a strong interest in biotechnology and wearable technology. 

He is currently launching his own company, focusing on topical solutions for atopic dermatitis. His startup focuses on a novel, untapped space of psychodermatology he attempts to capture alongside a UCSF-trained dermatologist and advanced material scientist. As an additional project, Zachary is re-imagining adaptive clothing for athlete amputees and others with limb difference. His work is inspired by the increasing amount of amputees in Ukraine and inspiring paralympic athletes.

In his free time, Zachary loves playing jazz gigs at cafes, fostering and nursing kittens, and mountaineering.

Yoga Kanneboina

Yoga is an incoming senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Bioengineering with a concentration in medical devices. She has a passion for creating healthcare technology that has led her to explore her academic interests in electrical biosensors, robotics, and mechanical design. Yoga loves problem solving engineering design challenges as she feels that it is where she can best apply her creativity and technical skills. Her life long term career goal is to advance healthcare technology in a way that addresses the complex inequities that create obstacles in care that today’s patients face. Outside of research and academics, Yoga is president of UC Berkeley’s Biomedical Engineering Society where she plans professional and social events for the bioengineering student body to expand students’ professional opportunities and create a sense of community. Her hobbies include exploring cafes with her friends, making clay figurines, and going to local gardens. 

Xina Wang

Xina is a rising sophomore at UC Berkeley who is studying chemical biology with a concentration in computational chemistry and data science. She is interested in harnessing systems on the molecular or microbial level for sustainable and readily accessible biotechnology development in medicine and biomanufacturing. Additionally, she is interested in the intersection between computational tools and wet lab science, especially in how AI/ML tools will collaborate with bench scientists to design experiments and process data. She currently works in the Arkin lab engineering proteins for biodegradable plastic production in space and will be working with Innovation Fellow Qingyun Dan in the Keasling lab on polyketide-based ketone production via decarboxylase catalysis. Outside of science, Xina enjoys swimming, hiking around the Bay Area, watching movies, and learning about Chinese language and culture. As a violinist in school orchestras for nearly 8 years, she also loves playing the violin, piano, and listening to music. 

Yiyan Zhou

Yiyan Zhou is an MCB major specifically interested in biochemistry. She joined Professor Wenjun Zhang’s lab in her third year. In the wet lab, she works on bacterial cells and focuses on increasing gene expression efficiency, designing a promoter, and engineering a bacterial plasmid. Outside the lab, she is a tutor at the student center. 

Arcelia Leyva

Arcelia is a rising senior majoring in Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley. She is currently assisting at the Membrane Innovation Laboratory in exploring the use of the unique optical properties of semiconducting nanomaterials to build a sensor that detects lead in drinking water. She hopes to craft solutions in the realm of environmental engineering that benefit the wider community and positively impact people’s health and lifestyle. Arcelia is the Senior Assistant Project Manager of Cal Geowall, an ASCE competition team. She enjoys cooking, weightlifting, reading, photography, and spending time with friends and family.

Yasemin Celebi

Amber Yasemin Çelebi is a rising junior international student from Istanbul, Turkey, studying Molecular and Cell Biology and minoring in Data Science.

After graduation, she would like to pursue a PhD in computational biology with an emphasis on molecular therapeutics. Her bigger-picture goal is to equip herself with the necessary skills and knowledge to establish her biotech start-up dedicated to innovative therapeutic approaches for immunodeficiency or neurodegenerative diseases.

Outside of academics, she loves to play volleyball, climb, go to EDM concerts, and find new coffee spots. Amber is also passionate about plants and has a big plant collection.