Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

Student Profiles

Meet some of the outstanding students affiliated with OMA&D STEM programs:


         Sunshine Arcilla

Sunshine Arcilla

Intended UW Major: Engineering

Sunshine Arcilla graduated from Cleveland High School in Seattle in 2014. She moved with her family from the Philippines to the United States when she was 13. As a first-generation and low-income student, she made every effort to prepare herself to succeed in college. Not only has Sunshine challenged herself with difficult curriculum, she has done so with outstanding grades and achievements. She was a participant in UW Math Science Upward Bound (MSUB) and the Foster School of Business’ Young Executives of Color (YEOC). Sunshine was also the Cleveland Ultimate Frisbee Captain, Associated Student Body Vice President and a church volunteer. She was awarded the YEOC Scholarship, the Horatio Alger Association Scholarship and the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering Young Scholars Program Internship. Sunshine has a natural talent for math and served as the TA for pre-calculus and calculus classes in the MSUB Summer Academy. She is a freshman at UW and plans to major in engineering.


         Erica Chavez

Erica Chavez

Major: Biology

Erica Chavez participated in the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Teach Lab internship, doing research in a bioengineering lab at the UW. She is from a small town called Pateros, Wash. She is the first in her family to go to college and has received various scholarships that are helping her fund her education. These scholarships include the Credit Union Scholarship, George Washington Foundation Scholarship, Dollars for Scholars, Sea Mar Scholarship, CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program), University of Washington BAVA Scholarship, KFC Colonel’s Scholarship, and Gates Milennium Scholars. She went on an exploration seminar to Chile. Her plan is to go to medical school after she graduates. She is also thinking about attending graduate school. On campus she has been involved with CAMP, LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation), Al Shifa, IMSD and LMSA (Latino Medical Student Association).


         Francisco Chavez

Francisco Chavez

Major: Chemistry

Francisco Chavez: “Moving from a small city to the UW has been an eventful journey to say the least. I say this with respect to the trials I went through to get here on the path to success. Born and raised in the small Eastern Washington town of Pasco, the city is a whole new ballgame for me. My first walk around downtown was mesmerizing to say the least. Pasco High School alumni are few and far between on this side of the state so I had a fresh start. With my burning curiosity and desire for answers, I decided the best path for me was to pursue my childhood ambition of being a ‘scientist.’ I say ‘scientist’ because of what the word means to me personally. I’ll admit my childhood illusion of a man in a lab coat blowing stuff up in test tubes was a bit naive. But it aged with me to a rigorous love of the fascinating phenomenon of nature. That and much more lead to my decision to pursue medicine. Nothing to me seems grander than using science to do amazing things for people’s lives. After becoming exposed to the U, I took up chemistry as my undergrad major and haven’t turned back since! Being the first in my family to go to a university left me with little in terms of study skills and nobody to ask questions. Using the resources allowed to me such as the Instructional Center and LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) has made me a very powerful student. The same classes I received help for were the classes I later tutored in exactly one years time! Amazing how fast stuff happens in the city. These programs and more helped me hone my skills to be able stand a real chance in the ferociously competitive medical field I wish to someday be a part of!”


         Fredy Cortez

Fredy Cortez

Majors: Biochemistry and Psychology

“My name is Fredy E. Cortez and I am a senior from East Wenatchee, Wash. I am double majoring in biochemistry and psychology. I have participated in IMSD (Initiative for Maximizing Student Development) Teach Lab, which allowed me to present in the 2012 UW Summer Research Symposium. This past summer, I fueled my passion for a career in medicine through the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP). I am also a Costco Diversity Scholar and a recipient of the Friends of EOP Scholarship.”


         Nazmah Hasaan

Nazmah Hasaan

Intended UW Major: Pre-Med

Graduating from Chief Sealth International High School in 2014, Nazmah Hasaan is a first-generation and low-income student who came to the United States when she was four years old. She has taken advantage of as many opportunities as possible to prepare her for a four-year university and to graduate with a STEM degree. Nazmah has worked hard to maintain good grades while participating in UW Math Science Upward Bound, taking a rigorous curriculum of IB courses, participating as a mentor at school, volunteering at a day care, and researching and writing for internships and scholarships. Nazmah plans to study pre-med at the University of Washington.


         Saleh Jaber

Saleh Jaber

Major: Bioengineering

Saleh Jaber is currently majoring in bioengineering and came to the University of Washington in 2012 as a transfer student from Columbia Basin College (CBC). He attended high school in Palestine and came to the United States after high school.

Saleh chose his major because it allows him to help people and discover new technology. His favorite thing about the major is that it is challenging and provides opportunities to be innovative. Although he is unsure of exactly what he wants to do with his major, he will continue to learn about the different opportunities in bioengineering.

As a first-generation college student, Saleh has participated in the TRIO Student Support Services at CBC and currently at the University of Washington. He is also involved with the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and the Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA).  He was selected as a 2013-2014 Ronald E. McNair Scholar where he is preparing to pursue graduate school.

As an extracurricular activity, Saleh works in the Fahstman Toxicology Lab and is about to join a Yager lab. Through these activities, Saleh is gaining strong experience for his future endeavors.


         Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee

Intended UW Major: Nursing

Born in Idaho and transplanted to Seattle at a young age, Stephen Lee is a low-income student and the first person in his family to attempt to go to college. Stephen continually demonstrates excellent academic performance and achieves outstanding grades, all while balancing inspiring volunteer and community service responsibilities as well as caring for family. While attending Franklin High School, Stephen challenged himself by taking honors, AP, and Running Start classes and participating in the UW Math Science Upward Bound Program. He has received the 2014 Mount Baker Scholarship for $10,000 and spent the summer doing research in a lab at the UW as a Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering Young Scholars Program Intern. He plans to major in nursing at the University of Washington.


         Sirena Merfalen

Sirena Merfalen

Major: Industrial Systems Engineering
Minor: Mathematics

Sirena Merfalen, a UW alum, was born and raised in Seattle by a Hawaiian mother and Guamanian father. Sirena is the first engineer in her family and hopes to further her education by attaining a masters degree and Ph.D. She was drawn to the industrial systems engineering (ISE) program because of her experiences growing up with her grandparents on the underdeveloped island of Guam where she was exposed to the inefficiencies of little to no engineering systems in place. Recognizing this structure is where her interest in studying ISE originated, leaving her with the fascination to study techniques to improve the efficiency of systems and processes. She participated in undergraduate research where she assisted The Human Photonics Lab with the development of a 3D microscope for early cancer diagnosis and treatment, producing calibration test targets to make the 3D microscope more quantitative (both spatially and photometrically). As a UW undergrad she participated in two engineering organizations, SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) and WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering) where she worked to inspire and serve the underrepresented minority students studying in the STEM fields. Sirena was the President of SHPE and served as the Activities Chair. She was also an active member of MIC (Micronesian Island Club), Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and the Engineering Undergraduate Research Program (EURP). She worked as a resident adviser in Terry Hall for UW’s Housing and Food Services and as a network operations engineering Intern at CenturyLink where she updated the mapping and archive system to make it more efficient.


         Hiroko Nakahara

Hiroko Nakahara

Major: Biology-Physiology

Hiroko Nakahara grew up in Seattle where she attended Garfield High School. She entered the University of Washington in 2011. She previously attended Seattle Central Community College to gain Running Start credit.  She is the first in her family to attend college.

Hiroko is majoring in biology-physiology and enjoys the diversity of classes she can choose from within her major. She selected the physiology track because she was interested in how the human body functions. Biology 200 helped her gain interest in physiology. Hiroko attributes her success to the dedicated professors and says they have motivated her to succeed. Professors are available to talk to students and become helpful mentors.

Some of her UW involvement includes participation in the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program where she was a part of a first-year student seminar, “Succeeding in STEM.” Through her participation in TRIO SSS, she has received the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Scholarship Merit Award, as well as the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship. She was recommended by a professor to work in the Merrill Hille Research lab where she continues to research cell mobility and zebrafish development. Additionally, she works as a student assistant in the Jardine lab.

After her graduation from the University of Washington, Hiroko hopes to attend medical school to become a neurologist.