"I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone and been exposed to research on a daily basis." Denise Lopez
Denise Lopez is a senior, double-majoring in Psychology and Education Sciences. She is a research assistant in Chancellor's Professor Carol Connor's Individualizing Student Instruction (iSi) Lab and is participating in UCI's Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Denise will be presenting her research, along with sophomore Nallely Zambrano Crespo, at UCI's UROP Spring Symposium on May 19. Their joint research project, titled How is Participation in the Classroom Related to Children's Early Learning Success?, has been "deemed to have substantial merit" and has been awarded a Honorary UROP Fellowship. Denise and Nallely are being mentored by Professor Connor and PhD students Taffeta Wood and Elham Zargar. Below, Denise shares her thoughts about her educational journey and her dedication to research.
I am a fourth-year first-generation Latina born and raised in San Diego, California. I attended Mount Miguel High School in Spring Valley, California. While in high school I became interested in education when I realized I was a product of the broken education system.
Coming from a low-income community, I had a different perspective and plan on using my perspective to improve the areas that need the most help. I chose to attend UCI because of its location - it wasn’t too far from home - and its prestige. I entered UCI as a biological science major but found my passion in both psychology and education. I didn’t finish with the plans I came in with, but I am very satisfied with my outcome.
During my time at UCI I have been involved in a variety of interesting things. I am currently an active board member in Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA). I am also a part of the Nuestra Graduación, an event that celebrates the Latinx students here at UCI. Being a part of this committee is unique because it is organized and conducted entirely by students for students. I was also a member of the Latina/o Student Psychological Association (LSPA).
I have been a Peer Mentor for the School of Education, and in this program I was able to create lasting friendships from mentorship. I initially participated in fieldwork study with Professor George Farkas in his Reading-One-to-One project at Heninger Elementary School in Santa Ana. I created a strong bond with the students and continued for a second year because of the amazing outcomes. I later sought additional experience, which led me to become involved as a research assistant in Professor Carol Connor’s Individualizing Student Instruction (iSi) lab.
I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone and been exposed to research on a daily basis. Being surrounded by PhD students and those motivated to help students learn was very motivating and inspirational for my doing something on my own. This is why I became interested in UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program). I wanted to conduct research of my own under the wing of Dr. Connor. With this mentorship, I have been guided towards successes and learning to become a better educator.
I would like to both be of support to students and advocate and empower students. After earning my degree, I look forward to pursuing a master's in school counseling and working with high school students. I would also love to return to school in the future and pursue a PhD in education to expand on research experience.