High Schooler Working on Cancer Research Secures Ivy League Admission and Gates Scholarship

Anthony Ball, a high school senior part of USC's Science, Technology and Research (STAR) program, works on cancer research in USC pharmacologist Houda Alachkar's lab. (Photo by Isaac Mora)

Anthony Ball, a high school senior part of USC's Science, Technology and Research (STAR) program, works on cancer research in USC pharmacologist Houda Alachkar's lab. (Photo by Isaac Mora)

Below is an excerpt from an article originally published in HSC News on May 2, 2019:

Every weekday afternoon, high school senior Anthony Ball walks from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School to a sixth-floor lab in the USC John Stauffer Pharmaceutical Sciences Center. He’s used to the routine by now: He puts on his white lab coat, picks up a pipette and gets to work.

At just 18 years old, Ball is an integral part of USC pharmacologist Houda Alachkar’s research team that’s looking at whether midostaurin — the first new drug in nearly two decades to receive authorization to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML) — has potential benefits if used in bone marrow transplant patients. AML, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, has the highest mortality rate of all leukemias and is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults.

“Anthony has matured so much as a scientist over the past year,” says Alachkar, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the USC School of Pharmacy. “He’s picked up complex concepts quickly and is a big asset to our team.”

Ball, who’s from the Cypress Park neighborhood near Downtown Los Angeles, is part of USC’s Science, Technology and Research (STAR) program, funded by a USC Good Neighbors grant, that pairs Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School students with USC faculty mentors and provides hands-on research experiences in laboratories.

“The program allows high school students to gain experience in real science,” says USC School of Pharmacy Professor Daryl Davies, who serves as STAR’s program director. “They’re trained to look at a research question, test different hypotheses and come up with viable ways to address the question.”

For the full story, click here

Bravo-USC Science and Engineering Fair Paves Path Toward STEM Careers

Students from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School present their original research projects during the annual Bravo-USC Science and Engineering Fair. (Photo by Linda Wang)

Students from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School present their original research projects during the annual Bravo-USC Science and Engineering Fair. (Photo by Linda Wang)

Below is an excerpt from an article originally published in HSC News on March 21, 2019:

After months of hard work, dozens of students from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School presented their original research projects at the annual Bravo-USC Science and Engineering Fair on March 4 to a panel of judges from USC, UCLA and other institutions. The budding scientists vied for awards and the opportunity to exhibit their findings at the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair.

Some participants are cohorts of the USC Science, Technology and Research program and the Engineering for Health Academy (STAR/EHA), led by USC School of Pharmacy Professor Daryl Davies and Joseph Cocozza, assistant professor of research ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Since 1990, STAR/EHA has opened pathways for high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers by providing them with USC faculty mentors and hands-on research experiences in laboratories.

“The young scientists and engineers in STAR/EHA are full of ideas and excitement about STEM fields,” Davies says. “Participating in the Bravo-USC Science and Engineering Fair is a chance to showcase the inspiring work they do throughout the year.”

Bravo High, located on the USC Health Sciences Campus, gives students access to top-notch USC faculty and scientists.

“Once the students defend their research, they’re breaking a mental barrier,” says Glendy Ramirez-De La Cruz, Bravo High STAR/EHA program coordinator. “Some of these students don’t think they’re smart enough or don’t think they can interact with faculty and professionals until they prove they can at the fair.”

For the full story, click here

USC STAR/EHA Program and Student, Samiha Mahin Honored by Los Angeles City Council

From left: Dr. Joe Cocozza of the Keck School of Medicine (co-director, USC STAR-EHA program), Glendy Ramirez (Bravo High School), L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian, Dr. Daryl Davies (co-director, USC STAR-EHA program), Samiha Mahin, L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu, Dr. Martine Culty and postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Vanessa Brouard of the Culty Lab. (Photo courtesy Councilman Krekorian's office)

From left: Dr. Joe Cocozza of the Keck School of Medicine (co-director, USC STAR-EHA program), Glendy Ramirez (Bravo High School), L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian, Dr. Daryl Davies (co-director, USC STAR-EHA program), Samiha Mahin, L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu, Dr. Martine Culty and postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Vanessa Brouard of the Culty Lab. (Photo courtesy Councilman Krekorian's office)

A USC program that brings together USC scientists and engineers with Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School students was honored at City Hall on March 21 by L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian. Receiving special recognition was Bravo high school senior Samiha Mahin, a North Hollywood resident who spends her afternoons doing research in the lab of USC School of Pharmacy associate professor Martine Culty through the program.

Krokorian noted that for nearly thirty years, the USC Science Technology and Research program and Engineering for Health Academy has given high school juniors and seniors, “regardless of gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic backgrounds the opportunity to pursue science and to establish themselves in incredible careers.”

The USC STAR/EHA program, funded by USC’s Good Neighbors Campaign, offers an innovative approach to STEM education by providing high school students an entire year’s experience in USC research laboratories that is integrated with their academic curriculum. This level of engagement in a real research environment fosters the students’ interest in science and research, as well as prepares them for success in college.

Mahin is one of 600 high school seniors who have participated in the program and studies the effects chemicals have on human reproduction organs at Dr. Culty’s Lab. For three years in high school, Mahin was also the lead researcher on the development of an artificial womb that provides optimal conditions for the development of premature babies.

While the program was being honored, L.A. Councilmember David Ryu surprised the council by sharing that he too was an alumnus of Bravo high school and had participated in the STAR program during the late 1990s. Reminiscing on his experience, Ryu commended USC for its “tremendous effort” towards the program and thanked Councilmember Krekorian for honoring it.

To watch a recording of the presentation at Los Angeles City Hall, click here.

STAR/EHA Student, Sina Kiamehr, locks down early admit to Harvard University!

Sina Kiamehr, a senior at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, works with Daryl Davies of the USC School of Pharmacy. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Sina Kiamehr, a senior at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, works with Daryl Davies of the USC School of Pharmacy. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Below is an excerpt from an article originally published in USC News on January 29, 2018:

It’s a Thursday afternoon and Sina Kiamehr, over 6 feet tall and clad in a white lab coat, goes up to the fourth floor of the pharmaceutical sciences building. He walks into a lab, checking in at the whiteboard to see what he’ll be working on that day.

Kiamehr is a 17-year-old high school senior, but it would be easy to mistake him for a graduate student: He’s in the pharmaceutical lab of Professor Daryl Davies at the USC Health Sciences Campus nearly every day.

He’s one of the leads on a research project looking at how the microbiome — as in gut bacteria — might be different in alcoholics. The team is looking at whether certain bacteria can foster alcoholism and if alcoholics could more easily achieve sobriety if they received a transplant of healthy bacteria.

Kiamehr, 17, works in a lab that studies the role of the microbiome in alcoholism.

“Sina is actually directing some of my undergraduates,” said Davies, a USC pharmacologist. “They don’t put nearly as many hours as he does into the project.”

Kiamehr is in USC’s STAR Program, which stands for Science, Technology and Research, and teams up high school students with researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC School of Pharmacy. STAR students come from underrepresented groups: 92 percent are people of color and 55 percent are female.

The program is a partnership with Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School and supported by a USC Good Neighbors grant.

For the full story, click here

STAR/EHA Student, Samiha Mahin, featured in Los Angeles Daily News and ABC7 Cool Kid Segment

Samiha Mahin is a student at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, and one of 600 students who have participated in the USC STAR/EHA program for aspiring scientists. (Photo by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Samiha Mahin is a student at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, and one of 600 students who have participated in the USC STAR/EHA program for aspiring scientists. (Photo by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Below is an excerpt from an article originally published in the Los Angeles Daily News on November 13, 2017:

Samiha Mahin, a 17-year-old high school senior from North Hollywood, has an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

It’s what led her to a program at the USC School of Pharmacy. That’s where she commutes to after attending high school in L.A., where she’s built on her interest in the study of human reproduction.

She studies chemical effects on male reproductive organs, and during her first three years in high school, she was part of a research team studying artificial wombs.

But for Samiha, the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, the complications from premature births became not just the topic of a science fair research project. It became real-life.

Shortly after completing the project for the science fair, her brother Nibbir was born prematurely. Like many premature babies, he was born with several genetic disorders. Suddenly, science fair research became real life for Samiha. For the full story, click here

Below is the ABC7 Cool Kid segment originally aired on December 1, 2017:

STAR/EHA Annual Meeting at USC School of Pharmacy

On December 11, 2017, STAR/EHA students from Bravo Medical Magnet High School were invited to an end-of-year meeting at USC School of Pharmacy. Dr. Joe Cocozza and Dr. Daryl Davies advised students on how to use their experience in the STAR/EHA program to their advantage while applying to colleges. Students were also given an opportunity to talk about the research projects they have been a part of over the past year.

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USC Faculty Leads the 2017-18 STAR/EHA Program

Thanks to the following USC faculty members for participating in the 2017-18 STAR/EHA Program!

Dr. Barbara Cone, Infant Hearing Audiology Clinic

Dr. Heather Wipfli, USC Institute for Global Health

Dr. Paula Cannon, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Dr. Yang Chai, Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology

Dr Julio A. Camarero, Camarero Lab, Pharmacology Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Houda Alachkar, Alachkar Lab

Dr. Martine Culty, Department of Male Endocrinology

Dr. Steve Swenson, Neurological Surgery

Dr. Paul M. Beringer, Clinical Pharmacy

Dr. Francesca Mariani, Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine

Dr. Jean C. Shih, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Keigo Machida, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Dr. Ruchi Bajpai, Center for Cranial Facial Molecular Biology

Dr. Preet Chaudhary, Hematology

Dr. Daryl L Davies, Pharmacology

Leading Alzheimer’s Disease Researcher Helping Youth Use Bright, Young Minds

December 1, 2015 7:14 PM (Video Link)

LINCOLN HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — A leading Alzheimer’s disease researcher is helping inner-city kids use their bright, young minds.

Dr. Roberta Brinton founded the USC Science, Technology and Research (STAR) program, which has led many students to careers in science and medicine.

“The STAR program is the Science, Technology, and Research program that gives high school students at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School the opportunity to learn science by conducting real science,” she said.

Each year, about 20 high school students in their junior or senior year participate in the program, which was founded nearly 30 years ago.

The students are able to walk to USC after school as their campus is just blocks away and work in an actual lab alongside scientists and engineers.

“They are conducting research that is contributing to discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, for cancer, for developmental disorders,” Brinton said.


CIRM STAR Interns at CIRM Creativity Day in SF

August 7th, 2015

August 7th, 2015


Congratulations, STAR Class of 2015!

STAR Class of 2015 college attendance: UCLA, USC, Stanford, Caltech, Harvard, UC Berkeley, UCSD, UCI, UCSC

June 2015

June 2015


Photo Credit:  dimnikolov

Inaugural STARs Ascending Assembly

STAR Program alumni returned to Bravo High School to share their story of success with students.


STAR Alumni Panel

  • Dr. Arthur Ohannesian: Physician at UCLA

  • Dr. Jenny Martinez: Assistant Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy at USC CHAN Division

  • Nam Che: Lab Manager at UCLA

  • Stella Gukasyan: Principal Investiagotor/Evaluator AIDS Project LA


USC Bravo Science & Engineering Fair

February 24, 2015