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MCB Leaders

Are you new to campus or to the MCB major? Do you want to get your questions answered by an experienced upperclassman? MCB Leaders are here for you. We’re a small group of accomplished students in MCB that want to help current and prospective students learn more about the University of Illinois, the College of LAS and the Molecular and Cellular Biology major. We know what it takes to succeed, what resources are available to you, and how to get involved on campus, so please contact us if you have any questions! Send an email to and feel free to request a specific person if someone stands out to you.

Academic Year '18 - '19

Danica VendiolaName: Danica Vendiola - president
Year in School: Senior
Major(s): Molecular and Cellular Biology Honors
Minor(s): Spanish Language
Hobbies: In my spare time, I enjoy hanging out with my friends and family, catching up on my Netflix movies or TV shows, baking, and playing the alto saxophone.
Activities: I'm an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Llano's lab. I'm a resident assistant at Busey-Evans Residence Hall, a member of Philippine Student Association as well as Phi Delta Epsilon Medical Fraternity. 
Favorite Place to Study: Grainger Library or in the lobby of Busey-Evans
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Azzip Pizza
Why you chose the U of I: My sister graduated from UIUC, so when it was my turn I was already biased and knew I wanted to go to U of I! Aside from that, I knew that the University's plethora of resources was going to help me grow as a student. Going into my third year now, I've met the most amazing people who have shaped me and helped me through every trial and tribulation that I have faced. I have no regrets!
Favorite things about MCB: How challenging it is; the courses I've been taking as an MCB major have truly challenged me and help me become a dynamic student - I love the rewarding feeling from doing well in such rigorous courses, knowing that I've put all my effort into each class. Additionally, I'm so appreciative of my classmates and professors who I've met along the way

Daniel KimName: Anand Haran - vice president
Year in School: Junior
Major(s): Molecular and Cellular Biology
Hobbies/Activities: I love playing basketball and other sports with friends, working out, teaching myself guitar, and watching Netflix. I am a member of the Orange Krush UIUC basketball student organization, Illini Medical Screening Society, and I am an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Dobrucki’s Experimental Molecular Imaging Lab.
Favorite Place to Study: Caffe Bene
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Dos Reales Mexican Restaurant
Why you chose the U of I: I chose U of I because I knew that the school was well-established for a variety of fields in case I wanted to switch out of a major, and would provide exceptional opportunities for undergraduate students. Also, I really valued the diversity of the school, the big10 sports environment, the location to home, and the opportunity to get involved in a variety of research labs and RSOs.
Favorite things about MCB: My favorite thing about MCB is how effective and versatile the major is. Not only does it do a great job preparing students for careers in research and medicine, but it can also open doors for students in other areas of healthcare, engineering, government, consulting, and more. The classes are challenging, yet rewarding, and at the end of the day you definitely come out learning a lot.

Jennifer RodriguezName: Jennifer Rodriguez - secretary
Year in School: Senior
Major(s): Molecular and Cellular Biology Honors
Minor(s): Psychology 
Hobbies/Activities: I’m an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Spinella’s lab and a Chemistry Merit TA. I am a member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity and a SHP educator. In my spare time, I enjoy drawing, baking, watching movies, and spending time with my friends.
Favorite Place to Study: Grainger Library or friend’s dorm lounge
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Sakanaya
Why you chose the U of I: I chose U of I because of the opportunities this university presents. I knew this university would help prepare me for the career I chose. There are plenty of resources on campus one can take advantage of. It also was not too far from home but just right where I needed it to be in order to step out of my comfort zone. 
Favorite things about MCB: I love that MCB challenges me. I look forward to learning everything this major has to offer. MCB never fails to astonish me because it is a field where new knowledge is constantly being brought to light. For this reason, there is always an opportunity to learn something new. 

Diana MasolakName: Diana Masolak - social chair
Year in School: Senior
Major(s): Molecular and Cellular Biology
Minor(s): Spanish
Hobbies/Activities: I really love cooking international foods and finding new recipes. I am also very into running/weightlifting, serving on the executive board of my sorority, and the immunology research I am involved in.
Favorite Place to Study: Empty classrooms, usually in the Armory!
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Dos Reales - and the fajitas. 
Why you chose the U of I: On my first visit I felt like the faculty really personally wanted me to enjoy my day here, and their love for the school was obvious. I could see myself in the shoes of the students I spoke with and I had not felt that way at any other university. 
Favorite things about MCB: Constantly being challenged to think outside of the box always keeps my attention in class, as well as vibrant professors who show me how all of the fascinating processes in our bodies work together to keep us alive. Biology is a field where new information is constantly being discovered and being a part of that is an incredible feeling. 

Zach SandersName: Zach Sanders
Year in School: Senior
Major(s): Molecular and Cellular Biology
Minor(s): Chemistry
Hobbies/Activities: I am a member of IEMS, which allows me to work as an EMT at various events on campus and gain valuable healthcare experience. In my free time I enjoy riding my motorcycle with friends, going to the gym, and watching movies.
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Scotty’s Brewhouse
Why you chose the U of I: I chose to transfer to the U of I because it affords all of the elements necessary for both professional and personal success. Between the research opportunities, RSOs, and exceptional classes offered, the U of I has put me one step ahead as I work toward my goals.
Favorite thing about MCB: In MCB you learn about the intricate processes that happen in the most basic building blocks of life. To me, that’s the most fascinating thing and you begin to develop a sense of awe in just how amazing cells are. On top of that, the MCB curriculum includes everything that a pre-health major could ever ask for. 

Ritika JainName:Ritika Jain
Year in School:Junior
Major(s):MCB and Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience Concentration)
Minor(s):Chemistry (tentatively)
Hobbies/Activities:I love to listen to music, watch Netflix, and on nice days (which rarely happen in Illinois), I like to hammock on the Quad! 
Favorite Place to Study:Any classroom in the Natural History Building.
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana:Big Grove Tavern
Why you chose the U of I:I chose U of I because I knew I would be going to a school with lots of diversity and a wide range of opportunities for me to take advantage of. It is also the perfect distance away from my hometown so that I can have a college experience but still be close enough to home to keep in touch with my family.
Favorite things about MCB:One of my favorite things about MCB is how versatile the major is; eyou can apply it to a wide variety of career pathways. I also really appreciate the problem solving skills that you learn as an MCB major as I have found them very useful in all aspects of my life.

Megan FurukawaName: Megan Furukawa
Year in School: Junior
Major(s): MCB honors concentration
Minor(s): Psychology
Hobbies/Activities: I am a research assistant in Dr. Cann's lab as well as a Chemistry TA and LAS intern. I am also an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, which is the largest service fraternity on campus. My hobbies include playing tennis with friends and baking..
Favorite Place to Study: ACES library or Caffe Bene
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Maize
Why you chose the U of I: I chose the U of I because I came into college undecided about my future career and major, and this school has been able to provide me with so many resources and opportunities for career exploration. Also, U of I is such a large research institution which has been a huge benefit in my career as I have been a part of various labs on campus. I’m so glad I decided to come here and couldn't imagine myself at any other school!
Favorite things about MCB: I love that the MCB curriculum continually challenges me to be an active and engaged learner. The professors and academic advisors truly want to help their students achieve their goals, and they really helped me in figuring out what career path I want to pursue. 

Jasmine Thakkar Name: Jasmine Thakkar
Year in School: Junior
Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology
Minor: Speech and Hearing Science
Hobbies/Activities: I love cooking and binge watching shows on Netflix! I'm also a huge foodie so I love finding new things to try and restaurants to go to. Currently, I'm teaching myself American Sign Language. Aside from that, I'm an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Mary Flaherty's lab and I'm on the executive board for Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-health fraternity on campus. I also love volunteering with my service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega!
Favorite Place to Study: Chemistry Library
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Bangkok Thai
Why I chose the U of I: U of I has a campus that is so big that you can really make your college experience exactly what you want it to be. The opportunities here are endless, so you never feel limited in RSOs, research positions, jobs, and more! U of I also has an amazing reputation and it is known for its academic rigor. Going to a school that would challenge me was really important to me.
Favorite things about MCB: As an MCB major you see everything from the entire organism down to the chemistry of the interactions in the cell. While it is a challenging major, you will never look at a syllabus for one of your classes and not find at least one topic that interests you. The set of topics that you will learn about are so diverse, and you you have the freedom to choose classes that fit what you want to do. It is absolutely fascinating because everything you will be learning as an MCB major is real life; these processes that you learn about are going on in your body all the time.

Elizabeta BaftiriName: Elizabeta (Elli) Baftiri
Year in school: Senior
Major: MCB
Minor: Psychology
Hobbies/Activities: I am an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Romana Nowak’s reproductive health and toxicology lab. In my free time I enjoy playing piano, hanging out with family and friends, and travelling.
Favorite Place to Study: Cafe Bene
Favorite Restaurant: Sakanaya
Why you chose U of I: I chose U of I because of the immense amount of opportunities that it offers. From my very first visit the faculty and students were extremely helpful and very friendly.  U of I provided opportunities to get involved both academically and socially.
Favorite thing about MCB: My favorite thing about MCB is that the more you learn the more you begin to realize how much we don’t know. This in particular is the most exciting part of the MCB major for me. Professors continuously spark curiosity and innovation in their students—as an MCB major you will feel that you can make a meaningful contribution to your field of study and ultimately better the lives of others. 

Jinyan ZhouName:Jinyan Zhou
Year in School:Senior
Hobbies/Activities:Tennis, cooking, reading detective novels
Favorite Place to Study:Illini Union, Chemistry library
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana:Bab Plus
Why you chose the U of I:I like a large campus where there are people from different backgrounds, so that I am able to talk with them and continually grow more culturally aware. I also like how there are so many opportunities to get involved on campus, whether it is working for a specific department, volunteering, or being in an RSO.
Favorite things about MCB:There are many advanced courses and they focus on different areas. I like that they are so diverse so I can explore and find what I am interested in. These classes teach facts but also challenge and encourage critical thinking.

Stanley FaynName: Stanley Fayn
Year in School: Junior
Major(s): Molecular and Cellular Biology
Hobbies/Activities: I am currently an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Dobrucki’s lab. I’m also a student leader at Carle, as well as on the executive board for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. I enjoy traveling, playing volleyball, and spending time with friends.
Favorite Place to Study: Illini Union
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Destihl
Why you chose the U of I: I choose U of I because of all the opportunities that it offered. From a 1000+ clubs and word class research, to its going abroad programs and the extremely diverse student body, I knew that I would easily be able to find my niche and have the ability to self-actualize myself with no problem.
Favorite things about MCB: What I enjoy about MCB is its approach towards understanding organisms at the molecular and systems level. The field truly opens your eyes to the beauty of life and what amazing species we are. All the classes are wonderfully taught, and the professors are always there to help you along the way. Nothing in the major is easy, but success is definitely achievable with hard work and dedication.

Daniel KimName:Daniel Kim
Year in School:Senior
Hobbies/Activities: Working out and spending time with friends
Favorite Place to Study:Grainger or Undergraduate Library
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Black Dog Smoke & Ale House
Why you chose the U of I:I The vast amount of resources available to students and the diverse ethnic groups of students immediately attracted me towards this school. The population size proves to be useful in making new friends and connections that might even be maintained after graduation. Academically, the school also provides a variety of programs to students that excellently prepares them for their future careers.
Favorite things about MCB: The MCB major definitely encourages students to develop a more open minded thought process. Research laboratories, courses, and other resources aid students to further pursuing their interests and also gives them the freedom to make decisions for themselves so they can specialize in certain fields of MCB (CDB, Neuroscience, Microbiology) if they choose to do so. MCB is a very encouraging program that expects effort from students in return for a developing scientist inside you with strong mind/skill set that can be used in any situation.

Eleanor MarcetName: Eleanor (Ellie) Marcet
Year in School: Junior
Major(s): MCB, Spanish
Hobbies/Activities: I am an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Jie Chen’s developmental biology lab, as well as an LAS 101 intern and FYCARE facilitator. I am also a member of LAS Leaders. In my free time, I enjoy training for half marathons, reading a good book, and spending time with family and friends.
Favorite Place to Study: Ricker Library of Architecture and Art
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Radio Maria
Why you chose the U of I: This university has such a great atmosphere—other students and the faculty are truly inspiring. I wanted to attend an institution that would continually compel me to grow academically. Also, I have been an Illini fan my entire life!
Favorite things about MCB: Learning MCB material is not just about memorization. Students truly glean a deep understanding of how systems work at a molecular level, and can visualize why certain outcomes may or may not occur in a cellular pathway. Essentially, MCB encourages students to not only understand how, but why: many cellular occurrences have long-lasting implications for other systems. Having such an appreciation for the complexity of life is crucial for many career areas.

Mathias Morales Name:Mathias Morales
Year in School:  Junior
Major(s):  Molecular and Cellular Biology (Microbiology Concentration)
Hobbies/Activities:  I work in research, volunteer through the American Cancer Society, and help the Office of Minority Student Affairs as a McNair Scholar and tutor. In my free time, I cook and bake with friends and try out new recipes!
Favorite Place to Study:  Krannert Center for Performing Arts  
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana:  Black Dog Smoke and Ale House
Why you chose the U of I:  The amount of opportunity U of I has to offer really attracted me. There are so many ways to get involved with virtually anything through the Registered Student Organization (RSO) office or by meeting professors and professionals at workshops and career fairs. The diversity, academic curriculum and support this campus has to offer in addition to opportunity makes it easy to fall in love with this university.
Favorite things about MCB:  MCB at this university allows you to choose that classes that interest you most. Allowing you to shape your academics around whatever career you plan on taking. What really makes MCB here stand out is its emphasis on problem solving. Many classes in the MCB curriculum shape their classes in a way that makes it necessary to understand a system of topic rather than just memorize a couple key words or phrases. This style of teaching makes it easier to build knowledge, which is extremely important since MCB is a cumulative subject.

Shiv BajajName:  Shiv Bajaj
Year in School:  Junior
Major(s):  MCB Honors & Psychology (Clinical/Community Concentration)
Minor(s):  Chemistry
Hobbies/Activities: I am currently an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Cann's lab, so you can usually find me at the Institute of Genomic Biology. If I'm not there, you can usually find me taking naps, getting coffee with friends (iced...always), or baking!
Favorite Place to Study: Caffe Bene or IGB
Favorite Restaurant in Champaign/Urbana: Taco Bell
Why you chose the U of I:  I chose the U of I because of how diverse the student body was and how many opportunities it offers for their undergraduates. Being only a 2-hour drive from my hometown, the University of Illinois also seemed like the perfect fit for its location. I definitely wanted the full college experience, but I also wanted to be close to my family. The University of Illinois has also provided me with so many great friends and faculty who have helped me every step of the way. 
Favorite things about MCB: One of my favorite things about MCB is the faculty and students. I have made many close friends and connections in the MCB department, and I truly believe that they have helped me immensely with my career path and decisions. MCB also provides students with a challenging curriculum that has really helped me figure out my passions and foster my love of learning.