Lauv Patel, a junior chemistry major and first-generation college student, was a junior in high school when he moved with his family from Albany, New York, to Texarkana, Arkansas.
“We had the opportunity to join in a family business,” Patel said. “We’ve been operating motels for a while, and we had the opportunity to run one here in Arkansas, so we took up the mantle.”
He and his twin brother, Kush, who is also attending UA Little Rock as a computer science major, are the first members of their family to attend college.
“My parents are very proud,” Patel said. “Both my parents are immigrants from India, and they never had the opportunity to go to college. They always motivate us and encourage us in our college studies.”
Patel credits an inspirational high school teacher for raising his interest in chemistry to the point that he wanted to pursue it as a career. At UA Little Rock, he is conducting research in a biochemistry lab with Dr. Shanzhi Wang.
“I had an amazing teacher who made chemistry so amazing and interesting,” Patel said. “In my current research, I am trying to find out how enzymes work and how to stop enzyme activity. The enzymes I’m working with are possible candidates for drugs. We know enzymes are critical for some bacteria; it’s critical to their ability to communicate with other bacteria. If we can know how the enzyme activity works, we can stop it. If we can stop it, we can probably stop or reduce the activity of a disease.”
As a first-generation student, Patel said he was soft-spoken when he first started college, but he grew into his own after taking advantage of opportunities to get involved in campus life, research, and student government.
“When I first started college, it was a weird feeling,” Patel said. “You don’t have the ability to talk to your parents about everything. You are trying to figure out everything for the first time. I had some experience meeting new people after moving from New York, but it’s about developing relationships and finding out what resources are available to you.
I was quiet at first, but being a first-generation student made me want to do more. I had the opportunity to join a research group, to teach others as a learning assistant. I had the opportunity to join SGA and work with my fellow students. It’s given me the opportunities to explore stuff outside of my comfort zone. It’s given me opportunities to grow and develop a useful diverse skill set.”
At UA Little Rock, Patel is a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps and the McNair Scholars Program. He’s received the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Signature Experience Award, and the Daryl K. Reach Endowed Scholarship.
He will graduate from UA Little Rock in the spring 2022 semester. After graduation, he will earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in chemistry and then plans to work as a researcher and professor.
“UA Little Rock has taught me the ability to adapt into roles and tasks that I once thought were impossible for me to fill. It’s shown me that I can progress in my education and in other aspects,” Patel said. “I’m currently doing biochemistry research, which has opened my eyes to the impact that chemistry has on all these different subject fields. We’re in the process of publishing my first paper on the applications of machine learning.”