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Dara next to his ‘In a Word’ banner outside Wilkinson Hall.

The journey to Stanford for Dara Hok ’16 started when he left Cambodia’s bustling capital city Phnom Penh, and came to Chapman in the fall of 2012. He chose Chapman because of its rich “undergraduate research opportunities”, and coming from a graduating class of 32 students, “the smaller faculty to student ratio” was very attractive.

As a chemistry and physics double major, Dara was frequently spotted around campus with a smile on his face and his trademark studying fuel of choice – a trenta Starbucks iced coffee – in hand.

When he wasn’t working in the lab or classroom, Dara made the most out of his time here at Chapman by attending concerts held by the Conservatory of Music and participating in student clubs such as the American Chemical Society and
Schmid Student Leadership Council. He also found time to be a supplemental instructor for physics and organic chemistry, and a peer advisor for chemistry students.

During all four years of his undergraduate career, Dara participated in student-faculty research as a research assistant in Schmid College professor of chemistry, Dr. Warren De Bruyn’s atmospheric and aquatic chemistry lab. Dara’s desire to research didn’t stop in Dr. De Bruyn’s lab. He participated in Chapman’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program where his research focused on the application of the Schrodinger equation onto a gravitational potential with physics, computational science and engineer assistant professor, Dr. Ali Nayeri
.

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Dara, Dr. Ali Nayeri, and Aaron Goodman ’16 at Schmid College’s Senior Awards Banquet last May.

Dara graduated last May with honors and is currently the research assistant and lab manager for The Kim Environmental Geochemistry (KEG) Lab, led by Schmid College’s associate dean of academic programs and professor of chemistry, Dr. Christopher Kim. Dara’s KEG Lab research focuses on in vivo exposures of airborne mine tailings, the effects of physical weathering on the bioaccessibility and speciation of arsenic through in vitro simulated gastric fluid extractions, and the retention of heavy metals onto iron oxyhydroxide nanoparticles.

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Dara presenting at the Schmid College Program Honors & Capstone Conference last May.

This summer, Dara will return to Phnom Penh for the first time in 4 years. He is looking forward to spending quality time with his parents and two younger sisters. After being accepted into similar Ph.D. programs at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Minnesota, Dara looks forward to embarking on the next phase of his research career at Stanford in September, with the end-goal of becoming a “professor at a university or a researcher at a national lab”.

Dara credits his professors for challenging and teaching him “how to think critically about a problem while maintaining a high level of foundational education”. His advice for high school students and undergraduate students is, “find your passion and work towards excelling in that field. Curiosity is the biggest driving force towards excelling”.

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Dara with KEG Lab students at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource earlier this month.

Display image at top/Dara with assistant dean of external relations and chemistry program director, Dr. Elaine Benaksas Schwartz at Schmid College’s Senior Awards Banquet last May.