LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — UNLV student Citlally Lopez is breaking barriers and making waves in the world of science.

Lopez is the first at the university to receive a $20,000 Pfizer Diversity Research Fellowship, and is working on a research project to develop a compound for a drug that could possibly slow the growth of cancer.

“I did lose a few family members, an aunt who was really healthy, to cancer. I really want to help as much as I can,” Lopez told 8 News Now. “I really want to get to that goal because I know how useful it could be in preventing the growth of cancer.”

The Mexican-American student is one of the first in her family to go to college, and her professor Jun Yong Kang, who was working with her on the research, said that this highlights the importance of diversity in chemistry.

“Generally, male students are working in the organic chemistry field,” Kang said. “Having the diversity in students in our group, what is beneficial for us is we can have different minds, so we can have different ideas from various aspects and backgrounds so we can come up with new ideas to tackle the problems we have.”

Now, Lopez is making a difference for the Latinx community and breaking down gender barriers.

“I did think it was very competitive and I was like, I don’t think I stand a chance,” Lopez said. “I was told often maybe you should be a teacher or secretary.”

Lopez said she hopes that her work done in the lab not only makes a difference for cancer-related research but also for her community, and for young women who want to pursue a career in science.

“Just do what you feel is right, and you will do well,” Lopez said, adding that the fellowship money will allow her to focus more on her education and research.

The student graduates next year and plans to go to grad school, and will take her drug research and present it to Pfizer this summer.