UC Davis School of Medicine student Matthew Lara has received the Daniel T. O’Connor, M.D., Memorial Research Grant. The grant will allow Lara, in his fourth year of medical school, to take a year off from the classroom and clinical rotations and focus solely on research. Lara has taken a special interest in developing drugs for lung cancer patients who have limited options for effective therapy.

“This is such a great opportunity to work on so many projects I have going on right now and contribute to the field I love,” Lara said.

The grant is awarded each year to a medical student who is focused on a career in academic medicine and whose research project embodies the values that were important to UC Davis alumnus Daniel T. O’Connor: high-quality research in translational medicine that utilizes a multi-disciplinary, highly collaborative, “bench to bedside” approach.

Lara’s research journey

Lara was exceptionally young — only 16 — when he presented on non-small cell lung cancer at the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology Conference in Chicago, a “who’s who” of cancer researchers. His research study concluded that younger patients with lung cancer tend to have better survival rates than older patients.

After graduating from Davis High School, Lara attended Stanford University as a chemistry major. He enrolled in the UC Davis School of Medicine in 2020 and was offered a spot on a special pathway for student researchers called Academic Research Careers for Medical Doctors. The pathway steers students through medical school in five years intertwined with extensive research.

Lara credits his parents for nourishing his passion for research. His father, Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr., a well-known medical oncologist and researcher, is the director of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.