Maverick Science Student Stories

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Major: Microbiology

Campus Involvement: Science Ambassadors

Fun Fact: Loves to do jigsaw puzzles; has swum with Beluga whales

I grew up in Arlington, as well as in neighboring cities through middle and high school. While I didn’t spend all my formative years in Arlington, I consider it my true home and moved back to the city a few years ago.

I am not a “typical” college student, nor did I follow the “traditional” path many students take. Even though UTA is the university where I have found the most opportunities, diverse communities, and positive role models, I did not start my academic career here. After high school, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy, so I had to spend some time managing my chronic illness with a variety of medicines and routines, which made me start college years after I graduated high school. Once my disability was minimized and I was able to start actually living my life, I entered community college, where I completed some general education courses. I then transferred to a university out of state because I thought I would want to leave home and explore what the world had to offer. That university ended up lacking opportunities for biology-focused students, as well as diverse students and faculty. I just wasn’t happy there, so when the pandemic hit, I knew that I had an opportunity to leave and join a university that treasured the same values I did. After doing some research on universities, I quickly realized that UTA was for me. Tons of research opportunities, high diversity in both students and faculty, and jobs that I actually wanted to do while in school were all major points of consideration for choosing this amazing university. Since starting at UTA I have had the most amazing opportunities, met the kindest people, and am on track to attend graduate school to get my Ph.D.

Ironically, my love for biology came from a non-science major introductory biology course. While that class was not too in-depth, I was amazed by the mechanisms specific cells employed to protect us when pathogens invade, the metabolic processes of energy production, and the transcription of specific genes to translate specific proteins. Once I switched my major to biology, I realized I wanted to have classes more centered around prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and cellular interactions. I then changed my major to microbiology, and I haven’t looked back.

The experiences I have had a UTA, including formative major-specific classes, my job as a Science Ambassador, and my undergraduate research in calcium signaling in muscle cells have prepared me for the career of becoming a research scientist. At UTA I have learned how to read and analyze research papers, think critically to connect complex concepts to cultivate independent research ideas, and verbalize difficult scientific topics to a variety of age groups to educate others.

I love the diversity on campus. I have met students who are mothers, first-generation college students, international students, students with disabilities like myself, etc. who inspire me daily. To interact with people who are all here to learn and grow, regardless of when they started college, where they came from, or other factors that influence life has cultivated a positive environment on campus.

After one semester at UTA, I felt that I could add a campus job to my schedule. The Science Ambassadors position caught my eye. My first job was as a swim instructor and swim coach, so I was used to teaching and interacting with people ranging in age from 2 to 70 years old. When I applied, I knew that I would most likely be a graduate teaching assistant when I went to graduate school. With that in mind, I wanted to have some experience in performing scientific demonstrations accompanied by explanations, as it would give me the skills needed to confidently perform and teach in front of a class in the future. The best part of my job as a Science Ambassador is inspiring the students, especially the ones in high school who are starting to consider what they want to do in life. To inspire future scientists is surreal and an amazing feeling.

I would tell anyone who was considering joining UTA and the College of Science to get involved in undergraduate research as early as possible, preferably around their second semester of college. I would also tell them that UTA has an Office of Undergraduate Research that offers great advising and other resources and that they absolutely should take advantage of those. Lastly, I would suggest double-majoring in microbiology and biology if your plan already involves one of those majors. The courses overlap greatly, and it will be a huge benefit when applying to graduate and medical schools.

After graduation I plan on either going to graduate school with the intention of getting my Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology or working as a post-baccalaureate research assistant in a lab focused on autoimmune diseases. My end goal is to become an associate professor at a university, where I can teach as well as conduct my own research focused on autoimmune diseases.