College of Science News
UT Arlington 'outliers' reveal the secrets to their success
Becoming successful in life is about more than hard work and determination, a trio of speakers said at a “One Book, One Arlington” event sponsored by UT Arlington and the Arlington Public Library on November 11 in Nedderman Hall.
It's about taking advantage of opportunities, having a mentor to encourage you, and being passionate about what you want to do. That was the message behind the program, which focused on the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers. Gladwell's book seeks to identify those traits which make high-achievers stand out. His stories demonstrate how individual merit, accompanied by culture, timing, circumstance, birth and luck, account for success in life.
The speakers - UT Arlington doctoral student Claudia Marquez, mechanical engineering professor Bob Woods and local physician and UT Arlington alumnus Ignacio Nuñez - shared their experiences and explained what it is that allows them to be successful in their respective fields. A gathering of students and faculty from UT Arlington and area high schools came to hear their stories and pick their brains about how to be an “outlier.”
Tim Henry, assistant dean of the Honors College and a lecturer in biology, served as the event’s moderator and introduced each speaker.
Marquez, a native of Mexico who came to the United States at age 10, said her biggest supporter was her mother, who encouraged her to attend college but died before she could see her daughter graduate.
“I lost my greatest cheerleader, and I kind of quit for a while,” Marquez said.
She returned to school at age 28, and set her sights on medical school. She said while it was difficult and she sometimes felt like giving up, she had support and encouragement from others, including biology assistant professor Ellen Pritham, who is her Ph.D. advisor. Pritham got her interested in research, so much so that Marquez changed her mind about going to medical school and focused on becoming a researcher.
At Pritham's urging, Marquez applied for and received a $25,000 research scholarship. She has presented her research at national meetings and continues to receive funding for her education and research from various organizations. Her research has been published in the journal Genetics, a rare honor for an undergraduate student.
“My grades haven’t always been the best, but I always believed I could succeed,” Marquez said. “I’m not some super-duper smart person. I’m just a regular person who has had the right people in her life.”
Woods, who has taught mechanical engineering classes at UT Arlington since 1974, is the faculty advisor for UT Arlington’s Mini Baja, Formula SAE, hybrid electric vehicle and natural gas vehicle racing teams. Under his guidance, UT Arlington has dominated the Mini Baja and Formula SAE racing competitions. Woods, who was raised in Oklahoma, said the key to his success has been his creative nature and his desire to teach and share knowledge with others.
“I’m motivated by achievement and have an ability to focus over long periods of time,” Woods said. “My father was mechanically inclined, and he was very high energy, and a hard worker. My mother was a teacher and stressed education. I think I inherited the best traits from both of them. Outliers are not totally unique and gifted. Take advantage of as much education as you can and surround yourself with positive, successful people. Most importantly, see the big picture and think outside the box.”
Nuñez, who earned a B.S. in Biology from UT Arlington in 1975 and got his medical degree from UT Southwestern in Dallas, has spent 30 years delivering babies as an OB/GYN in Arlington. He is now a partner with Family Healthcare Associates in Arlington. He was honored as one of UT Arlington’s Distinguished Alumni for 2010 at a ceremony in October.
“My parents were my mentors; they really emphasized education,” Nuñez said. “Reading will help you become an outlier. Once I started reading, I never looked back. I would encourage you all to find what you’re passionate about and do that. I loved life sciences in school, so that’s what I went into. Take advantage of the chance to get an education. All of you can be outliers. Just be passionate about what you do.”
Others named outliers for the “One Book, One Arlington” program include College of Science Dean Pamela Jansma; bestselling local author Sandra Brown; Tillie Burgin, founder of Mission Arlington; Lindsey Maxon, UT Austin student and aspiring author; former UT Arlington faculty member and state Rep. Diane Patrick; and Karen Borta, UT Arlington alumna and local TV news anchor. “One Book, One Arlington” is a citywide reading project which included a series of discussions about the book at Arlington Public Library branches.