Gabriela was born and raised in Juarez, Mexico and chose UTEP as her college of choice because of the Environmental Science program UTEP offers. Her brother graduated from UTEP with a BS in Electrical Engineering and it was a great inspiration for her to follow him to UTEP. Gabriela graduated from UTEP in 2013 with a BS in Environmental Science with a Biology Concentration. She worked in the aquatic ecology lab as an undergraduate with Dr. Vanessa Lougheed and doctoral student Christian Andersen since 2009.
In 2011, as an undergraduate, she spent three months in Alaska under the direction of Dr Craig Tweedie, completing research focused on environmental change, plants and ecosystem structure. In 2013, also as an undergraduate, she spent 5 weeks in Indonesia studying tropical forest ecology and deforestation, also with Dr. Vanessa Lougheed and Dr. Craig Tweedie. Gabriela has attended many national conferences where she has been able to share her research and experience in the field with different students. She entered the master’s program in environmental science under Dr. Vanessa Lougheed in 2013. She was a TA for the Environmental Science lab and a Co-Coordinator for the Environmental Science TIERA program where she helped recruit high school students to UTEP, organize Environmental Science classes and labs, and pair undergraduate students with research mentors. Gabriela is graduating in December of 2016 with a master’s degree in Environmental Science with an overall GPA of 4.0. Dr. Vanessa Lougheed is her major advisor, her thesis examines the prediction of water quality in the shallow Arctic Ponds using remote sending. She plans to pursue a doctorate in environmental science and engineering. Currently, she is working as an environmental consultant for the local company ESSCO. Her hobbies include reading and hiking, and she is passionate about the environment and animals. Currently Gabriela is working with a local Bull Terrier rescue, where she trains and rehabilitates dogs in order to help them get adopted. Dr. Lougheed has served as inspiration for Gabriela, she is inspired by the successful multi-tasking of Dr. Vanessa Lougheed in research, teaching, mentoring, and motherhood.
Caitlin Harmon is a senior majoring in Biology with a Biomedical Science concentration. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, she achieved an overall GPA of 4.0. She plans to graduate early as part of A-Prime TIME in May of 2017 and then attend medical school. In fact, she has already been accepted to UT Medical Branch at Galveston and the University of Houston McGovern Medical School pending MCAT scores.
Caitlin was born in El Paso and graduated from Silva Magnet High School with a GPA of 4.0. While in high school she was on the varsity soccer team all four years, was the class historian, and shadowed doctors at University Medical Center. Caitlin choose biology as a major because it is part of the requirement for the highly competitive A-Prime TIME program. She is following her brother into medicine. He graduated from UTEP and is currently in medical school. Both plan to complete medical school and practice in El Paso. Caitlin stated that her grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease and a cousin has Autism. She was impressed with the medical care both received and wanted to pursue a similar career. While achieving outstanding academic success at UTEP in an academically accelerated program, she was a peer leader for UNIV 1301 where she partnered with instructor CV Garcia, she participated in undergraduate research for several semesters, volunteered at Providence Memorial Hospital, the Children’s Crisis Center, and Autism Speaks walks.
She was also featured in Who’s Who among Students, a member of the Alpha Chi Honorary Society, and a 21st Century Scholar. Caitlin also completed a summer research program at MD Andersen in neuro-oncology and neuropsychology participating in Glioblastoma research. Caitlin credits Dr. Gosselink with her success because of her passion for science and her ability to transfer that passion to her students and her directorship of A-Prime TIME. She states that Professor Foust (deceased) believed in her and encouraged her while she completed honors in his history course. She also stated that Professor CV Garcia impressed her with her ability to inspire students to study science. Her hobbies include running, hiking, music, reading spending time with her family, and following politics. The College of Science wishes Caitlin continued success.
Sonam is a junior majoring in Physics. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, she achieved an overall GPA of 4.0. She plans to ultimately pursue a doctoral in physics. Sonam was born in the eastern part of Bhutan and while in high school she consistently scored in the top one percent of her class. The country of Bhutan offers scholarships to universities all over the world for students who perform well in their senior year of high school.
The government gives these high performing students a list of majors and countries from which to ch0ose and then Bhutan chooses the university. Sonam chose Physics and the United States and the government chose the University. Two other students from Bhutan are on similar scholarships at UTEP, one in physics and one in mathematics. She chose physics as a major because she likes the blending of application and theory and the integration of physics and mathematics. Her agreement with her government is to return to Bhutan after she graduates and teach for eight years. She plans to apply to the Fast Track program in Physics where she can complete half of her masters while an undergraduate. She eventually wants to pursue a doctoral in physics and take the knowledge gained back to her country. Sonam is president of the Bhutanese Student’s Association which currently has 20 members with more expected in the fall. She works as a research assistant for LACIT(Liberal Arts Center for Instructional Technology) a computer lab. Sonam said that Kathleen Key, who taught her University 1301 during her first semester, made her feel welcome in a new environment and always treated her like family. This enabled her to adjust and perform well during that first semester. Kathleen Key continues to help and inspire her. Sonam states that the approachability and mentoring she received from Dr. Sergio Flores in her first physics class was inspiring. She spoke with him often in person and by email and Sonam states that he was always there to help her not only with physics but also with navigating through the various entities at UTEP. He also helped her with other physics classes even though he was not the instructor of record. She commented that individuals routinely pass back and forth between Bhutan and India and it was nice to see the same thing happening between the US and Mexico. Sonam says that a big bonus of attending UTEP is experiencing two cultures instead of one. She is even learning Spanish. When not studying, Sonam enjoys hiking, hanging out with friends, and watching movies. Sonam is an exceptional young woman and a credit to Bhutan and we wish her continued success in her studies.
Miguel is a senior majoring in Biology with a Biomedical Concentration. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, he achieved an overall GPA of 4.0. He plans to attend medical school after he graduates. Miguel was born in El Paso, raised and educated in Torreon, Mexico, and spent his summers in El Paso visiting with family. He returned to El Paso to attend UTEP because he wanted to attend a quality U.S. university, but still be close to his family.
He decided to pursue a medical career after spending his high school years volunteering in a government run hospital in Mexico. Since the hospital was under budgeted and under staffed, he was allowed to have significant patient contact. He helped staff in the OR, took blood pressure, withdrew blood, stitched open wounds, and soothed patients. From that high school volunteering experience, his life choice was made – medicine. Miguel belongs to the Medical Professions Organization, the Honors Program, and the Honors Council. As a member of the Honor’s Council, he volunteered at the La Posada Children’s Home, the Humane Society, and helped raise money for the Lee and Beulah Moore Children’s Home. He volunteers at Las Palmas in the patient clinic where he helps check in patients and answer their questions. Miguel also helped found the UTEP chapter of the Theta Chi fraternity, whose members volunteer to raise money for the USO. Miguel said that Dr. Juan Noveron accepted him into his lab as a freshmen and gave him the opportunity to do research with him despite not having any previous experience in research. Through the two years he spent in the lab with Dr. Noveron, Miguel helped with the research that led to submitting the patent application for a nano-particle hydrogel designed to remove arsenic from water. He stated that Dr. Noveron’s mentorship was inspiring. Miguel is also thankful to Dr. Tina Garza and Dr. Charlotte Vines. He states that both professors have inspired him after taking challenging courses, such as Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry and Mammalian Physiology, and managing to make complex content easily understood by their students. When not studying, Miguel enjoys playing soccer, reading, and hanging out with family and friends. UTEP wishes Miguel great success in his medical studies.
Bianca Enriquez is a senior majoring in Mathematics with an Actuarial Concentration. She is a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” club for the spring 2016 semester. This means her overall GPA at the end of the spring 2016 semester was 4.0. She was born in El Paso and graduated from Franklin High School. While at Franklin, she was involved in numerous clubs and graduated in the top two percent of her class. Bianca went on to Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas where she received many academic scholarships. In 2010, she graduated with a double major in Spanish and History and a GPA of 3.5. After graduation, she returned to El Paso and is currently working as a paralegal. In 2015, Bianca decided to pursue a degree in mathematics with an actuarial concentration while working full time. She likes mathematics and finance and this degree lets her blend the two subjects. In addition to working full time and pursuing a second degree, Bianca has started piano lessons.
After Joshua completed a baccalaureate and masters in physics with an overall GPA of 4.0 in both, he decided to make a career change to medicine and is now pursuing his biology and biochemistry coursework. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, he achieved an overall GPA of 4.0 and has just applied to medical school. Joshua was born in El Paso to two proud UTEP alumni and graduated from Cathedral High School in the top ten percent of his class while working 15 – 20 hours per week as a grocery bagger and earning his Associate’s degree through Cathedral’s EA Program.
While completing his masters in physics, he taught a physics course at Cathedral High School. His experiences working directly with his students helping to shape their development helped him realize he belongs in medicine. During his first semester of his undergraduate physics degree, he asked Dr. Cristian Botez if he could volunteer in his lab. Joshua credits his success to Dr. Botez who took him into his lab as a freshman, mentoring him through his academic career and Dr. Ramon Ravelo for the challenging coursework that helped him grow and thrive at UTEP. During his research career, he has co-authored five publications with Dr. Botez, three in print and two submitted. In his time spent outside of the laboratory and classroom Joshua enjoys cooking, running, reading, and is slowly teaching himself how to play the piano.
Laura Collins is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences with a Biomedical Concentration. She is a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” club for the spring 2016 semester. This means her overall GPA and majors GPA at the end of the spring 2016 semester were both 4.0. Laura plans to graduate in the fall 2016 semester and attend medical school where she will study internal medicine. She was born in El Paso, home schooled by her mother, and arrived at UTEP with 33 dual credit hours and a Presidential Excellence Scholarship. Her father is a radiologist and her mother is a mathematics teacher. She belongs to the Medical Professions Institute, shadows Dr. Roxanne Tyroch, and she belongs to the Medical Professions Organization where she was the optometry representative last year. She worked with Dr. Hughes Ouellet in his lab on tuberculosis research and credits Dr. Ouellet with her interest in biology. She also credits Dr. Martin Dale Alexander in the Department of Chemistry for her love of chemistry. Laura loves to bake, paints, enjoys bird watching, and rehabs wild birds. Congratulations to Laura, UTEP expects great things from her.
Valeria was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and graduated from Burges High School with distinguished honors and in the top ten percent of her class. She was awarded the Daughters of the American Revolution Award and was also a dual credit participant. She was a member of the National Honor Society, where she served as treasurer. Valeria received the UTEP Academic Scholarship and the Top Ten Percent Scholarship. While at UTEP, Valeria was designated as a 21st Century Scholar and selected as a Miner Ambassador. She is also part of the University Honors Program and the Medical Professions Organization. Valeria is currently a junior majoring in Biology, with a Biomedical Concentration. Valeria has achieved and maintained an overall GPA of 4.0 and was inducted as a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club during the 2016 spring semester. In addition to her impressive academic resume Valeria has been accepted into the Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP) and will begin medical school after she graduates with her Bachelors in Science from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to pursue her dream of becoming Dr. Valeria Varela. Valeria states that she chose to prepare for a career in medicine because she was inspired by the physicians who took care of her father during her childhood. Their skill and care improved his quality of life and in turn impacted her family to live life to its fullest. Valeria aspires to help improve others quality of life and increase the amount of physicians serving the Texas population. Valeria chose to attend UTEP because she wanted to stay close to her family and she saw the great opportunities that UTEP could offer her. Valeria’s two older siblings, Jose and Veronica, are UTEP alumni, while her younger brother, Martin, will begin his first semester this fall at UTEP. Valeria states that her parents, Martha and Jose Manuel Varela, stressed academic success to her and her siblings from an early age. Their guidance, support, and love has contributed to her passion for medicine. She credits Dr. Jennifer Apodaca with inspiring her to pursue a career in medicine and pushing her to succeed and then celebrating her successes. Valeria states that Ms. Mary Wells helped her obtain admission into the Joint Admission Medical Program and acceptance into the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine summer internship where Valeria was able to shadow doctors at Texas Tech Health Science Center.
During the internship, Valeria’s love and passion for the medical field grew. Ms. Wells stated that Valeria distinguished herself in the MPI internship by earning the highest average in the class. Valeria has been able to achieve and maintain her academic success while concurrently working 19 hours per week at El Paso Community College, which only highlights Valeria’s determination and commitment to her academic success. Valeria stands out by her willingness to consistently contribute to mentor her near peers who are also interested in medicine. Additionally, Valeria gives back to UTEP and the community and has volunteered at events such as: El Paso Community College GED program, Candlelighters Walk of Hope, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine High School Camp, UTEP freshmen orientations, El Dorado JAMP Presentation, St. Pius Catholic Church Colonia Ministry, St. Pius Catholic Church Bible Study Camp, St. Anthony’s Annual Bazaar, Tierra del Sol Career Day, Lubbock Impact, Ronald McDonald House, UTEP Commencement Ceremonies, Cielo Vista Elementary College Presentation, UTEP Orange and Blue Day, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine Adventures for the Future, STEM Middle School Presentation, Garrison Center, Catholic Charities Resale Center, The Blessing Center, UTEP Miner Melt, and at Posadas for Underprivileged Families. The College of Science wishes this exceptional student success in everything she attempts.
Jerry Duran is a senior majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, he achieved an overall GPA and majors GPA of 4.0. He plans to graduate in spring 2017. He plans to apply to the Fast Track Program and complete the transition to the graduate program in Bioinformatics at UTEP. Jerry was born and raised in El Paso, graduated from Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas Jerry delayed his entry into higher education, to move to Alaska to seek adventure, where he stayed for ten years working on fishing boats and oil rigs.
After a grizzly bear attacked and critically wounded a close member of his family, Jerry suffered from PTSD, which continued to keep him away from an education, Jerry's mother, a teacher urged him to come home and pursue higher education. Jerry finally decided to follow his mother’s advice and return to El Paso and begin his education at UTEP. He choose Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry as a major because he wanted to be able to be of maximum service to those with medical problems. Jerry wants to be a part of the research that takes laboratory science and translates it to treatment for the people in need. Jerry is a member of UPBIT, Undergraduate participation in Bioinformatics Training) where he is currently performing research to identify unknown proteins in protist to better understand their phylogenic relationships . He is a member of the American Association of Molecular Biology, participates in chemistry's departments peer lead team learning and a member of En-Vol-Salta, an organization that raises money for Cochlear implants. Besides his studies, Jerry enjoys family, camping, fishing, grilling, and most of all, his daughter Jovi, wife Joanne. Jerry credits Dr. Jennifer Apodaca for her unwavering support and help often urging him to stay the course despite life adversities. He credits John Mohl, a doctoral student in Computational Science who is also a bioinformatic analyst in the BBRC program, with sparking his interest in bioinformatics. Congratulations to Jerry for choosing UTEP and for your academic achievements.
Malvina Muñoz is a junior majoring in Biological Sciences with a Biomedical Concentration. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, she has achieved an overall GPA and majors GPA of 4.0. She plans to graduate in May of 2018 and attend medical school. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and attended Silva Health Magnet High School, where she did clinical rotations and a medical preceptorship program. She was on the dance team, a member of the National Honor Society and the University Interscholastic League spelling team. She also was a violinist in the orchestra. She graduated in the top ten percent of her class with distinguished achievement. Malvina had an interest in medicine early on. At a young age she was diagnosed with an illness, and during the years leading to her remission, her family and physicians gave her constant hope. Because of them she wanted to pursue medicine and give hope to others as they did for her. She chose UTEP because of its proximity to her family and her love for the community. Initially she was a nursing major, but after taking several science courses, her interests grew and she changed her major. She received the Presidential Excellence Scholarship, the Top Ten Percent Scholarship, and the Ronald McDonald Scholarship. She also received the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges Award and the NSLS National Engaged Leader Award.
Not only has Malvina excelled academically, she is involved in many organizations on and off campus. She is External Vice President of Miners Against Hunger, where she advocates for the Campus Kitchen Project at UTEP whose mission is to end hunger and malnutrition in the community. She is a Success Networking Team Facilitator in the National Society of Leadership and Success, where she leads groups in discussion and goal setting. She is also a member of the Medical Professions Organization, the University Scholar’s Society, and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. She volunteers with Compadres Therapy, Inc., utilizing horses to help children with disabilities, and the University Medical Center Volunteer Corps, helping with fundraising and health promotion events. She recently started working as a medical scribe in the Emergency Room at Del Sol Medical Center. Malvina is especially grateful to Paul LaPrade, her Rhetoric and Writing instructor, for supporting and mentoring her in her writing. He nominated her work for a documentary film festival – it was accepted – and submitted her paper for publication in the 2016 Student Guide to Undergraduate Rhetoric and Writing Studies. He also encouraged her to apply for the 2016 Community Engaged Undergraduate Student Award offered in the Department of English, which she received despite being a science major. She states that Dr. Jennifer Apodaca in the Department of Biological Sciences inspires her. She is not only a good instructor, she takes a special interest in each student and mentors them actively. When not studying, Malvina enjoys spending time with family and friends, hiking, travelling, dancing, writing, drawing, and exploring her creativity. Malvina succeeds in everything she attempts and the College of Science wishes her continued success in all her endeavors.
Akshita Pillai is a junior majoring in Biology with a Bioscience concentration. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, she achieved an overall GPA of 4.0. She plans to graduate in May of 2018 and then attend medical school. She was born in Kerala, India and moved with her family to the United States when she was 8 years old. She graduated from Coppell High School in Dallas. While in high school, she spent a winter break on a mission to Odisha, India with the “Women Empowerment Program” where she showed impoverished women how to start a bank account, how to balance a check book, and with the other volunteers how to start a business. Akshita chose UTEP because she was accepted into A-PRIME-TIME, an accelerated medical school program. At 18 years of age, she arrived at UTEP with junior standing. She states that she was surprised at the opportunities available to undergraduates with respect to research and teaching through the peer leadership program.
She received the Presidential Excellence Scholarship and a tennis scholarship. Akshita is a member of the A-PRIME TIME Organization, National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the Medical Professions Organization. She volunteers at University Medical Center working with social workers helping indigent patients with insurance and legal issues. She teaches Hindu Philosophy to middle school students at Chinmaya Mission organization housed at the Light Center. Akshita comes from a family where education is valued. Her mother was a Professor of Accounting in India and her father teaches at the University of Houston Health Science Center. She credits her father for his unwavering support in her pursuit of her dream. She stated that when she arrived at UTEP she wanted to pursue research on a particular subject in Dr. Kristin Gosselinks’ lab. Although the lab was full, Dr. Gosselink made room for her and let her pursue her research and mentored her throughout the semester. She stated that she met Dr. Mahesh Narayan at The Light Center and he encouraged her to teach there and through him will become a chemistry peer leader. She states that he is family away from family. When she’s not busy with school or extracurricular activities, Akshita enjoys tennis and running. Congratulations to Akshita for her extraordinary academic success and we wish her continued academic achievements.
Mengling Hu is a senior majoring in Mathematical Sciences with an Actuarial Sciences Concentration. She is a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” club for the spring 2016 semester. This means her overall GPA and majors GPA at the end of the spring 2016 semester were both 4.0. Mengling plans to attend graduate school and ultimately become an actuary; she takes her first actuary exam in August. She was born in Sichuan Province in China.
She did not attend high school in China; instead, at the age of fourteen she went to work as a seamstress in a sweat shop to help support her family after her father had an accident. She worked four years as a seamstress, and at 18 she worked obtained a job in international sales. Her mother emigrated from China to the United States in 2006; Mengling stayed behind to help her father. Mengling joined her mother in El Paso, Texas in 2011 to pursue the American dream of an obtainable education, something not possible in China. She arrived in El Paso with limited English skills. She learned English at the Jan Jacinto Adult Learning Center in downtown El Paso. Since she did not have a high school education, she studied and passed the GED on her own. She began her college education at the El Paso Community College in 2013 and transferred to UTEP in 2015, obtaining a GPA of 4.0 at both institutions. Mengling enjoys learning, hiking, and spending time with family. Mengling is an example of an extraordinary individual who succeeded despite hardships. We wish her well in all her pursuits.
Kimberly Gonzalez is a senior majoring in Forensic Biology. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, she achieved an overall GPA and majors GPA of 4.0. She will graduate in December 2016, after which she plans to continue with graduate studies in forensic genetics to pursue a career as a forensic DNA examiner for the FBI Laboratory. Kimberly was born and raised in El Paso, where she attended Chapin High School for its Pre-Engineering Magnet Program. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA under the Distinguished Achievement Program, ranking fourth in her graduating class of about 420 students. Kimberly chose UTEP because of its relationship with the community and its emphasis on student development.
In addition to receiving the Presidential Excellence Scholarship, Kimberly has been awarded the STARS Scholarship and the Robert L. Johnson Academic Scholarship – a forensic science scholarship – by the International Association for Identification. She is currently a peer leader for UNIV 1301 and vice president of the Peer Leaders Uniting Students organization. Her involvement at UTEP further includes serving as the treasurer for the UTEP Chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and being a member of both the American Society for Microbiology and Alpha Chi National Honor Society. Besides her studies, Kimberly makes it a priority to volunteer. In the summer of 2015, she served as a camp counselor for Prissilla’s Pledge Camp in the Socorro Independent School District, where she mentored young children about health and wellness. During spring break of 2016, she helped frame houses as part of the United Way of El Paso County’s Alternative Spring Break Program. Moreover, she has volunteered at campus events every semester since starting at UTEP in the fall of 2013, including Minerpalooza, Project MOVE, and UTEP LIVE. She credits Dr. Roshanak Jafari, her favorite professor, for sparking her interest in forensic medicine while a student in Jafari’s forensic pathology course and being the biggest support she’s had at UTEP. Kimberly is also grateful to Dr. Schuyler Pike, a post-doctoral instructor in biological sciences, for introducing her to ethical research and discussing graduate programs during a Wintermester lab course. Most of all, she credits her mother, a former teacher, with always supporting her and encouraging her to expand her educational horizons. When she’s not busy with school or extracurricular activities, Kimberly loves reading; painting with watercolors; scrapbooking; hiking; traveling; and spending time with her dogs, friends, and family. Congratulations to Kimberly and we extend our good wishes to further achievements.
Alexander is a senior majoring in chemistry. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the spring 2016 semester, he achieved an overall GPA of 4.0. He plans to enter the Fast Track program in chemistry during the spring 2017 semester and graduate during spring 2017 commencement. He is currently applying to doctoral programs in medicinal chemistry.
Alex was born in New Britain, Connecticut. He graduated from Farmington High School where he was on the wrestling team. After high school he attended the University of Connecticut where he pursued a pre-pharmacy program. After three years at the University of Connecticut and a downturn in the economy, he left school and worked in construction and landscaping for two years. Deciding that he would rather make a living with his mind rather than his back, he joined the Army for four years because of their promise to help him complete his education. While in the Army, he was chosen as the Fort Polk Soldier of Year based on his marksmanship, physical fitness, leadership, and military knowledge. He met his wife in the Army and chose UTEP because he wife, Jackeline, is from El Paso. Both left the Army to return to El Paso to continue their education. He credits Dr. James Salvador with awakening his passion for chemistry, for his constant mentoring, and for his encouragement in the research lab. He also credits Dr. Richard Gutierrez, because he exposed him to the political undercurrents in society during a political science courses. Alex enjoys hiking, chess, reading, and spending time with his wife and dogs. The College of Science and The University of Texas at El Paso wish Alex success in his pursuit in his doctoral studies in medicinal chemistry.
Christina is graduating with a degree in microbiology with an overall GPA of 3.96 and a majors GPA of 4.0—accomplishments that reflect her dedication to the learning process. Christina was born in Irving, Texas and moved with her family to El Paso, Texas when she was three years old. Basketball was as much a part of her childhood as were academics. While at Chapin High School, Christina played varsity basketball all four years and was team captain for two. She graduated Valedictorian of her class, earning the Distinguished Achievement Program Diploma for completing additional measures of merit. After a visit to campus, Christina chose to attend UTEP for her secondary education because she was impressed with what the university had to offer in terms of programs, and facilities. She has earned multiple scholarships which have helped defray some of the costs while she obtains her Bachelor’s degree—President’s Leadership Scholarship, STARS Scholarship, and the EPISD Education Foundation Scholarship. Although she initially maintained an interest in studying biology, she chose to major in microbiology after an introductory course in the subject captivated her. She aspired to be a doctor and felt that a degree in microbiology was a viable path towards medical school. Years later, and as a result of her efforts within the El Paso community, those aspirations are one step closer to coming true.
After interviewing at four medical schools and being offered acceptance to two, Christina will begin at Paul L. Foster School of Medicine this coming summer. Her accomplishments in and out of academics have earned her the Foster Scholarship to attend. While at UTEP she was awarded the COURI Research Award when a sophomore, and the MERITUS Research Award for 2015-2016. She has presented her work to technical and non-technical audiences as a result of the opportunities created by the Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives. Both ventures in research have also allowed her to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for basic research, while slowly persuading her to incorporate this element into her career as a physician. She credits Drs. Charlotte Vines, Colin Bill, and Chuan Xiao for their mentorship and for consistently pushing her to think critically and independently. She achieved her extraordinary academic success while working 30 hours per week at various positions: as a chemistry tutor for the College of Health Sciences, at the retail store Hollister, as an undergraduate research assistant, and at the Center for Accommodations and Support Services. Not only did she work and study, she also consistently volunteered within the El Paso community during her undergraduate career here at the University.
She acknowledges that she was quite a busy person between work, school, and her hobbies which include cooking, watching TED Talks, and dancing; but she strongly believes that the experiences and skills she gained as a result were instrumental to helping her achieve her professional goals. UTEP is a family affair in the Alvara household. Both of Christina’s parents graduated from UTEP, her younger sister is currently majoring in accounting at UTEP, and her brother will start at UTEP in the fall, majoring in mathematics. UTEP expects great things from Christina.
Ramon Benavides is graduating with an MAT in Science and has an overall GPA of 4.0. He completed his MAT degree while teaching Biology at Del Valle High School in the Ysleta Independent School District. He completed a BS in Biology at The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2001 and completed a BA in Chemistry at The University of Texas at Brownsville in 2003. Ramon is the son of migrant farm workers who returned to school to obtain their degrees in higher education in order to teach youth in the Rio Grande Valley. Ramon is also the first in his family to graduate with a Master’s degree. Originally from Brownsville, Texas,
Ramon was beckoned by a calling to follow in his parents’ footsteps once he moved to El Paso, where he and his wife relocated to raise their family in her hometown. Passionate about serving as a role model to youth from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, Ramon committed to tying his love for all that is science to his devotion to inspire young students with similar educational attainment obstacles such as those he faced. Ramon entered the MAT Science program at UTEP because he wanted to gain a greater depth in knowledge, enhance his science training, and evolve his teaching methodologies. Ramon indicated that being part of UTEP’s SmartMind Research Internship Program with Dr. Kyung-An Han in the summer of 2015 was a turning point in his academic journey. The research experience gained from this program has transcended beyond the classroom. He presented his research on Alzheimer’s disease at the annual Border Biomedical Research Center Symposium. Dr. Han has been his mentor and advisor for the last three years. Her support and guidance has translated into success in and out of the classroom. He has also collaborated with Dr. William Medina-Jerez in writing a manuscript on the utilization of Spanglish in the science classroom. Ramon additionally credits his academic success to UTEP’s most distinguished faculty; Dr. Laura Serpa, Dr. Juan Noveron, Dr. Kristin Gosselink, and other professors in the Science Department. He is grateful for the assistance he has received from the Administrators and Faculty at Ysleta ISD and Del Valle HS. Above all, he knows this would not have been possible without the love and support from his wife, son, and family. Ramon plans to pursue a doctoral program in curriculum and become a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. Ramon enjoys spending free time with his family and taking trips to Santa Fe.
Alexa Clift was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a Biomedical Concentration and a GPA of 4.0. Alexa attended Coronado High School and graduated from the International Baccalaureate Magnet Program. Her interest in science began at a very young age; her dad would let her study with him by letting her color copies of his anatomy-coloring book. Alexa’s interest in science, particularly biology, grew in high school thanks to her biology and anatomy and physiology teacher, Mrs. Ohman. She chose to attend UTEP because she received a Presidential Excellence Scholarship and she wanted to stay close to home.
Alexa plans on pursuing a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology and ultimately becoming a professor, as well as conducting research. The seed to become an educator was planted by her mother when Alexa would sit in her mom’s classes, watching her teach. It was during her time being a General Chemistry II peer leader at UTEP that she knew teaching was her passion and what she wanted to do with her life. She is very grateful to Dr. James Becvar for giving her the opportunity to be a peer leader, as well as for all his guidance and advice. Alexa also credits her personal, professional and academic growth to the mentorship of Dr. Ricardo Bernal, who gave her the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research in his structural biochemistry lab. It was this opportunity that made her realize that conducting research is also something she loves to do and hopes to pursue. She acknowledges that her success would not have been possible without the undeniable love and support of her parents and brother. Alexa is not all about work and studies though, she enjoys reading and analyzing literature, baking, doing yoga, going to concerts, collecting vinyl, and spending time with her friends and family.
Tun Lee was born and raised in Penang, Malaysia. Since a young age, he found his passion in mathematics as he gained inspiration from his father, a mathematics high school teacher. After graduating as valedictorian from Chung Ling High School in Malaysia, he received a competitive scholarship to pursue a baccalaureate in Actuarial Science at the University of Melbourne in Australia. He made the Dean’s List twice, and received a Statistics subject prize. After completing his undergraduate studies with First Class Honors, he worked as an actuarial analyst in Malaysia for eighteen months. He helped to code programming templates in statistical package and spreadsheet to automate claims analyses in the company. When he was considering graduate school, he first heard about UTEP from a friend. After reviewing the research of the UTEP statistics professors online, he decided that he wanted to study under Dr. Naijun Sha, who ultimately became his thesis advisor. His thesis “Bayesian Parameter Estimation in the Birnbaum-Saunders Distributions” included estimating parameters of a fatigue life model, which helps to explain and predict the lifetime of machines. He has been accepted into the Statistics doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ultimately, he aspires to be a statistician in a research-leading institution. During his free time, he enjoys reading and watching movies, with a quality cup of coffee.
Jantele is graduating with a baccalaureate degree in Microbiology with an overall GPA of 3.97 and a majors GPA of 4.0. She plans to take a few years off to teach with the goal of motivating future generations’ interest in the science community and then pursue graduate studies. Jantele was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and graduated in the top five percent from Burges High School. She chose UTEP because she received a Presidential Excellence Scholarship and because she wanted to stay close to home. She participated in undergraduate research while at UTEP with Dr. Maldonado. She chose microbiology as a major because her mother graduated from UTEP with a double major in microbiology and clinical lab science, which inspired her to follow in her footsteps. Her father is also a UTEP alum and her little brother plans to attend in the fall of 2017. She recognizes her parent’s love and support as being a large part of her success at UTEP. While at UTEP Jantele became a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success in her sophomore year. She participated in volunteer events with the society, such as Project MOVE for the past two years. She then joined the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) in her first semester of her senior year. Within that first semester as a member she was recognized as having served ASM and the El Paso community with 165 hours of service. Jantele made the Dean’s List every semester where the semester GPA has to be at least 3.5. She also made the newly created Dean’s List Plus where the overall GPA and majors GPA must be at least 3.5. She has always exceeded the expectations in both. Jantele enjoys playing in volleyball tournaments with her friends, reading, watching movies, and studying.
Sue Ellen Huffman was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She attended and graduated from the Capt. John L. Chapin High School Pre-Engineering Magnet Program. Her interest in science started in high school when she took AP Biology and passed with a high score. She decided to become a science educator after high school. Sue Ellen and her twin sister, Brandi, are the youngest of seven siblings and started UTEP together. Both were chosen as Undergraduate Marshal of Students for the fall 2015 commencement, Sue from the College of Science, and her twin from the College of Business Administration.
She credits her success to her twin for pushing her to have high standards and not minding when Sue asked her to help study tons of scientific vocabulary. She acknowledges that her success would not have been possible without the support of her older brothers and sister. She would also like to thank her mother for modeling the philosophy of having pride in your work- a philosophy that Sue Ellen brings with her every day. While at UTEP, Sue has been on the Dean’s list every semester and is graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Although her major is biology, a stint as a chemistry peer leader sparked an interest in and love of chemistry. She is an active member of FEMaS (Future Educators of Math and Science) and a member of Math and Science Teachers (MaST) Academy. While president of FEMaS, in conjunction with the El Paso Insights Science Center, she organized and managed a math and science festival for the youth in the historic Segundo Barrio. She credits Dr. Michael Moody, Debra Driscoll, and Ellen Esposito with her success at UTEP. While interning at Irvin High School, she is teaching high school chemistry and enjoys making science come alive for her students. She is the recipient of a generous MaST Academy Scholarship, courtesy of ADP. Sue Ellen enjoys painting and pointillism, reading science fiction (especially H.P. Lovecraft), and spending time with her family. She plans to pursue graduate school in environment biology.
Collin Gray was born and raised in Traverse City Michigan. He was graduated Cum Laude from Lake Superior State University (LSSU) with a BS in Geology where he was honored with the “Most Outstanding Geology Graduate” award. He choose UTEP because of his advisor’s (Dr. Katherine Giles) expertise in carbonate systems and her background in oil and gas exploration. In addition, the success of numerous graduates from LSSU who pursued graduate degrees at UTEP made it a highly attractive university. Collin interned at West Bay Exploration Co. during spring of 2014, and at ConocoPhillips in during the summer of 2014. During the summer of 2015 he conducted fluid inclusion microthermometric analyses under the directorship of Dr. Robert Goldstein at the University of Kansas to help reveal some of the questions presented in his thesis project.
Among the many scholarships, and grants Collin received at UTEP are the Society of Petrophysicists and Well Log Analysts Foundation Vicki King Memorial Scholarship, Society of Petrophysicists and Well Log Analysts Foundation grant, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Robert K. Goldhammer Memorial Grant, Geology Society of America Research Grant, Southwest Section of AAPG Graduate Scholarship, and the West Texas Geological Society Russell Lloyd Scholarship; in addition, he is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. He has had one paper published while working on his graduate degree at UTEP and has presented at multiple professional conferences including AAPG’s Annual Convention & Exhibition June 2015 in Denver, CO where he received an Award of Excellence for a Top 10 Poster Presentation. He credits Drs. Katherine Giles, Richard Langford, and Benjamin Brunner, his strong family support, and West Bay Exploration with his success at UTEP. Collin is not all about work and studies, he enjoys downhill-mountain biking, snowboarding, hiking, rock climbing, and spending time on Lake Michigan while visiting his family. After graduation, Collin plans to begin his doctoral studies in geology where he plans to conduct research in petrophysics. Ultimately, he aspires to work as a geologist in the oil and gas industry.
Juan Villalba was born in El Paso, Texas and was raised on both sides of the U.S/Mexico border. After graduating high school from Tecnologico de Monterrey in Juarez, he chose UTEP to receive his college education. In addition of wanting to stay close to home and family, Juan chose UTEP because it has been a part of Juan’s family; his father graduated from the College of Engineering at UTEP and his sister graduated from the College of Education last year. Due to his great interest in science and medicine, Juan is graduating with a B.S. in Biology with a Biomedical Concentration and a GPA of 3.92. During his undergraduate years, he interned at Paul L. Foster School of Medicine during the summer of 2012 via the Academic Enrichment Program and at UT Medical Branch at Galveston in 2013 via the Medical School Matriculation Program. He has applied to several Texas medical schools and will make his choice after the interview process is over. He plans to pursue a career as a primary care physician.
During his time at UTEP, he was a University Studies peer leader where he monitored the academic progress of incoming freshmen and made appropriate recommendations that could assist with their success at the university. He was also a traffic court justice in the UTEP Student Government Association’s Judicial Branch and an inducted member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. Wanting to give back to his community, Juan became the founding president of the first community-based Rotaract Club in El Paso, which is a Rotary International-sponsored organization that focuses on the development of young men and women as leaders in their communities through service. Juan arrived at UTEP with English as his second language and credits his mother, an English teacher, with his command of the language. He credits a large portion of his success at UTEP to the extraordinary support from instructors, fellow students, and his parents. He is especially grateful to his peer leader mentor, Professor Joanne Kropp, for all her advice and undeniable support, to Dr. Kyung-An Han for giving him the opportunity to work as an undergraduate research assistant in her laboratory, and to his favorite professor, Dr. Kristine Gosselink, for further stimulating his passion for science. Juan enjoys spending his free time with his family, playing racquetball, and playing the guitar. UTEP expects great things from Juan.
Isaac Torres was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and was graduated from El Paso High School. Having had an impoverished childhood, Isaac chose UTEP because of its affordability. Living several years in Ciudad Juarez, Isaac realized the importance of preserving the environment. That ultimately led to his decision to major in chemistry, hoping to develop materials for converting and storing sunlight and eventually evolving from fossil fuels. “The Life and Narrative of Frederic Douglas”, a book whose overarching theme is freedom through literacy, was profoundly inspirational to him in becoming an autodidact; for Isaac, educating himself in chemistry was his ticket out of poverty. He is graduating with a GPA of 4.0 and has been accepted into the PhD program in Materials Science programs at Northwestern University and hopes to start a business taking waste products and turning them into energy related necessities. In high school, Isaac recalls not being in the top ten percent but says he realized that all one needs to do to become the best is to convince themselves that all they need to do is decide it. During his time at UTEP, he was the media director for the student chapter of the American Chemical Society. He has helped judge science fairs, created chemistry circuses to inspire future scientists, and worked as an undergraduate researcher and is currently authoring a publication as first author on the synthesis of nanowires. He has helped fund his college education by being a self-employed tutor in the areas of algebra, calculus, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. Isaac credits a large portion of his success to setting up what he calls a “positive feedback loop”, or earning good grades to win gratuitous scholarships and repeating the cycle rather than working to pay for school which inevitably ends up hurting one’s studies and disqualifying themselves from scholarships. He also credits Sergio Flores in Physics, Marion L. Ellzey, Skye Fortier, and his mentor Juan Noveron from chemistry with his success. Numerous sleepless nights were also a significant factor. He is the first in his immediate family to graduate from college and the first in both of his extended families to pursue a PhD. In his free time he enjoys composing electronic music, bicycling, the occasional beer or two, and high-speed motorcycle rides.
Paola was born, raised, and educated in Chihuahua, Mexico. After graduating from high school she was motivated to seek opportunities abroad. Interested in the higher education United States provides, and the scientific contributions U.S. makes as a country, she decided to leave her hometown and pursue a degree at The University of Texas at El Paso. Paola’s research exposure began during her sophomore year when she became an undergraduate research volunteer in a molecular endocrinology laboratory under the mentorship of Dr. Marc Cox. This exposure motivated her to pursue a degree in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry. As a junior she completed a summer internship at Princeton University in 2014. Her acquired research experience as an undergrad opened many doors for her future studies and she will be joining a Cellular Physiology PhD. program at Columbia University. Paola will be graduating as part of the honors program with an Honors Degree and an overall GPA of 4.0. She values many of her UTEP affiliations such as the Student Leadership Institute where she learned invaluable leadership skills. She was also a COURI (Campus Office Undergraduate Research Initiative) fellow for two years and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas chapter for their treasured support. Paola credits many faculty members for her success. Dr. Marc Cox was her mentor for three years and his advice and support was a determinant factor for her accomplishments. Dr. Siddhartha Das, her favorite professor motivated her with his passion towards science and great knowledge and attitude . Nai Guy, a doctoral student who mentored her, taught her lab skills, discipline and became one her best friends. Paola is not only just about studying; she enjoys ballet dancing, yoga, running and healthy cooking. UTEP expect great things from Paola and sends her off with their great wishes for success.
Arjun Sharma Neupane chosen as Graduate Marshal of Students for May 2015 Commencement. Arjun was born in Nepal and completed his undergraduate and graduate studies in Physics from Tribhuvan University in Nepal. He came to UTEP to study Geophysics through the Department of Physics. His thesis, “Crustal Structure Beneath the Himalayas Using Receiver Functions” was supervised by Dr. Aaron Velasco in the Department of Geological Sciences. Arjun credits Drs. Vivian Incera, Efrain Ferrer, Tunna Baruah and other faculties from the Department of Physics and Dr. Aaron Velasco from the Department of Geological Sciences with his academic success. Dr. Incera recruited him to the Department of Physics and significantly contributed to his presentation skills. Dr. Ferrer gave wonderful lectures in Statistical and Quantum Mechanics where he presented difficult materials with depth and simplicity. Dr. Baruah gave him continuous advising and support throughout his graduate work. Dr. Velasco mentored his research and was always there to support him. Arjun graduates with GPA of 4.0. He has been accepted into the doctoral program in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Arjun wants to continue his research in seismology to understand the physics of earthquakes and the geophysical forces that drive plate tectonics. He has a long term goal of contributing to the research in seismology in his home land Nepal. Arjun has two brothers. His eldest brother is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Florida, and his other brother has completed his masters in Economics and currently works and lives in London. He is not all about academics, he enjoys soccer, cricket, hiking, watching movies and playing pool. He is planning a visit to Nepal after his graduation in May.
UTEP graduate students Yvette Pereyra, Jacqueline Engel, Syprose Nyachoti (faculty advisor Lin Ma), Anna Ortiz (faculty advisor Lixin Jin), Ezer Patlan, Lennox Thompson, Azucena Zamora, Richard Alfaro-Diaz (faculty advisor Aaron Velasco), Joe Collins (faculty advisor Tom Gill), Tony Alvarez, Munazzam Ali (faculty advisor Phil Goodell), John Olguin (faculty advisor Deana Pennington) presented research at the 47th Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), December 15-19, 2014 in the Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, California. The AGU fall meeting is the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world with more than 25,000 scientists discussing emerging trends and the latest research in cutting-edge science. Our students presented and discussed their graduate research projects and original results with top scientists in their respective fields from the world. The students’ research projects include topics ranging from geochemistry, environmental sciences, atmospheric and surface processes, geophysics, geoarchaeology and soil sciences, all supported by funding agencies such as NSF, USGS, and EPA. Some students also received travel support from UTEP Graduate School, College of Science, and Department of Geological Sciences.
Virginia has lived most of her life in El Paso. In 1991 she earned a BS in Nursing from UTEP and has enjoyed a fulfilling career in nursing since that time. Her teaching experience as a nurse led her back to UTEP to pursue a MAT in Science. Although working full time in the nursing program at El Paso Community College while completing her graduate work, she is graduating with a 4.0 GPA. UTEP and Science are an important part of the Rojo family. Virginia’s husband is currently pursuing an MS in Geology at UTEP. Their future plans include working for the National Park Service as an Education Specialist and Geologist. Their son will start UTEP in the spring of 2015 to pursue a degree in biology. Virginia is currently a volunteer in the education department at the Chamizal National Memorial. She is a member of the UTEP chapter of the Golden Key International Honor Society and the Texas Alpha Beta Chapter of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society.
Virginia overcame a huge obstacle while completing her graduate work; an obstacle that she describes as a “dark valley.” It is because of this experience that she is able to encourage others to not give up, but persevere in pursuing their dreams. She has also discovered that there is no age limit to learning and success. She encourages others to “think outside the box,” not compare themselves to others and let their gifts shine.She credits her success to her faculty mentors Dr. Laura Serpa, Dr. Siddartha Das, Dr. Richard Jarvis, and Dr. Elaine Hampton. Besides working full time and pursuing her graduate degree full time, she also enjoys hiking, birding, and spending time with her husband and son.
Samuel was born and raised in El Paso, Texas in abject poverty by parents with only a second-grade education. His parents immigrated from Mexico and faced many hardships throughout their stay. His mother abandoned him and his family when he was only nine years. Despite these hardships, he graduated from Horizon High School in the top 1% of his class and received the Wells Fargo Presidential Scholarship to attend UTEP as a first generation college student.
Due to a near death experience of his mother, he decided, at an early age, to become a volunteer Firefighter, putting his life on the line for his community on a day-to-day basis. He joined the Fire Department immediately after his High School graduation and went on to obtain his Emergency Medical Technician license to serve his community during medical emergencies.
He credits Dr. Manuel Llano and Dr. German Rosas-Acosta with his success. They were his mentors via the HHMI Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science project and helped him secure research internships at Johns Hopkins and UCSF, but most importantly, inspired him to become a physician scientist.
He did biomedical research as an undergraduate at UTEP, worked as the chemistry head peer leader, and also had to hold a third job at McDonalds to help support his father and siblings. Despite these jobs and a 4.0 GPA, he also reached out to help others. While at UTEP, he gathered several other colleagues and started the Higher Education Liaison Program (HELP), founded as an effort to promote higher education in low-income communities.
This program is designed to establish a motivating environment and a mentoring relationship between high school and college students with the goal to inspire students to attend college and show them the potential they truly possess.
He has currently applied to several schools and was invited for an interview at Harvard. He plans to pursue a career as a physician scientist with a focus in immunological research. He has demonstrated his outstanding potential, and we are sure that Samuel will continue to succeed and surpass our expectations.
Taylor chose UTEP because he was accepted into the Early Medical School Acceptance Program (EMSAP). He majored in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry in the Department of Biological Sciences and is graduating Summa Cum Laude, the top of the College of Science, with a GPA of 4.0. His mother graduated from UTEP, and his younger sister, Caitlin, is attending UTEP. While at UTEP, Taylor joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity where he created and ran the Iron Turkey 5K run which raises more than $15,000 per year for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Besides graduating with a GPA of 4.0, Taylor is also a member of the Medical Professions Organization, Golden Key Honor Society, Pre-Pharmacy Organization, longtime volunteer at University Medical Center, shadowed doctors for over 1,800 hours, and interned at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston every summer.
Additionally, Taylor was awarded the prestigious Men and Women of Mines award, was a COURI Scholar, a National Science Foundation Scholar under the PREM grant (Partnership for Research and Education in Materials), a UPBiT Scholar (Undergraduate Participation in Bioinformatics Training), and a chemistry peer leader. Collectively, Taylor dedicated well over 2,500 hours towards undergraduate research, and looks forward to continuing his project in organic photovoltaic solar cells before he enters medical school next year.
Taylor credits Dr. Charles T. Spencer, Dr. Siddhartha Das, and Dr. Charu Saheba for their extraordinary mentoring during his undergraduate education. We in the College of Science think that Taylor is destined for great things.
Taylor Bramblett has been named the College of Science Undergraduate Marshall of Students for the December 2013 Commencement because of her outstanding scholastic achievement. She is graduating with a major in Microbiology with a GPA of 3.96. She has been on the Dean’s List every semester at UTEP while working 26 hours a week at two part-time jobs throughout her college career. Taylor plans to attend medical school in Texas and specialize in cardiothoracic surgery.
Taylor is a member of the Medical Professions Organization and Zeta Tau Alpha woman’s fraternity where she held two leadership positions. She was born and raised in El Paso and graduated from Silva Magnet High School with high achievement honors. She also transferred 18 AP college hours from high school. During her time at Silva she was exposed to many shadowing opportunities. She has continued to shadow Dr. Juan Taveras throughout her college career. Her interest in medicine began at an early age of 4 with her pediatric cardiologist. Despite having her pick of universities to attend; Taylor decided to attend UTEP because of the Early Medical School Acceptance Program (EMSAP) it offers.
Brandan Garcia has been named the College of Science Undergraduate Banner Bearer for the December 2013 Commencement because of his outstanding scholastic achievement. He is graduating with a major in Physics with a Medical Physics Concentration with a GPA of 4.0. He has been on the Dean’s List every semester at UTEP. Brandan plans to attend Southwestern Medical School of Prosthetics and Orthodontics.
Brandan was born and raised in the El Paso area and graduated from Canutillo High School as salutatorian in 2009. He is the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. He was the recipient of the Presidential Scholarship and the Top Ten Percent Scholarship. With a combination of these scholarships, financial aid, and working all through college, Brandon is managing to graduate without any debt.
He enjoys basketball, lifting weights, and reading.
Blanca Isabel Rey - Undergraduate College of Science Student Marshal
Blanca majored in biology and minored in Secondary Education and graduated with a GPA of 4.0.
She was born in Juarez, Mexico, spent her early years in Camargo, Mexico, and moved to El Paso, Texas when she was nine years old. She graduated from Montwood High School in El Paso, Texas. She chose The University of Texas at El Paso, UTEP, because all her cousins attended and because she was not ready to leave home. Her sister also attends UTEP and will graduate in two years.
Blanca plans to pursue graduate work in biology and ultimately teach. She received a MaST Academy Scholarship from ADP. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), and a member of Future Educators of Math and Science (FEMAS) where she served as president in 2012.
Despite all her academic achievements, Blanca also managed to volunteer in educational outreach events, science fairs, and the Child Crisis Center.
She credits Ellen Esposito, Debra Driscoll, Dr. Elizabeth Walsh, Dr. Michael L. Moody, and Paul Hotchkin, for their support and inspiration. She wants to study under Dr. Elizabeth Walsh while pursuing graduate work.
Azucena Zamora Chosen May 2013 College of Science Graduate Student Marshall of Students
Azucena Zamora was born and raised in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. She chose to attend UTEP because of the proximity and the reputation of the Department of Mathematical Sciences. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and a Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics degree.
Because of her involvement in the Cyber-ShARE Center of Excellence, Azucena decided to pursue a doctoral degree in Computation Science. The degree requires that she earn a master’s degree in Computational Science as part of the doctoral requirements. Her research has involved interdisciplinary association with the Departments of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Geology where she is collaborating in the development of novel techniques to improve the resolution and accuracy of the 3-dimensional Earth structure model for the Rio Grande Rift.
She was awarded a fellowship as part of the National Science Foundation Grant GK-12 from the Geology Department. The fellowship places graduate students in Early College High Schools as “Scientists in Residence,” and the fellow selection is based on research and academic record.
Her involvement in Early College high school education has inspired Azucena to continue her work with GK-12 students. One of her goals is to carry on inspiring and mentoring minority group students to pursue a higher education in STEM fields.
Azucena has participated in organizations such as the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics (NCTM), and the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
In the near future, Azucena plans to complete her doctoral degree in Computational Science at UTEP and, later on, pursue a career in academia focusing on the inclusion and advancement of women and minority students in science.
Azucena credits Dr. Aaron Velasco with inspiration and research innovation. Her advisor’s constant support, advice, and encouragement have been essential for the achievement of her current degree.
She has a sister (Diana) and two brothers (Mario and Hector), all of whom graduated from UTEP. Diana and Hector are also pursuing doctoral degrees (in Hydrology and Geology) at the University of Arizona.
Azucena has a five-year old son and she enjoys spending her free time with him.
Alexandra Navarro – Chosen College of Science Undergraduate Banner Bearer
Alexandra Navarro has been named the College of Science Undergraduate Banner Bearer for the May 2013 Commencement because of her outstanding scholastic achievement. She was raised in El Paso, she attended Horizon Heights Elementary School, Ensor Middle School and graduated from Socorro High School at the top of her class. Alexandra is the first in her family to graduate from a University. Her younger sister looks to follow in her footsteps and plans to attend Princeton University in the Fall.
Throughout her undergraduate studies she maintained a 4.0 GPA while majoring in Microbiology with a minor in Chemistry. She has been on the Dean's List every semester at UTEP. Ultimately, she would like to earn her Ph.D in Microbiology or Immunology, due to her interest in studying the cause of disease and take part in the discovery of novel therapies for common diseases. Currently she has been accepted as a Post Baccalaureate research intern at Baylor University, the University of Washington, the University of Texas Medical Branch and by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
During her time at the University of Texas at El Paso she participated in the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program where she participated in research in a Virology lab under the direction of Dr. Kyle Johnson. Here, she worked on studying the viral polymerase of the Nodamura virus in order to better understand the mechanism of replication of this virus.
As an undergraduate she also participated in a summer internship at the University of Virginia, where she conducted research in infectious diseases in the laboratory of Dr. Molly Hughes. Here she performed a screen for novel antimicrobial targets in Bacillus anthracis spores. She later presented this research at the 2012 Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) national conference, where she received an undergraduate poster presenter award in Microbiology.
While at UTEP she was a member of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) and the Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD) honor society where she participated in a variety of community service activities ranging from Science outreach to assisting in local book fairs. She was also a member of the National Collegiate Society, the University Honors Program, the Student Leadership Institution (SLI) and took part in the Student Enrichment Experience (SEE) trip. She also worked as a Peer Leader for the entering freshmen University course. She was the recipient of the UTEP Presidential Excellence Scholarship and the Kiwanis Club of Horizon Key Club Scholarship throughout her four years.
She credits Drs. German Rosas-Acosta, Manual Llano, Igor Almeida and Kyle Johnson for providing the intellectual spark in her academic career. We in the College of Science at The University of Texas at El Paso expect great things from Alexandra in the future as she continues her extraordinary academic journey.
Rodolfo Cereceres – University Undergraduate Banner Bearer – Spring 2012
Rodolfo Cereceres was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and reared in El Paso, Texas. He graduated from Franklin High School in the top ten percent of his class. He is the first in his family to graduate from college, and not only is he graduating from UTEP, he has been accepted by three dental schools: Baylor College of Dentistry, UTHSSA Dental School, and the University. He plans to specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery and then return to El Paso.
He has maintained a GPA of 4.0 while majoring in biology, minoring in chemistry, working 30 hours per week, and also carrying a heavy volunteer scheduled.
Rodolfo was on the Dean’s list at UTEP every semester, is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and a member of the UTEP Pre-Dental Society.
His hobbies include micro sculpting, drawing, and painting.
Mercy Uwakwe – College of Science Student Marshal
Mercy Uwakwe was born in Nigeria and came to the United States at the age of 14. She completed her high school in Houston, Texas graduating at the top of her class. She graduates from UTEP with an honors degree in biomedical Sciences and a minor in chemistry while maintaining my 4.0 G.P.A.
Her involvements in the University of Texas at El Paso included her participation in the RISE program where she conducted her own research in genetic engineering, immunology and cancer research under the mentorship of Dr. Siddhartha Das. Her interest in research led her to bioinformatics where she was trained under the guidance of Dr. Ming-Ying Leung.
Her research knowledge was further broadened when she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to conduct research under Dr. Laurie Boyer. Her project was to establish a SH-RNA that was mediated to knock down histone variant H2AZ in mouse embryonic stem cells. After her training at MIT, she was featured in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Science News. Aside from research she has participated in several campus programs and activities such as the Student Leadership Institute, Student Government Association, the University Honors Program/Council, and Campus Activities Board and so on.
In addition, Mercy was a peer leader for an introductory engineering course designed for engineering students and even wrote several articles for the UTEP Prospector (the student newspaper). She is a miner Ambassador at the UTEP and a University Honors Program Ambassador. She served as a public defender at the student government association.
The list of international and national honor societies to which Mercy has been inducted include Alpha Lambda Delta, Sigma Alpha Lambda, Alpha Chi National Honor Society, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Golden Key International Honor Society, and the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society.
During her years at UTEP Mercy has received several scholarships including the Houston Endowment Honors Awards, Phi Kappa Phi Scholarship Award, Woman of Academia Award, and the National Institute of Health Undergraduate Scholar Award.
In additional to her exceptional academic activities, she has participated in community outreach programs such the Heritage group, YWCA, UTEP Disable Student Services Offices, and other non-profit organizations. She credits her success and achievements to Dr. Donna Ekal, Dr. Siddartha Das, Dr. Laurie Boyer, and Dr. Ming-Ying Leung.
Narges K. Kalantarian – University Undergraduate Banner Bearer – Spring 2012
Narges Kalantarian has been chosen to represent UTEP as the Undergraduate Banner Bearer at the 2012 Spring Commencement ceremony. She attended Mesita elementary, Hornado middle school and managed to graduate top 10 percent of her graduating class at Franklin High School. Both her parents and elder sister graduated from UTEP and a younger brother is yet to follow. Her older brother graduated from M.I.T.
Narges graduates with a major in biomedical sciences and a minor in chemistry holding a 4.0 GPA. While at UTEP, she was involved in many activities, both volunteer and honors. She was first immersed in the Peer Led Team Learning Program as a peer leader her sophomore year and continued to teach and support the program as one of the best educational programs at UTEP, both as a student and a peer leader, all the way through her senior year.
Narges’ active engagement in the Honors Program attained her University Honors Program Ambassador. Among the many scholarships she received are the Houston Endowment Scholarship Awards and the American Association of University Women Scholarship. She conducted biomedical research at UNTHSC where her research was undertaking the very first steps scientists were attempting to cure brain cancer via vaccination. There she also served as the Vice President of the McNair/SMART Student Association.
She participated in the first Paul L. Foster School of Medicine health fair, Socorro High School Public Health Fair, attended a summer internship at Baylor College of Medicine, gained hands on medical experiences shadowing Dr. Nancy L. Glass at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, presented in the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, and at the American Chemical Society Southwest Region meeting. She served as an officer in the Medical Professions Organization for two years. In addition, Narges volunteered at the Baptist Clinic as a translator and pharmacy assistant and was a Club Latinitas mentor. She credits many of her professors, including but not limited to Mary Wells, Dr. James Becvar, Dr. Bonnie Gunn, and Dr. Narayan, as her inspiration with extraordinary mentoring during her time at UTEP.
Narges spends her free time reading about Islam and other religions, experimenting with photography, sewing, baking and engaging in family activities. She is trilingual in English, Spanish, and Farsi. Narges plans to attend graduate school.
Axel Moreira chosen as College of Science Undergraduate Banner Bearer for the December 2011 Commencement
Axel was born and reared in El Paso, Texas. He participated in the Early Admittance Program at El Paso Community College while at Cathedral High School and earned his Associate degree at the same time he earned his high school diploma. He entered UTEP as a junior and has maintained a high GPA ever since he arrived. While at UTEP he has been a chemistry peer leader, an honors peer leader, and has participated in organizations such as the American Society of Microbiology, Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, Medical Profession Organization, Phi Kappa Phi, and the Honors Program.
During the summer of 2010 Axel was accepted into a cardiovascular internship at the University of California, San Diego. Fifteen undergraduates from all over the United States were organized into fifteen four-person research teams composed of two faculty, one graduate student, and one undergraduate intern. He participated in research dealing with extracting epicatechin from green tea because of its cardio-protective properties. While there he shadowed Dr. Barry Greenburg and Dr. Jack Copeland (cofounder of the world's only artificial heart).
While at UTEP Axel has participated in community service activities such as building houses for the poor in Ciudad, Juarez, Mexico, volunteering at the El Paso Medical Baptist free clinic, and medical awareness trips in Nicaragua, the birthplace of his parents.
With all these activities Axel still has time for soccer, basketball, racquetball, working out, and rock climbing.
Axel's parents immigrated from Nicaragua in the early 1980s to escape the Civil War in that country and both are very committed to the education of their three sons. Both his brothers graduated from UTEP: one is now attending UTMB, and another is earning his MBA at UTEP. His father had to learn English to take the medical boards in the United States to practice medicine in the US and Texas; his mother is a rehabilitation therapist.
Axel plans to attend medical school with an emphasis in preventive medicine.
Sandra Aziz Chosen as the College of Science Undergraduate Student
Marshall of Students
Sandra Aziz will represent the College of Science at the December 2011 Commencement ceremonies as the Undergraduate Student Marshall of Students. She is graduating with a major in biology, a minor in chemistry, and a GPA of 3.96. Her future plans are to attend medical school.
UTEP is a family affair for the Aziz family. Both of Sandra's parents graduated from UTEP, her brother is attending UTEP, and her sister will start UTEP next fall.
Sandra was born and raised in El Paso, attended Olga B. Kohlberg Elementary School, Hornedo Middle School, and graduated from Franklin High School. She chose to attend UTEP because she comes from a very close family and this allowed her to pursue her career goals and still stay close to her family.
While at UTEP, Sandra not only achieved academic success in her studies but found time to volunteer in both UTEP and community activities. As a pre-med student she was part of organizations such as the Medical Professions Organization and Alpha Epsilon Delta Honors Society. She participated in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences/UTEP Summer Internship where she shadowed Dr. Serrato and Dr. Suarez.
Sandra also volunteered at the El Paso Baptist Clinic, a downtown free clinic where El Paso Physicians donate their time. While volunteering at the clinic, Sandra observed the vulnerability of some of the Hispanic patients because of the language barrier. She stated that this experience influenced her choice to become a Family Practice physician where she would develop a compassionate and effective patient communication.
Sandra states that The University of El Paso has offered her the necessary knowledge and experience to get another step closer to her dream of becoming a physician. She plans to apply to medical school in the coming year and hopes to attend medical school in the state of Texas. She plans to practice Family Practice in El Paso.
Geology Undergraduates Travel to South Africa:
Jacquelyn Cordova and Stephanie Chavez were a part of Pennsylvania State's summer Student Research Opportunities Program (SROP). The research portion took place in South Africa. They participated in the Africa Array program headed up by the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Africa Array is a summer geophysics field camp taking place in the Bushveld Complex. It is the world's largest layered igneous intrusion, containing the 80% of the world's platinum group elements! The Africa Array team conducted geophysical surveys of the Eastern Lobe of the Bushveld to locate dikes and faults in the area. Upon return to Penn State, Stephanie and Jacquelyn worked together with the geologists in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences to interpret the data collected. The final project was to present at a Student Research Colloquium at Ohio State University.
UTEP team of Geological Sciences graduate students are the Southwest Semifinalist in the Imperial Barrel Award competition, and will compete against geoscience graduate students from universities around the world. The IBA an international competition sponsored by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), and university teams compete to win scholarship funds dedicated to graduate student petroleum geoscience education. The program is rigorous and promotes petroleum geoscience training and advancing the careers of geoscience students.
In this global competition, university teams analyze a dataset (geology, geophysics, land, economics, production infrastructure, and other relevant materials) in the eight (8) weeks prior to their local competition. Each team delivers their results in a 25 minute presentation to a panel of industry experts. Students have the chance to use real technology on a real dataset, receive the feedback from an industry panel, have the opportunity to impress potential employers in the audience, and the chance to win cash awards for their schools. The industry panel of judges will select the winning team on the basis of the technical quality, clarity and originality of its presentation.
Anita Thapalia’s award from the IAGC
The International Association of GeoChemistry (IAGC) has provided the Elsevier Student Research Grant award for one of my dissertation projects. The objective of IAGC student research grant program is to assist PhD students in geochemistry acquiring geochemical data and analyses in support of the student’s dissertation research. The project for which I received the IAGC award is collaborative with members of the U.S. Geological Survey in Austin, Texas and focuses on using Zn isotopes as a tool to examine Zn contaminant records in sediment cores from lakes across the US (this is an extension of my MS work). My research will focus on what are the major Zn inputs for these lakes and whether they are uniform across the United States. This research project will provide new insights into Zn pollution but will also further develop the use of these new isotopic tracers as tools for helping to determine the impacts of anthropogenic metal cycling in natural systems. I am thankful to the IAGC for providing this grant, which will be utilized to help pay for isotopic analyses on the lake sediment core.
Katherine Armine Diaz – College of Science Undergraduate Student Marshall – May 2011
Katherine has been chosen to represent the College of Science as the Undergraduate Student Marshal at the 2011 spring commencement ceremony. She graduates with a major in biomedical sciences with a minor in chemistry in three years with an overall GPA of 4.0. In addition she will represent the College of Science as a Top Ten Senior at commencement. She has been accepted at several medical schools and has chosen to attend Texas Tech Medical School in El Paso, Texas where she was offered a scholarship. Even though she had the opportunity to attend other universities inside and outside of Texas, she chose to attend UTEP because she wanted to stay close to home. Katherine studied biology and chemistry to prepare for medical school. Among the many scholarships she received are the UTEP Presidential Scholarship, the Del Sol Hospital Scholarship, the Providence Memorial Scholarship, the Brandon Aboud Memorial Scholarship, and the Ford Salute to Education Scholarship. She is also a member of Alpha Chi Honor Society.
While at UTEP she was an organic chemistry peer leader and completed research under the direction of Dr. Judi Ellzey in the Short-Term Educational Program for Underrepresented Persons summer program (STEP-UP). She presented research at the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestion, and Kidney (NIDDK) in Los Angeles, California. In addition, she participated in the Student Leadership Institute Class 9, Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), and Medical Professions Organizations. She gained hands on medical experiences by shadowing Drs. Manuel Borrego and Gustavo Martell and attending the Joint Admission Medical Profession summer internship at University of Texas Medical in Galveston, Texas.
Katherine states that her most inspiring teacher was Dr. Rosas-Acosta, and her most inspiring mentors were Dr. Mahesh Narayan and Dr. Bonnie Gunn.
While attending UTEP Katherine was involved in many philanthropy activities. She tutored at Mesita Grade School as part of the YWCA's After School Program; she participated in the Breast Cancer Awareness and Education program; she was a club mentor for Club Latinitas; she registered voters for the 2008 presidential election; and she read to elementary students in the Just Read! program.
She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and graduated from Franklin High School where she transferred 19 AP credits. Medicine is a family affair; her two older brothers graduated from UTEP and both are returning to pursue a nursing degree.
Although Katherine has excelled in academics and volunteering, she has found time to sew, hike, read, and hang out with her family. UTEP expects great things from Katherine in the future.
Jesica Navarrete's recent acceptance into the NASA Academies for an internship this summer!
Ms. Jesica Navarrete was recently accepted to the NASA Academies program and will be working at the Ames facility in Mountain View, California, this summer. The NASA Academies are a ten-week intensive educational program emphasizing group activities, teamwork, research, and creativity. In addition to targeted research, there will be seminars, informal discussions, evening lectures, and visits to other NASA facilities. Jesica, with senior researchers at the Academy, will be working on an astrobiology project that explores the potential for life on Mars. Jesica is a PhD student in the Department of Geological Sciences and is also a member of the NASA Center for Space Exploration Technology Research at UTEP.
Churna Bhandari – Graduate Student Marshal – May 2011
Churna was born and raised in Nepal. He completed his undergraduate studies with Physics as a major, and Mathematics and Chemistry as minors in 2003 as well as his Master’s in Physics in 2005 at the Tribhuvan University in Nepal. He then attended the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy with a full scholarship created for outstanding students from developing countries. The full year diploma course covered condense matter physics.
Churna sent emails to many physics professors around the United States and among those who answered he was most impressed with the Chair of Physics at The University of Texas at El Paso, Dr. Vivian Incera. While at UTEP, he was a research assistant to Dr. Incera and she supervised his thesis entitled “Magnetic Field Induced Stability in Two Flavor Color Superconductivity.” He will present a paper at the April National Meeting of the American Physics Society in Anaheim, California. He stated that the Department of Physics at UTEP was outstanding.
He will receive his MS in Physics with a GPA of 4.0 and has been accepted at both Case Western Reserve University and Virginia Tech University to work on a PhD in Physics.
Luis Rubio – College of Science Banner Bearer – May 2011
Luis was born and raised in El Paso, Texas where he attended Franklin High School and transferred 13 AP credits to UTEP. He chose The University of Texas at El Paso because it was close to home and he wanted time to mature. His sister graduated from UTEP and is now a teacher at Franklin High School.
He participated in a summer medical and dental enrichment program at Yale University in 2008 where he studied chemistry and biochemistry. He has participated in stem cell research via a summer research at Brigham and Woman's Hospital. He presented a poster on his involvement in the research at the 2010 Alpha Xi regional conference in 2010 where he won both the regional and chapter award.
He was a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Alpha Epsilon Delta Honor Society, Alpha Xi Honor Society where he was president in 2010. He was an internal vice president of the Medical Professions Organization.
Even though he had the opportunity to attend other universities inside and outside of Texas, he chose to attend to UTEP because he wanted to stay close to home and take time to mature. He researched the quality of undergraduate courses at UTEP and found that they were very similar to those at top universities in the United States. He chose UTEP because of the quality courses, outstanding faculty, and the proximity to home. Luis studied biology and chemistry to prepare for medical school.
Thus far, he has been accepted at seven medical schools and is awaiting word on another two. He has been accepted at UT Southwestern, Texas Tech Medical School – Lubbock, Texas Tech Medical School – El Paso, Baylor, UT San Antonio Health Sciences, Mt. Sinai in New York, Columbia in New York, and Yale University School of Medicine.
It was Luis' childhood dream to become a physician to help people and help cure the ill. In addition to his superior academic achievement, Luis has volunteered at many events during his time at UTEP. He has volunteered at Casas for Cristo where he participated in building houses for the poor; he was a translator for the Free Clinic in Horizon City; he has served food at a homeless shelters in the city; he participated in Court Watch via the Center for Civic Engagement to see if the settlements of domestic dispute cases was fair; and volunteered a the Family Crisis Center of El Paso.
Best Student Poster Award,
Johanny Tonnos De Leon, Midwest Stress Response and Molecular Chaperones Meeting, Evanston, IL -- January 2010
School Among Glaciers - An Award Winning Documentary
School Among Glaciers is a compelling documentary about a schoolteacher who sets out on a 14-day journey on foot to Lunana. He survives a number of narrow trails and high passes including the dreadful 5,200 meter high Gangla Karchung Pass. He finally settles under very harsh living conditions in Lunana, 4,500 meters above sea level, for five months. Here are semi nomadic tribes such as the Layaps and the Lunaps. With just over 1000 people, the Lunaps are considered the most backward people of Bhutan.
Diane I. Doser
Diane I. Doser, professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso, became editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA) effective June 2010. She came to El Paso in 1986 following one and a half years as a Bantrell postdoctoral fellow at Caltech.
She received her Ph.D. at the University of Utah. Diane's research interests include studies of historical (pre-1963), instrumentally recorded earthquakes, induced seismicity in oil and geothermal fields, and seismic tomography technique.
Student Awarded AAPG Award
Pawan Budhathoki, PhD Student was awarded the American Association of Petroleum Geologist Grant-in-Aid for his proposal entitled "Outcrop Studies of Faulted Depositional Sequences of Indio Mountains, South West Texas".
This study investigates how fluvial and nearshore marine clastic sediments accommodate syndepositional faulting and thickening into an extensional basin. In particular, I will investigate how sequence stratigraphy is preserved or thickened across syndepositional faults and through tilting of blocks on the basin margin.
There are several possible mechanisms by which this thickening can be accommodated.
1) onlap of beds and sequences,
2) thinning of entire sequences,
3) erosion or nondeposition of different parts of stratigraphic sequences.
Banner bearer 2010
Maryam Kalantarian has been chosen to represent the College of Science as the Undergraduate Banner Bearer at the 2010 spring commencement ceremony. She graduates with a major in biomedical sciences with a minor in chemistry with an overall GPA of 4.0.
She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and was graduated from Franklin High School in 2007. Both her parents received their education at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), and currently two of her siblings attend UTEP. Maryam's mother received her Master's degree in Linguistics, and her father received two Masters degrees, one in Mechanical Engineering and one in Civil Engineering, and a PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering.
It was Maryam's childhood dream to become a physician to help people and help cure the ill. She witnessed her mother's struggle with a fatal disease and always wished she could somehow help her and cure her so that her mother would be in her life longer. The passing of her mother when she was only 11 years old provided the motivation to help others through medicine.
Even though she had the opportunity to attend other universities inside and outside of Texas, she chose to attend to UTEP. Her father researched the quality of undergraduate courses at UTEP and found that they were very similar to those at top universities in the United States. She chose UTEP because of the quality courses, outstanding faculty, and the proximity to her home. She studied biology and chemistry to prepare for medical school.
While at UTEP, she participated in the peer leader program in chemistry under the guidance of Dr. James Becvar. Maryam states that her involvement with the peer leader program helped her develop confidence and leadership skills. Being part of the Alpha Lambda Delta honors society also helped prepared her for a life after graduation.
After graduating from UTEP she will be going to Norway to study Medicine.
Lela Ruck has been chosen to represent the College of Science as the Undergraduate Student Marshal in the spring 2010 commencement ceremonies. Her academic achievements and community involvement are outstanding.
Lela was born and raised in El Paso, Texas where she attended and graduated from Coronado High School. She chose to attend UTEP because she was not ready to leave home. She planned to transfer to UT Austin at the end of her sophomore year; however, by then, UTEP had her heart and her head.
She has always loved everything science and she credits her grandfather, who majored in chemistry, for fostering this interest. She spent a lot of time with him while she was a child and he was always talking about and promoting science. From this childhood beginning, she planned to be a doctor. Lela has been accepted at the Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Medicine, where she plans to study either internal medicine or pediatrics.
Lela states that she credits two individuals and two programs at UTEP for all her success. She states that working with Dr. Jim Becvar in his Peer Led Team Learning program gave her confidence, leadership skills, and high aspirations. Dr. Becvar provided constant mentoring. She states also that Mary Wells, Director of the Medical Professions Institute and the Medical Professions Organizations, helped her to balance her life and to prioritize her commitments. She became the president of the MPO organization while at UTEP.
Not only was Lela the president of MPO, she was a chemistry peer leader, and she worked part time for Hoy Fox. In addition to these activities, she shadowed two doctors: Dr. Serrato at University Medical Center and Dr. Mian at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Serrato, a specialist in internal medicine, taught her objectivity and how to maintain a sense of humor in dire situations. Dr. Mian, a specialist in pediatric nephrology, taught her that when you treat children you treat the entire family. Lela also volunteered with the Alzheimer's Association. All of this while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in her major of microbiology and a 3.96 GPA overall.
She said that she thought the Texas Medical School Bus Trip that UTEP takes every year, UTEP is the only university in Texas that does this, gave her an edge. Students were able to visit the campuses, talk directly with admission directors, and get lessons on application submissions.
Best Student Oral Presentation,
Johanny Tonnos De Leon, American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA -- December 2009
Lina Hamdan has been designated as the Graduate Banner Bearer representing UTEP at the spring 2010 commencement. She will receive her Masters in Biological Sciences, with an emphasis in Genetics and Ecology, during the spring 2010 commencement ceremonies. Her road to graduation was long and varied. She was born in Kuwait and completed High School and her Bachelor's degree in Biology in Jordan.
She chose UTEP to pursue a Masters degree in Biological Sciences because her husband and her sister were already at UTEP working on their PhDs. Her husband, Musa Hussein, received his PhD in Geological Sciences, and her sister, Lubna Hamdan, is a PhD candidate in Environmental Science and Engineering.
Lina states that the support and mentoring of her supervisor, Dr. Elizabeth Walsh, cannot be measured, and credits Dr. Walsh with her success. In fact, she states that all her professors at UTEP provided support, mentoring, and encouragement.
She states that her husband and daughter, Lana, were very understanding of the long days spent in the biology lab as she completed her studies. She plans to pursue a PhD in biology.
According to Dr. Walsh, Lina is an excellent student and colleague as well as a terrific role model for aspiring biologists. Lina's determination, knowledge, and professionalism contribute to her successes now and in the future.
Edith Jaurrieta de Velasco
Edith was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and attended UTEP briefly back in 1990 before moving to Austin, Texas. When she decided to obtain another degree, she came back to El Paso and chose UTEP for graduate school so that she could be close to her parents. She chose the Environmental Science graduate program because it offered a diverse curriculum and presented many opportunities for internships and travel.
She was able to travel abroad on multiple occassions, including the Arctic and Antarctica. Edith was able to conduct small and large scale research at both polar regions where she met incredible faculty and mentors who believed in her and encouraged her to succeed. According to Edith, attending UTEP was also like being enrolled in a private university; the classes were usually small and she always had direct access to her professors when she asked for help.
Edith plans to pursue her Ph.D. in a couple of years; however, in the meantime she plans to contribute to UTEP's spirit and pride as it works its way into becoming a Tier 1 university and will certainly support the Alumni Association and anyone else involved in achieving that goal.
Diana received this prestigious award because of her outstanding academic achievement while attending The University of Texas at El Paso. Diana was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and attended Jefferson High School where she was valedictorian of her graduating class. She received a full scholarship to attend UTEP where she majored in Mathematics and minored in Secondary Education. She plans to start graduate work in mathematics in the spring 2010 semester at UTEP. She stated that receiving this scholarship made all the difference because she was able to dedicate all her time to her studies.
While at UTEP, she was a member of Mortar Board, Alpha Chi, Golden Key, and Club Zero (a mathematics club). Diana initially choose mathematics and education because of outstanding high school teachers. She said she experienced a "spark" while attending an elementary number theory class with Dr. Joe Guthrie that led her to continue her studies in mathematics and education.
Andrew Pardo, a Ph. D. candidate in Chemistry, had the honor of attending the 59th Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany. Andrew was invited to join a 70-member student delegation from the United States after a rigorous selection process. Andrew is the first UTEP student to participate in the globally recognized forum that facilitates exchanging knowledge between generations of scientists. "I will never forget this experience! I feel inspired and empowered that I, too, can make important contributions to science," Andrew said.
He is seen here with Professor Mario Molina (to the left) winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Hector Zamora, a senior Geological Sciences major, was selected to participate in the 2009 Svalbard Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Hector will be in Norway collecting marine environment samples from small boats floating in cold waters between icebergs. Hector will also deploy and retrieving sampling equipment and instrumentation that may be quite heavy and participate in the 2010 Salbard REU spring international scientific meeting.
Sarah Cervera, a Geological Sciences Ph.D. candidate, spent eight weeks of her summer as an intern with the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE). PIRE awards support research across a range of disciplines and include projects in such areas as the formation of distant galaxies, nanoscience for clean drinking water, computer speech recognition and language translation, patterns of learning by children of immigrants and seismic activity in the Earth's mantle under Africa. For her internship, Sarah working and learning from scientists from Japan, Russia and the United States involved in volcanology.
"I participated in the PIRE-Kamchatka workshop in Fairbanks Alaska (June 21-26), participated in a short excursion to Mt. St. Helens volcano participated in a class at Kamchatka State University (July 6-12), and conduct field work at Sheviluch and Bezmianny volcanoes, Kamchatka, Russia (July 13-August 4), said Sarah.
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