Student Profiles: Cesar Meza
Are you a first generation student? If so, please share with us what motivated you to pursue a college degree.
I grew up as the oldest sibling of three, and was raised by a single mother for a large part of my life. I saw my mother work well over 40-hour weeks year after year, and never complain about having to put food on the table and juggle between three different school and sports schedules.
While I was beginning my undergraduate degree at UTEP, she was laid off from her job and without any delay or feelings of misfortune, she decided to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at UTEP. Only one semester after I completed my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology, my mother also walked the stage to receive her BSN, in spite of working overnight shifts as a nurse’s assistant.
I’ve been fortunate to call someone who embodies hard work and perseverance my mother, and as a result these traits were engrained in my upbringing. I knew early on, that to attain a secure profession in a field that I enjoyed to work in, a graduate degree was necessary. I’ve since found a passion in the health sciences and in motivating others to reach their potential.
What attracted you to the UTEP Department of Kinesiology?
Although my initial career aspirations did not include research, a new interest was ignited by professors in Kinesiology, including Dr. Sudip Bajpeyi and Dr. Sandor Dorgo, who demonstrated the methods of conducting exercise science research. After expressing my interest in becoming a part of research as a graduate student, the faculty was always supportive of my goals. I was also drawn by the resources in the department that are available related to research and the potential for involvement with the community. It was clear that the faculty supported student research and encouraged presentations at national conferences.
Why did you decide to continue your education past the undergraduate level and pursue a master’s degree in Kinesiology?
An undergraduate Kinesiology degree provides a good foundation in the various exercise science topics, but having an interest in exercise physiology and metabolism, I wanted to pursue more training and develop skills that are focused in this sub-discipline of Kinesiology. My master’s degree provided a platform to gain this training and work more closely with our faculty to become an exercise physiologist.
How has your graduate education in Kinesiology prepared you for your future career?
During the course of my master’s degree, I worked in the Metabolic, Nutrition & Exercise Research (MiNER) Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Sudip Bajpeyi. I participated in submitting a total of 31 research abstracts, including nine as a first-author. I worked on several projects to study the effects of diet and exercise on metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and my master’s thesis focuses on identifying circulating biomarkers that will improve how we treat diabetes and prescribe exercise in the future. I also had the opportunity to present at several internal symposia as well as national conferences, where I earned 1st and 2nd place awards among students in the El Paso-Las Cruces border region and among masters students in the Texas Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine.
In addition to my research work, I was a teaching assistant for both graduate and undergraduate courses in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Kinesiology, and served as a mentor to my peers in the MiNER Lab, including several NIH-funded BUILDing Scholars and aspiring exercise physiologists.
I plan to continue my education in exercise physiology by obtaining a PhD, and I feel confident saying that all of these experiences I’ve mentioned have prepared to me to become a competitive candidate. I’ve had the opportunity to learn laboratory and clinical techniques that are consistent with R1 institutions across the country, and by receiving support to discuss my research at national conferences, I’ve fostered experiences that will help me become an effective educator and researcher.
What would you tell a prospective student who is thinking about pursuing a graduate degree in Kinesiology?
If you’re interested in studying exercise science, whether it’s biomechanics, strength and conditioning or exercise physiology, I would encourage you to consider a graduate degree. You will gain hands-on experience that is not always available at the undergraduate level. Secondly, you’ll be trained in how to think critically and ask the questions that will help you develop appropriate training programs or the most suitable study design to answer your question.