Paola Correa Alfonzo – Future Neurosurgeon
Paola is majoring in biology with a biomedical concentration and a GPA of 4.0; she plans to pursue an MD degree and a PhD degree and become a neurosurgeon. Her path to UTEP and this decision has been winding.
She was born and raised in Puerto Rico and graduated from Colegio San Jose High School (now closed because of Hurricane Maria) and was involved in science and the theatre arts. She loved both fields and felt that she had strong potential to be an artist and/or scientist, but she had to decide which direction to take.
She was always interested in the environment and chose chemistry as her major at the University of Puerto Rico Piedras. While walking across campus one day, she found a flyer advertising Smart Minds at UTEP. Smart Minds is a summer mentoring and research training workshop dealing with methods in the neuroscience of drug-abuse. She decided to apply and was accepted for the summer 2016 program. Because of her research activities in the SMART MIND program and her experience working under Dr. Sukla Roychowdhury, whose focus was on molecular research, Paola learned that her interest was not in the environment but rather in health and molecular science. Therefore, she changed her major to Biology.
After the SMART MIND summer, she returned to Puerto Rico to complete her studies. Her academic achievements were halted and threatened when Hurricane María struck her beloved Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico was destroyed and she found herself lost and wondering what would happen to her and the millions of people affected by this natural disaster. Although many Puerto Ricans lost hope both her parents did not. As physicians, they were involved in the reconstruction of Puerto Rico. Paola witnessed her parents’ sacrifices helping the Hurricane María victims. That experience changed her life forever. She was determine to pursue an MD or/and MD/PhD degree in order to help others and inspire others as her parents did her.
Because of the turmoil in Puerto Rico, Paola was afraid that she would not be able to complete her degree. She liked her experience in the University of Texas at El Paso, so she reached out to Dr. Laura O’Dell in the Department of Psychology. Dr. O’Dell is the PI of the SMART MIND program, and she mentored Paola when she was part of the program. Dr. O’Dell wrote a supplement application to the NIH to fund Paola as a research technician in her laboratory. This award allowed Dr. O’Dell to offer Paola a spot in her laboratory which was a paid position that allowed her to focus on her coursework and lab projects. President Emerita Diana Natalicio also helped her to get in-state tuition at UTEP to foster her studies towards medical school. Her research projects have been focused on the underlying mechanisms that promote tobacco use in females.
While at UTEP, Paola has been part of the Collegiate Double T Health Professions Honor Society which allows her to have clinical experience in the Rota Care Free Clinic. She also volunteers at Providence Memorial Hospital. She is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a National Service Fraternity which helps with food drives and other community need based programs in El Paso. She is also a member of the Medical Professions Organization and Golden Key International Honor Society
With her outstanding academic achievement and all her volunteering activities, she still finds time to write poetry, journal, and travel – anywhere and everywhere. She is truly a renaissance women.
Crystal A. Vargas Future Emergency Room Physician
Crystal is a member of the College of Science “4 Plus 4” Club – an academic club composed of juniors and seniors whose overall GPA is a 4.0. Crystal is majoring in biology with a biomedical concentration. She is preparing for a career as a physician in Emergency Medicine. She arrived at UTEP as a recipient of the Presidential ExcellenceScholarship, Association for Compensatory Educators of Texas Scholarship and the Terry Foundation Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship granted to students who demonstrate a strong sense of leadership. She is the first in her family to graduate from college.
She was born in El Paso, Texas and graduated from the Clint Early College Academy asthe valedictorian of her class in 2018. She received her Associate’s degree from El Paso Community College in 2017 with a 4.0 GPA, 60 college-level credits, honors recognition, and membership to Phi Theta Kappa. While in high school she was president of the National Honor Society, participated in the Law School Preparation Institute Moot Court and Mock Trial competitions where she competed at the regional level.
While in high school she started her own community service project titled, “Project Gomez”, where her members helped low income individuals rebuild an abandoned home to make habitable for their use. She volunteered in the neonatal intensive care unit and emergency room at Del Sol Hospital. Additionally, she served as an AVID tutor for the Clint Independent School District.
She chose UTEP because of the extraordinary scholarships she received, the ability to promote change in El Paso and chose biology as her major because she has been interested and has excelled in the subject since grade school. She is minoring in nutrition in order to offer dietary solutions for her patients in the future. During the 2019 Summer I semester, she participated in a study abroad program in Seville, Spain which was composed of health science and gastronomy courses. She would like to thank Dr. Beverly Calvo, Dr. Gina Nunez, and Dr. Dahlia Castillo, who facilitated the course and taught her important life lessons while abroad. Returning from Spain, she will serve as an intern at Unidad de Medicina Familiar, a hospital in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
At UTEP she takes pride in being very involved in service. She is the Community Service Chair for the UTEP Terry Scholars Organization; the summer 2019 project she has organized will consist of the Area 19 Special Olympics and a community cleaning brigade. As part of the Terry Student Organization, she volunteers at the Annunciation House to help with the care of immigrants by cleaning beds, helping to feed them, and supplying them with clothes and hygiene products. She would like to thank the Terry Foundation and all its staff for the countless opportunities they have made available to her.
Crystal is a member of the Texas Tech Collegiate Double T Health Professions Organization where she volunteers at events tied to the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. She volunteered at the SUN’s Health Fair, Rota Care Clinic, and the OpeningDoors to your Future event which helps homeless students explore medical profession possibilities. She is often invited to give motivational speeches at the Clint Early College Academy.
Despite her academic achievement and her many volunteer projects, Crystal still find time to indulge in her hobbies of singing, dancing, and attending events in Mexico.
Crystal is an exceptional young woman and will bring pride to UTEP for all her future success.
Elisabet Lopez Tapia Future Mathematics Teacher
Elisabet is a member of the College of Science “4 Plus 4” Club – an academic club composed of juniors and seniors whose overall GPA is 4.0. Elisabet is majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Secondary Education as well as in Computer Science. She is an ADP MaST Academy Scholar.
She started at UTEP in the fall of 2016 as a computer science major. In her sophomore year, she was an Undergraduate Research Assistant under the mentorship of Dr. Monika Akbar in the Computer Science Department. However, she found herself more intrigued by the mathematical aspect of computer science. Working at The Math Store as a math and science tutor was what finalized her decision to switch her major to mathematics and her profession to teaching.
Elisabet was born in El Paso, Texas and raised in Cd. Juarez, Chih. She moved to El Paso for high school and graduated from Coronado High School in the top ten percent of her class. While at Coronado, she was part of the Coronado Dance Company and theStudent Council. During summers, she would volunteer at the children’s home across the street from her childhood home in Cd. Juarez as a translator for their summer dancecamp and as a math tutor for the elementary school students.
She arrived at UTEP as a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship and has participated in many UTEP civic activities. She is a member of ACMW (Association for Computing Machinery Women’s Chapter) WICS (Women in Computer Science), where she was an Outreach Co-chair and is now Outreach Director. She volunteered at Reyes ElementarySchool in their STEAM Fair leading a computer science workshop.
She is a member of FEMAS (Future Educators in Math and Science), has volunteered at MiniCAST (conference for Math and Science Educators), volunteered at Reyes Elementary School and Hornedo Middle School for mathematics workshops and STAARpreparation, and volunteered at El Paso High School in their Algebra Saturdays. Elisabet is a mentor for the “Girls Who Code” Club at the Harmony School of Innovation.
In addition to her exceptional academic achievement and her many civic volunteer activities, she has also worked with Insights El Paso as a facilitator for STEAM learning activities for their pop-up museum and found time to indulge in her hobbies of reading, dancing, and working out.
Elisabet hopes to inspire students to be open to learning the beautiful language of mathematics. She aims to incorporate her knowledge of computer science to provide anedge to her students. She plans to pursue graduate school and ultimately become a mathematics professor.
We in the College of Science think that she will be an exceptional math teacher.
Jose l. Alvarado Inducted into the 4 Plus 4 Club
The College of Science “4 Plus 4” Club is for juniors and seniors whose overall major's GPA is 4.0. Jose is a junior majoring in biology with a biomedical sciences concentration. He is due to graduate in 2020 and hopes to complete an MD/PhD and become an orthopedic surgeon. Him and his sister, also a UTEP graduate, are the first in their family to graduate from college.
He was born in El Paso, Texas and graduated from El Paso High School’s dual language magnet program and the Center for Career and Technology Education (CCTE). He attended El Paso High School 50% of the time and CCTE 50% of the time. He received a Pharmacy Technology Technician License upon completion of the CCTE program, as well as winning an award for his outstanding performance. In high school he was in ROTC and completed 23 semester hours in dual credit college courses and received college credit for 40 semester hours in advanced placement courses. He volunteered at the Armijo library and completed externships at Walgreens and Texas Oncology. While in high school he was inducted into the Texas Tech Double T Honor Society for Health Professionals, The National Honor Society, and the National Technical Honor Society. He also competed in the transcultural healthcare event for Health Occupations Students of America where he won first place in regionals and sixth place at state level. Despite some hardships he graduated top 10% of his class. Jose currently works at the UTEP recreation center.
Jose enjoys reading, playing the guitar, working out, and soccer.
Jose is exceptional and we expect great things from him.
Gerardo Zavala Going to Harvard
Gerardo is graduating with a BS in Chemistry and a minor in Biomedical Engineering and a GPA of 4.00 and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical biology. He has already been accepted into the doctoral programs at Harvard, Stanford, Yale, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, among others, but has decided to attend Harvard this upcoming Fall.
He was born in El Paso, Texas but grew up and attended school in Cd. Juarez, Mexico. He moved to El Paso to attend high school at Coronado High School where he graduated in the top ten percent of his class. While at Coronado he completed 40 semester hours in AP courses while also participating on the track team, the robotics club, and as a member of the National Honor Society.
Although he was offered scholarships at many universities, he chose UTEP because of the Building Scholars Program run by Dr. Lourdes Echegoyen. Gerardo states that the BUILD program gave him immense opportunities and mentoring in research. He chose chemistry as a major because he really found his niche in the AP chemistry courses he took in high school.
He was allowed to be involved with undergraduate research his first summer at UTEP under the direction of Dr. Luis Echegoyen, where he studied the synthesis of molecules for their use in organic solar cells for possible powering of electronic devices as well as studying their fundamental properties to better understand these solar cells. Gerardo states that Dr. Luis Echegoyen is responsible for jump-starting his interest and passion for research.
Through the BUILD program, he participated in a summer internship at the University of Connecticut Health Center with Dr. Vishwanatha Rao where he studied neurodegenerative diseases. There, he gained an interest in biochemistry that he pursued back in UTEP by working with Dr. Chu-Young Kim, where he was involved in research dealing with the structure of proteins. He later completed another summer internship at the University of Texas Southwestern with Dr. Kendra Frederick where he was further involved in research dealing with structural biology related to neurodegenerative diseases. Gerardo also believes much of his growth and development came from the mentoring and advising he received from faculty in the Chemistry Department such as Dr. Wen-Yee Lee, Dr. Dino Villagran, Dr. Skye Fortier, among several others. Gerardo credits the several mentors he has had as the key influences who have helped him grow and mature as a person, student, and researcher.
Gerardo has presented posters at many conferences and participated in many student organizations. He is the chief of external affairs for the American Chemical Society Student Chapter where members present experiments to middle school students to expose them to chemistry. He also served as the president of the local student chapter of SACNAS, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.
While his academic success is stellar, he also had time for hiking, running, and hanging out with his family. His mother attended UTEP and his little brother plans to attend UTEP.UTEP expects great things from you Gerardo.
Kira was born in Helsinki, Finland and lived there all her life until she moved to El Paso, TX with her father to take the opportunity to widen her perspective of the world and experience a new culture. Growing up in Helsinki Kira played the piano and the flute for over ten years; mastering the flute she became a member of the nation’s oldest and largest music conservatories. While she is currently learning Spanish, Kira is fluent in Finnish, Swedish, French, and English. She credits this to the Finnish model of education that taught her to study effectively and use her creativity to approach problems in unique ways. As she began high school in Finland she interned at a private surgical unit and later was offered a paid position there. Her teachers and peers nominated her to receive an award and stipend for her natural talent in working with groups and maintaining team unity. She completed her last year of high school at Coronado High School after she moved to El Paso, TX.
Kira became acutely aware of the staunchdifferences between American and Finnish societies and educational institutions. In college she became a strong advocate of women and equality in STEM and universal healthcare as she immersed herself into our community. Graduating Summa cum Laude with a degree in Biological sciences and a concentration of Biomedical Sciences, Kira plans to pursue a career in pediatrics or surgery. She believes that the societal application of medicine is the most important aspect of the trade and perhaps the most forgotten or overlooked aspect within the healthcare system of the U.S. Kira has achieved high academic success at UTEP and been on the Dean’s List Plus every semester. Kira credits her ability to work well with others and provide unique approaches to problems with her experience traveling abroad during her gap semester and visiting areas that have medical disparities. Throughout her four years at UTEP she has felt welcomed and supported by the diverse community and encourages others to step out of their comfort zone and take opportunities even when far away from home. She wants to acknowledge UTEP for inspiring her and giving her guidance whenever she needed it academically and socially.
She has been preparing for medical school as a volunteer at the University Medical Center in the mother-baby department, where she is able to gain valuable experience directly interacting with patients. Additionally, she is shadowing one of the city’s best pediatric surgeons - Dr. William Spurbeck, where she is highly involved in observing and studying surgeries. These experiences have sparked a passion to serve underprivileged communities. She is an active member of the university’s Medical Professions Organization. Studying under Dr. Miranda and Dr. Johnson, Kira became enlightened and inspired with their teaching methods as they relate coursework with real life applications that she plans to use later on in life as she advocates for a just and inclusive method of providing medical treatment and consultation. While maintaining a full-time class schedule, Kira is extremely proud of always having maintained a job outside of her academic life. She has been employed as administrative clerk, business bookkeeper and even had a successful care taking business with an expansive network of operations.
In her free time Kira enjoys different sports such as yoga, hiking and playing tennis. She also enjoys painting and playing music.
Sebastian is graduating with a BS in Microbiology and a GPA of 4.00 and plans to become a physician in sports medicine where he will incorporate preventive medicine into his practice.
He was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico and graduated in the top 11% from Franklin High School in El Paso, Texas in 2015. While at Franklin he completed 18 semester hours of AP courses, was a member of the National Honor Society, and was on the varsity wrestling team.
With many universities to choose from, he chose UTEP to stay close to family, engulf himself in volunteer and research opportunities and because many of his family members graduated from UTEP and convinced him of its outstanding reputation.
He chose to major in microbiology because he took several medical microbiology courses in high school and loved them. He continued the interest at UTEP.
While maintaining a perfect GPA, Sebastian was involved in many projects and organizations at UTEP. He served as a General Chemistry Peer Leader, where he has conducted workshops, provided the tutoring, mentoring, and guidance of countless amounts of students through their first chemistry course. Sebastian has also co-authored the General Chemistry resource workbook, which is used by all general chemistry students at the university to self-assess and learn the course material. He started as a chemistry peer leader where he learned many leadership skills, volunteering, and research. He eventually became one of two head peer leaders where he is now in charge of hiring and training new and upcoming peer leaders for UTEP.
Additionally, he participated in numerous local outreach activities, such as PBS Kids Fiesta, and local EPISD chemistry circuses, where he promoted the STEM field by sparking an interest in science and encouraging young students to pursue a science education in the future. He has been on the Dean’s List Plus since his enrollment in the fall of 2015 and the 4 + 4 Club for two years, while staying involved on the board of the university’s Peer Leader for Exceptional Chemistry Education (PLECE) organization, where he is currently Co-President.
Sebastian is an active volunteer on campus where he tutors chemistry and math. He has volunteered at Project Move, Candlelighters, Woman’s Shelter and the Rescue Mission. He also started a winter donation drive at UTEP that he named Mining for Blankets, which collected hundreds of blankets this past winter for the community’s homeless population.
He has accumulated over 500 hours of shadowing and has shadowed numerous physicians at Texas Tech Health Science Center including Drs. Salvador Saldivar, Dean Smith, Maria Larrazaleta, and others.
He states that his instructors at UTEP have been wonderful and singled out a few who left a lasting impression on him: Dr. German Rosas-Acosta, Dr. James Becvar, Dr. Geoffrey Saupe, and Dr. Juan Noveron. Dr. Rosas-Acosta sparked his interest and passion in science by his teaching method forcing students to think deeper and critically. Drs. Noveron, Becvar and Saupe were his peer leading mentors and showed him how to create and work within effective teams, how to spot students who need help, and how to help them succeed. He says the skills and leadership techniques taught to him through these mentors will be held onto for the rest of his professional endeavors.
He is not all academic studies and volunteer work, he also enjoys spending all his free time either doing Crossfit, rock climbing, trail running or training others that he helps reach their fitness goals.
The College of Science expects great things from Sebastian and wishes him well in his future endeavors.
Karina Monticone Plans a Career as a Physician’s Assistant
Karina is graduating summa cum laude during the spring 2019 commencement with a baccalaureate in Biology – Biomedical Science Concentration. She chose UTEP because both of her parents graduated from this university.
She was born in El Paso, Texas and graduated number 3, from J.M. Hanks High School, in a class of over 400 students. During her freshman year of high school, Karina started a school campaign called “Meet in the Middle.” This campaign focused on integrating special needs students with other high school students. Karina set out to include all students in campus activities which led her to hold a homecoming dance for special needs students. During her other years in high school, she was the historian for the student council, chief photographer for the school newspaper, president of the National Honor Society at Hanks, homecoming princess, and played in the varsity orchestra.
She is truly a renaissance woman because she has many interests and succeeds in all of them. While attending UTEP she created the “Women in STEAM” organization where members go out to the elementary schools and show girls how wonderful science can be. She was the head chemistry peer leader, historian of the MPO (Medical Professions Organization), member of the UTEP photography club, secretary for the UTEP chapter of the American Medical Student Association, a 21st Century Scholar, and part of the UTEP debate team as well as Dr. Zhang’s research lab. She also mentored numerous high school students want to have a future career in healthcare. In addition, she has her own photography business, El Paso Pop Shop, and works outside of UTEP.
Not only did she achieve high academic success and participate in many UTEP activities while working--she still found time to volunteer. She volunteered at Hospice of El Paso, the Reynold’s Homeless Shelter, the Rio Norte Senior Citizen Center, the Ronald McDonald House, and she worked during the summers as a staffer for a leadership camp in Kerrville, Texas where participants learned leadership skills. She also started a campuswide tradition of an annual Halloween candy bag drive to deliver treats to numerous children in the El Paso community.
She stated that Dr. Kristin Gosselink and Dr. James Becvar instilled in her a love for science and encouraged her creative side to look for new and innovative solutions to problems.
She entered UTEP as part of A-PRIME Time (competitive early medical school admissions program). After shadowing health professionals, she decided to join her father, who is a physician, in the medical field and will pursue a career as a physician’s assistant.
Jose Echeverri Accepted to Baylor School of Medicine
Jose was born in El Paso, Texas and was graduated from Cathedral High School in the Top Ten percent with an overall GPA of 4.0, the recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship. He is completing a dual degree in Biology with a Biomedical Concentration and Psychology. He will be attending the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston, Texas in the fall of 2019.
With his choice of US universities, he chose UTEP because of its undergraduate research program under the direction of COURI (Center of Undergraduate research Initiatives). He states that ever since he started at UTEP he was presented with numerous research opportunities. Jose was able to participate undergraduate research during his second week at UTEP via the FYRIS program under the mentorship of Dr. German Rosas-Acosta and Dr. Manuel Llano. Jose participated in the UTEP Phage Hunters program during his freshman year, which led to him being a co-author on four genomic annotation publications and an author of two posters. He had the opportunity to present his findings from the Phage Hunters program at local American Society for Microbiology and COURI conferences. He was also selected to present his work at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia in the summer of 2016.
He states that he made the right decision to attend UTEP because his friends who choose other universities were learning about cells and the dogma of biology from a textbook while he was witnessing the processes unfold before his eyes.
As part of his preparation for medical school, he participated in the JAMP (Joint Admission Medical Program) where he completed summer internships at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He shadowed Dr. Oscar Aguilar of the El Paso Heart Center as a medical scribe, and he volunteered at Hospice El Paso.
He credits several professor for igniting his passion for science. He worked with Dr. Katherine Serafine in her psychology lab researching animal models drug abuse and the overlap between addiction and metabolic disorders like obesity– showing him another side of science. Dr. Serafine states “he has a curiosity and passion for science that is contagious.”
Jose also worked with Dr. Manuel Llano in his HIV/West Nile Virus lab researching ways to combat and understand viruses that have a huge global impact. His work included mapping protein domains required for essential cellular functions in the structure specific recognition protein 1. Jose worked with the Schlafen family of proteins in order to understand their involvement in the event of HIV and West Nile Virus infection.
He states that Dr. Llano mentored him through his entire time at UTEP and helped him develop resilience, creativity and a love for research. Dr. Charlotte Vines also mentored him every step of the way and helped guide him throughout his time at UTEP in order to succeed. Dr. Arshad Khan cemented his love for science during a neuroscience course and inspired him to instill research in his future career as a physician. Jose states that UTEP has played a major role in his success with its phenomenal programs and incredible faculty that empower students to become exceptional scholars and professionals.
His awards are many. He stated UTEP as the recipient of the UTEP Presidential Scholarship. He has been on the Dean’s List Plus (overall and majors GPA must be at least 3.5) every semester. He has been part of the “4 +4 Club” where as a junior and senior his overall and major’s GPA must be 4.0. Jose is also part of the BURS Program in which he participates in undergraduate research. He also served as the Treasurer for the UTEP Chapter of the American Society for Microbiology.
With his high academic achievements, his many participations, and his many awards, he still finds time to nurture his hobbies. He enjoys rock climbing in the Franklin Mountains, cooking, and wood working.
Ysenia Rodriguez Plans to Impact Childhood Health
Ysenia is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BS in Biology - Biomedical Sciences Concentration with an overall GPA of 3.99. She plans to pursue a dual master’s degree in Business Administration and Public Health offered jointly by the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University Of Texas School Of Public Health.
She was born in El Paso, Texas and raised by a single mother after the death of her father. Ysenia graduated Top Ten from Bel Air High School out of a class of 500, and she chose UTEP because she was the recipient of the Presidential Scholarship.
She has made several career goal changes while at UTEP. While playing basketball during her freshmen year of high school, she sustained a knee injury. During her recovery she thought that she would ultimately pursue a career in physical therapy.
She started UTEP as a pre-pharmacy major and then switched to biology because she thought medical school was in her future. Ysenia states that she took a course in Environmental Health taught by Dr. Amit Raysoni and a course in Immunology taught by Dr. Charles Spencer, and it was during these courses that she realized her interest in the effect the environment has on public health. At one of the College of Science Town Hall meetings, where all colleges are invited to present their graduate degrees, she states that her eyes were opened to other career path options. She decided she wanted to be involved in medical prevention as a career. Her ultimate goal is to work for either the NFL or NBA in injury prevention or in their programs designed to increase youth health and activity.
Ysenia has worked on campus throughout her UTEP career while maintaining a very high GPA, and has been on the Dean’s List Plus ever since she joined the College of Science. She was also involved with the St. Pius X ACTS (Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service) community, where she helped plan and organize their teen retreats. She has also tutored many of her friends in science and math.
Her time at UTEP has been a journey of discovery. With every change, she has become more and more focused until deciding she wanted to be involved in medical and injury prevention.
Kevin Chesak Chosen College of Science Undergraduate Student Marshal
Kevin Chesak has been chosen College of Science Undergraduate Student Marshal for the December 2018 commencement. Kevin is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics with a major GPA of 3.95. He has been on the Dean’s List Plus (overall and major GPAs must be at least 3.5) every semester while at UTEP. After graduation, he plans to pursue a doctorate in Geophysics.
Kevin was born in El Paso, Texas and graduated in the top 10% of his class at Eastwood High School in 2012. While in high school, he was the principal clarinetist for the TMEA All-Region Band and Orchestra for two years and was a member of the All-State Symphonic Band during the same period, placing as high as 8 th in the state of Texas his senior year. He was also an active member of the Boy Scouts of America, where he participated in numerous community service projects and eventually obtained the rank of Eagle Scout.
Kevin’s academic career has been intertwined between the natural sciences and music. He started at UTEP in 2012 as a Music Education major and after one year was accepted into the Boston Conservatory to study Clarinet Performance. He spent 2 years in Boston before returning to UTEP to complete a degree in Physics. He chose physics because of a long-standing fascination with the natural world and he believes physics provides a language with which to study the natural world at the most fundamental level.
He chose UTEP because it allowed him the flexibility to study physics while continuing to be involved in music. While at UTEP, he participated in the research of nanomaterials under the direction of Dr. Christian Botez and was the principal clarinetist of the UTEP Symphony Orchestra under the direction Dr. Lowell Graham. He was also chosen as the winner of the UTEP Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition in 2015.
During the 2017 – 2018 academic year, in addition to maintaining a full-time class schedule, he worked as an Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service at White Sands National Monument on weekends and full-time over breaks. During his time there, he led tours and gave educational programs to the public on a regular basis with the purpose facilitating connections between visitors and the “Great White Sands”. He considers himself an environmentalist and would like to pursue a career with the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, or other federal agency tasked with the study and management of the natural resources in the western United States
In his free time, Kevin is an avid hiker and mountaineer. He has summited 35 peaks in Colorado over 14,000’ and has hiked the entire length of the Grand Canyon, but spends most of his time in the Franklin and Organ Mountains closer to home.
Jerricho Tipo Chosen as College of Science Banner Bearer </div
KevinThe College of Science has chosen Jerricho Tipo to represent the college as Banner Bearer at the fall 2018 commencement ceremony. Jerricho is graduating with a degree in Biological Sciences with a Biomedical Concentration with an overall GPA of 4.0 and plans to pursue a career in medicine where his chosen specialty will be either be in infectious diseases or forensic pathology.
Jerricho’s parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines with only $200 to their name, where they sacrificed what they had to give their children a better life. He took advantage of this sacrifice and graduated from Northwest Early College High School as salutatorian and decided to attend UTEP, where students have an acceptance rate to medical school far above the State average.
He started taking classes at the University of Texas at El Paso in Fall 2016 pursuing a degree in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry, later changed his major to forensic biology, and finally to biological sciences with a biomedical sciences concentration.
He credits Dr. Hugues Ouellet, his research professor and mentor, for igniting his interest in biomedical research with infectious diseases. When he was younger, he dreamed of becoming an explorer. He continues to work in this lab where he is able to make this dream by combining what he learned in textbooks with critical thinking to “explore the unknown.” Thank you, Dr. Ouellet, for allowing me to develop the skills and mindset necessary to succeed in future endeavors. He credits Dr. Roshanak Jafari for her support and guidance. Thank you, Dr. Jafari, for all that you have done to help prepare me for a career in medicine.
Over the course of his undergraduate career, he became involved with organizations to fuel his medical interest. He was a member of Medical Professions Organizations where they introduced different health opportunities and options to students interested in any health career. He also became a member for Collegiate Double T Health Professions Honor Society, where members are encouraged to engage with and develop a sense of community service through direct exposure to the health field by helping run volunteer-based clinics as well as non-medical related volunteer events.
To advance community service to the global level, he became the Secretary and Treasurer for Global Medical Brigades, where he helped in coordinating UTEP’s first medical brigade to Nicaragua over Spring Break. During the brigade, he was able to take part in providing medical, dental and pharmacy services to underserved communities in this country. He returned with the aim to working to lessen health disparities within his community, and now works as a medical assistant at a pediatric night clinic in New Mexico.
As a member of the UTEP EDGE student presentation team, he has the opportunity to share his UTEP experience with others during orientation days, open houses, and formal events; where he hopes to be able to inspire at least a couple people in the audience.
Jerricho has excelled at UTEP every semester and we know that he will excel in his pursuit of a career in medicine.
Aiyana Ponce Inducted into Spring 2018 “4 + 4” Academic Club
Aiyana Ponce was inducted into the spring 2018 “4 + 4” Academic Excellence Club. Members of the “4 + 4” Academic Club must have an overall and majors’ GPA of 4.00, as well as junior or senior standing, and have taken at least half of their semester hours at UTEP. Aiyana is majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry and plans to graduate in 2020 and pursue an MD-PhD in medicine.
Aiyana was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and graduated from Silva Health Magnet High School in the top 5% of her class. While at Silva, she was president of the Health Occupations Students of America (H.O.S.A.), an officer on the Silverettes Dance-Drill team, parliamentarian for the J.M. Whitaker chapter of the National Honor Society, earned her pharmacy technician license, and she spent much of her free time volunteering at many student organization events. She chose a career in the medical field after shadowing a variety of healthcare providers during her clinical rotations.
Aiyana was awarded the Terry Foundation Scholarship and the BUILDing Scholars Scholarship. She chose UTEP to take advantage of these prestigious scholarships, to remain close to her family, and to fully embrace the unique, binational community that is created from living at the U.S.-Mexico border. She has three older brothers and all four of them are the first in their family to attend college. She is extremely grateful for the support her brothers and parents have given her.
As part of the Terry Scholars, she has exemplified the pillars of excellence of the Terry Foundation which are: scholarship, leadership, community, and service. Terry Scholars are distinguished by a deep-rooted desire to enrich the general welfare of the community and an established record of leadership. One notable service event was when she and fellow scholars went to Beaumont, Texas after Hurricane Harvey for a weekend to help rebuild the damaged homes. She was the Community Service Officer for the Terry Organization at the time and significantly contributed to the planning and execution of many Terry volunteer events. Other events include volunteering at the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank and at the Moor Lee & Beulah Children's Home. She would like to thank Mrs. Mallory Payan, the UTEP Terry Campus Coordinator and the SELC Coordinator for Campus Engagement, for being an exemplary role model and an empowering female figure in her life and Mr. Christian Corrales, Director of Community Relations & On-Campus Student Employment, for his continual encouragement and his contagious positivity.
As part of the BUILDing Scholars program, she enrolled in advanced research labs her freshman year, and began faculty-mentored research with Dr. Marc Cox by her sophomore year. In addition to participating in numerous professional development workshops, Aiyana also served as a mentor to entering BUILD freshmen. She attended the University of Connecticut Health Center in summer 2017 and was part of a project that focused on prostate cancer tumor metastasis. She attended Rice University in summer 2018 and was part of a project that focused on mouse corneal development. She has presented her summer research in San Diego, California at the Experimental Biology 2018 conference and in Salt Lake City, Utah at the SACNAS 2017 conference where she was awarded a travel scholarship.
Aiyana is thankful for Dr. Cox and graduate student Ashley Payan for exposing her to research and supporting her throughout her learning process. She states that Dr. Cox’s leadership is characterized by honesty, commitment, and confidence. Much of what she has learned has been a result of Ashley’s patience, persistence, and approachability. Aiyana’s project focuses on the FKBP52 cochaperone, which is a promising therapeutic target for the disruption of several mechanisms important in prostate cancer. Aiyana’s project aims to develop a novel drug based on GMC1 as an initial scaffold and perform structure activity relationship analysis (SAR) by rationally designing modifications and assessing them for activity in AR-mediated luciferase assays.
While at UTEP, she studied abroad in Germany and Poland during the Spring 2018 semester in a program titled, “Confronting the Holocaust in Germany and Poland.” Aiyana believes this was the experience of a lifetime and what she learned gave her a new perspective on many current events. She has a passion for traveling and believes taking diverse courses has allowed her to become a more well-rounded college student.
After completing CHEM 1305 with Dr. James Becvar her first semester at UTEP, she immediately became a chemistry peer leader and credits Dr. Becvar for her leadership training and instilling a passion for science in her. As a peer leader, Aiyana tutored, mentored, and supported students enrolled for CHEM 1305. She also had the opportunity to contribute to the General Chemistry workbook that is used by all students enrolled in the course and contributed to team learning activities that were designed and presented at the PLTL International Society.
She is also a UTEP Miner Ambassador, was the Secretary of the University Honors Council, participated in the Student Government Association’s EXCEL leadership program, has been involved with the Medical Professions Organization and University Scholars Society, and has volunteered at numerous UTEP sponsored events.
Outside of her involvement at UTEP, Aiyana enjoys volunteering at the RotaCare Clinic, a free clinic created to provide medical care to an under-served population, through the Collegiate Double T Health Professions Honor Society. She also enjoys attending concerts, plays, and all kinds of live entertainment.
Luis Enrique Martinetti Chosen as the College of Science Graduate Student Marshal of Students for the May 2018 Commencement.
Luis Enrique Martinetti has been chosen to represent the College of Science as the Graduate Student Marshal of Students in the May 20187 Commencement. He is graduating with a master’s degree in Biology where his research involves neuroscience with an emphasis on understanding mechanisms that yield us to focus attention.
Luis and his twin brother are true examples of achieving the American Dream. Raised in public housing by a single mother with scarse financial resources, both brothers have been accepted into doctoral programs at Michigan State University. Both brothers worked all through high school, undergraduate school, and graduate school and still excelled. Luis received his undergraduate degree in Biology with a Biomedical Concentration at UTEP and his twin received his undergraduate degree in Geology at UTEP. Luis is completing his master’s degree in biology at UTEP and his twin is completing his maters in Geophysics at Michigan State University. Luis plans to pursue not only a doctorate in neuroscience but a medical degree in psychiatry. Luis and his twin are not only the first in their extended family to graduate from college but graduate school.
Luis was born in El Paso, Texas, raised in Juarez, Mexico until he started high school at Jefferson High School. He chose UTEP for his graduate degree because he wanted to complete his undergraduate research project in neuroscience. He participated in undergraduate research almost every semester while an undergraduate and this involvement ignited a passion for scientific research. While an undergraduate, he was part of the RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) for five semesters. He interned in Gondar, Ethiopia where he helped analyze cross infections at the local hospital. As an undergraduate he presented at many conferences and received the SACNAS Travel Scholarship.
While an undergraduate he stated that he was not really focused until Drs. Kristine Gooselink and Kristine Garza sparked his passion for science and from then on earned grades of A in every course. He states that Dr. Karine Fenelon ignited his passion for research and pushed him to apply to graduate school and has remained his mentor through graduate school.
While a graduate student completing his research on his neuroscience project, he attend a Stanford University workshop in Optogenetics.
He credits his mother, Lorena Aguirre, with his success because of her unwavering support raising him and his siblings single-handedly. In his spare time, Luis enjoys cooking, mountain biking, back packing, swimming, and anything that takes him outdoors.
The College of Science at UTEP is proud to have Luis graduate from our programs and know that he will succeed in anything that he pursues.
Carlos Ontiveros Chosen as College of Science Banner for Spring 2018 Commencement
Carlos Ontiveros is graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biological Sciences with a Biomedical Science concentration. He is graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA and designation as a UTEP Top Ten Senior. He has been accepted to three medical schools including two MD/PhD programs, and one MD program. He has chosen to attend the MD/PhD program at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio Long School of Medicine due to his roots stemming from San Antonio, and because they are a designated Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). He plans to practice infectious disease medicine as a physician-scientist.
Carlos was born in San Antonio, Texas, and moved to El Paso when he was ten years old. He graduated from Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet High School in 2015 as Valedictorian. While in high school he was Vice President of the J.M. Whitaker Chapter of the National Honor Society, served as drum major in the band, was involved in clinical rotations during his junior year, and received training as a pharmacy technician during his senior year. Carlos received the President’s Leadership Scholarship as well as the prestigious Valedictorian Scholarship from the State of Texas. He chose UTEP because of the outstanding opportunities available for undergraduate research and the generous scholarships he was awarded. Over the past three years, he has worked extensively with Dr. Germán Rosas-Acosta, studying the interactions between the influenza virus and the SUMOylation system at UTEP since the day following his graduation from high school. In addition to his academic achievements, Carlos has demonstrated his mission of service to the community by dedicating a few hours every week to spend time with terminally ill patients under the care of Hospice of El Paso. He has served as Vice President of Internal Affairs for the Medical Professions Organization (MPO) for the 2016-2017 academic year and currently serves as President where he dedicates his time to propelling UTEP and high school premedical students forward in their journeys towards becoming healthcare professionals. He has recently expanded his outreach by serving as a Legislative Assistant for the Collegiate Senator of Science in the Student Government Association. Carlos has also been a member of the Dean’s List Plus since Fall 2015, the 4+4 club since Spring 2016, the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, the Alpha Chi honor society, the Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Professional honor society, and the University Honors Program.
Carlos learned to value hard work and dedication early on in his life from his family. His father graduated from UTEP and has served as an administrator for his entire professional career in public education. As a result, he encouraged Carlos to pursue his academic passions and excel in everything he does. Growing up, Carlos remembers spending weekends with his father in a downtown San Antonio mechanic shop where they had their cars repaired, which led to his captivation by the mechanical nature of things. This fascination evolved into desiring to understand the most complex machine known to man: the human body. In his pursuit of an MD/PhD dual doctorate, he plans to focus on translating the basic science foundations of Molecular Cell Biology to be used in clinical studies pertaining to infectious disease medicine. He aspires to be on the forefront of translational medicine, taking scientific innovations from the bench to the bedside.
Carlos has been actively involved in undergraduate research during his time at UTEP. He was a member of the PERSIST program and the UTEP Phage Hunters program during his freshman year, which led to him being a co-author on four genomic annotation publications and an author of two posters, one of which he is first author. He had the opportunity to present his findings from the Phage Hunters program at local American Society for Microbiology and COURI conferences. He was also selected to present his work at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia in the summer of 2016. At the same time, Carlos was pursuing independent research projects in Dr. Germán Rosas-Acosta’s laboratory pertaining to understanding the interactions between cellular stress and the SUMOylation system in mammalian cells. He has since presented his work with Dr. Rosas-Acosta at multiple local and national conferences. As a result of his research endeavors, Carlos was awarded the highly selective MARC scholarship, funded by the National Institutes of Health, under the direction of Dr. Keith Pannell. He was also awarded a position as a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow in the summer of 2017 to study how the Zika virus evolved during the 2016 outbreak, under the mentorship of Dr. Kristian Andersen and Dr. Nathan Grubaugh.
Carlos attributes his passion for scientific discovery and innovation to Dr. Germán Rosas-Acosta who has served as his mentor since he started here at UTEP. According to Dr. Rosas-Acosta, out of the more than 60 undergraduate students that he has mentored at UTEP, Carlos has been not only the most driven and talented, but also the only one who has worked tirelessly to provide other students with valuable opportunities to enrich their own training, as exemplified by the Medical Professions Organization’s mock admission interviews program. Carlos also expresses his deep appreciation for Dr. Charlotte Vines, faculty advisor for MPO, for serving as a model leader during his tenure as President of MPO, Dr. Manuel Llano who has inspired him to value attention to detail in biomedical research, and Dr. Kristine Garza who has assisted him in achieving his professional goals. In his spare time, Carlos enjoys going fishing, playing tennis, collecting mineral specimens, and exercising his mechanical skills by rebuilding vintage cars. The College of Science is very impressed with Carlos and expects him to succeed in anything he pursues.
Ashley Priego Chosen as College of Science Undergraduate Marshall of Students for the Spring 2018 Commencement
Ashley was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and graduated as Salutatorian from Montwood High School. While in high school, she completed numerous pre-AP and AP courses, played on the volleyball team, was a member of the National Honor Society, and was a member of PALS, a club which allowed her to serve as a mentor to elementary and middle school students.
Ashley is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Microbiology. She will begin medical school at Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, where she plans to specialize in general surgery. She chose to attend UTEP because she wanted to stay close to her family, as well as take advantage of the Presidential Excellence Scholarship and Top Ten Percent Scholarship which served as a means to help fund her education. Both of Ashley’s parents graduated from the UTEP School of Nursing, and she credits their guidance and push for academic success as her introduction into the field of medicine. Ashley also credits several professors for her successes. She would like to acknowledge Dr. Guilio Francia for igniting her passion in biological sciences, and providing her with wonderful opportunities throughout her college career. She would also like to recognize Dr. James Becvar, Dr. Mahesh Narayan, and Dr. Geoffrey Saupe for their support and mentorship as a chemistry Peer Leader, which she states will stay with her for the rest of her life.
While at UTEP she served as a General Chemistry Peer Leader, where she was provided the opportunity to tutor, mentor, and guide countless amounts of students through their first year at the university. Through this opportunity, she developed activities that were showcased in front of the PLTL International Society, which occurred in various locations around the United States. She also co-authored a General Chemistry resource workbook, which is used by all general chemistry students as a guide for self-evaluation and learning of the course material. Additionally, Ashley participated in numerous local outreach activities where she promoted the STEM field by sparking an interest in science and encouraging young students to pursue a science education in the future. She has been on the Dean’s List Plus and the 4 + 4 Club for four years, while staying involved in the UTEP community by becoming a member of the National Society of Leadership and Service, joining the University Honor’s Program, becoming an active member of the Medical Professions Organization, and volunteering for Project Move.
Outside of the UTEP community, Ashley has volunteered at Hospice for four years, where she would befriend terminally ill patients and help them through their end of life journey. She also completed an internship at Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, shadowed physicians at the Texas Tech Health Science Center, partnered with Montwood High School to mentor their students in an effort to increase AP exam scores, and works as chemistry teacher for homeschooled students. When Ashley is not working or studying, she enjoys playing volleyball, hiking, and spending time with her friends and family.
Ivan Valenzuela Inducted into Fall 2017 4 + 4 Academic Club
Ivan Valenzuela was inducted into the fall 2017 “4 + 4” Academic Club. Members of the 4 + 4 Academic Club are required to have an overall and majors’ GPA of at least 4.00 and be atleast a junior. He is majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry and plans to apply to pursue an MD – PhD.
Ivan, one of fraternal triplets, was born in El Paso, Texas and graduated from Franklin High School in the 11th percentile with a GPA of 4.0. While in high school, he completed several preAP and AP courses, was on the varsity wrestling team, was a member of the National Honor Society, and volunteered at free medical clinics and elderly homes.
He chose to attend UTEP because of the many research and scholarship opportunities offered through the university. In preparation for attending medical school, he became certified as a medical scribe and works at the Hospitals of Providence where he also shadows doctors.
He was part of the PERSIST program where he was involved in graduate level research as a freshman under Dr. Arshad Khan and presented his findings at the largest neuroscience conference in the world, the Society for Neuroscience, in San Diego, California.
He is a member of the Joint Admissions Medical Program, JAMP, and hopes to achieve early admittance to the Baylor College of Medicine, where he spent a summer completing a pre medical internship. He is a member of the UTEP Medical Professions Organization, MPO, and with this organization, attended a bus trip that toured all of the medical schools in Texas during the summer of 2016.
Among Ivan’s biggest inspirations is Dr. Christina Darcy, a biology post-doctoral student, who taught SCI 1301 as part of the PERSIST program. Her enthusiasm for neuroscience was contagious and is part of the reason that he wants to become a neurosurgeon. He also states that he was inspired by Dr. Eddie Castaneda in the Department of Psychology. After interviewing Dr. Castaneda, he became fascinated by the intricate link between neurobiology and its impact on human psychology. How an organic medium can give rise to conscious mind. His appreciation for Dr. Castaneda came after the interview, when he was willing to waive the course pre requisites to allow Ivan, then a sophomore, to take his upper division Neuropsychology course.
When Ivan is not studying or working at the hospital as a medical scribe, he relaxes with reading, hiking, weight lifting, and competitive sports.
Ivan works part time and has spent his past summers doing various jobs, including construction and landscaping, to pay for his own tuition. The College of Science and UTEP are very proud of his academic achievement.
Jessica Guerra Inducted into Fall 2017 4 + 4 Academic Club
Jessica Guerra was inducted into the fall 2017 “4 + 4” Academic Club. Members of the “4 + 4” Academic Club must have an overall and majors’ GPA of at least 4.00, as well as junior or senior standing. Jessica is majoring in Biology with a Biomedical Concentration and plans to apply to medical school. She decided to pursue medicine at an early age because of the comfort and care she received from a paramedic during an ambulance ride to the hospital.
Jessica was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and moved to El Paso with her family when she was five years old. She graduated from Silva Health Magnet High School where she completed 28 semester hours in AP courses which transferred toward her UTEP degree. While at Silva she volunteered in many events via the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) student organization, formed part of the color guard in band, and was a member of Club 365, a volunteering program. She shadowed various medical professionals at Sun City Family Medical Practice and did clinical rotations at various El Paso hospitals, including the University Medical Center where she currently volunteers.
Jessica will become the first in her family to graduate from college . She chose UTEP because she was accepted to A-PRIME TIME, an accelerated pre-med program, and because she received the Presidential Excellence Scholarship. While at UTEP she became a chemistry Peer Leader, is a member of the Medical Professions Organization headed by Dr. Charlotte Vines, and the A-Prime Organization headed by Dr. Kristin Gosselink. She wishes to thank both Dr. Vines and Dr. Gosselink for their mentorship and because they have kept her focused and on track. She also wants to thank Dr. James Becvar for his leadership training in the Chemistry Peer Leader Program, a prestigious program he created and directs.
In her spare time between studying, volunteering, and instructing chemistry students as a Peer Leader, Jessica enjoys reading, going out with her friends, and spending time with her family during their yearly camping trips.
Daniel Castaneda Mogollon Chosen as the College of Science Graduate Graduate Marshall of Students for Fall 2017 Commencement.
Daniel was chosen as the College of Science Graduate Marshall of Students because of his extraordinary academic achievement while at UTEP.
He was born and raised in Colima, Mexico and came to El Paso, Texas in 2015 to pursue a master’s degree in Bioinformatics. He chose the program offered at UTEP among the many other bioinformatics programs in the US because of its interdisciplinary nature. He has been very impressed with the mission of UTEP where faculty go out of their way to help undergraduate and graduate students succeed.
Daniel has always been interested in science and while attending high school in Mexico he focused on his chemistry and biology classes. His bachelor’s degree from the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO) blended these two subjects for a degree in Food Processing Engineering.
He has submitted an article to Nature entitled “Deconvoluting the expression dynamics of m 6A post-transcriptional enzymes and their crosstalk with RNA binding proteins” , where he is the first author.
Daniel interned at IUPUI (Indiana University – Pursue University at Indianapolis) where he worked with post transcriptional enzymes that impact RNA and affect cancer development in several tissues.
Daniel plans to pursue a doctorate in molecular research from a bioinformatics view. He has been accepted at elite universities in Canada, England, British Columbia, and the US.
While at UTEP he was the Vice President and currently the President of the BioinTx Club where the members illustrate software used in research across UTEP and bring in students from other graduate disciplines to talk about their research.
He credit two faculty members with his success: Dr. Ming-Ying Leung and Dr. Chuan Xiao. Dr. Leung for her creative leadership in the program, and Dr. Chuan for his challenging Socratic method of teaching.
When not immersed in research, Daniel likes to attend movies, play racket ball with his friends, read, travel and cook (he was a chef in at one time).
Daniel is representing UTEP as the Graduate Marshall of Students as a shining example of the type of students in the College of Science.
Ivan Miranda Inducted into the 4 Plus 4 Club
The College of Science “4 Plus 4” Club is for juniors and seniors whose overall and majors GPA is 4.0. Ivan is a senior majoring in biology with a biomedical concentration. He is scheduled to graduate in Fall 2018 and hopes to attend medical school where he will pursue a career as an ophthalmologist.
Ivan was born and raised in El Paso and graduated from Silva Health Magnet High School with a 4.1 GPA. He graduated top ten percent of his class. While at Silva, he completed ten hours of dual credit courses. Ivan was a well-rounded high school student. Not only did he excel academically, but also participated in a myriad of extracurricular activities, which included: speech and debate (In which he competed at the national level), theatre productions, High Q, Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and the National Honor Society In his senior year, he was selected as a Millennium Gates Scholarship finalist.
He chose UTEP because both of his parents graduated from UTEP and urged him to attend an innovative university that leads to exciting challenges and opportunities. He chose biology as a major because he thought it would prepare him best for medical school. He is a member of the University Honors Program and the collegiate double t health professions honor society. He credits several professors at UTEP for his success. Dr. Jaime Chavez, his COMM 1302 instructor, because he instilled confidence in his students. Dr. Michael Zarate, his PSYC 1301 instructor, because he made the course so interesting. Dr. Kevin Floyd, his BIOL 1306 instructor, because of his passion for science how he passed that passion onto his students. In fact, Ivan will begin research with Dr. Kevin Floyd in Fall of 2017.
When not working or studying, Ivan enjoys volunteering with the Rotocare Clinic of El Paso and the Rescue Mission of El Paso, playing basketball, hiking, performing magic tricks, playing the piano, and reading. Ivan currently works at Apple – Cielo Vista and one day hopes his journey and experience as a physician might take him back to Apple where he’d be able to connect his passion for technology to his studies in the medical field.
This exceptional student will succeed in anything he goes after.
Seham Azzam Inducted into the 4 Plus 4 Club
The College of Science “4 Plus 4” Club is for juniors and seniors whose overall and majors GPA is 4.0. Seham is a junior majoring in microbiology. She plans to graduate early in spring 2019 and hopes to attend medical school to become a pediatrician. Currently, she has been accepted into the Paul Foster Shadowing program for the fall 2017 semester.
She was born and raised in El Paso, is bilingual in Arabic and English, and graduated from Coronado High School in the top three percent of her class. While in high school she took AP courses in calculus, physics, world history and economics as well as several dual credit courses. She arrived at UTEP with credit for 28 semester hours and the Presidential Scholarship.
While in high school Seham was a member of the National Honor Society, Generation On, and Future Doctors of America, and she volunteered for two years at Providence Memorial Hospital.
Both of Seham’s parents graduated from UTEP and urged their daughter to attend. She chose microbiology as a major because growing up she had health problems that had no answer or solution. This harbored her determination and passion to conduct research into these types of problems by becoming a research oriented practicing pediatrician. She is currently a recipient of a scholarship for outstanding students in the sciences, through the ACSScellence program, an undergraduate research program managed by COURI and funded by the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Hassan Salloum, a pediatrician and long-time family friend, inspired Seham to go into pediatrics. Dr. Salloum has a wall of photographs of his healthy patients and whenever Seham visited his office she was entranced by the wall and wanted one of her own.
Seham states that she has been inspired by the truly exceptional professors at UTEP. She participates in undergraduate research via the COURI program with Dr. Laura Diaz-Martinez and Dr. Sid Das in molecular and cellular biology. She also was part of the FYRIS program and participated in undergraduate research with Dr. Chuan Xiao (Dr. River) in structural chemistry, looking specifically at the proteins involved in circadian rhythm. She was inspired by the passion for science that all these professors exhibited. She stated that Dr. Diaz-Martinez, her designated mentor, inspired her and helped with all things academic and non-academic. Dr. Supriyo Ray, a post doc in charge of FYRIS lab, created a lab tailored to each student’s special interest and was always available to tutor students for his lab, any science course, or the MCAT.
In her spare time, Seham enjoys binge-watching shows on Netflix, working out, reading, and playing soccer.
We are very proud of Seham and know that she will succeed in anything she tries.
Glenn Babst Inducted into the Spring 2017 4 Plus 4 Club
The College of Science “4 Plus 4” Club is for juniors and seniors whose overall and majors GPA is 4.0. Glenn is a physics major due to graduate in spring 2018.
Glenn was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Naples, Florida where he graduated high school in the top one percent of his class. He initially began his undergraduate studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology with a declared major in Aerospace Engineering. He left during his sophomore year to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. He was selected to be among the first MV-22 Tilitrotor Crew Chiefs and deployed with VMM-162 to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon finishing his enlistment in the Marine Corps, he applied for and was accepted to the United States Army Warrant Officer School. After two years of intense training, he graduated as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot and was assigned to 1 st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. Shortly thereafter he was deployed to Afghanistan to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom.
After 11 years of military service, he decided to go back to school to pursue a doctorate in Applied Physics. He changed his initial interest from Engineering to Physics after working alongside engineers and contractors in the military, and because he felt that engineering was limited in scope in comparison and he wanted the opportunity to do research in applied physics.
He knew that being away from school for so long would make a return challenging, so he spent his free time in the military studying math and science. The first course he took after his eleven year hiatus was a numerical methods for physicists course with Dr. Jianwei Sun. At first he struggled with the course; however, with the motivation and instruction provided by Dr. Sun, he passed the course with an A. While at UTEP he has worked as an undergraduate TA and instructs astronomy labs and physics workshops.
Since Glenn is dual rated as a fixed wing and helicopter pilot, he likes to fly for a hobby. He loves to read books and graphic novels, spend weekends hiking with his dogs, and practice amateur astronomy. His other hobbies include playing guitar and bass in a band, SCUBA diving, and boardgaming with friends.
He plans to pursue a doctorate in applied physics.
Jerricho Tipo Inducted into the Spring 2017 4 Plus 4 Club
The College of Science “4 Plus 4” Club is for juniors and seniors whose overall and majors GPA is 4.0. Jerricho is a Forensic Biology major due to graduate in fall of 2018.Jerricho’s parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines with only $200 to their name to give their children a better life; they settled in El Paso. Jerricho chose to attend UTEP because it was a good school and because El Paso has been good to his family. He started the University of Texas at El Paso in fall 2016 pursuing a degree in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry. He later changed his major to forensic biology. He graduated from Northwest Early College High School as salutatorian and earned the school’s prestigious Talon Award. While in high school, he participated in many clubs including National Honor Society as Treasurer, National Technical Honor Society as Historian, Science Bowl as Team Captain, Student Government as President and Historian, and Business Professionals of America as Secretary. He and his team travelled to Dallas and won 6 th place in the State for Website Design Team Event and 2 nd place in the regional Science Bowl competition.
He was a BUILDing Scholar Finalist and a Terry Foundation Finalist. He was presented with the Andelusite Award which was later upgraded to the Presidential Distinction Award. Piano became part of his life when he started taking lessons at age 6 and continues to take lessons and play to this day. He is a regular competitor and winner in the Irma Kluck Baroque competition and a regular participant in the Sonatina and Solo Festivals. He has also competed in the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestra for piano. Jerricho links his interest in music to his attraction towards science. He states that the language of music mimics the language of science. He credits Dr. Hugues Ouellet, his microbiology professor, for igniting his interest in biomedical research via his lab. He credits Dr. Katja Michael, his organic chemistry professor, for inspiring him with her passion for chemistry.
To plans to apply to medical school to become a medical pathologist. He has volunteered at Las Palmas Hospital and plans to start a physician shadowing program in the fall. He is a member of the Medical Professions Organization (MPO) and the Medical Professions Institute (MPI).
Jerricho is an inspiration to the UTEP family and we are sure he will succeed in anything he pursues.
Alan Salcedo Accepted to Two Prestigious Summer Programs
Joshua R. Smith – Summa Cum Laude – May 2017
Joshua is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Microbiology and has been accepted into the Paul L Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (HSC) at El Paso where he plans to specialize in Pediatric Oncology.
He was born in Bavaria, Germany to a U.S. Army family and returned to El Paso as a toddler. He graduated from Franklin High School in the top ten percent of his class where he served as the Cadet Catholic Chaplain for the Air Force Junior ROTC Program.
In the Fall of 2012 he was diagnosed with cancer and was declared to be in full remission one year later. At the time of his diagnosis he was in the process of completing theological training in preparation for the Roman Catholic Priesthood. His experience during his cancer treatment and the magnanimous example of his healthcare provider team inspired him to change direction from theology to medicine. Since he was always fascinated with the intricacy of biological structures and the building blocks of life at the molecular level, his mother, a graduate of UTEP, encouraged him to enroll at UTEP and pursue a major in microbiology.
He is a member of the Medical Professions Institute where he founded and chaired the Committee on Biomedical Ethics and the Rod of Asclepius Bioethical Debate Society where members debate current events and philosophical principles pertinent to medical ethics. He is a member of the UTEP chapter of Alpha Chi, a national college honor society composed of the top ten percent of Juniors, Seniors, and Graduate students from across all of UTEP’s academic programs. He is a member of the Sigma Alpha Pi National Society of Leadership and Success which is devoted to identifying collegiate students based on demonstrated academic excellence and roles of leadership. Joshua is also a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society whose purpose is to improve one’s community utilizing international networks of scholars and philanthropists.
In the Summer of 2014, he successfully completed the Summer Accelerated Biomedical Reseach (SABR) Program at the Texas Tech University HSC at El Paso and continues to serve as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. As part of his research, he is currently slated to be First Author on an upcoming medical journal publication concerning adjuvant treatment for breast cancer. He received the University Honors Program Houston National Endowment Award in recognition of his body of research. UTEP funded his trip to the 2015 Biology Expo in Boston, MA where he was selected as the winner of the Poster Competition at the American Society for Nutrition’s Scientific Sessions. He also had the distinction of being the only undergraduate award recipient in this event.
He is a member of the El Paso County Historical Commission where he founded and chaired the Committee on Regional Religious History and the Subcommittee on Roman Catholic Patrimony. He is a clinical volunteer for the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation which serves the Texas Oncology network of oncology clinics where he received his own chemotherapy treatment.
He credits Dr. German Rosas-Acostas with reinvigorating and confirming in him a passion for cellular biology. He is especially grateful to Dr. Max Grossman in the UTEP Department of Art due to his extraordinary mentorship and camaraderie throughout his years at UTEP. He is indebted to his research directors, Dr. Lewis Rubin and Dr. Xiaoming Gong, of the Texas Tech University HSC at El Paso for their generous involvement of him in the field of clinical research and their continued support of his pursuit of a career in medicine.
In addition to Joshua’s high academic achievement and his extraordinary commitment to better his community, he serves in the choir and altar server guild at Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church and organizes Christmas choral concerts for the area hospitals and oncology clinics. He is currently employed as a Medical Scribe and Medical Scribe Trainer for ProSribe MD and the Welmed network of Internal Medicine clinics. He is also a Teaching Assistant for the UTEP Department of Art. His hobbies include woodworking, marksmanship, architecture, sacred music, reading, drawing and painting.
Maite Martín Chosen as the College of Science Graduate Student Marshal of Students for the May 2017 Commencement.
Maite Martin has been chosen to represent the College of Science as the Graduate Student Marshal of Students at the May 2017 Commencement. Maite was born and raised in El Paso, Texas where she graduated from Coronado High School in 2010. She graduated from UTEP Summa Cum Laude and with an honors degree in Environmental Science concentrating in Biology. She chose environmental science as her field of study because she wanted to know more about the natural aspects of the region she lives in.
During her undergraduate years, she was part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico during the summer of 2012. The following year, she was accepted into the UTEP-EPA Air Quality Internship. During her senior year, she was part of the UTEP Undergraduate Research Mentoring (URM) Program where she worked in the molecular systematics laboratory under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Walsh. She presented her research at multiple conferences across the country, including the 2014 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting and the 2014 SACNAS Meeting. Maite was also a member of the UTEP Environmental Advocates in 2013 and served as president of the organization from 2014 to 2015.
Maite entered the UTEP Master’s program in Environmental Science in fall 2014. Research for her thesis involved examining UV induced mortality in bdelloid rotifers under the direction of Dr. Walsh. In 2015, she received a Dodson Research Grant to support her thesis research. In addition to her Master’s research, she served as a Research Assistant in Biology and as a Teaching Assistant for an undergraduate environmental science lab for multiple semesters. Maite was also a recipient of the 2016 President Diana Natalicio Environmental Internship where she examined the effects of harmful algae on zooplankton from Ascarate Lake. Maite will receive her MS in Environmental Science during the May 2017 commencement. She plans a career in either a state or national environmental agency.
Maite is the first in her family to earn a graduate degree. Her sister, Sofía, attends UTEP and will also be graduating this May with a BS in Civil Engineering.
When not studying, she enjoys kickboxing, hiking, reading, and watching movies.
Daniel Chavarria – Summa Cum Laude – May 2017
Daniel is graduating with a baccalaureate in Biological Sciences with a Biomedical Sciences Concentration Summa Cum Laude with an overall GPA of 4.0. He plans to pursue a doctoral in Biomedical Engineering and has been accepted into the doctoral programs at UT Austin and Penn State with a full ride. He is just 20 years old.
He was born in El Paso and raised in Juarez by his single-parent father until the eighth grade. At that time his father moved the family to El Paso because the opportunities were better for his son in the United States. His father is a graduate of UTEP.Daniel graduated from the Mission Early College High School with two years college credit and an overall GPA of 4.0. While at Mission, he was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honorary society and president of the National Honor Society. He was just 18 years old when he arrived at UTEP as a junior. Although he was accepted at RICE and UT Austin, Daniel chose UTEP because he was accepted as a BUILD Scholar, received the Presidential Excellence Scholarship, and because of the opportunity to be involved in research as an undergraduate excited him.Originally, he planned to become a doctor; however, after his exposure to undergraduate research, he changed his direction to research in biology and then research in biomedical engineering. He is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society and presented a poster at their annual meeting in 2016. He is a member of the Scholar Society whose mission is to inform high school students of available scholarship at UTEP and to help them apply for these scholarship.
He participated in a Summer REU (Research Experience Undergraduates) at UT Austin in 2016. This is where his research focus changed from biology to biomedical engineering. He also participated in the Internal Advising Committee for the BUILD program where a junior and senior are chosen to evaluate the progress of the program; he participated as a junior and again as a senior. In addition to his academic achievement, research, and campus activities, Daniel still found time to offer free tutoring services in biology, chemistry, and mathematics to any student in need.He is indebted to Dr. Manuel Miranda-Arango who permitted him to join his lab as an 18-year old new to UTEP. He is also grateful to Dr. Thomas Boland for offering a spot in his biomedical engineering lab. Daniel would also like to thank Dr. Lourdes Echegoyen, Dr. Sara Grineski, Dr. Danielle Morales, and Dr. Osvaldo Morera for guiding him and making the best out of his undergraduate research experiences at UTEP.
Daniel enjoys weight lifting and playing a guitar with the band he formed.
UTEP expects great things from Daniel.
John Martin Sabandal – Summa Cum Laude – May 2017
John Martin Gabriel B Sabandal graduates in May 2017 Summa Cum Laude with a major in Biological Sciences with a Biomedical Science concentration and two minors, one in Mathematics and one in Biomedical Engineering. He has been accepted into the doctoral neuroscience program at The SCRIPPS Research Institute and UT Southwestern. John was born in the Philippines and moved to El Paso with his family when he was 9 years old. He graduated from Burges High School as the class valedictorian and chose to attend UTEP as a Presidential Excellence and Valedictorian scholarship recipient. UTEP is a family affair: one brother graduated last year as the outstanding graduating senior in Geology and a second brother is completing his Ph.D. in Biology. He started out as a Mathematics major with a goal of becoming a math teacher like his mother. During his freshman year, his older brother suggested for him to try out scientific research. After volunteering in Dr. Kyung-An Han’s laboratory for a semester, he switched majors and spent his entire time at UTEP working in her lab. His main project focused on investigating the role of octopamine, the invertebrate counterpart of norepinephrine, in learning and memory using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. One of their key findings is that an octopamine receptor, OctB1R, is indispensable for both reward- and punishment-based olfactory learning. In 2014, John as a contributing author published in PLOSONE a paper entitled The octopamine receptor OctB2R regulates ovulation in Drosophila melanogaster. The study identified additional cellular mechanisms critical for insect reproduction that may be novel targets for insect control. At present, he is working on two different research articles: one in Drosophila olfactory learning as the primary author and the other in Drosophila impulsivity as a contributing author. Both manuscripts will be sent for publication in high impact scientific journals before graduating in May. John credits Dr. Han with the amazing opportunities he has been given. A highlight was being accepted into the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program under Dr. Keith Pannell. As a MARC fellow, he was able to present his research at various national and international conferences including the Society for Neuroscience 2015 in Chicago, Drosophila: The Allied Genetics Conference 2016 in Orlando and the Texas Academy of Science 2017 meeting at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. He recently received Best Neuroscience talk and 1st overall in all categories at the TAS 2017 Meeting. He also participated in a MARC-sponsored internship outside UTEP during summer 2015 where he worked at a Cancer and Cardiovascular Genetics Laboratory at Bethesda, Maryland (NHLBI, NIH). Mentored by Dr. Paul Hwang, he characterized the changes in p53 expression, a tumor suppressor protein, and its downstream effectors in different tissue types using a mouse model of cancer. Also, he has spent two years as a chemistry peer leader and credits Dr. James Becvar for improving his teaching, networking and communication skills. He not only mentored the students in general chemistry courses but also encouraged them to pursue careers in research. He was awarded as best poster presenter in the Peer Lead Team Learning International Society Conference 2015 in Dallas for showcasing various instruction techniques which allowed students to better understand fundamental concepts in Chemistry. He states that his strong background in diverse areas of STEM including neuroscience, genetics, mathematics, chemistry, bioengineering, cellular and molecular biology will help him successfully reach his ultimate goal of becoming an educator and a primary investigator. In addition to his academic achievements, John had time for other endeavors. He was Vice President of the French Club and Treasurer of the UTEP Club Tennis team. He enjoys tennis, volleyball, hiking and spending time with his family during his free time. The College of Science wishes continued success for such an exemplary student.
Carlos Ontiveros Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
Carlos is a senior majoring in Biology with a Biomedical Concentration. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the fall 2016 semester, he achieved an overall GPA of 4.0. He plans to pursue a dual doctorate degree through an MD/PhD program. Carlos was born in San Antonio, Texas and moved to El Paso when he was ten years old. He graduated from Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet High School in 2015 as Valedictorian with an overall GPA of 4.0. While in high school, Carlos was highly involved taking on the roles of Vice President of the J.M. Whitaker Chapter of the National Honor Society and Drum Major for the Jefferson/Silva band. Carlos received the prestigious Valedictorian Scholarship and the President’s Leadership Scholarship. He chose UTEP because of the outstanding undergraduate research opportunities available to students and the generous scholarships he was awarded. He has worked extensively with Dr. Germán Rosas-Acosta conducting biomedical research at UTEP since the day following his graduation from high school. In addition to his outstanding academic achievements, Carlos has demonstrated his dedication and service to the community by making it a duty to volunteer a few hours every week spending time with terminally ill patients under the care of Hospice El Paso. He is currently the Vice President of Internal Affairs for the Medical Professions Organization where he makes it a priority to have a positive impact on UTEP and high school premedical students in their journey towards achieving their professional goals. Carlos is also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society and the University Honors Program. Carlos comes from a family where hard work and dedication are at the forefront of family values. His father graduated from UTEP and has been involved with public education for his entire professional career as an administrator. As a result, he instilled encouragement early on in Carlos to pursue his academic passions and excel in everything he does. Growing up, Carlos remembers spending weekends with his father in a downtown San Antonio mechanic shop where they had their cars repaired. He would watch closely as the mechanic made new repairs and became captivated by the mechanical nature of things. This fascination evolved as he began to develop the desire to understand the most complex machine known to man: the human body. He aspires to pursue an MD/PhD dual doctorate with a focus on translating the basic science foundations of Molecular Cell Biology to be used in clinical studies pertaining to cardiology. He is very interested in translational medicine and desires to be one of the leading innovators in science, taking scientific innovations from the bench to the bedside. Carlos has been actively involved in undergraduate research during his time at UTEP. He was a member of the PERSIST program and the UTEP Phage Hunters program his freshman year which led to him being a co-author on four genomic annotation publications and an author of two posters, one of which he is first author. He had the opportunity to present his findings from the Phage Hunters program at local American Society for Microbiology and COURI conferences. He was also selected to present a poster relating to novel Arthrobacteriophages discovered in the El Paso region at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia in the summer of 2016. At the same time, Carlos was pursuing independent research projects in Dr. Germán RosasAcosta’s laboratory pertaining to understanding how the influenza virus interacts with the SUMOylation system in mammalian cells. Carlos has continued to pursue his passion for biomedical research and is currently working on investigating the relationships between cellular stresses and the SUMOylation system. As a result of his research endeavors, Carlos has been awarded the highly selective MARC scholarship funded by the National Institutes of Health under the direction of Dr. Keith Pannell. Carlos attributes his passion for scientific discovery and innovation to Dr. Germán Rosas-Acosta who has served as his mentor since he started here at UTEP. Carlos states that he is eternally indebted to Dr. Rosas-Acosta because he would not be where he is today without Dr. Rosas-Acosta’s unending dedication to the success of his students. Carlos also expresses gratitude for Dr. Charlotte Vines and Dr. Manuel Llano who have encouraged him to do great things here at UTEP. In his spare time, he enjoys playing tennis and exercising his mechanical skills by rebuilding vintage cars. Carlos is also an avid collector of mineral specimens, a trade passed down from two generations of the Ontiveros family. Congratulations Carlos; the College of Science is very proud of you.
Stephanie Alarcon Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
Stephanie is a rising senior majoring in Biology with a Biomedical Science concentration. As a member of the College of Science “4 + 4” Club for the fall 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 El Paso, Texas and graduated from Austin High School third in her class with an overall GPA of 3.96. Stephanie choose UTEP because she received the Presidential Excellence Scholarship and the Mary Hardin Baylor Scholarship, and UTEP was also close to home and family where UTEP is a family affair: Her mother graduated from UTEP and her brother is currently attending UTEP. She is a member of the Medical Professions Organization. Several events led to Stephanie decision to pursue an MD-PhD in pediatric oncology: her experience shadowing pediatrician Dr. Carlos Gutierrez, witnessing her father’s successful struggle with kidney cancer (now in remission) and her recent diaganosis of Sjogren’s syndrome and Lupus. She wants to not only treat patients but conduct research in that field. Stephanie volunteers at Candlelighters and the Special Olympics, participates in many run-walk events while she is not studying and shadowing. She enjoys reading, exercising and plays defense in a women’s city soccer league. She will also begin research with Dr.Vines this semester. She wants to thank Dr. Roshanack Jafari for her inspirational course in forensic pathology
Cameron Torres Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
Cameron Torres is a senior majoring in Microbiology at the University of Texas at El Paso. As a member of the College of Science’s “4 + 4” Club throughout the spring 2016 semester, Mr. Torres achieved an overall GPA and majors GPA of 4.0. Mr. Torres plans to enter the Fast Track program during the 2017 spring semester and to subsequently move on to doctoral programs beyond his current studies. Mr. Torres will acquire his undergraduate degree fall of 2017 and plans to attend graduate school to pursue a career in microbiological research. Mr. Torres credits his grandfather, Harry Butler, with his enduring love of science. Throughout his childhood, his grandfather introduced him to astronomy, and various other disciplines of science. While Mr. Torres’ own daughter was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, his affinity for science led him to actively research infectious disease and microbial life, which illustrates his continuing interest in science and ultimately led to his enthusiasm for the field of microbiology. *Mr. Torres was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and earned his diploma from Bethel Temple High School. After completing high school, Mr. Torres attended New Mexico State University for a year, during which he became committed to his academic studies. Mr. Torres worked at a detention center while his wife completed her education at El Paso Community College and then he resumed his education. He chose UTEP because of the exemplary reputation of the bioscience research facility. Mr. Torres serves as the treasurer of the American Society of Microbiology. He enjoys playing electric guitar, building model rockets, spending time with his family, camping, reading, and studying astronomy. Cameron credits Dr. Manuel Llano with fanning his interest in research while working with him in his lab. Dr. Llano states: “I would like to emphasize that Cameron was one of the best students that I had in the General Microbiology course in Fall 2015. Among the 120 students enrolled in this course, he impressed me for his interest in the topics covered in the course and in particular because his motivation for research. The latter encouraged me to accept him to my laboratory upon his request. Now as an active member of my research group, Cameron continues being highly motivated for research and has already started to contribute to our research progresses. For these reasons, I have invited Cameron to continue in my laboratory until graduation working under my direct mentoring in the research project that I personally conduct.” He was also impressed with Dr. Kyle Johnson’s passion for virology. Cameron is an example of someone who made a very successful career change in life. We extend our good wishes to Cameron and wish him well in his doctoral studies.
Andrea is graduating with a baccalaureate in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry Summa cum Laude, with an overall GPA of 3.94. She intends to pursue a career as a biochemistry researcher. She has been accepted into the doctoral programs in biochemistry at The University of Santa Barbara, The University of Pennsylvania, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A & M, The University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She will visit and interview with these universities before she decides on a doctoral program. Andrea was born in Juarez, and moved to El Paso with her family when she was 12 years old due to the violence of the drug cartels. One night, her father received a call alerting him that he would be kidnapped; the entire family moved to El Paso in the middle of the night. Andrea states that the sacrifice her parents made in order to bring up their three children in a foreign place is what inspired her to always strive for greatness, and to make the most of the opportunities presented to her. This is why she learned english in less than a year, and graduated from Americas High School at the top ten percent of her class. She chose to stay in El Paso for her baccaularate studies, due to the friendliness of the instutution towards international students like her. Unaware of the range of her possibilities, she intented to become a physician. However, the work of professor Dr. Luis Echegoyen caught her interest at the end of her sophmore year, as he was investigating the synthesis of fullerene derivatives and their effect on HIV replication. Attracted to the implications of this project, she joined the Echegoyen research group on April 2015. Her hard work and that of all of th project collaborators on the synthesis of the cationic N,N-dimethylfulleropyrrolidinium iodide derivatives and the paradigm-breaking study of their type on inhibition on HIV maturation yielded a manuscript that published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry by JACS. This project ignited in Andrea a deep interest in protein structure, and how the smallest change in their design can have a catastrophic effect in the system they are a part of. Thus, she sought research experience outside of UTEP and became part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship on UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2016 under the lab of John D. Minna. The pride she feels from her work in the Echegoyen lab and the Minna Lab is what motivates to continue her studies, and one day become the principal investigator of her own lab. As an immigrant herself, Andrea has worked during the last four years towards the enrichment of cultural diversity in higher education. She worked as a Peer Leader for Chemistry, on a program that aids undergraduate students from diverse communities succeed in General Chemistry ca courses that is generally difficult for them. She was one of the pioneers of this teaching methodology, and presented innovative teaching techniques and materials at the Peer Led Team Learning International Society 2015 conference in Dallas. In addition, she is a member of the Partnerships in Research and Education on Materials (PREM), a program designed to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities in materials research. This organization has not only allowed her to grow as a researcher, but also allowed her to participate on community outreach programs that promote Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering related careers among middle school and high school students throughout the region. Andrea is proud of being able to be a role model to the students she presents to, and is excited to be part of the growth of the future generations of scientists. Andrea is a firm believer in the expansion of programs that enrich diversity among the research community. Her growing career in research is a testament to the success of the efforts to increase cultural diversity in science. She will be the first person in her family to obtain a doctoral degree, and is an example that excellence can survive adversity.
Alondra Soltero – Summa Cum Laude – May 2017
Alondra is graduating Summa Cum Laude in Geological Sciences with an overall GPA of 3.91. She plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Geology and a graduate certificate in Geospatial Information Science and Technology (GIST) at UTEP. She has always been fascinated by the environment and has been curious about the processes that shaped the Earth. She currently aims to aid her community by working in the oil and gas industry, while also working to find alternative energy sources. She was born in El Paso and lived in Juarez until she was two years old. At that time, her parents moved to the United States knowing there were more opportunities available for their children. Since her parents did not know any English, she had to learn on her own through school. It wasn’t until the third grade that she became fluent. Alondra attended Mission Early College High School (MECHS), taking a giant leap from middle school to a college scenerio. While at Mission, she was a member of various clubs, including the National Honor Society, the Environmental club, Book club, Teen Court, and Youth for Christ. She was also Secretary of the Drama Club and Vice President of the Animation Club. She graduated from MECHS as one of the Top Ten students with a GPA of 4.0 and an Associate’s degree. She decided to attend UTEP because her two aunts had graduated from UTEP with degrees in engineering – the first in their extended family to graduate from college. They served as her role models and they constantly encouraged her to take different courses until she found her passion. It was geology. Currently, both her older sister and her attend UTEP, and they will be the first in their immediate family to graduate from college. Alondra worked as a research assistant to Dr. Josiah Heyman in the Center for InterAmerican and Border Studies. She also belongs to the Center for Entrepreneurial Geosciences club. On her spare time, she is part of the health ministry at St. Marks Catholic Church, where she promotes health by teaching Zumba classes. She also enjoys reading, listening to music, watching movies, and going off-roading using ATVs with her family.
Daniel Najera Chosen as the College of Science Undergraduate Student Marshall of Students Spring 2017
Daniel is graduating with a baccalaureate in chemistry Summa Cum Laude with an overall GPA of 4.0. He has been accepted to chemistry doctoral programs at UT Austin, Purdue University, Texas A&M, the University of California - Berkeley, Yale, the University of California - Santa Barbara, and the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. He plans to visit each of the universities before making his final decision. His interests lie at the interface of inorganic and materials chemistry, and he plans to pursue this field in graduate school. Daniel was born in Chicago, and grew up in Durango, Mexico. At age 16 he moved to El Paso to attend school. He graduated from El Paso High School ranked seventh in a class of 300. He chose to attend UTEP to take care of his sister, and the Presidential Scholarship provided him with the means to pay for college. He is the first in his family to graduate from college Daniel started his UTEP career as a student in the college of Health Sciences. It was with much apprehension that he took his first chemistry course. He insists that the general chemistry workshops from the Peer-Led Team Learning program sparked his interest in chemistry. He was hooked and decided to switch his major to biochemistry, and ultimately to chemistry. Daniel joined the PLTL program and became a peer leader for General Chemistry with the intent to instill that same passion for the field into other students. As a peer leader, he developed activities for students engagement. One of them, “Chemistry Bingo” was showcased at the 2015 PLTL International Society Conference at the University of Texas at Dallas. Furthermore, Daniel was one of the first assistant editors of the course workbook “General Chemistry by Exploration, a Resource Book for PLTL,” for which he designed problem sets for students to evaluate and direct their own learning on the subject. Although no longer a peer leader, he remains close to the program, offering tutoring to students and developing activities for new peer leaders to apply in their workshops. Daniel’s passion led him to pursue undergraduate research opportunities. He worked under Dr. Juan Noveron and Dr. James Becvar as part of different honors projects. In January 2015 he officially joined Dr. Luis Echegoyen’s research group. Daniel credits Dr. Echegoyen with awakening in him a passion for research, and a desire to expand the frontiers of science. He states that Dr. Echegoyen expects excellence from his students. He is currently preparing his first publication for submission to an academic journal. Daniel is an affiliate in the Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) program, where he participates in interdisciplinary research at the interface of chemistry, physics, and engineering. He also did outreach activities for middle school students in order to teach them the importance of science in our lives. As part of his work under Dr. Echegoyen, Daniel is part of the Maximizing Access to Research Careers program, directed by Dr. Keith Pannell. He is currently finishing his undergraduate thesis on the synthesis and unique properties of metallofullerenes containing uranium. Daniel’s research experience has expanded outside of UTEP. He participated in the Future Leaders in Advanced Materials (FLAM) summer program at the University of California – Santa Barbara. He worked under Dr. Trevor Hayton in the synthesis of a novel platinum complex. As a UTEP student, Daniel participated in the Student Leadership Institute. He was a member of the American Chemical Society – UTEP chapter, the Student Alumni Association, the Miner Volunteer Corps, and the University Honors Program. When Daniel is not studying, he is playing tennis, volleyball or reading. Daniel wishes to pursue a career in academia, to one day become a PI with his own research group. He hopes to join the ranks of the professors who inspired him, to advocate for the advancement of underrepresented minorities in science, and to inspire the next generation of scientists. The College of Science wishes you success in your future endeavors; we know you will be successful.
Jin Collins – Summa cum Laude – May 2017
Jin graduates with a baccalaureate in Physics with an overall GPA of 3.92. She has been in school for much of her life and will continue as she plans to enter a master program in Civil Engineering at UTEP. She was born in Seoul, Korea and graduated from high school in 1990. She emigrated from Korea to the United States as a new bride. She had to wait a year before entering college in California as a resident. During that year she worked for the Korean Daily News while learning English. In 2002 she entered Long Beach Community College and in 2004 she entered The University of California at Long Beach and graduated in 2007 with a degree in Civil Engineering and the designation “outstanding student.” She worked for the County of Los Angeles as a civil engineering assistant for four years, divorced, and returned to Korea for a year where she worked as a translator for a civil engineering company. In 2012 she moved to Japan to attend the Japanese Language School, and in 2014 she moved to El Paso to be near her brother and started a graduate program in materials engineering at UTEP. She found that she did not have the background for the courses in the program and dropped out of the program. To enrich her background, she started an undergraduate degree in physics where she excelled. She plans to start to start a master in Civil Engineering in the fall 2017. She credits Dr. Efrain Ferrer and Dr. Vivian Incera with her success because of their guidance and support. They made it possible for her to attend the summer research institute at the University of Arizona. She also credits Dr. Ramon Ravelo and Dr. Jianwei Sun who advised her about graduate school and became her recommenders. She appreciated Mr. Alex Price, a undergraduate advisor of the Physics Department, whose help enabled her to go through school smoothly and successfully. Jin enjoys reading novels, playing golf, and watch Japanese movies.
Lizette Gutierrez– Summa cum Laude – May 2017
Lizette receives a baccalaureate in Biological Sciences with Biomedical Science Concentration Summa cum laude with an overall GPA of 3.92 in May of 2017. She plans to attend medical school to study pediatrics or internal medicine and practice in El Paso. UTEP is a family affair since her parents and one sister graduated from UTEP and another sister is in the pipeline to graduate. She was born in El Paso and graduated from Bel Air High School as Salutatorian of her class. While at Bel Air High School, she was part of the Bel Air Center for Health Professions (an internal medical magnet school within a school), a member and officer of the National Honor Society, a member of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), a member of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), on the basketball team, cross-country team, and on the track and field team. In addition to her academic success in high school and her many activities, she found time to complete a certification in Emergency Medical Technician which allowed her to participate with first responder teams. She chose UTEP because she received the Presidential Excellence Scholarship. She chose biology because she thought that was the optimal path to medical school; she now realizes one can choose any major and prepare for medical school. While at UTEP she was a member of the Medical Professions Organization, part of APRIME TIME, an accelerated pre-med program. She found a passion for undergraduate research with Dr. Edward Casta󠇬ñeda in the Department of Psychology where she works with a Parkinsonian model to detect subtle cognitive deficits in the early stages of PD symptomology. With local research experience under her belt, Lizette decided to apply and attend the Michigan Health Sciences Undergraduate Research Academy (MHSURA) to spend 10 weeks at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to look at the metastatic properties of colorectal cancer at the genetic level. Lizette was also a member of Minority Health International Research Training Program (MHIRT) where she was able to spend a summer in the Republic of Panama trying to detect Parechovirus in children patient samples. Ms. Gutierrez had the privilege to attend local, national, and international research conferences such as Asociación Panameña para el Avance de la Ciencia (APANAC), Society for Neuroscience (SFN), Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI), and Behavior, Biology and Chemistry (BBC) conferences to present her research advancements. She is a current member of UTEP Research Initiatives for Scientific Enhancement program (RISE), and a member of the Collegiate Double T Health Professions Honor Society which permits UTEP students to engage in different medical school activities and work in close collaboration with Texas Tech physicians. Lizette believes strongly in giving back to the community, and therefore has participated in many local community service activities and projects. She credits Dr. Kristin Gosselink and Dr. Charlotte Vines for all their mentoring and motivation to continue her medical academic trajectory in the A-PRIME program, in classes, and beyond. She also states that Dr. Edward Casta󠇬ñeda inspired her to enter the world of research to appreciate the elaborate processes in order to solve complex scientific questions. Although not directly mentioned, she would like to thank all the UTEP professors that fostered intellectual growth. Lizette enjoys running, any type of sports activities, hiking, travel, writing poetry, and hanging out with family, friends, and pets. Lizette we are very proud of you.
Roberto Garcia Chosen as the College of Science Banner Bearer Spring 2017
Roberto Garcia is graduating from UTEP with a baccalaureate in Biological Sciences with Biomedical Science Concentration summa cum laude with an overall GPA of 3.95. He has been accepted into several prestigious medical schools: Texas A & M Health Science Medical Center, Texas Tech Medical School in Lubbock, Texas, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch’s MD/PhD program, and the Paul Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech in El Paso, Texas - all with offers of scholarships. He chose Paul Foster because of their curriculum and because he plans to practice pediatric oncology in El Paso. He received the Paul Foster Scholarship which will cover his medical school tuition.
Roberto had cancer at 17, a relapse at 18, and a failed bone marrow transplant from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He has since been in remission for four years. At 17 he started researching all the drugs he was receiving and how they worked. That was his first exposure to biology and its connection to medicine.
He was born in El Paso, Texas and graduated from Immanuel Christian High School. He states that he graduated in the bottom half of his class because of the time spent in sports and illness.
He chose UTEP because his brother, sister, and mother graduated from UTEP.
The lack of motivation in high school disappeared at UTEP and he began to enjoy academic success. He is a former member of the Medical Professions Organization, a graduate of UTEP’s student government association EXCEL program, former president of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, member of the Univerisity Honor Council’s Student Leadership Institute, member of the student enrichment experience program, member of the global opportunities student enrichment experience program, has shadowed physicians at St. Jude’s in Memphis and at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, volunteered at Providence Memorial Oncology Clinic and at the “Be The Match” organization, a national bone marrow registry. Roberto joined Dr. Robert Kirken’s research lab his freshmen year and has since worked his way up to becoming an undergraduate research assistant. Roberto has also voluntereed at Immanuel Christian High School sports program. He has interned at both St Jude Children’s Research Hospital through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and at UTMB, Galveston through its medical school matriculation program
He credits Dr. Robert Kirken with his success because he allowed him to join his research lab as a freshmen and has always been supportive and an advocate for his students. He also credits Dr. Georgialina Rodriguez, director of Dr. Kirken’s lab, for her patience and direction. He is eternally grateful to his family for offereing him support and encouragement throughout his entire life and attributes a great deal of his success to them.
Roberto enjoys running, playing the guitar, and hanging out with family and friends.
Gabriela Tarin Chosen as the College of Science Graduate Student Marshal of Students for Fall 2016 Commencement.
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.
Caitlin Harmon Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
Sonam Lhamo Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Algara Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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.
Joshua L. Morris Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Varela Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Madej Chosen as a Member of the College of Science 4 Plus 4 Club
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 Alejandra Alvara Chosen as College of Science Undergraduate Marshal of Students.
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 - Chosen as College of Science Graduate Student Marshal of Students.
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 - Chosen as University Banner Bearer Spring 2016
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 - Graduate Student Marshal of Students
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 Alaniz - College of Science Banner Bearer - Spring 2016 Commencement
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 Huffman - Undergraduate Marshall of Students Fall 2015
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 Chosen Graduate Marshal of Students Fall 2015
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.
Fall 2015 Banner Bearer – Juan Villalba
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.
Banner Bearer – Isaac G. Torres
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 Ramos Villegas Chosen to Represent the College of Science as the Undergraduate Marshal of Students in the May 2015 Commencement Ceremony
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.
Graduate Marshal Arjun Sharma
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 Geological Sciences graduate students presented research at AGU
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.
Graduate Marshal of Students – Virginia Rojo / MAT Science – Fall 2014
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.
Undergraduate Banner Bearer – Samuel Garcia – Fall 2014
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.
Undergraduate Marshal of Students - Taylor Steven Harmon 2014
Taylor was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. He was graduated from Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet High School where he was the Area 4 President of Health Occupations Students of America. While at Silva he was a member of the National Honor Society, Orchestra, and soccer team.
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 Chosen College of Science Undergraduate Marshall of Students for fall 2013
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.
In her free time, she enjoys cooking, knitting, and coaching gymnastics
Brandan Garcia Chosen College of Science Undergraduate Banner Bearer for fall 2013
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.
Participants (l-r): Patrick Dietzel, Drew Chenowith, John Meyer, and Jaclyn Clark.
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 has been chosen to represent the College of Science as the Undergraduate Banner Bearer at the 2011 spring commencement ceremony. He graduates with a major in biomedical sciences with a minor in chemistry with an overall GPA of 4.0. He will also present the College of Science of one of UTEP's Top Ten Seniors.
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.
Luis still had time for fun with his mountain biking, swimming, and other sports. He credits Dr. Donna Ekal Dr. Xiao Chuan for their inspiring him to go for his dreams. UTEP expects great things of Luis in the future.
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
about a UTEP student
School Among Glaciers
Directed by Dorji Wangchuk
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.
However, they have their language, customs and culture, which they are jealously proud of. They inhabit one of the most inhospitable valleys in Bhutan. They live on Yaks producing butter, cheese and hides, which they trade with the lower valleys of Bhutan.The teacher soon learns that there is a great deal more knowledge and wisdom in these simple nomads than originally thought. He therefore proceeds to explore the way of life, native wisdoms and local traditions of this amazing people as has never been done before.
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.
Lela thinks that UTEP has so many opportunities that students are not aware of and that really good advisors make the difference.
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.
She loves to read, participate in church activities, and spend time with her family. She states that the professors in the Department of Mathematics were more than willing to help her even though she might not be attending their class. She said her entire experience at UTEP was one of mentoring by dedicated professors.
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.