Commencement Close-Up: Demetrio Sierra
(May 25, 2004)--The past month was quite a whirlwind experience for College of Sciences graduate Demetrio Sierra and his relatives from Puerto Rico.
Not only did they fly in to attend his graduation ceremony May 8 but the whole family also flew to Fort Knox, Ky., the previous week to celebrate his sister's graduation from Sullivan University.
"It was weird because the 10 of us were all together… and that usually only happens at a funeral or a wedding," said Sierra. "It was great to see everybody at the same time for good reasons."
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For the Sierras, a military family, traveling comes with the territory. Demetrio's father was stationed around the world until he retired following his final assignment at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Following the retirement, Sierra's family moved off-base to the neighboring community of Copperas Cove.
As a high school student, Demetrio finished among the top 10 in his class. He considered UT-Austin, Texas A&M and Baylor but chose UTSA, in part because of the opportunities it offered as a minority-based institution.
"I know I've received the best education in my field," said Sierra. "I've been to national conferences and summer programs with students from Princeton and Harvard. I found out that they did not get the experience or research exposure that I received as a student at UTSA."
At UTSA, Sierra worked as an undergraduate researcher in Edwin Barea-Rodriguez' lab. He made oral and poster presentations at several national neuroscience conferences, and he was offered post-doctoral opportunities before he had even completed his undergraduate degree.
"At larger universities, an undergraduate would be given small tasks to do, but here at UTSA we're doing the same level work and using the same techniques as a graduate or doctoral student," Sierra said.
Sierra was also an Honors College student and had an opportunity to work with faculty for his undergraduate honors thesis. As a member of the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program, he received mentoring and financial assistance to help develop his scientific career.
This summer he will study biochemistry at the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, Md., and then plans to enter graduate school.