(Dec. 16, 2013) -- Meet Viridiana Estrada. She's building a research career with the help of UTSA neuroscientists.
While a student at John Marshall High School, Estrada earned automatic admission to UT-Austin. Despite being accepted at various universities, she ultimately decided on UTSA, opting to remain close to her San Antonio family.
"What I really liked about UTSA -- it's something that I didn't realize at first," Estrada recalls. "I liked that there are a lot of great researchers to work with and learn from here, especially those in the Neurosciences Institute."
And Estrada is taking advantage of every opportunity.
The undergraduate is pursuing a psychology degree, medical courses and highest honors through the UTSA Honors College. To achieve those goals, she's intensely focused on academics.
She's also taking advantage of UTSA's access to great research opportunities such as the MBRS-RISE program and the McNair Scholars program. Under the supervision of UTSA neuroscientist Nicole Wicha, Estrada has learned how to use event-related potentials to study how older Spanish-speaking adults predict language. Her findings are presented in her honors thesis.
Outside of the classroom, the undergraduate has networked with UTSA researchers and students through Neuroscientists Evolving Undergraduate Research Opportunities (NEURO), the Neuroscience Institute's student organization.
Though seemingly disparate, Estrada's collective experiences at UTSA prepared her for a career-altering placement in a summer research program offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She applied to work in one of two laboratories, but fate placed her in a third.
That summer, Estrada learned how to implant cannula into the ventral medial prefrontal cortices of rats, a surgical procedure that allows researchers to manipulate and study the rats' eating patterns in response to various chemicals such as amphetamines. The technique merged Estrada's academic interests, calling her attention to a new career path in neurosurgical research.
"Since I've been little, I've always been involved in learning," she says. "Science has that ability to lead you to more learning. Science builds the foundation for increasing knowledge."
She now hopes to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. to fully pursue a neurosurgical research career. She admits it won't be an easy road, because so much more education is required, but she says she's determined to weather the challenge because she knows now from experience that a career in neurosurgical research is exactly what she wants.
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UTSA prides itself on giving students a well-rounded education. Combining a top-tier academic program with opportunities for personal growth prepares students to compete in a global economy. And that's not all. They learn to be informed and engaged citizens as well. At the heart of that academic program is an award-winning core curriculum.
For four consecutive years, UTSA has received an A-rating from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for the caliber of its core curriculum. According to ACTA, UTSA requires its students to take six of the seven courses deemed "crucial" to a well-rounded education: composition, literature, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and science. Only a handful of other institutions in the U.S. are giving students these tools, which are needed to succeed in careers and the community.
Did you know? UTSA is one of only three Texas institutions and 23 in the United States to receive the highest rating for its core curriculum in the 2014-2015 edition of the ACTA's "What Will They Learn?" report.
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