(July 10, 2015) -- The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi has selected Stephen Wenceslao Evans '15 as a recipient of the Marcus L. Urann Fellowship. Evans, who graduated summa cum laude with highest honors in the UTSA Honors College in May, will begin doctoral studies in neuroscience at Stanford University this fall.
Evans is one of only six recipients nationwide to receive the prestigious $15,000 fellowship, named for the Society's founder.
"Stephen is an exceptional student," says Todd Troyer, associate professor of biology, "and has great potential for going on to do important and creative science."
But earlier in his life, Evans says his academics were anything but exceptional. "I hated school," he says bluntly. He did not find schoolwork stimulating and did only well enough to get by. After high school, the Los Altos Hill, Calif., native joined the Army. He felt a call to serve but still was not certain about his bigger life goals. As it turns out, his Army experience would set him on his education and career path.
Evans was deployed to Iraq as the sole medical specialist in an Army combat engineer unit. In October 2009, he was seriously wounded when an explosion struck his vehicle during a route-clearance mission, resulting in mild traumatic brain injury and severe leg injuries. He came to San Antonio to begin an extensive rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center, including an experimental procedure to regrow his tibia and fibula, a process that took 14 months.
As a medic, Evans says, he had been responsible for the physical and mental health of every soldier in his unit — including his own — and as such took an active role in his own recovery. To aid in his physical rehabilitation, he took up kayaking and canoeing as an instructor, guide and competitor, earning gold in the men's para kayak slalom in the Pan-American Games in 2010.
He also started taking college courses online. In fall 2011, Evans enrolled at UTSA, declaring a major in biology and minors in mathematics and chemistry. He quickly became fascinated with the interdisciplinary nature of brain research.
"My own brain damage caused me to perceive my reality very differently than those around me, something that fostered my growing curiosity about sensory perception, and the way the brain creates representations of the world it exists in," Evans says. "Having been a medic, it has been my job to keep people alive. While I had previously focused on peripheral wounds, understanding the brain began to emerge as the most logical solution to any kind of health problem; after all our perception is our reality."
At UTSA, Evans started working with Troyer, whose research focuses on vocal development in songbirds, which is analogous to human speech learning. In the laboratory, Evans became interested in how birds use auditory feedback to drive changes in motor behavior, and he developed a noninvasive and reversible technique to prevent them from hearing their own song. This, he says, allows him to monitor how the brain integrates sensory feedback and the lack thereof. He presented a poster of his research at last year's Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, and now is working on a publication. He also won best undergraduate presentation in neurobiology at last fall's UTSA Research Symposium.
"As a young scientist, Stephen has it all," Troyer says. "He is bright and self-motivated, he works hard, he asks the big questions, and he loves to dig beneath the surface."
As a doctoral student, Evans plans to study how the brain transforms sensory data to produce motor outputs with hopes of developing a fully integrated brain-interface device. Stanford has several labs working on brain-machine interfaces, he says, and he plans to begin laboratory rotations when he moves to California this fall. Another benefit of being in Palo Alto is he and his wife both will be within a half hour of their families.
"I find myself very fortunate to have experienced all that I have," says Evans. "It has led me to where I am now, and I wouldn't trade that for anything."
This free, one-day conference for UTSA students focuses on developing leadership skills, providing an open dialogue to address tough issues that leaders face, and offering a diverse spectrum of workshops.
H-E-B Student Union Ballroom (HSU 1.104), Main Campus
The daylong event features authentic foods, music, dance, martial arts, shopping, games and entertainment from China, to the Indian Sub-continent, and the island nations of the Pacific.
Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
Ron Ellis conducts the student instrumental ensemble in a free concert that is open to the public.
Arts Building, Recital Hall (Arts 2.03.02), Main Campus
The UTSA Office of Veteran and Military Affairs is hosting a day full of outreach events and activities by the U.S. Navy as part of a larger Navy presence in San Antonio called Navy Week with various events in the community through Feb. 25.
Student Union Paseo and Convocation Center entrance, Main Campus
Join this interactive play that is a courtroom drama and the audience is the jury. Discussion and will follow.
Student Union, Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus
Langston Clark, UTSA assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Nutrition will discuss exploring the historical context for the role of black athletes in contemporary social movements.
John Peace Library, Assembly Room (JPL 4.04.22), Main Campus
The UTSA African American Studies program invites speakers from the leading African American Fraternities and Sororities for a panel discussion of the history of each organization and to enlighten the audience about the community service, academic purpose, professionalism and ethical roots of each group.
Student Union, Mesquite Room (SU 2.01.24), Main Campus
MuTe Fest is a celebration of original music and technology. Three days of concerts, sessions, and informative lectures will offer a unique experience of musical works created by fellow UTSA students and the chance to gain valuable knowledge about music technology.
Art Building, Music Tech Lab (Arts 3.01.30B), Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.