Ashley Aguilar

Born in Misawa, Japan, The University of Texas at San Antonio graduate student, Ashley Aguilar, lived in three different countries before moving to San Antonio with her military family in 2006. With a childhood full of traveling, she developed an affinity for geology and solving environmental problems in countries across the world. In 2018, she took the risk of leaving her full-time job as a high school math teacher to pursue her graduate degrees at UTSA. After successfully completing her master’s degree in the College of Sciences over the summer, she began her doctoral studies in environmental engineering in the Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design in Fall 2022.

A UTSA student through and through, Aguilar graduated from the university in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and completed her master’s degree in earth and planetary sciences. Her graduate research focused on investigating trace elements of arsenic and fluoride and their link to temperature released into groundwater from a geothermal source, a severe problem in many Latin-American countries. It was thanks to several grants that Aguilar was able to successfully conduct her research including funding from NASA’s MUREP (Minority University Research and Education Project) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) program and a Geoscience Research Grant from the Geological Society of America (GSA). Her GSA grant even allowed her to travel to San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico to conduct her investigation. She successfully defended her thesis in August 2022.

“I quit my salary job to come back to school full-time. It was a big decision knowing that I wouldn’t be receiving my paychecks,” expressed Aguilar. “So, I am very grateful for all of my scholarships and anyone who has ever given me a red cent. That funding has made my research possible and kept me afloat for these last four years.” 

While in school, Aguilar makes a point to keep a full schedule. During her senior year as an undergraduate student, she founded UTSA’s chapter of the Association for Environmental Engineers (AEG). Along with taking on a lead role in UTSA’s AEG chapter, she also sits on the board of the AEG Texas Chapter as a student organization liaison, and serves on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee for the national chapter. As an undergraduate student, Aguilar was awarded the AEG’s Christopher C. Mathewson Scholarship for her hard work and high level of involvement in the association. She has also received the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship, participates in the Epsilon Omega chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon Honor Society for Earth Sciences and spends time volunteering with the San Antonio River Authority. While any free time she may have is taken up by extracurricular activities, she expressed that being around other passionate UTSA students makes it all worthwhile. 

“The geology community on campus is so welcoming and inviting. Everybody seems to be excited to learn about the world around them and it’s nice to finally be surrounded by likeminded people. It makes a huge difference and we all keep each other motivated,” said Aguilar.  

Looking towards the future, Aguilar plans on becoming an environmental engineer and receiving her engineering license to work as a project manager for a major company. She ultimately hopes to open up her own environmental engineering business. She credits the financial support she has received for helping to make her dreams achievable. 

“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to have a financially sound future. I have so many goals that the student debt epidemic would have prevented me from accomplishing - like it has to so many in my generation. I can’t express my gratitude enough,” said Aguilar.

To learn about creating scholarship opportunities at UTSA visit