Commencement Story: Isaiah Goertz
By Ryan Schoensee
Meet Isaiah Goertz, a senior who is graduating with a degree in Microbiology and Immunology. Isaiah is from San Antonio and chose to attend UTSA because it was close to family, offered supportive services for students with disabilities, and is home to a diverse student population.
During his time at UTSA, Isaiah discovered other benefits to being a Roadrunner. He had the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Eppinger. Dr. Eppinger's lab specializes on bacterial pathogens such as foodborne diseases like Escherichia coli. One of the research projects Isaiah has been involved in aims to determine the pathogenic potential of individual isolates and to identify the specific genome that is present hypervirulent isolates.
"I compared two distinct sequence types of enterohemorrhagic E. coli to determine the reason behind the difference in human disease severity," said Isaiah. "I applied computational tools to catalog the virulence and resistance in the sequenced genomes, which then allowed us to visualize the data."
In 2018, Isaiah applied to join RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement), a federally funded program designed to increase the number of underrepresented faculty, students, and investigators who are performing research in the biomedical sciences.
As part of the RISE program, Isaiah presented his research findings at the UTSA Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry Showcase in November 2020, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference in October 2020, the UTSA RISE/MARC U*STAR conference in October 2020, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Texas branch conference in November 2019, and the UTSA RISE/MARC U*STAR conference in October 2019.
"All of the conferences I attended helped me improve my social skills and develop more confidence when presenting my research to a larger audience," said Isaiah. "There is nothing more exciting than discussing what you are passionate about with others who share that same passion."
Isaiah is also thankful for the faculty at UTSA. His two favorite professors are Dr. Keegan Gold, Lecturer III for the Department of Chemistry, who provided him with a strong foundation in chemistry, and Dr. Hans Heidner, assistant department chair for the Department of Biology, who was always eager to help Isaiah learn new concepts related to immunology and virology.
Isaiah will receive his diploma this spring, a bachelor's of science in microbiology and immunology. After graduation, he plans to continue his education and gain admission into the Program in Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation Biology (PEEC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Isaiah's advice to Roadrunners is to be patient with your progress.
"It's important to take some personal time and engage in social activities in order to recharge in between classes, exams, and research," said Isaiah. "When I was a new student researcher, I thought I had to push myself harder to compete with graduate researchers, when what I really needed was to slow down. After I understood that, I made time for myself and was patient with my progress and that helped keep me from burning out."
Read more about Isaiah's path to becoming a Roadrunner.