Ammar Al-Sayyed, Microbiology and Immunology Major
By Ryan Schoensee
Meet Ammar Al-Sayyed, a UTSA undergraduate researcher and Honors College student from Austin, Texas.
Ammar is currently pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology with a minor in Chemistry. The immunology path appealed to Ammar because it provided him with a deeper understanding of the natural sciences along with a copious amount of research opportunities.
Aside from the interesting and practical knowledge he gains through his program, Ammar also appreciates the sense of satisfaction and empowerment he receives from learning a scientific subject that he can apply to the world around him. Furthermore, his enrollment in the microbiology and immunology program has allowed him to explore as many avenues as he can, such as practical laboratory experience and data analysis.
Ammar recognizes UTSA's status as an R1 Carnegie research institution because of the widespread availability of opportunities for undergraduates. He believes that its engaged and involved faculty, as well as its dedication to creating lasting impressions for its students, are qualities that set UTSA apart from its peer institutions.
The Honors College is another important part of UTSA that Ammar has come to appreciate. "At UTSA, joining the Honors College means pushing yourself to do things outside of academia. It means filling up your stay at UTSA with some meaningful experiences and skills that will push you further in life than solely earning a degree."
During his second year of college, Ammar joined the Rise-2 program under Gail Taylor, associate director of the RISE programs. From there, Ammar went on to acquire a summer 2020 virtual research position alongside a biomechanical engineering professor where he was tasked with analyzing vast quantities of data.
Later that year, he was granted an opportunity to research with the Doyle Group. Headed by Michael Doyle, a highly regarded researcher and UTSA professor, the group is at the forefront of research and advancement in the field of chemistry. After attending both labs spanning three weeks, Ammar doubled down on chemistry research. "I am really grateful for the opportunity given to me by Dr. Doyle to actively participate in his lab."
Among his favorite classes is the Immunology course he took in fall 2020 with Hans Heidner, a UTSA professor whose research primarily focuses on the development of alphavirus-based vectors and vaccines. Ammar felt that he was pushed to refine his study habits and be the best version of himself. "I was hooked from day one because Dr. Heidner is an amazing professor, because he can make complex topics like cell-mediated immunity or cancer immunology simple enough to be understood like a story."
While studying at UTSA, Ammar has found that preparedness and self-awareness are qualities that have helped him in his academic pursuits. "It is okay to go in blind, but you should have a general idea of why you are here," said Ammar, fondly recalling the degree plan he constructed during his first year at UTSA. He also highlights the importance of asking for help and attending Supplemental Instruction tutoring sessions regarding questions and concerns about his area of study. Additionally, Ammar found that getting into a research program early into his degree plan was a great decision.
Ammar is currently working closely with Yong-Lian Su, one of UTSA's post-doctoral researchers, on potentially groundbreaking research involving a multi-component reaction with diazo functional groups. Ammar has since begun the application process for medical school. He finds these experiences to be incredibly enriching and is optimistic about his prospects. "All in all, I have greatly enjoyed my stay at UTSA and am excited to graduate and start building my career."