Ashley Aguilar, Geosciences M.S. Student
By Ryan Schoensee
Meet Ashley Aguilar, a Geosciences graduate student and former chair of the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, a student organization at UTSA.
Ashley was brought up by an Air Force family, which meant she moved frequently, but she eventually found her home in San Antonio. Ashley started her graduate career at UTSA after earning her B.S. in Mathematics in 2014 and is set to graduate this year with her master’s in Geosciences.
Ashley’s insurmountable passion for her discipline comes from its versatility and relevancy, as she feels geoscience is a unique culmination of all the sciences. "We use our powers to fuel ourselves, solve contamination and safety issues, discover and recreate an image of the past, and to focus on what the future can and will look like," said Ashley.
Initially drawn to UTSA because of its close proximity to family, Ashley later found it to be like a second home to her. She believes UTSA and its diversity presents countless opportunities for underrepresented students to succeed. Whether it’s the availability of scholarships, grants, or fellowships, Ashley is certain that UTSA is unique because of all the assistance it offers to students. "I feel supported because UTSA advertises numerous opportunities for students to help themselves."
The research and volunteer projects Ashley has participated in at UTSA fill her with an immense sense of pride. She frequently volunteered with Keep San Antonio Beautiful and took part in clean-up efforts around campus with her student organization, the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, which she served on as chair.
Before Ashley transferred to UTSA, she also made research contributions at San Antonio College where she helped investigate a probable meteorite impact zone near Uvalde, TX. This project included collecting elevation and gravitational data and processing that information in the field of applied geophysics to investigate if there were any structural similarities of the local geology to that of the Chicxulub impact crater in the Yucatan.
Currently, Ashley is a member of the Epsilon Omega chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon Honor Society for Earth Sciences and a Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Program (DDETP) fellow. She is also volunteering with the San Antonio River Authority by building post assisted log structures ("beaver" dams) to reduce erosion along the Medina River. Ashley’s current research is focused on water contamination in Central Mexico and is in collaboration with Saugata Datta, chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS). The research takes place in the Chemical Hydrology and Mass Spectrometry Laboratory with the Institute for Water Research, Sustainability and Policy (IWRSP), which is part of EPS. This study specifically investigates trace elements of arsenic and fluoride and their link to temperature release into the groundwater from a geothermal source.
Ashley emphasizes the importance of drive and ambition as qualities that have helped at UTSA. Taking mentor advice, she got involved on campus and even formed a community of like-minded students. She acknowledges these connections for their profound impact on her personal and professional experiences. Ashley urges new students to take initiative by seizing opportunities that will set them on the path to success. "You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take!"
After graduation, Ashley plans to work towards a Ph.D. at UTSA. She hopes to work as an environmental engineer and eventually become a professor to share her wealth of experience.
"I want to remind everyone to keep the faith and remember that you have to be your own advocate and greatest supporter in order to succeed."