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A life of curiosity leads to UTSA and an exploration of the human brain

A life of curiosity leads to UTSA and an exploration of the human brain

CLASS OF 2020

JUAN MORALES
PH.D.  |  NEUROBIOLOGY
COLLEGE OF SCIENCES

PART OF UTSA TODAY’S SERIES ON SOME OF THE NEWEST ALUMNI OF ROADRUNNER NATION


MAY 11, 2020 — A child of immigrants, Juan Morales was a newborn when his father died. And when he was 5 years old his mother died as well, leaving the boy and his two older sisters in the care of their grandmother in Edinburg, just north of the Mexico-U.S. border.

“We were very poor,” Morales said. “So there wasn’t much to do.”

Instead, Morales’ curiosity drew him outdoors into the thorny shrubs and subtropical woodlands of the nearby rural landscape.

After high school Morales, a first-generation student, completed two degrees in mathematics at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Seeking another challenge, he decided to apply his math knowledge to science.


“At UTSA I acquired the skills needed to pursue a career in science by piecing together all the advice I received from mentors and colleagues.”



He was fortunate enough to secure financial assistance from a RISE fellowship, a federally funded program designed to ensure that talented and motivated minority or disadvantaged students are able to obtain the experience and skills they need to succeed in research-intensive careers. The fellowship helped reduce stress on Morales and allowed him to focus on his studies.

“I chose neuroscience at UTSA. When I was younger, I was always pretty good at math and enjoyed it. It’s ironic because, in science, it’s kind of hard to know the precise answer sometimes. The brain is complex, and I can use mathematics to gain insight.”

His dedication and perseverance paid off. This month Morales receives his Ph.D. in neurobiology. While pursuing his doctorate Morales learned a lot about basal ganglia, a part of the brain essential for conscious movement and learning.

“At UTSA I acquired the skills needed to pursue a career in science by piecing together all the advice I received from mentors and colleagues,” he said.

For now, Morales is staying at UTSA as a postdoctorate associate as he contemplates a few job offers and completes his dissertation studying the resonance of brain cells.

And after the completion of his dissertation? “I’ll be moving on to new endeavors.”

The world is wide open.

James Dobbins



UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu.


UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.


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UTSA’s Mission

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.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.