Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Career in bioengineering is within reach for UTSA grad Jacqueline Avila

Career in bioengineering is within reach for UTSA grad Jacqueline Avila

MAY 15, 2024 — Graduating senior Jacqueline Avila will cross the stage this week to receive her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design.

She has maximized her academic journey every step of the way — including serving as a Klesse College ambassador and holding leadership roles in several engineering societies in San Antonio.

“These organizations have enabled me to interact with diverse individuals and create meaningful connections at UTSA and throughout the city of San Antonio,” she said.

One organization in particular, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), has had a special place in Avila’s journey.

“It has helped in my professional and technical development through a variety of workshops. In SHPE, I have learned how to be a good leader and advocate for Hispanics, Latinos, and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” Avila said.

“UTSA has helped me evolve into a better critical thinker and problem solver while being more open-minded, diligent and collaborative, directly translating to my research.”

After graduation, Avila plans on attending the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, where she will pursue her doctoral degree in bioengineering.

From an early age, Avila’s mother instilled in her the value of education, leadership and determination. The UTSA student graduated from the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, an Austin-based college preparatory school, in May 2020.

“My life experiences motivated me to pursue higher education and research opportunities that will allow me to advance health care, particularly for low-income households and immigrants,” she said.

As a Roadrunner, Avila, a first-generation student, found support for her academy journey through the UTSA Bold Promise program, a groundbreaking tuition-promise initiative for high-achieving Texas residents from families with an annual income of $70,000 or less that covers 100% of a first-time freshman’s tuition and fees for four years.

This significant financial support eased Avila’s transition to a new city.

And, despite being away from her hometown, she found a sense of belonging at UTSA.

“As I continued further into my academic career at UTSA, the positive school climate made San Antonio feel like a home away from home,” Avila said.

In addition to taking advantage of all that UTSA had to offer, Avila seized numerous academic opportunities outside the campus, including the NASCENT NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates at UT Austin, which gives students the opportunity to participate in hands-on research projects; and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Stanford University, which introduces undergraduates to graduate-level research. Participation in these programs helped further develop Avila’s core research skills, while also inspiring her to pursue a Ph.D.

“I had the opportunity to interact with a variety of professionals and companies, attend professional development workshops and create connections with others in the STEM community,” Avila explained.

As a rising researcher, Avila is thankful that her courses gave her the opportunities to explore her interests and pursue her research goals.

“UTSA has helped me evolve into a better critical thinker and problem solver while being more open-minded, diligent and collaborative, directly translating to my research,” she said.

An especially impactful opportunity for Avila was her time as an undergraduate research assistant at the UTSA Vascular Biomechanics and Biofluids Lab (VBBL). Ender Finol, the Zachry Mechanical Engineering Department Endowed Chair and chair of the Klesse College mechanical engineering department, heads up the lab. Its mission is to evaluate the connection between blood flow and disease, and design medical devices for endovascular therapy.  

Throughout her time at the VBBL, Avila was able to work closely with fellow researchers and was given the unique honor to present a first-author platform presentation at the 2023 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting. It is rare for undergraduate students to be given the opportunity to deliver platform presentations at the meeting. The fact that Avila was a presenter is a testament to the progression of her research capabilities.

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As this graduate prepares for her next academic journey in Pittsburgh, she already has plans to seek out another higher institution to further continue her academic research career.

She also has some advice for future scholars looking to pursue a higher education.

“I will share a wise phrase my mom has repeated to me throughout my life: ‘Aprovecha las oportunidades que se te ofrecen,’ which translates to ‘take advantage of the opportunities offered to you.’”

— Storm Goodman

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University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

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.

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UTSA’S Destinations

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

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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 promoting access for all. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.