Micaela Sandoval’s passion for science took root at an early age, fostered by summers volunteering at the zoo and days dreaming of working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, Tristen Tellman nurtured birthday wishes for chemistry sets and microscopes so she could explore her world.
Coincidentally, each one’s journey in science led them to serve on UTHealth’s Student InterCouncil, the university’s student governance organization. Alongside other student leaders, they made a difference for their school while training to impact their world. And they are grateful for donors who have enhanced their educational experiences along the way.
Micaela: Championing diversity, fostering equity
Micaela, a fourth-year PhD candidate in epidemiology at UTHealth School of Public Health, realized she wanted to pursue public health while helping screen children in Malawi for tuberculosis, HIV, and parasites. To her, public health is about turning science into service.
“The best part of our field is working alongside at-risk communities, especially women and children, all over the world to protect them from disease,” she says.
Micaela received the R. Palmer Beasley, MD, and Lu-Yu Hwang, MD, Travel Award in International Research and the People with AIDS International Public Health Scholarship, which played a significant role in Micaela’s journey, allowing her to travel for research—something she might not have been able to do otherwise.
“In graduate school, we have many opportunities, but sometimes we need support to be able to reach out and take them,” she explains. “Scholarships allow us to do that.”
Micaela served on the Student InterCouncil, and was the Founding Chair of the Student InterCouncil Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
“UTHealth students are Texas’ future scientists, practitioners, and leaders, and the principles of diversity, respect, and equity among all of our faculty, staff, and students help us reach our potential as compassionate, well-rounded professionals,” she says.
Over the course of her career, she hopes to foster this sense of equity in public health, something very personal to her as a woman of science.
“Science, medicine, and public health have been damaged by racism, sexism, and colonialism,” Micaela explains. “And it’s up to all of us to recognize and heal those scars.”
Tristen: Informing policy, reversing stereotypes
Tristen, a fifth-year PhD candidate studying biochemistry and cell biology at MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School, felt her passion for science ignite while listening to a TED Talk about 3D-printed kidneys. The talk left her fascinated as she imagined the possibilities science holds.
Now she is discovering those possibilities firsthand. As a recipient of the Dr. John J. Kopchick Fellowship, she feels deep gratitude for donors who help students like her maximize their time during graduate school.
“Ultimately, this is what allows us to continue pursuing our education with absolute tenacity,” she says. “As a donor, that is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone pursuing an education.”
Tristen particularly valued her years on Student InterCouncil. She served in various roles, most recently completing her tenure as president, during which she focused on the group’s role in informing UTHealth policy.
“I am incredibly passionate about the power of the student voice and believe that we, as trainees, need to take every opportunity to speak to leadership candidly about the student experience and push for change where we see it needed,” she says.
As Tristen looks to the future, she hopes to make a difference simply by being a woman in science and reversing the stereotype of science as a man’s field.
“There are many brilliant women in science, and we need to be making every effort to get them out in front of people and demonstrate to young, aspiring female scientists that if they can see it, they can achieve it,” she says.