UTEP BUILDing SCHOLARS Graduates Honored at Annual Senior Ceremony and Welcome Event

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Contact Info: jpgarza@utep.edu

At the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP), BUILDing SCHOLARS students, parents, leadership, and special guests gathered on Saturday, May 1 to welcome the incoming cohort of new scholars and to honor the graduating seniors completing the program. The senior ceremony is an annual event, in which senior scholars receive honorary BUILD stoles to wear in their upcoming graduation ceremony. 

This year’s event represented the culmination of four full years of study as BUILD Scholars for many of the seniors. From the original 2015 cohort of students inducted into the program, 18 were first-year college students who completed their undergraduate studies this year. In total, 26 graduates were honored in the ceremony, with their honors thesis titles and future plans declared before receiving their stoles from primary investigators Mark Cox, Ph.D., and Lourdes Echegoyen, Ph.D.

Among the many accomplishments recognized, those of several graduates stood out for special mention. 

Brianna Sanchez, mentored by Anita Quintana, Ph.D., graduated cum laude with a degree in biological sciences and was awarded the “Outstanding Interdisciplinary Thesis” award for her honors thesis titled, “Recovery of Normal Craniofacial Phenotype in HMGCS1 Mutants Via Modulation of the WNT Signaling Pathway”. Luisa Castillo, who graduated with honors with a degree in chemistry and was mentored by Robert Kirken, Ph.D., will be starting a doctoral program in nutritional sciences this fall at Cornell University. Chemistry major Gerardo Zavala, whose thesis examined the structure of polyketides important for developing novel pharmaceuticals under the mentorship of Chu-Young Kim, Ph.D., was accepted into multiple graduate programs before deciding to attend Harvard University this fall, where he will study structural biochemistry in the Chemical Biology Ph.D. program.

Photo caption: (Three students from left): Brianna Sanchez, Luisa Castillo, Gerardo Zavala

John Wiebe, Ph.D., the Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at UTEP, gave the opening remarks, and Luis Echegoyen, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and president-elect of the American Chemical Society, gave an inspiring talk on “imposter syndrome” in the context of his own life and success. 

Following the ceremony and talk, students and BUILD principal investigators assembled outside for one final group photo as a BUILD cohort.


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