Alumni from the School of Natural Sciences at St. Edward’s share how their college experience prepared them for admission into top graduate schools and competitive jobs.
The consensus? Professors who care about them and challenge them. Research experiences that begin as early as freshman year. Classes that develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
Leeroy Cienega ’10, Biochemistry, is an industrial hygiene and safety professional at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“The Biochemistry program at St. Edward’s was robust, personal and challenging. It not only prepared me for graduate school, but it also prepared me to holistically solve complex issues in the workplace, no matter the subject area. My St. Edward’s education serves as the foundation for my decision making and for generating innovative solutions at one of the nation’s most incredible workplaces.”
Zane Goodwin ’11, Bioinformatics, earned a PhD in Computational and Systems Biology at Washington University in Saint Louis. He is a genomics data scientist at Bayer Crop Science.
“St. Edward’s taught me how to think more ethically about the research I was doing. Since leaving St. Edward’s, I work on projects that are likely to help those in need. In my current role, I am working on developing genomics technologies that will make plant breeding more efficient, hopefully leading us to crops that will be productive enough to manage food availability.”
Kizil Yusoof ’18, Biology, is a doctoral student in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
“At St. Edward’s, I conducted an original independent research project, which has been fundamental for my career. I was part of a summer research program in which I worked on a project to understand how the changes in the pH of the gut affect the growth of probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus. This research made me excited about how our individual microbiomes are affected by simple activities such as diet and lifestyle. My project had real-world application and was something that could aid patients with gastroenterology diseases. I realized that I had a major interest in the field of biomedical sciences and the underlying factors that could aid in the prevention of illnesses.”
Yvette Cannata ’15, Biology, is an associate veterinarian at VCA Terrell Animal Hospital in Lakeway.
“Getting into veterinary school was a very competitive process, but my mentors, teachers and peers made me feel like I could accomplish anything with hard work and determination. My professors had such high expectations of me and pushed me to strive for excellence and to always do my best. They not only taught me the scientific basics that I need to know for my career, but they also taught me life skills: how to be open minded and consider all sides of a situation, how to solve problems, how to love my neighbors, and how to love myself. They taught me to never give up and to use any failures as lessons for how to better myself.”
Chris Azaldegui ’19, Chemistry, is a doctoral candidate in Chemical Biology at the University of Michigan.
“My research experiences helped me decide what I wanted to do as a career and helped me develop as a scientist and a person. I began conducting research at the end of my freshman year, which helped me become an independent problem-solver who was prepared to face challenges. These characteristics have been valuable in graduate school, as I am confidently able to drive the progression of my project and think and act through the challenges I face. I think also having a holistic education has made me very aware of the big picture when it comes to my research and what are the potential societal impacts it can have.”
Sophie Gairo ’17, Computer Science, is a software engineering manager at the Home Depot.
“The best part about St. Edward’s, by far, was the supportive environment. There was never a time that I needed help understanding or working through a problem that I didn't have someone willing to lead me through it. The applied-learning approach of the department is extremely valuable in today’s market. Instead of exclusively learning theories from a textbook, we completed labs or extended homework assignments that required hands-on coding to practice and apply the methods we were learning. We worked on real-world projects and brainstormed our own ideas from day one. My cross-disciplinary work at St. Edward’s showed me how different disciplines can enhance one another. This, combined with St. Edward’s constant emphasis on giving back to your communities, has ignited my passion for the positive effects technology policies can have on society.”
Chris Madonna ’19, Forensic Chemistry, is a firefighter/EMT in a small town outside Dallas and is working his way to the position of arson investigator.
“While at St. Ed’s, I was lucky enough to be in Dr. Parish Fisher’s Crime Scene Investigation classes. Her connections with law enforcement agencies around Texas allowed me to find an internship with the Fort Worth Arson/Bomb Squad, which aligned with my career plan to work in the field rather than the lab. The internship gave me practical experience and helped me realize I wanted to pursue arson investigation as a career. My background in science has allowed me to look at scenes with a different perspective from my colleagues who have fire service training but no chemistry degree.”
Lupita Aguilar ’20, Forensic Science, is a medical examiner investigator for the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office. She was offered a job with the TCME after interning there her senior year at St. Edward’s.
“The professors at St. Edward’s were so knowledgeable and truly cared about students’ education. As a first-generation college student with a migrant farm worker background, I at first lacked confidence when it came to my degree. Dr. Casie Parish Fisher pushed me and not only believed in me but also helped me believe and have confidence in myself. Through every major accomplishment at St. Ed’s, Dr. Parish Fisher was the one I would tell first, and she always celebrated with me. Through her Crime Scene classes, she taught me the skills necessary to apply for internships, graduate schools and law enforcement agencies. She showed me what to expect in my field, and now I’m able to thoroughly investigate crime scenes and assist families in their time of need.”
Tommie Baugh ’02, Kinesiology, is the owner and director of Austin Manual Therapy Associates South Austin physical therapy clinic.
“Being involved in the athletic training program was pivotal to my career into physical therapy. The head athletic trainer during my tenure at St. Ed’s was a great mentor who really guided my career in rehabilitation and sports medicine. It was a smooth transition from the athletic training program into physical therapy school and sports medicine. I was ahead of my peers in graduate school because I was already prepared with a solid foundation in orthopedics and physical medicine.”
Valeria Gonzalez ’17, Mathematics, earned a master’s degree in the University of Notre Dame ESTEEM program, which focuses on entrepreneurship for STEM students. She is now a data scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton, where she works alongside the U.S. government to help solve its data challenges. She has worked on analytics efforts for NASA’s International Space Apps, NASA’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity and the Department of Defense, as well as pro-bono efforts for Feeding America.
“My Math major at St. Edward’s gave me the strong technical and problem-solving foundation needed in my current role as a data scientist and government consultant. Courses like Linear Algebra and Real Analysis gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for data science concepts. Through my two-year research project on graceful graph theory with Dr. Edward Early, I was empowered to be creative, curious and bold.
In my day-to-day working alongside government clients, it’s crucial to think critically and logically to solve complex problems and clearly communicate solutions. These skills, and more, were nurtured and deeply instilled by my professors at St. Edward’s by fostering me with a problem-solving mindset and challenging me with problems that required deep thought and persistence.”
Medical Laboratory Science
Hong Ly ’18, Medical Laboratory Science, earned her master’s in Clinical Laboratory Science from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 2019. She works as a medical laboratory scientist in the high-volume chemistry lab at the University of Texas Medical Branch, where she analyzes patient blood samples, including checking glucose levels and testing for antibodies for COVID-19.
“When I came to St. Edward’s, I didn’t even know this career existed. Dr. Trish Baynham was my advisor, and while I was doing microbiology research with her, she suggested that I apply to the 3-2 program with UTMB. It seemed like a good degree with good job outcomes, so I pursued it. My research experience with Dr. Baynham prepared me well for my master’s program. She took me to two conferences so I could present my work, and she showed me how to prepare a good PowerPoint and how to answer difficult questions from professors. This helped me with my thesis defense at UTMB. I found a job right after graduation.”