Posted on May 31, 2024 by College of Sciences

#AwesomeAlum
Mariah Antopia

Mariah Antopia

By Ryan Schoensee

Meet Mariah Antopia, a driven recent graduate from the College of Sciences who earned a B.S. in Biology from UTSA in 2022 and is now enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's Ph.D. program in Genomics and Computational Biology.

Antopia's passion for biology started in high school and grew during her time as a Roadrunner. Her favorite aspect of studying biology at UTSA was the transdisciplinary nature of the program.

"The field of biology is incredibly vast, and at UTSA, I had the opportunity to take classes in various scientific disciplines," said Antopia. "Whether it was learning from chemists, mathematicians, computational biologists, or medical doctors, I always found myself in diverse and intellectually stimulating environments. This interdisciplinary approach not only expanded my knowledge, but also taught me how to communicate effectively across different scientific fields."

Deciding on UTSA for her undergrad was an easy decision for Antopia. She chose the university because the city of San Antonio is her home and it provided her with a strong sense of comfort and familiarity, which made it the ideal setting for her academic journey.

According to Antopia, what sets UTSA apart is its diverse student body and the university's commitment to supporting first-generation and underrepresented students by ensuring everyone has access to the resources they need to thrive and feel welcomed.

At UTSA, Antopia was also accepted into the NIH-funded biomedical research program, ESTEEMED (Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Educational Diversity). Under the guidance of Gail Taylor, director of ESTEEMED and assistant director and Training specialist of the RISE Research Training Programs at UTSA, Antopia not only got connected to undergraduate research opportunities, but also found a community of like-minded scholars.

"UTSA has played a pivotal role in shaping my journey," Antopia said. "I would not be where I am today without the mentors at UTSA who supported my professional and personal growth and academic programs like ESTEEMED which helped me to identify research as a career path. UTSA has not only provided me with a great education but also transformed the trajectory of my life."

In 2021, Antopia was selected as a recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious national scholarship awarded to undergraduate students engaging in research in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. She was recognized for research that focused on taking a bioinformatics approach to studying SARS-CoV-2 and its potential neurodevelopmental impact on the human fetal brain.

After Antopia finishes with her doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania, she hopes to become a principal investigator at a research-intensive institution. Her long-term career goal is to contribute to the forefront of scientific knowledge by leveraging new technologies to demystify the genetic basis of human disease and pave the way for personalized medicine.

For UTSA students aspiring to become biologists, Antopia offers the following advice: invest time and effort into understanding concepts rather than memorizing facts, experiment with study techniques to learn what works best for you, get involved outside of the classroom for hands-on experience, and explore different areas of biology to find what truly interests you.

"Biology is a diverse and fascinating field," Antopia added. "It's constantly evolving, so stay informed about new discoveries and advancements. Keep an open mind and be willing to explore new ideas and perspectives.

— College of Sciences
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