As a first-generation college student, Vanessa Cupil-Garcia, ’17, has used her childhood experiences, her love of science, and her passion for helping others to shape her career path at Meredith College.
“Being raised by a strong, single Latina mother made me strong,” said Vanessa. “She always encouraged me to seek every opportunity and never give up. I have used that resilience in college to excel in academics and leadership opportunities.”
Vanessa is a Golden Door Scholarship recipient, a full ride national scholarship, and a member of the Honors Program, which has provided her with research and field experiences.
As a chemistry major, Vanessa has taken advantage of the Undergraduate Research Program. She has conducted graduate level organic chemistry and biomedical research at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Oregon Health & Science University. Research has become her career aspiration.
“Before coming to Meredith, I knew of only two career paths that involved the sciences: engineering and medicine,” said Vanessa. “After building relationships with professors, I was exposed to the research process and realized that I wanted to pursue research.”
Vanessa serves as the senior organic chemistry laboratory teaching assistant and a chemistry tutor for the Department of Chemistry, Physics, and Geoscience. She is also president of the Meredith chapter of the American Chemical Society and holds the student representative position on the Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee.
As a Tabasco, Mexico, native, Vanessa has had the unique opportunity to use her Spanish to make a difference in her local community. During her sophomore year, she served as a Get Covered America Fellow and interpreter, helping international families acquire healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She also serves as a mentor for international students as they pursue higher education.
“My research experiences have taught me how to think like a scientist and my experiences as a Latina woman have made me determined to help others pursue their goals without being hindered by the social and economic obstacles that I encountered,” said Vanessa.
Through her experiences, she has gained an interest in international cultures and languages, which is why she is minoring in international studies and learning Mandarin Chinese.
“Excellent communication in different languages will help me be an effective professor and organizer of science outreach efforts,” said Vanessa. “While doing summer research at Georgia Tech, I helped organize a scientific outreach program at a local middle school camp for refugee students. That was the point at which I understood the value of science outreach.”
Because of her academic success, Vanessa has been inducted into five honor societies, including Alpha Lambda Delta and Silver Shield, and earned the Outstanding Senior Award which is given to the top ten seniors in the class. She just received the Iota Sigma Pi Undergraduate Award for Excellence in Chemistry. Iota Sigma Pi is a national honor society for women in chemistry.
With a dream of being an inquisitive researcher and professor, Vanessa will attend Duke University’s Chemistry Ph.D. program in the fall with tuition, fees, and health insurance paid in full. She will also receive a stipend for conducting research.
“I believe that my experiences have enabled me to effectively communicate the importance of science to students of all ages and backgrounds – from kindergarten to college,” said Vanessa. “I know that these experiences and my relentless determination will allow me to be a successful graduate student, who is not daunted by challenges or failures.”