As a first-generation college student, Vanessa Cupil-Garcia, ’17, 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 Cupil-Garcia. “She always encouraged me to seek every opportunity and never give up. I used that resilience in college to excel in academics and leadership opportunities.”
Cupil-Garcia was a Golden Door Scholarship recipient and a member of the Honors Program, which provided her with research and field experiences.
As a chemistry major, Cupil-Garcia took advantage of the Undergraduate Research Program. She conducted graduate level organic chemistry and biomedical research at Georgia Tech and Oregon Health & Science University. Research became her career aspiration.
“Before coming to Meredith, I knew of only two career paths that involved the sciences: engineering and medicine,” said Cupil-Garcia. “After building relationships with professors, I was exposed to the research process and realized that I wanted to pursue research.”
Cupil-Garcia served as the senior organic chemistry laboratory teaching assistant and a chemistry tutor. She was also president of the Meredith chapter of the American Chemical Society.
As a Tabasco, Mexico, native, Cupil-Garcia had the unique opportunity to use her Spanish to make a difference in her local community. She served as a Get Covered America Fellow and interpreter, helping international families acquire healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She also served as a mentor for international students pursuing higher education.
“My research experiences taught me how to think like a scientist and my experiences as a Latina woman made me determined to help others pursue their goals without being hindered by the social and economic obstacles that I encountered,” said Cupil-Garcia.
Through her experiences, she gained an interest in international cultures and languages, which led her to minor in international studies and learn Mandarin Chinese.
“Excellent communication in different languages will help me be an effective professor and organizer of science outreach efforts,” said Cupil-Garcia. “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.”
Wanting to be an inquisitive researcher and professor, Cupil-Garcia was awarded a full scholarship to Duke University, where she is earning her Ph.D. in chemistry.
“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 Cupil-Garcia. “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.”