“You are the author of your story. Never allow fear or uncertainty keep you from striving to be the best version of yourself.”

My path to winning the Goldwater Scholarship is far from traditional. I became inspired to study neuroscience in my early twenties when I struggled in life with depression and anxiety and had many unanswered questions about cognition and trauma. The frustration I felt led to me dropping a career in life insurance and enrolling as a Biology major at Tulsa Community College at the age of twenty-four.

During my time at TCC, I was involved in the Honors Program and sought out classes with a research component. These classes allowed me to hone the skill sets I would need to be successful in my desire to gain an understanding of the scientific method. The Honors faculty and professors answered all my eager questions and provided me an environment where I was able to thrive despite personal adversity, such as moving multiple times and the threat of homelessness. Through classes at TCC that catered to students who are intellectually curious, I gained hands-on experience with projects involving DNA cloning with biotechnology and testing microbes for antibacterial properties.

Throughout the bustle of course work and working full time as an overnight front desk clerk, I discovered the Goldwater Scholarship while searching for ways to pay for a university after community college. Once I learned more from my campus representative, Professor Mary Phillips, I worked for months on my application and sent it in without much faith that someone like me – someone older, less experienced, from a low-income household, and from community college – would be able to compete with students from major research universities around the country. I was wrong.

In March of 2020, I made Tulsa Community College history by becoming their first-ever Goldwater Scholar. This feat and the encouragement I received from my mentors and professors were made even more significant when I was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Today, I am in my junior year at UNC and have used the connections I gained by winning the Goldwater Scholarship to achieve some of my proudest accomplishments. I am a research assistant for the Frohlich Lab, a neuroscience lab within UNC’s School of Medicine where I’ve participated in optogenetic projects in animal model and human research trials involving tACS (transcranial alternating current stimulation). I am the president of START Science UNC, a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Yair Saperstein (Goldwater Scholar 2011). Through START Science, undergraduate and graduate students help foster interest in STEM by providing hands-on experiments to elementary school kids. I have also joined the Goldwater Scholar Council where I’m a member of the Mentorship initiative and Diversity and Inclusion initiative.

In 2018, I could not have imagined the amount of support and success I have received in such a short time, and I am forever grateful for my mentors and the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. My dreams of becoming a scientist and adding to the knowledge of the human brain are coming true with each day.