Monday, July 23, 2018

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Harmony Saunders helped to create the Hands On STEM Fair at a local elementary school to teach science to underserved children. Harmony Saunders helped to create the Hands On STEM Fair at a local elementary school to teach science to underserved children.

Harmony Saunders’ Aztec Experience

This Aztec was a President’s Award winner at the Student Research Symposium this spring.
By SDSU News Team

Name: Harmony Saunders    
Program: Master of Science in cellular and molecular biology
Campus affiliations: College of Sciences, Black Student Science Organization, Center for the Advancement of Students in Academia

1. Why did you choose to attend San Diego State University?

I attended SDSU as an undergraduate student and am now here as a graduate student. I chose SDSU as an undergrad because I am from San Diego and wanted to stay close to home, and I received a scholarship specific to SDSU. I chose to attend SDSU to complete my master’s degree because I had already worked on research projects with many of the science faculty members, and they care so much about fostering a research mindset in undergraduate students.

2. What inspired you to declare your major?

Ever since I can remember, I have loved science and topics consistent with biology. I would spend my days as a child catching animals and insects in a nearby canyon. When I went to middle school and learned about cells, I knew I wanted to keep studying the subject. I’ve been in love with cellular and molecular biology since day one of my freshman year, and hope to one day go to medical school.

3. What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Although I was hesitant at first, the best advice I’ve received in school was to take my time and enjoy the journey. Many students are in such a rush that they do not pick up valuable tools and experiences along the way.

4. Which SDSU faculty or staff member has been the most influential throughout your SDSU journey?

There are several professors and staff members who have been influential to me, but the most has been Estralita Martin, the assistant dean of student affairs in the College of Sciences. She was the first one who brought up the possibility of a Ph.D. to me and encouraged me to accomplish my goals. I’ve known her since my freshman year and I still run all of my ambitious thoughts by her. She has also been my biggest supporter and cheerleader throughout my years at SDSU.

5. What does student success mean to you?

Student success to me is when a student accomplishes their goals but learns something unexpected along the way that impacts others and broadens their horizons. It is easy to accomplish everything you want the exact way you planned, but it is more meaningful to impact others and gain a larger perspective that makes you a better person.

6. What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

I have been at SDSU for nine years since I did my undergraduate studies and have had so many life-changing moments in the community, in the research lab and with many student organizations at SDSU. I would have to say the most life-changing experience was when I went to Ghana, Africa through the Minority Health International Research Training Program immediately following my undergraduate graduation. I was conducting research on medicinal plants in Ghana for nine weeks, and this experience was very transformative and broadened my perspective.  

7. What has been your proudest achievement while at SDSU?

I have several that span course work, community involvement, and research experiences. In my courses, I was so proud the day I received a 97 percent on a 500-level biology course exam. Since I was heavily involved in student organizations, my proudest achievement was creating the Hands On STEM Fair at a local elementary school to teach science to underserved children. In the research lab, I would say my proudest moment was winning the President’s Award at the Student Research Symposium this spring. I have presented at the SRS since 2011 and this is the first time I have won an award, which confirms I am doing good work in my research lab.  

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I plan to be in the fourth year of my MD/Ph.D. combined degree program conducting research in tumor immunology on my Ph.D. research project. I also plan to be finished with the Step 1 exam of the United States Medical Licensing Examination for my MD degree.

9. What’s your favorite thing about being an Aztec?

I love that SDSU encourages students to become thoughtful, involved and personable human beings. I feel that SDSU has taught me to think about more than myself, become involved in my community and society, and to be a leader in my field by expanding it, not just continuing it the way it has been. In this way, being an Aztec means changing the world by becoming an active member in our society and the world, and this is my favorite part of being an Aztec.