Life Science Scholar: Michelle Cervantes ’20

Being a Life Science Scholar has been a true honor and a wonderful experience that has provided me with much knowledge that I will carry through to my future. This scholarship gifted me the guidance I needed to succeed at UCLA and beyond. It has allowed me to partake in groundbreaking research in the behavioral sciences, to make connections with faculty from multiple disciplines, and to connect with like-minded peers and create memories that I will always cherish.

A dream I had while growing up was making it to UCLA. As a first-generation college student and a Latina from a single-parent household in East Los Angeles, I thought it would be impossible to attend UCLA. There were financial and educational barriers due to the lack of resources and advanced classes needed that would prepare me for college. But these barriers did not hold me back from pursuing my dreams. I chose the life sciences at UCLA because I wanted to engage in diverse research projects and courses within psychology. I want to use this knowledge to help make a lasting impact on my community.

As a research assistant in Alicia Izquierdo’s lab, I was able to see in real-time how substance abuse can affect cognition and learning. I had the opportunity to present at research conferences where was able to engage with others by explaining the research projects happening in our lab and answering their questions allowed me to learn.

Substance abuse can affect the mental health and wellbeing of patients battling addiction. There needs to be more awareness about the importance of mental health and more accessible resources to help individuals struggling, especially in marginalized communities. Learning about this issue inspired my career path of obtaining my Master in Social Work and becoming licensed to provide affordable psychotherapy and mental health resources that will improve the welfare of marginalized communities for years to come.

My advice to aspiring scientists is to make sure that you’re enjoying your major and subfield, even when the courses get tough. Overall, it’s truly rewarding to obtain a degree in the sciences, and I would encourage any prospective student interested in science to explore all that the field has to offer you.