Top Ten Seniors
Mayela Renata Aldaz-Cervantes
Metallurgical & Materials Engineering
Throughout her time at The University of Texas at El Paso, Mayela Renata Aldaz-Cervantes has been very active in student organizations, internships and her studies. During her undergraduate career, she seized every opportunity for research and professional development, including developing biomaterials for liver cells at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology for two summers and studying components from the space shuttle Columbia to provide better materials for future spaceflight with UTEP’s Center for the Advancement of Space Safety and Mission Assurance Research (CASSMAR). She has traveled extensively to represent UTEP. Her research and training prepared her to be a materials engineer and researcher. She hopes to begin her Ph.D. in materials engineering this fall.
Alexander Jeremiah Balcázar
During his undergraduate career at UTEP, Alexander Jeremiah Balcázar learned the importance of education. The liberal arts major took courses to expand his horizons. He credits associate professors of sociology and anthropology Sara Grineski, Ph.D., and Tim Collins, Ph.D., with challenging and encouraging him to strive for excellence. Balcázar worked as an undergraduate research assistant under their mentorship, studying disparities in health outcomes and health care access among fourth- and fifth-graders in the El Paso Independent School District. He wrote a scholarly article that is in peer review and presented his research at the 2014 American Association of Geographers national conference. Balcázar’s experience in research at UTEP has sparked his desire to continue studying at the graduate level.
Karla Verónica Becerra
“At the start of my engineering education, I doubted the extent of accomplishments I could achieve as a woman in engineering,” said Karla Verónica Becerra. “However, I now realize that being a woman in engineering is an empowerment.” Throughout her undergraduate career, Becerra took advantage of all of the great opportunities made available to her. Although she was a freshman at the time, Becerra was offered her first internship with General Motors Global Fuel Lab. After her success at GM, Becerra was offered a second opportunity at the Lake Orion Assembly Center, where she helped launch the Chevy Sonic and Buick Verano under the Chassis Issue Resolution Team. She later completed an internship with the Central Intelligence Agency. Her final internship was with the Intel Corporation, where she assisted in price negotiations and cost savings. Becerra plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration in the near future.
Joselyn Cardenas Anaya
Joselyn Cardenas Anaya was the first in her family to attend college. She knew there would be many challenges when she started her as a mechanical engineering major. Early on, Cardenas Anaya participated in student organizations and internships, including serving as vice president for The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). When she joined the Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) chapter, she worked with engineering applications. As captain of the safety team for the international Baja SAE competition, she participated in the design, building and coordination process of an off-road vehicle. Her participation in hands-on extracurricular activities at UTEP prepared her for an internship with Boeing in Seattle, where she is now employed. “My dream has always been designing airplanes, since I was five, so just being near airplanes is the best,” she said.
Lisa Marie Haisan
Being in the Texas Pre-Freshman Engineering Program at The University of Texas at El Paso convinced Lisa Marie Haisan to pursue a degree in civil engineering at the University. Her involvement on campus continued when she joined the American Society of Civil Engineering. She became one of the six teammates and the only woman from UTEP to compete as a builder during the 2012 Texas-Mexico Regional Steel Bridge Competition in Houston, Texas, where her team won first place. She later performed research on NASA-sponsored projects. Haisan also conducted research in the Center for Inland Desalination Systems (CIDS) lab at UTEP, where she designed an environmentally sustainable system for developing countries that could be powered solely by renewable energy. Overall, UTEP has allowed her to develop leadership skills and prepare for future endeavors.
Taylor Steven Harmon
Cellular & Molecular Biochemistry
Taylor Steven Harmon had one singular goal since he stepped onto The University of Texas at El Paso campus as a freshman – to become, as he wrote in an essay, “the greatest student … by working to be among the top, if not the top, of my graduating class.” He achieved this goal, finishing with a 3.96 grade point average as a cellular and molecular biochemistry major. He received the Men of Mines Award, the Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities and graduated Summa Cum Laude in December 2015. Harmon also spent hundreds of hours volunteering at numerous events and organizations while working various research jobs to enhance his education.
Beatriz Del Carmen Madrigal Sánchez
Cellular & Molecular Biochemistry
While at UTEP, Beatriz Del Carmen Madrigal Sánchez learned the great reward of overcoming obstacles. With her 3.96 GPA, she has been on the Dean’s List since 2009. Madrigal Sánchez has received an Institute for Molecular Engineering fellowship program scholarship and a Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) undergraduate research scholar award. Madrigal Sánchez also excelled outside the classroom, volunteering at a research laboratory and participating in several campus and community organizations. She founded the UTEP chapter of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) in 2012. She will pursue her master’s in nursing in San Antonio.
Andre Fernando Perez-Orozco
Cellular & Molecular Biochemistry
Andre Fernando Perez-Orozco graduated with a Bachelor of Science in cellular and molecular biochemistry and a 3.95 GPA. He received more than 10 awards during his studies at UTEP, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Summer Research Fellowship and the Best Research Poster award at the MIT-Harvard symposium in summer 2014. Perez-Orozco participated in seven campus organizations and volunteered in several community activities. He was an officer for the American Society of Microbiology and a peer leader for Peer-Led Team Learning. Perez-Orozco has been accepted to several prestigious M.D. and Ph.D. programs and plans to become a medical doctor.
Claudia Stephanie Preza
Claudia Stephanie Preza thrived throughout her studies at UTEP. The art history major maintained a 3.94 GPA while participating in six different student organizations, holding the secretary and interim vice president positions in two of them. Preza maintains strong ties with her community, taking part in the St. Matthew Catholic Church Catechism as a kindergarten teacher, retreat team leader and coordinator. Preza is grateful for the support from her loved ones and the help UTEP has given her to prepare for her future. As part of her museum studies minor, Preza worked as a curatorial intern at the El Paso Museum of Art. Preza plans to continue her career in art history and credits her time at UTEP with laying the foundation for her future successes. “I am grateful that UTEP enabled me to expand my horizons via leadership workshops, honors programs and internship opportunities,” she said.
As an incoming freshman at UTEP, Esteban Quintanilla wished for time travel so he could fix his past mistakes. He still thinks it would be extraordinary to go back in time, but he no longer wishes to change his past because, “It’s those mistakes that led me to a point I could have never envisioned myself reaching – graduating near the top of my class.” He would develop drive and confidence early on at UTEP and would begin to strive for perfection. The accounting major maintained a 4.0 GPA and received numerous awards, including the Accounting Society Most Valuable Member and the Gibson, Ruddock, Patterson LLC Accounting Scholar. He took part in campus and community activities including the Accounting Society. Quintanilla will pursue a master’s in accounting from The University of Texas at Austin.