Carmen Estrada

Carmen Estrada

Dean's Scholar

Major: Biological Sciences/Systems Physiology
College of Science

Why did you choose your major?

I like to say that my major chose me. I say this because I applied to SJSU as a psychology major and I spent 2 years pursuing this degree. Towards the end of my 2nd year I took an introductory biology course and it made me realize that science fascinated me. I wanted to learn more about how the human body worked, how microbes worked, and how life worked. I read up on all the different concentrations for biology and I decided to choose Physiology. This concentration would help prepare me for medical school.

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

Receiving this award is a very humbling experience and it has taught me that when you work hard in class and are in the field that you love, your passion and dedication will shine through. Not only will it result in good grades, but your professors will also notice how truly invested you are in increasing your knowledge. I am very grateful to receive the opportunity to be recognized for my accomplishments, but I am even more grateful for the opportunity to share my story in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other students to pursue the career they love even when it seems daunting. This award serves to remind me that even though my educational journey has been long and difficult, I was able to excel through using all the resources available at SJSU and through always remaining positive despite setbacks.

Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life? In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.

There are many people who have impacted my life and have helped me achieve success in different ways. The first influencers have to be my parents; they moved to the United States from Mexico where they did not have the opportunity to go to school. Even though they couldn't help me with homework, they always reminded me that education was important and that it was the key to a better future. My other great motivator and cheerleader is Tri Huynh, who has been with me since day one of my college journey. He has always been the one to push me to apply to competitive programs at Stanford and who has helped me study for every exam I can remember. There are various SJSU faculty members that have contributed to my academic success. First and foremost I want to thank Dr. Wilkinson for providing me the wonderful opportunity to share my story. The two classes I have taken with her have challenged me to better my presentation skills, my writing skills, and my critical thinking skills. Her love for teaching and great feedback on all the assignments has definitely helped me make the appropriate neuronal connections to succeed ;) Another very influential faculty member that has always given me honest advice and has helped me plan my classes is Dr. Cargill. Her classes have been some of the most challenging ones I have ever taken, but I have learned a lot of information that will be essential to my success in the future. Last, but not least is definitely my past research advisor and professor Dr. Bonachea. He was one of the first professors to challenge me in my introductory biology courses and he put up with the thousands of questions I had after every quiz and lecture. He allowed me to be a part of his lab and trusted me to present our project all by myself during the poster session. He gave me the initial confidence I needed to believe in myself and for that I will always be grateful.

Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.

 An experience that has shaped who I am today is visiting an advisor and being told that I would not “make it” in the biology major if I decided to switch from psychology. This experience, although frightening, has made me into a stronger, more resilient person. It made me more suited for the “real world” because not every one will be kind and supportive and some may even try to make you fail. I used to be very sensitive and I would take other people’s judgements of me for truths because I thought other people knew better. But now I know that grades and people don’t define you. We each define ourselves and we have the power to be resilient in any situation we choose if we put in the effort.

What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

Don’t expect things to get better on their own, if you aren’t happy with your grades, your presentation skills or your writing skills, then do something about it ASAP!! Make connections with the right people, get tutoring (like I did) and work, work, work! Also remember to help other classmates along the way, teaching is one of the best ways to learn and it has definitely helped me. There is no greater feeling than succeeding together.

What makes you a Spartan?

What makes me a Spartan is that I have acquired the specialized knowledge necessary to think critically and apply what I have learned. I also understand that the goal of acquiring knowledge is to give back to our community and help others. I am very proud to be a Spartan for life.


Nominated by Katie Wilkinson