Fauna Yarza

Fauna Yarza

Dean's Scholar

Major: Biological Science/Microbiology
College of Science

Why did you choose your major?

I had health problems in my late teens that caused me to consider pathology as a career. I spent time with the pre-med club at my community college and quickly realized that was not the career for me. Around the same time, I became aware that studying microbiology would allow me to positively contribute to human health, but microbiology also caught my attention because of the diversity of problems that this research can solve.

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

Winning this award is a very proud moment for me because early in college, my health problems were a distraction from my education. Over the years, I have worked diligently and shown significant improvement. This award validates the work I have put into my education and future goals, and simultaneously inspires me to keep going. This award is also special because I realize that my professors and mentors acknowledge potential in me as an aspiring scientist.

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

Before attending SJSU, my community college’s microbiology instructor, Harriet Wilson, was an incredible mentor and friend. Harriet fed my curiosity as a student and young scientist, while constantly challenging me to learn more and take on new tasks. I have a large sense of gratitude for the time she invested in me as a student, and I hope to return the favor by mentoring the next generation of scientists.

Since attending SJSU, becoming a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) undergraduate trainee has changed my life. This program, coordinated by Dr. Karen Singmaster, has allowed me to perform research in the bacteriology laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Skovran, and provided me with two fantastic women role models. Participating in this program has allowed me to obtain research experience that is invaluable as I advance toward graduate school.

Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.

As a child, I asked my mother to enroll me in an afterschool science program. It was only a few weeks long, but the science demonstrations I saw in the 3rd grade have stuck with me all these years. These types of experiences are what have encouraged me to mentor elementary school aged children. It is a delight seeing their faces light up when I tell them I am a scientist, and I hope that I can help at least once child have an experience that will help them find their passion as they grow older.

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

My advice for other students is to put yourself in situations where you are not completely comfortable because those experiences are where you will grow as both a person and a student. Taking on new tasks and responsibilities will prove how capable you are, and possibly expose you to something you are truly passionate about.

What makes you a Spartan?

I am a Spartan because I am working hard for success as a first-generation college student so that I can support the next generation of scientists. I want to take advantage of the opportunities I have sought out, and create new opportunities for those that follow behind me.


Nominated by Cleber Ouverney