Patricia Aubel

Patricia Aubel

Dean's Scholar

Major: Applied Mathematics/Statistics
College of Science

Why did you choose your major?

When I tell people my major, most make a face that resembles that of a toddler tasting her first lemon. Mathematics typically isn’t the most popular of majors, but I have long known that it is a field in which I can excel and eventually make a difference. I am minoring in biology, and I hope to use the knowledge gained from my studies to segue into a career in epidemiology, a field that uses statistical modeling to understand the dynamics/prevention of infectious disease.

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

For me it means recovery. I spent most of my academic career (including my first two years of undergraduate study) as a straight-A student, so I assumed that I could conquer any academic challenge before me. However, in recent semesters I have faced many personal barriers that have prevented me from focusing on academics. Earning the recognition this semester is particularly meaningful because it signals that I am coming back strong, even in the face of hardship.

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.

Perhaps my affinity to math is hereditary. My grandfather is a math teacher; my dad and brother are musicians - composers of an art form more mathematical than most realize. But few people have influenced my successes more than my grandma. As a young girl, she pursued a career in nursing because of cultural norms and gender barriers. She was an outstanding nurse, but to this day, she still claims that she was always made to be an engineer. She quilts, she tells me, because it is her form of engineering, exacting edges and dividing perimeters. I believe that my strength in math comes from my grandma.

Though we have an aptitude for math, my favorite parts about my grandma cannot be measured quantitatively. My grandma is my role model - she lives her life with joy, compassion, a sense of adventure, and a love that she shares with all around her. She has given me encouragement, faith, and care over the years. She cheers the loudest at every awards ceremony, competition, and scholarship reception. My grandma is my biggest supporter and my inspiration.

At SJSU, Dr. Martina Bremer has made a great impact on my academic success and my confidence in my own abilities. After taking her course Statistics for Bioinformatics, I became fascinated with the applications of mathematics to biology and the health sciences. Her clarity and passion for the topic captivated me. Furthermore, she encouraged me to pursue internships, and had faith in me even when I faltered. Since that fateful introduction to the subject, I have received several internships and plan to pursue a master’s degree in epidemiology/biostatistics. Her guidance has shaped my career path and successes in college.

Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.

At age 15, I had major hip surgery for a congenital condition, leaving me in a wheelchair for several months and a walker before I was able to stand on my own. As an avid gymnast, hiker, and athlete, I was distraught because of the limitations my condition placed on me. However, I eventually gained perspective and learned to appreciate all the ways in which I am extremely fortunate. Surprising even my own surgeons, I made a miraculous recovery. Though I may not be able to do everything I could before, I am lucky to be healthy enough to enjoy many of the same activities. My brief period of disability opened my eyes to all the blessings I have been given: a caring family, access to health care, supportive friends, and relatively good health.

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

I’m a gymnast - though I rarely teeter on a balance beam, I still struggle to find balance in other areas of life. Students aiming for high achievements need to keep perspective and remember that academic excellence isn’t limited to academics. We need to first take care of our loved ones and our own health; one cannot have mental strength without also protecting the health of her body, heart, and family/support system. Speaking specifically of millennials attending college for the first time: whether or not it truly determines our future, many students feel that our college years are the time to figure out our place in the world. With so much pressure riding on that short time span, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and neglect all the other important parts of our lives. Academic excellence cannot simply be defined by high grades and test scores; some of the most important knowledge I’ve gained has been from observing peers, helping others, and participating in extracurricular activities such as UNICEF Club and choir. And when in the classroom, I focus on learning and understanding more than scores and check marks. Before competing at large competitions, my coach used to instruct me in her thick Bulgarian accent, “Focus on your routines and technique, have fun….then the scores will follow.” And they always did.

What makes you a Spartan?

The ability to lose a battle but not give up the fight.

Nominateed by Bem Cayco