IBA student featured in IowaNow article

February 11, 2016 - 12:00am

When Maria Nunez-Hernandez arrived on the University of Iowa campus in August 2013, she didn’t yet know the academic opportunities awaiting her.

A first-generation college student, the Marshalltown native liked biology and chemistry in high school because the subjects were fun and came naturally to her. But she didn’t know what she could do with those interests in college—that is, until she heard about the Iowa Biosciences Academy.

The IBA introduces mostly underrepresented undergraduates to the sciences and prepares them to enter graduate school. Students receive wide-ranging assistance, including paid research work with faculty mentors, career counseling, and help with graduate school applications.

The goal is to map the vastness of the university’s educational landscape by pinpointing students’ academic interests and helping them flourish in their chosen fields.

“It really opens up their eyes, that this large research enterprise exists on campus,” says Lori Adams, co-director of the IBA, along with physics and astronomy professor Vince Rodgers. “It changes everything. You walk in (to the university) with one idea how the world works, and you walk out with a completely different idea.”

Nunez-Hernandez, a junior majoring in biochemistry, can attest to that.

After initially disregarding some IBA literature, Nunez-Hernandez met with Adams at the beginning of her freshman year. Adams told her that she could supplement her learning in the classroom by doing laboratory research. Adams also mentioned that Nunez-Hernandez could continue her studies beyond a bachelor’s degree.

“I didn’t know what a Ph.D. was,” said Nunez-Hernandez, whose parents emigrated from Mexico when she was a child and have little education beyond the eighth grade. “I guess in high school, no one talked about it, so I wasn’t aware of that kind of thing—at school or at home. I thought it sounded great.”

She realized she could dream bigger.

Read the full article here.