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Thoughts About Graduate School: Q&A Interview with Anna Mancha

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Author: Anna Mancha | Category: Meet The Researcher | Physiology & Pharmacology | Physiology and Pharmacology | May 07, 2015

When did you first become interested in pharmacology or science?

My interest in science began in high school, but really became something I was passionate about during my undergraduate studies. I found my chemistry coursework as an undergrad to be challenging and fascinating, so that is most likely where I decided to commit my life to science.

It seemed like the more I learn about new scientific concepts and techniques, the more motivated I am to continue to pursue this path.

When did you decide that graduate school was the right step for you?

My background is mainly in chemistry, so after completing my M.S. in chemistry I knew that I wanted to diversify my knowledge base and skillset by integrating a biomedical science component into my academic career. 

Pursuing a Ph.D. seemed like the best way to attain the biomedical component to my knowledge base and the continued scientific training that I was hoping to achieve before entering the workforce.

What have some of your favorite memories in graduate school been/what have you learned?

Honestly, my favorite memories in graduate school pertain more to the folks I have met while studying here rather than anything related to science. Graduate school comes at such an important time in our lives that so much happens in the years in which you are fervently pursuing this beast of a degree. 

I have a very close knit group of grad student friends whom have been together since our first year, and since we began this journey our group has experienced the wonderful gifts of many memorable group road trips, five marriages and one child. So much in our lives has changed since we first met, but the one thing that has remained the same is our unyielding support for one another both in science and in life. 

Thus far as a graduate student I have learned so many things, but I would say that the most important things are to 1) remember to think outside the box, 2) work hard as much as you can whenever you can, and 3) resort to margaritas in times of experimental roadblocks.

What advice would you give to a prospective student interested in graduate school?

If you have a true passion for science, then the desire is definitely there in terms of whether or not you should attend graduate school. 

Ultimately, whether or not you survive depends on hard work and determination, so make sure you’ve mentally committed yourself to both before you embark on this epic journey. Like any experience in life, there are good times and bad in graduate school; the key to survival is perspective and an excellent support system.

Why did you choose the UT Health Science Center?

I chose this institution because, unlike the other places I considered for graduate studies, UTHSCSA felt very homey and close knit when I visited. I met with Dr. Nicquet Blake, and instantly felt like she had a personal interest in my success. 

To me, feeling like the faculty cared about whether or not I could “sink or swim” was just the sort of support system I was looking for. I was also incredibly impressed with the vast amounts of different translational research that was taking place at this institution. 

Moreover, the fluid nature of the disciplines, wherein collaboration between labs was fostered, was very appealing as well.

What are your career goals? Do you feel adequately prepared for your career?

I think it’s too early just yet to discuss my career goals, as I was once told by a wise upper-level graduate student to take small bites of the colossal sandwich that is the completion of graduate school. However, I do know that whatever I decide to pursue after my completion of my graduate studies, I will have been more than adequately prepared by my guiding mentor, invaluable department, and supportive peers.

Besides thinking about careers, what do you like to do outside the lab?

As a mom of a one-and-a-half-year-old, I spend most of my free time (hah!) with my husband and my daughter. During most weekends, we can be found enjoying a picnic at the park, sipping beer at the friendly spot, or relaxing at home. We also enjoy entertaining on the weekends, and try to make time to invite our UTHSCSA family over to our home for dinner and drinks whenever we can get the gang together.

This article is part of the "Meet The Researcher" series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. 

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