By Tess Clark & Elizabeth Vega
Rosabril Acuna, a graduate from El Paso Community College and a former member of the EPCC Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program, has highlighted the path that any student or alumni would be elated to walk down.
After competing with 1,700 other students, Acuna won a national award from the Annual Biomedical
Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), for her studies in microbiology research.
Acuna made a detailed poster presentation, named Screening Arid Soils for Biosurfactant Producing Bacteria, explaining how bacteria breaks down heavy carbons and other pollutants.
Courtesy EPCC Marketing
Rosabril Acuna, December 2014 EPCC graduate, received the Annual Biomedical Research
Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) Award in San Antonio.
All of the presentations at the ABRCMS event were evaluated by active researcherscientists
in which the students with the highest scores in each scientific discipline and for each educational level received a $250 reward.
For the 29 year-old Acuna though, nothing was handed to her.
“I would have to tell you that I am a non-traditional student,” she said.
Born in El Paso and raised in Juarez, Acuna’s father was an industrial engineer and she lived with both her parents and her sister.
“I grew up in a family that wasn’t wealthy, but we did fine while my parents were married,” she said. “Once they got divorced, I was about 6, then my mother pretty much became a single mother.
Then things were a bit tighter, but she worked hard to make sure I had my basic needs met.
I sure learned from both of them to work hard, save and give my best at any opportunity I got.”
Acuna said her mom worked to give her and her older sister the best life possible, but Acuna enjoyed other things that helped her manage well.
“One of them was, of course school,” she said. “I liked it too much. Since I was little I enjoyed studying, doing homework and working on special assignments.”
Attending school in Juarez until she completed high school, Acuna moved back to the United States soon after receiving her diploma in 2003.
She started college that year, first to study ESL and in 2005 started taking college classes.
The transition from Mexico to the U.S. proved difficult for Acuna, so she left college.
“I had to leave in order to work to support myself,” Acuna said. “I had a hard time adapting to the new and completely different lifestyle and education system here in the U.S.”
Although she was certain that her leave from school would just be for a few months or a year, Acuna soon saw how quickly time would pass.
“After being out of school for about five years, I decided it was time to go back to school and obtain the degree I had always wanted.” she said.
It took a year for Acuna to prepare to return to college.
She had a technical career and was teaching full-time at a technical college while practicing massage therapy.
“I knew that returning to school would require time and dedication, so I would have to leave one of my full time jobs to dedicate quality time to my education,” Acuna said.
“Also, I knew I could not stop working since I needed to continue providing for my basic needs as
well as paying for school, so I kept one of my jobs.”
In 2012, Acuna was finally able to return to EPCC but still worked two to three jobs in order to continue saving to pay for the tuition for the next semester.
She worked as a Research Intern, where she conducted research for a year and a half at different facilities to including UTEP, Texas A&M and EPCC.
She also started participating in RISE, the research program at the EPCC Transmountain campus lead by Dr. Maria Alvarez, in the fall of 2013.
“The same year, I was awarded with the T-STEM scholarship, which is given to students according to their academic merit,” Acuna said. “It greatly helped me to continue paying for my studies.”
Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) funds the grant for EPCC’s RISE Program at the National
Institute of Health (NIH).
The doors kept opening for her, and Acuna kept passing through them.
In November 2013, she was sent to Nashville, TN to attend the ABRCMS.
In the summer of 2014, she accepted the opportunity to travel to Bethesda, MD to attend a week long seminar studying the topic of Recombinant DNA at the National Institute of Health (NIH).
The research that she was able to present at the AAAS 2015 meeting in San Jose, CA, in February was the same information she offered at the meeting in San Antonio in November 2014.
Acuna received her Associate of Science in Biology degree from EPCC last December.
She is currently a junior at UTEP and works as a biology/microbiology tutor at EPCC.
Acuna plans to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biochemistry by May 2017.
After adding that to her amazing repertoire, she plans to continue on to graduate school.
For her success, Acuna’s reasoning is simple.
“I just give my best at any opportunity."