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Changing the World, One Graduate at a Time

Changing the World, One Graduate at a Time

This month, hundreds of graduating College of Natural Sciences students will walk across a small outdoor stage, masked and socially distanced, and smile at the camera for friends and family mostly watching online.

Even in the best of times, college can be extremely stressful; but this past year has been, well, something else. Despite the pandemic, each of these students have persevered and managed to achieve great things. UT Austin featured two stand-out students from CNS in its round-up of amazing graduates. Each student demonstrates a distinct commitment to their vision for changing the world.

Arjun Menta

Biochemistry and Business

Arjun Menta has a knack, not just for good ideas, but for turning them into reality. He's a patent-pending innovator and star student-entrepreneur.

He developed Vaxcube, a low-cost, portable cooling technology to distribute vaccines in tropical countries without refrigeration facilities. With funding from the Genesis Austin startup foundation and other global health grants, he's now testing the system for feasibility in the global fight against COVID-19. Menta also co-founded the e-NABLE chapter at UT Austin, a student organization that uses 3D printing resources at UT to make individualized prosthetics for amputees in the local community. The organization aims to reduce the financial and logistical burden that amputation places on families.

Menta's interest in biomedical innovation was sparked by seeing close friends and family members deal with serious health issues.

"These experiences showed me how vulnerable health is and how working and innovating can solve problems and really make an impact on people's lives," he told UT News. "There are many paths to helping others, and I fell in love with engineering and biochemistry, and that's the sort of space I have been playing around with since — and that's the way I would like to contribute value to our society."

Beatrice Torres

Neuroscience

Like so many people this past year, Beatrice Torres experienced the heartbreaking loss to COVID-19 of a loved one: her father. With support and encouragement from her family back home in the Rio Grande Valley and the UT community, she finished her final year of studies, knowing that despite the circumstances, her dad would have wanted her to do her best.

While at UT Austin, she dedicated some of her time to research with the potential to help people, including Project SEED, where she studied the health and developmental effects on Latino children who are "language brokers" or translators for their parents. She's also been a part of Project JUNTOS, where she's listened to Latino youth share their stories about cultural struggles. The findings from these conversations are used to help the Project JUNTOS team cultivate a school program that will provide proper resources for Latino student success.

Now she plans to get a master's degree in public health and attend medical school. Ultimately, she plans to return to Mission, Texas, to work in the hospital where her father was treated. She says seeing the health disparities in her hometown community has motivated her to be a part of a step toward improvement.

"Going back to work in that hospital would be an honor. It's a way to reconnect and give back to the community that made me who I am," she told UT News. "And I know by attending UT, I have the tools to carve out my path and do it confidently."

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Monday, 20 September 2021

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