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ASU grad excited for a life of investigation and ‘thinking like a scientist’

“Now, I love investigation and I apply it in my life … I have the mentality of a researcher,” says pre-dental student Fernanda Silva Celaya

Fernanda Silva Celaya was president of pre-health club at ASY Poly campus

As president of the Pre-Health Club at the ASU Polytechnic campus Fernanda Silva Celaya organized volunteer events, including with Feed my Starving Children (pictured above) and Give Kids a Smile, as well as the club’s participation in the Oral Cancer Walk, and phlebotomy certification with MET services. Photo courtesy of Fernanda Silva Celaya.

December 12, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

Fernanda Silva Celaya, who is graduating from ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts with a degree in applied biological sciences and a GPA above 4.0, identifies the spring semester of her junior as year a turning point in her development as a scientist.

“At the time, I was taking four science classes: chemistry, anatomy and physiology, ecology, and cell biology. Even though it was a challenging semester,” Silva Celaya observed, “I started to interconnect the information of different courses, which helped me to reason better and think like a scientist.”   

From the faculty, she said, she learned far more than academic content. 

“I realized that all of my professors have different interests but applied their personalities in their scientific fields. I came to understand that science can be very personal, and I am looking forward to contributing in the area of dentistry,” said Silva Ceylaya, who hails from Caborca, Sonora, Mexico. “I want to be involved in research and improve the oral health of the population in America.   

“My professors also challenged me to think in ways that got me out of my comfort zone,” she added. “Now, I love investigation and I apply it in my life. I have the mentality of a researcher and feel ready to be more involved in investigation.”

Silva Ceylaya said that the allure of being taught by active researchers and involved in research as an undergraduate is, in fact, why she chose to attend ASU.

From November 2015 to August 2016, she volunteered as a research assistant to Dr. Janet Fawcett, at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, who is investigating the connection between cancer and insulin degrading enzyme.

“Due to a schedule overload, I had to stop at the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, but I am looking forward to resuming my volunteer position with her investigation after graduating,” Silva Ceylaya said.

She was also active at ASU’s Polytechnic campus in the Pre-Health Club, where she served as president.

“This work was very rewarding,” she noted. “I was able to help other students to become prepared to apply to graduate school. I was also able to network with professors, dental students and teachers, and community leaders.”  

Silva Ceylaya helped organize many health-related volunteer activities, including five blood drives with United Blood Services. The spring 2016 blood drives, she said, were part of the 2016 National Cesar Chavez Blood Drive Challenge, which works to increase blood donations, increase health awareness, and promote the legacy of Cesar Chavez.

“In total, 109 people registered or showed up; 80 usable blood pints were collected, and, out of the donors, 22 were Hispanics/Latinos and 19 were first-time blood donors,” recounted Silva Ceylaya, proudly. “Of the 112 universities that participated nationally we ranked at #33.”

Fernanda Silva Ceylaya answered some additional questions about her time at ASU and her future plans.   

Question: What’s something you learned while studying at ASU that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: I used to have a very rigid mentality. I thought there was a specific way of doing things. However, this completely changed when I entered ASU. I learned to be flexible in my reasoning and actions. I definitely owe this to my professors, who taught me that the scientific knowledge that we have is constantly changing and improving.  

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My dream and passion is to be a dentist, so I am planning to study for the DAT and prepare to apply for the coming cycle. I will also become a research assistant with Dr. Shawn Youngstedt at ASU [in the College of Nursing and Health Innovations], who is studying sleep apnea. I am currently applying to join Teach for America in fall 2017. Finally, I will continue volunteering with my church at St. Vincent de Paul and with Cathedral Health Services as a Spanish translator.  

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle the problem of cancer. My paternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather both had a very difficult and prolonged fight with cancer. We all know someone close to us who has, or had, cancer. I would fund researchers looking into ways of curing cancer and support foundations that help cancer patients and their families with the economic burdens of fighting the disease.

Q: Did you have any favorite campus spots for studying or relaxing?

A: I loved to study, do group projects, and hang out with friends at the Poly library. I love it because it has places where you can be in complete silence and also it has places where you can collaborate with other students. Besides, the environment is so comfortable and welcoming — mainly because the librarians are so nice and helpful.

Q: Is there a memorable moment that you’d like to share?

A: I was a subject-area tutor for biology, chemistry, math and applied biological sciences courses at the University Academic Success Center on the Polytechnic campus. I also was a supplemental instruction leader for Organic Chemistry 2. I definitely enjoyed my time helping others understand difficult STEM courses. The most rewarding thing was seeing a struggling student understand a difficult concept and become an independent learner. I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life.

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