Grad who lives her passion for STEM rewarded with Fulbright Fellowship
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.
Miriam Goras has always been fascinated by simple, fundamental questions relating to how nature works, and during her first semester as a sophomore at Arizona State University she began a research regime investigating the underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I decided to pursue a biochemistry and neuroscience double major because they are research-intensive and I wanted to be able to closely connect the material I learned in the classroom with what I was doing in the lab,” explained Goras.
She is about to graduate from the School of Molecular Sciences (SMS) and Barrett, The Honors College with a double major in biochemistry and neuroscience. She has also recently been awarded a prestigious Fulbright fellowship to conduct research in Norway.
Goras has received multiple honors and awards while attending ASU including the 2021 SMS Moeller Award.
“This scholarship provides me with the opportunity to get involved in outreach programs for young women who may not have many female role models in STEM as happened to me growing up,” Goras said.
As one of ASU’s Lincoln Scholars, Goras put into practice her passion for equity in STEM.
She started small by becoming a member of Education for Humanity, where she mentored young female college students in science to help them navigate their way through their college endeavors.
Goras was also named a SOLUR undergraduate research fellow, which allowed her to prioritize her outreach efforts. She has participated in a variety of educational outreach programs to get the younger public excited about recent science and biochemical breakthroughs.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I entered college as a biology major — I have always been fascinated by simple, fundamental questions about how nature works. The fall semester after my first year at ASU, I joined Professor Paul Coleman’s lab at the Biodesign Institute. Much of my interest in biochemistry and neuroscience as a field stemmed from what I was learning in the lab investigating the underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease. I later decided to pursue a biochemistry and neuroscience double major because they are research-intensive and I wanted to be able to closely connect the material I learned in the classroom with what I was doing in the lab.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: A valuable lesson that I learned during my time at ASU is that as a scientist, my values and subjectivity inevitably affect my work. However, taking part in ethical discourse will allow me to become aware of my personal biases and identify gaps in my ethical decision-making process in research. Thinking critically about ethical norms will prompt me to examine the aims of my research and determine my responsibilities as a researcher. Recognizing that scientific progress is rooted in creative ethical inquiry, I believe that having my perspective challenged will strengthen the connection between discovery at the bench and innovation in the real world.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU because of the limitless resources and opportunities available, ranging from access to expert faculty to potential scholarships and impactful activities. The culture of diversity and inclusion at ASU encourages growth through cooperation and support. Therefore, I knew coming here would allow me to thrive and develop as an individual and future professional.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: It’s difficult to narrow it down to just one professor and one lesson because of all the amazing professors I have had at ASU, but I will mention three of them. Professor Susan Holechek taught me the importance of mentorship, especially as a female in STEM. Of not only having a mentor who supports your goals and wants you to thrive but also serving as a mentor for others and uplifting those who were in the same shoes as you when you started. Professor Scott Lefler of SMS taught me perseverance through some of the most difficult college courses I’ve taken at ASU. Professor Samuel McClure taught me the value of pursuing your passions. His enthusiasm for the course subject and for teaching clearly comes through, which is inspiring.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: My best advice is to spend time exploring. I took Spanish/Chicano literature courses, dance classes and even graduate seminars, all of which enriched my experience at ASU. There are so many amazing classes at ASU, it is important to take advantage of them.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite place to study on campus is Hayden Library on the second floor. Nothing beats studying by windows where you can enjoy a beautiful view of campus or watch the sunset at night.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I have recently been awarded a Fulbright fellowship to conduct research in Norway and was accepted into the interdepartmental graduate program at Northwestern University to pursue a doctorate in neuroscience. I will do both, because Northwestern gave me permission to defer my enrollment until after I complete the Fulbright work.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would spend the money on efforts to make education more accessible and equitable. Everyone should have access to high-quality education regardless of income, gender, location, race or background. Through equitable education, you empower more people to become critical thinkers and problem solvers who apply their knowledge to complex and novel challenges.