14:04 PM

UST Chemistry Student Accepted to No.1 Doctorate Program for Analytical Chemistry

Gustavo Agreda '22 in the labGustavo Agreda ’22 has been accepted to the No.1 ranked analytical chemistry graduate program in the nation—Purdue University. The grin on Agreda’s face broadcasts that this first-generation college student is over the moon about it. However, his initial reaction was disbelief.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “Really didn’t think I’d get in. Super excited, so I got on email and told everyone.”

Overcoming the First-Generation College Obstacles

Born and raised in Houston, Agreda is the son of hard-working immigrant parents from El Salvador who never had the opportunity to get a higher education. They encouraged all four of their children, but the young chemist’s first semester at the University of St. Thomas was overwhelming. Until he learned to ask for help.

Agreda said, “The struggle of a first-gen experience was tough. Even though I got financial aid from St. Thomas, I didn’t know what to expect, so I had to re-take my first semester classes and ask for help. As first-gens, we can make the mistake of trying to figure everything out on our own because that’s what we were taught in our families.”

Once the highly motivated Agreda knew to seek advice, it was as if he had a key to success, a key he employed whenever he was stumped. Like when he determined his interest was medicine, but he knew he did not want to become a medical doctor.

“I met Dr. Richa Chandra in my junior year,” he said. “Her research uses bioanalytical chemistry to study cardiovascular disease, which opened my eyes to various career routes. I had been kind of lost, and she inspired me.”

From working with Dr. Chandra on her research, Agreda learned that he enjoyed the lab environment and the associated work. As a result, she suggested that he to consider a path to a doctoral program.

“The professors at the University of St. Thomas are amazing and inspiring,” he said. “Your professors either make it or break it for you, and at UST, they make it.”

Dr. Chandra said that Agreda has what it takes and deserves his success. “Gustavo stepped into the role of research leader on my team in August 2021. He is creative, organized and committed to research. He is quick to see the connections in the data of an experiment, and he is meticulous with his record-keeping. He has persistence and focus when it comes to repeating experiments and data analysis which make him especially well-suited for a career in science. His balance of humility, leadership and self-confidence will serve him well in the role of a scientist and team member.”

She went on to say, “Gustavo and I are working to complete data collection for a manuscript we will submit on the size distributions of chemically oxidized lipoproteins through dynamic light scattering analysis. This is quite a feat for an undergraduate student to accomplish.”

While Agreda will be heading to graduate work in Indiana, his dream for the future as a chemist will always include giving back to his community.

“Latinos in STEM are few,” he noted. “At UST, I mentor two students through the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program by providing research advice and one-on-one tutoring. I want to keep giving back to my community in the future.”

The 2022 University Commencement is Saturday, May 14, at 11 a.m., at NRG Stadium, NRG Parkway, Houston, 77054.  UST will celebrate the achievements of 531 undergraduates and 444 graduate students.