Career and Post-Graduate Development

Alexis Ayala

PhD Student in Biological Studies at Drexel University


I came to Ursinus as a freshman on the pre-med track convinced that I would attend medical school after completing undergrad. Clearly, this plan changed significantly. After taking numerous biology courses with a strong emphasis on research, I realized that my passion for research was greater than my passion for becoming a medical doctor. This change pushed me to pursue different research opportunities on campus and ultimately led me to apply to a number of PhD programs. Although this may sound cliche, the one passion that has powered me throughout my entire academic career, not just Ursinus, is to take advantage of the educational opportunities that my parents have provided me with. As Mexican immigrants, they never had the chance to experience such opportunities, therefore I try to put my best foot forward for them.

Favorite Ursinus Memory

I really enjoyed being a member of the Ursinus Athletics Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA) for 3 years. ELA was such a wholesome experience because it allowed student athletes with strong leadership qualities from all sports to gather in a space together and share their knowledge with one another. Thanks to this program, I truly believe that my leadership and interpersonal skills improved vastly. Fortunately, these skills are not limited to an athletic setting and can be used in a wide variety of situations where leaders are needed.

Impact of Ursinus

My future goals changed drastically after 2 years at Ursinus. My Ursinus experience showed me that I was more interested in becoming a biology professor/researcher than a medical doctor. A key reason for my shift in career goals was thanks to my experience in Developmental Biology (BIO-346) with Dr. Rebecca Lyczak. This class really opened my eyes to the opportunities available in graduate school and I absolutely loved the course! The Quest Open Question “how can we understand the world?” has inspired me the most because it allows me to practice empathy in order to better understand others around me and the unique experiences that make us all so beautifully different. I feel that empathy is such an essential skill to have because it helps us acknowledge and appreciate one another’s experiences. Therefore, I plan on using empathy frequently as I continue my journey throughout graduate school and life.

Piece of Advice

One piece of advice is to make the best out of their undergraduate experience at Ursinus because it goes by so fast. I would say “enjoy the journey as much as the destination.” I would definitely recommend every student to take advantage of the many helpful resources available to them at Ursinus. Regardless of one’s situation, there is always some organization or some person that is more than willing to help. Students should never be afraid to reach out for any help or guidance they may need. One tip for making their job/graduate search easier is to constantly network and build connections with individuals that have experience/expertise in the career they are pursuing.