With passion for research, graduating microbial biology senior Jordan Anaya named University Medal finalist

May 12, 2009
CNR's University Medal finalist Jordan Anaya

Microbial Biology major Jordan Anaya has been honored as a 2009 University Medal finalist -- one of just six top UC Berkeley undergraduates representing the class of 2009 at the University Commencement Convocation on May 22. (IDS major Emma Shaw Crane will receive the University Medal.)

Anaya grew up in Fremont, Calif, and entered Berkeley as an eager premed. His interest in his science classes made him wonder what it would be like to be a scientist and resulted in him joining the lab of MCB and Chemistry Professor John Kuriyan, which he says cemented his desire to pursue a career as a scientist.

Anaya says he is incredibly proud to have been named a finalist for the University medal. "I just find it all so unbelievable when I stop to think about where I am and where I started. I wasn’t a very gifted student when I was younger, and even in junior high or high school if someone told me I would be given this award at a university such as Berkeley, with so many amazing students from all over the world, I would have thought they were crazy. I guess I’m a good example that anything can happen."

We asked Jordan a few other questions to learn about his experience, motivation, and future.

What was your favorite CNR Class?

"That would have to be PMB 185, techniques in light microscopy. I checked to see if the class was offered ever since my sophomore year and it finally was in Fall 2008. The professor is very passionate about the subject and he emphasizes how and when certain techniques should be used instead of the tedious physics behind them. He is present at every lab session and the labs ranged from discovering that Safeway’s parmesan cheese is not 100% cheese as advertised, looking at fluorescently stained bacteria on our cheek cells, to visiting the Advanced Light Source to check out a state-of-the-art X-ray microscope."

What is your inspiration?
"I am inspired by both of my parents. They both worked so hard their entire lives and their examples inspire me to always put my best effort forward. My mom was either going through chemo treatments to battle her cancer, or living with it in remission and not knowing if it would return during much of her adult life. My dad worked two jobs so that my mom could stay home to raise my sister and me, and he still found the energy to spend time with me such as coach my sports teams."

What are you most passionate about?
"I am most passionate about giving everyone the same opportunities that I have had. Broadly this means socioeconomic equality, but because I feel as if I have a skill set to make progress in the medical field, I am most passionate about people’s health. It breaks my heart whenever I read about someone debilitated or killed by a disease, especially a young person who never got the opportunity to realize their goals or even dream of any."

What is the most important thing you've learned at Berkeley?
"I think the cliché “it’s not where you are, it’s where you’re going” pretty much sums it up. It’s easy to get caught up in your current situation, such as your academic standing or how far you are from your goals, but it’s better to think about where you could be if you put in the
effort. I’ve had success because of years of hard work, and if I don’t continue to work hard I won’t succeed in medicine, while someone else, who might not be currently as prepared as I am, could have a very successful career if they work harder than me."

What's ahead for you?
"I will be applying to MD/PhD programs this next year and while I’m applying I will be volunteering in a lab at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute that works on arthrosclerosis. Long term, I hope to be working in a lab and making progress towards better understanding a disease."