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MSA and University Alumna Preparing for Graduate School 
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – APRIL 22, 2013 – Victoria Lopez has not been shy about taking opportunities that come her way.
 
Brownsville resident Lopez, 21, was a student at Brownsville’s Hanna High School when she heard about The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College’s Mathematics and Science Academy. The academy was established by the 79th Texas Legislature in May 2005 for high school juniors and seniors to take a rigorous course load to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree.
 
Lopez received a waiver to continue on Hanna’s varsity swim team as she attended the academy.
 
Victoria Lopez
Victoria Lopez, 21, of Brownsville is an environmental science graduate from UTB and TSC, was a member of the second graduating class of the Mathematics and Science Academy and plans to attend graduate school this fall.
“Everyone was on a different maturity level because we were focused on our educational careers,” said Lopez. “We didn’t let superficial things get in the way of our friendship. We became a small family. MSA has a principal, one counselor and one secretary. There is this personal one-to-one connection you get at MSA that in high school you don’t usually get.”
 
She was a member of the second graduating class from the academy in 2010. Lopez went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the university in December 2012.
 
During her undergraduate time at the university she completed two internships to gain field experience about conservation and wildlife.
 
“It definitely brought clear knowledge,” said Lopez. “It was very different to learn in the field and a lot of things clicked for me.”
 
She worked last fall at Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge in Okmulgee, Okla. where she did deer and tree population surveys and worked with wild hog management. She also worked on a bison round-up where she took tail hair from the animals to study their DNA. 
 
In summer 2011 Lopez worked as a hydrologist technician at the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Salmon, Idaho. She worked on fish egg hatch survival studies.
The work has inspired her future career.
 
“I see myself going to places with water quality and city management,” said Lopez. “I want to make sure cities are being efficient in their use of water sources.”
Lopez credited Dr. Elizabeth Heise, Assistant Professor of Geology and Oceanography in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences, for giving encouragement to pursue the internships through the Student Conservation Association
 
“I enjoyed working with Victoria,” said Heise. “She is a student with a wonderful work ethic and a very bright future.”
Lopez began her studies at the university as a biology major but took an environmental science class her junior year which enabled her to discover an enjoyment for working in different climates. 
 
“In order to catch up I had to make up for my last semester and took 21 hours and a summer class,” she said. “I ended up doing pretty good.”
 
Now that Lopez has the bachelor’s degree she received last December and field experience, she feels she is ready for the challenges of graduate school. She will attend this fall Texas A&M University in College Station and pursue a graduate degree in water management and hydrological studies.
 
“We are extremely pleased with the strategies that we are using with our students and it appears to be paying off as many are now pursuing master’s and doctorate degrees,” said academy Principal Stephen Rosales. “We also have a few students that are currently in medical school.”
 
The academy will have its annual senior awards banquet at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 3 at The Arts Center’s Red Room. The event will feature remarks from the Class of 2013’s top two graduates and from Mark Garcia of Harlingen, a member of the first cohort during the 2007-08 academic year and valedictorian of the first graduating class in May 2009. Garcia has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Texas A&M University and is enrolled in his first year at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
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