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Shannon Vartanian

Shannon Vartanian

1. Why did you choose to attend UCI?

As a transfer student from community college, I chose to attend UC Irvine for its geographic location and community. When I took tours at the UC campuses before deciding where to go, the community at UC Irvine was very much like that of my hometown, and it provided me with the ability to commute or dorm, so I wouldn’t have to move too far away from my family.

2. What inspired you to pursue a degree in the biological sciences?

I would like to pursue a career within the medical field, and I had always enjoyed my science classes in high school, so the Biological Sciences major had a good ratio of biology and chemistry classes for me. I also particularly enjoy my upper division biology electives as well, because as a general Biological Sciences major I can take classes in a variety of subjects, such as neurology and physiology.

3. What are some of your favorite study habits or tips for success in college?

Balance is everything. Try to plan your schedule with classes, work, and extracurriculars to the best of your ability to also allow for personal time. As college students we usually forget to take time to enjoy ourselves, or we feel guilty when we aren’t studying, but there is nothing more important and refreshing than taking time to spend with family and friends

4. What accomplishments are you most proud of?

One of the things I’m most proud of is starting a club at UC Irvine for pre-health transfer students with my peers. Navigating the UC system as a transfer student is difficult, and we are often not given the tips and guidance that freshmen tend to learn early on. My peers and I started a club to help prospective transfers and new UC Irvine transfers so they can acclimate better and have a community to guide them. I am also a firstborn, first generation, transfer student, so I’ve had to overcome many obstacles in my educational career. I find it important to highlight personal accomplishments and use what we learn to help others. Using my experiences, I can now guide future transfer students, as well as my younger sister as she pursues higher education.

5. Can you speak to the importance of diversity and representation in the biological sciences?

As an Assyrian individual, I am part of a severely underrepresented community, so I have always noticed diversity, or a lack thereof, in different settings. I believe the department of biological sciences does encompass a diverse group of individuals and I appreciate the representation I see in classes. We are also fortunate to live in a state that has lots of diversity within its communities, and I feel that is well represented at UC Irvine as well.

6. What advice would you give to incoming college students interested in pursuing a degree in the sciences?

Pursuing a science degree is not easy, but that should not deter anyone from doing it. If you thoroughly enjoy the classes and would like to learn more about the subject you’re majoring in, then go for it, don’t hold back. If, however, the major you choose isn’t something you’re willing to dedicate a lot of time to, then you won’t enjoy doing it. My best piece of advice is for students to really reflect and think about what it means to pursue a degree. You’re dedicating years of your life to it, so make sure it’s something you enjoy.

7. Can you speak to any initiatives or programs that have been helpful to you as a student in STEM?

Two of the programs which I joined as a first year transfer really helped pave my path as a STEM major at UCI: the Transfer STEM Mentor Program and the UC Irvine Dunlop School Mentor Program. The Transfer STEM Mentor Program paired me with a current student mentor, who I soon became friends with and started our pre-health club together. It also provided me with the opportunity to meet other STEM Transfer students, many of whom I still take classes with. The Dunlop School Mentor Program also paired me with an alumni mentor who could share their medical school experiences with me.

8. Can you tell us about a role model or mentor who has been influential in your career as a scientist?

I have always found my professors to be role models for me. Hearing about the experiences throughout their career and seeing the way they implement that knowledge and pass it onto their students is something that I find to be influential.

9. What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work?

Traveling to different countries and visiting my family overseas is one of my favorite things to do. I also enjoy going on walks with my sister and my dog, and trying new restaurants with family and friends.

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