(May 8, 2017) — Meet Jasmine King. She’s a talented basketball player who has applied her passion for sports to her quest to earn a Ph.D.
A San Antonio native, King knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue higher education.
“I was always very passionate about learning,” she said. “When I got older, I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, because I found it fascinating.”
King considered pursuing a medical degree or a Ph.D., keeping in mind that no matter what, she wanted to help others. Ultimately, she decided to pursue a research career so she could have a wider impact.
“Giving back to society is very near and dear to my heart,” she said. “If we want to advance as a society, we have to be willing to help each other.”
Initially, King studied mechanical engineering at Southern University and A&M College, an historically black university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. While there, she also pursued her passion for sports and joined the basketball team.
After helping lead her team to a conference championship, she eventually came to realize she wanted to earn a biomedical engineering degree instead. After learning about UTSA’s top-tier biomedical engineering program, she chose to transfer.
As a student in the UTSA Honors College, King found the curriculum to be challenging, but she enjoyed the support of her professors and fellow students as she adjusted. She was also struck by the diversity of UTSA’s student body.
“UTSA really embraces diversity, and I’ve liked learning alongside people of so many different backgrounds,” said King.
Unable to give up her love for basketball, King joined an intramural basketball team and led her teammates to three consecutive regional tournaments. Balancing her commitment to her classes and future career with her dedication to the team proved challenging but gave King a keen sense of discipline and time management.
“There’s no greater lesson I can pass on to younger Roadrunners than to organize your life when you’re in school and learn how to manage your time,” she said. “It was a great lesson to learn as a student athlete, and I know that skill will serve me well going forward.”
At UTSA, King joined the Maximizing Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training for Academic Research (MARC-U*STAR) program, which since 1981 has supported hundreds of financially disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students in their efforts to obtain a Ph.D. and pursue research careers.
“MARC-U*STAR is just one of the many programs that UTSA provides for support,” King said. “I feel that UTSA’s community is just very involved with their students. People are passionate about helping students find success.”
Through the MARC-U*STAR program, King joined the laboratory of Teja Guda, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, whose research focuses on regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. She’s been involved in several of Guda’s research projects, but most notably she’s aided him in developing his “scaffolds,” which are bone-mimicking materials designed to help heal bone fractures.
“What has really motivated my passion in science and engineering is the possibility to help people—not just one person, but people,” she said. “I want to be able to expand the knowledge of this field and help all people of all backgrounds.”
King is now set to graduate from UTSA with her B.S. in biomedical engineering in May and has already received a prestigious NSF fellowship to support her studies. Thanks to the MARC-U*STAR program, she is moving on to the University of California at Berkeley to accomplish her dream: earning her Ph.D.
“The learning involved with getting to that point is so exciting,” she said. “The respect that comes along with earning my Ph.D. is also just as exhilarating. I know that once I get there, I’ll have everything I need to excel in my career and have the impact I’ve always wanted to have.”