Now on the road to earning Ph.D. and M.D. degrees at Harvard, his course was set through strong mentoring at UTSA. When he moved from Mexico at age 12, he already was interested in biology and medicine, but UTSA classes and programs opened his eyes to regenerative medicine, a field that many say will greatly improve people’s lives.
Macias heard about biomaterial and tissue engineering research in the laboratory of Joo Ong in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He began research there and found strong mentors in Ong and the MARC-U*STAR program.
MARC-U*STAR (Minority Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training for Academic Research), a pre-Ph.D. program for students in the biomedical, behavioral and chemical sciences, helped Macias develop his research skills.
“Dr. Gail Taylor in MARC-U*STAR is someone who helped me a lot to prepare for conference presentations,” said Macias. “This is something that most undergraduates don’t do, and it gave a much more prominent presence to my honors thesis project in regenerative tissue.”
Macias worked with Ong to build bone scaffolds, which are laboratory-grown tissue that attach to bone, grow cells and repair damage. The scaffolds are constructed of a ceramic-like substance, calcium phosphate, which is naturally found in bones. To replace bone tissue, cells are attached to the scaffolds with a laboratory-created coating of collagen and other natural proteins.
“At UTSA, I had the opportunity to work in a research laboratory as an undergraduate, which is unusual,” said Macias. “UTSA is a close community. I was surprised at the number of experts and the amount of mentoring in research.”
After serving as an undergraduate research assistant at MIT (summer 2012), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (summer 2013) and UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (summer 2014), Macias proceeded to Harvard Med this fall, armed with his UTSA bachelor’s degree (Magna Cum Laude) in biology and mathematics and a minor in physics. After graduating, he plans to stay in the United States because of the many resources and research facilities.
“This will help me achieve my goal of taking research from the laboratory to the real world,” he said. “UTSA put me on track to my dream.”