Class of 2019: Biology Graduate Builds Career Path in Public Health

Editor’s Note: Every Comet follows a distinct path to UT Dallas, and members of the Class of 2019 are no exception. A few soon-to-be fall graduates shared their thoughts about their journeys as they get ready to tackle new challenges after commencement.

Ada Abaragu

Ada Abaragu plans to devote her life to helping people stay healthy, and she has several pathways available to make that happen.

Abaragu, who graduated this week with a bachelor’s degree in biology from the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, is weighing her options. She envisions a future as either a physician or working in health care administration to improve access to crucial treatment.

But first, she’s waiting to hear back from the Peace Corps about going to Rwanda as a maternal and child health educator.

“Spreading this kind of information pertains directly to what I want to do in the future,” said Abaragu, who moved to the U.S. from Nigeria at age 11. “I spent an extra year at UT Dallas to add a minor in public health. After going overseas, I hope to pursue a Master of Public Health alongside a medical degree. I’d really like to work in a hospital.”

Her work in the lab of Dr. Kelli Palmer, associate professor of biological sciences, has focused on determining how bacteria are becoming resistant to vancomycin, a last-line-of-defense antibiotic.

What will you miss most about UTD?

Definitely running around campus with friends to different organization meetings trying to cop some free food. The ‘Finesse Nation’ group chat was a big help, and I discovered new clubs and people and ate lots of pizza in the process. Oh, also the Zumba hip-hop dance classes taught by Domingo at the gym. So much fun!

Would you rather have to retake a final exam or be Temoc for a day?

Temoc is great, but I imagine it’s very stuffy in that costume. I also don’t have the biceps to pull it off, so I’d rather retake my (easiest) final.

What is a fun fact about you?

My great-aunt is an actual queen of a district in Nigeria. Her palace is lovely, and she has the authority to create laws within her village.

What are the best ways to survive a Monday?

Do not stay up watching Netflix on Sunday night; eat something other than ramen; and hit the rec center if possible. Your physical health is tied very closely to your mental health.

What’s the most Instagrammable spot on campus?

There’s this pretty little gazebo next to the parking areas that I didn’t know about until a few weeks ago. I took some graduation pictures there, and they turned out great.

What’s the first thing you’ll do to celebrate your graduation?

Probably sleep for a few days. And call my mom!

What accomplishment/project are you most proud of from your time at UTD?

I’m glad to be working in Dr. Palmer’s microbiology lab. Regardless of how busy the day might be, going into work with the bacteria and learning new things from my mentor, Moutusee Islam [molecular and cell biology doctoral student], makes for a great start to my day. We are working with antibiotic-resistant bacteria collected from ill patients in a nearby hospital, and despite how minute, every little thing we discover through the process is very exciting to us. I’m looking forward to continuing in the lab postgraduation, because I didn’t expect to like the research this much.

UT Dallas alumni make their mark wherever they go. How will you make yours?

While I want to be a doctor, my ultimate goal is to work closely with health care administration agencies to help provide health care in a more equitable, accessible and culturally competent way — particularly to inner cities and ultimately to many rural parts of Nigeria and other African countries.


Class of 2019

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Literature Grad Is Thinker at Heart

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ATEC Graduate Relishes Quest in Video Game Design

Healthcare Management Program Combines Grad’s 2 Loves

From Military to Medicine, Grad Discovers His Life’s Duty

Economics Grad Demonstrates High Degree of Diligence

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].