#CYPossible: Amanda A. Macias, Liberal Arts, Emphasis in Math and Science

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Amanda Macias poses in Gateway Plaza in front of the O'Cadiz concrete mural.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?

Born and raised in Los Angeles, I was lucky to be near amusement parks, amazing food, and rich Chicano culture. Some of my fondest memories include Disneyland trips, Pomona Fairplex car shows, and taquitos at Olvera Street’s Cielito Lindo.

What are your interests?

I love traveling, attending movie events and concerts, and cooking.

What is your story?

My educational journey started with a love for animals, aiming to become a veterinarian from kindergarten through early college. Despite my clear goal, I struggled with direction and classes. At Cypress College, my career path changed when I discovered a passion for research.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

After bouncing between several community colleges, I chose Cypress College on a friend’s recommendation, and it was the best decision of my academic career. During high school, I missed important application deadlines and struggled with my studies at various colleges.

Cypress College turned everything around for me. Their resources opened doors to summer research opportunities and the RISE program at CSULB. In my final year, I joined the STARS summer research program at UCSD and was accepted into the NIH-funded RISE program, where I led a research project at CSULB for two years.

What were you involved in at Cypress College? How did your path unfold and who were the faculty and staff who have helped you along that path?

My academic journey at Cypress College began with Dr. Adel Rajab’s enlightening Cell Biology course, where his passion for scientific inquiry sparked my interest in reproductive biology. Through insightful office hour discussions, Dr. Rajab guided me to pursue this field with unwavering dedication, marking the beginning of my enduring career path.

During this pivotal time, I discovered a transformative program tailored for STEM majors and transfer track students. Eager to immerse myself further, I promptly applied and found myself embraced by a supportive community of like-minded peers. Many of these individuals, who began as classmates, have since become lifelong friends and collaborators.

Engaging deeply with the (STEM)2 program, I assumed roles including family group leader, peer mentor, and ultimately, president of the STEM Club. These responsibilities not only enriched my academic experience but also nurtured invaluable connections with counselors, administrators, and faculty members who continue to provide steadfast support.

My time at Cypress College and within the (STEM)2 program has shaped my trajectory as a scientist, reinforcing my commitment to scholarly pursuits and fostering a network that remains instrumental in my ongoing growth and achievements.

Amanda Macias addresses a roomful of STEM scholars at a Latinos in STEM event.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

After graduating from Cypress College, I dove into the STARS summer research program at UCSD. Under the mentorship of Dr. Francesca Telese in her Neurobiology lab, I mastered wet lab skills and soaked up invaluable advice from seasoned graduate students on making the most of my undergraduate years.

Accepted to CSULB, I also landed a research fellowship with the RISE program and found myself paired with the brilliant reproductive biologist, Dr. Kelly A. Young. Over the next two years, I embarked on an exhilarating journey: leading my research project, presenting at conferences, and spending a summer conducting research with the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

These experiences set the stage for my next big leap—graduate school at Cornell University. In my first year, I was selected for the Cornell University Graduate School Dean’s Scholar award and the prestigious 2023 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. I have just recently completed my second year as a PhD student in Dr. Callum Donnelly’s lab at the College of Veterinary Medicine, delving into the fascinating world of equine maternal-fetal medicine and investigating how metabolic disorders affect fertility. The adventure continues!

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

After completing my PhD, I aim to pursue postdoctoral training in either in vitro gametogenesis or with a nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation. While I’m still deciding between a long-term career in industry or academia, one thing is certain: I’ll remain dedicated to supporting and inspiring other first-generation minority students.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

Beyond the exciting world of reproductive biology, I’m passionate about student advocacy. I love guiding students on career paths, securing research or training experiences, and fostering supportive environments. My goal is to help as many students as possible throughout my career.

What are you most proud of?

I’m incredibly proud of how far I’ve come. Before Cypress College, I was ready to give up, struggling through classes and feeling lost. But with resilience and determination, I turned things around and surpassed my expectations. Never could I have imagined myself pursuing and securing a fully funded PhD program at an Ivy League university.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

If I could do it all over again, I’d start at Cypress College sooner and jump at every opportunity, ignoring doubts about my experience and fear of rejection.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Seize the moment — you might underestimate the impact of your community college journey on your future goals. Getting involved and making a difference now sets you apart. I’ve discovered that my early engagement at Cypress College paved the way for significant achievements, from securing fellowships and grants to landing coveted positions. These milestones have been instrumental in shaping my path forward and reaping invaluable benefits.

Don’t let fear of rejection or inexperience hold you back from applying. Many programs and positions value enthusiasm and a readiness to learn over extensive experience. You don’t need a flawless academic record either; while grades matter, they’re not the sole measure of success.

Take the time to network, engage with faculty, and seek mentorship. Their insights are invaluable, and building meaningful relationships is key to securing strong letters of recommendation. Let them see your aspirations and direction—you’ll be amazed at the doors that open when you do.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Remember, success often takes time and perseverance. Don’t see setbacks as roadblocks but as opportunities to explore new paths. In academia, grit and determination are your strongest allies. Utilize every available resource to propel yourself toward your goals.

Above all, practice self-compassion and resist the urge to compare your journey with others. Embrace your background and the obstacles you’ve conquered—they’ve shaped your unique path and deserve recognition. Be proud of how far you’ve come and the resilience you’ve shown to reach where you are today.

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