Tania Perez

September 2021

Tania Perez (Class of ’17), Honors College at Miami-Dade College Graduated 2019; University of Pennsylvania, Graduated Spring 2021

Degree: Bachelor’s of Science in Biology & Neuroscience

Career Goals: I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Pennsylvania to provide me with the scientific training and knowledge to eventually open my own research lab investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying neurological disorders.

What has been the biggest surprise about the college experience? The biggest surprise about the college experience is that absolutely no one knows what they are doing, and that's okay!

Most challenging coursework in college: My most challenging course in college was the Biochemistry class that I took with the Chemistry Department when I first transferred to Penn. Initially, I enjoyed the course because it was about taking molecular concepts and applying them to real-world situations. However, it quickly became organic chemistry 7.0 and entirely memorization-based — neither of which I enjoyed. I also took the course alongside three other biology courses that were also heavily memorization-based and just did not have enough room in my brain for it.

Accomplishment most proud of: As a first-generation college student, I am so proud of graduating with Highest Honors & Distinction from Miami-Dade College and Magna Cum Laude with Departmental Honors in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. As a budding scientist, I am extremely honored to have earned awards for my poster and oral presentations at the 2018 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students and the 2019 Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB) meeting, respectively. Additionally, I received the ASB Lafayette Frederick Underrepresented Minorities Award.

Can you provide any advice to our current Knights? College is a place to learn and grow — both processes that require failure every now and again. Failing is okay as long as you get back up and continue pursuing your passions. Also, do not compare yourself to anyone else! Your college journey is yours and yours alone, so focus on yourself and what makes you happy.

I paid for college with…: As an Honors College student at MDC, I received the MDC Honors College Fellows Award, which covered all of my tuition and fees and included a semesterly stipend as well as funding for books. On top of this award, I earned the Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholarship throughout my time at MDC and as an incoming student received $1000 from each of the following scholarships: Burger King McLamore Foundation Scholarship, Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship, and Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition Scholarship. Penn's undergraduate financial aid program is entirely grant-based and meets 100% demonstrated need, so the majority of my funding came from the Federal Pell Grant, an Institutional Penn Grant, and a work-study job. I also received a College Assistance Program Grant.

Fondest memory from high school: I have so many memories from JM-MAST that I don't know even know where to start! During my senior year, I took AP Bio with Mrs. Llanes and cannot rave about the class enough. AP Bio helped me fall in love with science, and I do not think I would be the scientist I am today without it. I had a class every single year with Mr. Kearns. His constant support, guidance, and HILARIOUS jokes always improved my day and made me feel like I could accomplish anything. Last but most definitely not least, I credit a lot of my success both professionally and personally to the advice given to me by the one and only Mr. Milian. As cliché as it sounds, he really did believe in me before I believed in myself. I remember sitting across from him on several occasions throughout my years at MAST, and him saying, “I can’t wait to be friends with you when you’re older, to say I knew you before you were a bigshot.” Milian’s unwavering faith in my ability to succeed has been and continues to be a driving force in my life. JM-MAST is a very special place in the middle of Hialeah’s 24th Avenue, and I will forever be grateful to the school, its faculty, and its students for their impact on my life.