It has always been clear to Sara Cisneros that she has a love for science, but what hasn’t always been as clear is how she would be able to pursue her passion. Cisneros is now a flourishing molecular biology student at the University of Wyoming, but her path to the university may have been longer than the one that you and I went through.
Cisneros graduated high school in Mesa, Ariz., in 2006 and attended Arizona State University for a short period before taking a few years off from school. After this point, much of her life consisted of a series of constant adjustments—not the least of which was the adjustment of moving from the “95 and sunny” area of Phoenix to Riverton, Wyo. Anyone who has spent time in both places knows that Phoenix is often hotter in the middle of winter than Riverton gets in the summer.
However, that wasn’t the biggest adjustment that Cisneros had to make. A few years before she enrolled at Central Wyoming College, Cisneros became a mother of two. As if moving more than 15 hours away from home with just you and your kids wasn’t enough, Cisneros also had her mind set on going back to school. “When I started going to school at CWC, I was kind of thinking that I wanted to go to med school. I really loved science, and I just thought that was the natural route that people take when they like science—they go to med school,” Cisneros says. After an invitation to join a research group from her professor, Steve McAllister, Cisneros found herself performing research in a lab for over a year.
McAlister, who was in charge of the research, received his funding through INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence). In Wyoming, INBRE’s purpose is to improve the state’s biomedical research and education infrastructure. It was also McAllister that introduced Cisneros to the idea of the INBRE’s Transition Fellowship, which would allow her to transition to UW with her tuition paid for and a working position in a lab.
It was time to move again, but this time to Laramie, Wyo. “I’m a single mother. I have two kids. I moved here to Laramie by myself with my kids. All my family is in Arizona. So it was kind of nerve-racking moving here alone,” Cisneros recalls. “If I’m going to focus on just school, I either have to work outside of school, or I have to get scholarships to get this paid for.”
Cisneros, who wasn’t even sure if being a single mom and being committed to school at the same time was possible, is now settled into Laramie and is in her first year of her five-year molecular and cellular life sciences Ph.D. program. She has found a great daycare and school for the kids to take some strain away from daily life, and she is really enjoying the Laramie and the university.
Even though Cisneros doesn’t expect to graduate from UW until 2021, that hasn’t stopped her from looking forward to what’s next. It is definitely not a quick process, though. “In science, you don’t just get a Ph.D. You usually have to do another few years as a Ph.D. in someone else’s lab before you can get a job like a professor at a university,” Cisneros says. “I kind of like the fact that I have five years to decide. But I’ll either look for a post-doc somewhere or go into industry.”
Cisneros isn’t sure where the next move is going to take her yet. She loves Boston and would love the opportunity to live and work there, but family ties are going to play a big role in this decision and may keep her out west. Whatever she chooses, Cisneros seems to be the type of person that takes change in stride and makes the best out of basically every situation.
To learn more about transferring to UW, visit uwyo.edu/admissions/transfer or read our blog post, How to Transfer to the University of Wyoming. You can also click on the button below to connect with an enrollment specialist.