First-Gen Undergraduate: David Sanchez Godinez (Class of '21, Science)


David Sanchez Godinez came to UCSC with a passion for scientific exploration, but adjusting to college life was a challenge. As a first-gen college student, he could not turn to his parents for advice about coping and thriving at a university.

“It was on me to apply myself and make use of my college education,” he said. “I think being thrown into independence is difficult, and I’m definitely lucky to have been surrounded by hard-working and caring people.”

Taking a full load of science classes and getting hands-on learning honed his scientific knowledge—especially his experience working as an undergraduate researcher in the Doug Kellogg Lab, where he studied the ways budding yeast translate their growth into signals that drive cell cycle progression.

“Courses teach you about important fundamentals in the field, but applying that knowledge to a scientific question is a whole other learning experience,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez was a fellow in the UC Santa Cruz’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, which trains high-achieving students to help prepare them for entry into graduate programs leading to a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences.

He also made time to do peer outreach as vice president of the SACNAS chapter, helping students thrive during a time of social distancing and online classes.

“Volunteering and giving back to my community are important because those principles helped me get to where I am today," he said. “I had teachers who went above and beyond for me, and that passion helped shape who I am.

“That is why I try my best to give back to my community,” Sanchez said. "With SACNAS, we show students from all walks of life that STEM is for everyone. It isn’t a field exclusive to men or rich people, and anyone can enjoy what nature has to offer.”

After graduating, Sanchez is going directly into the UCSF Tetrad Ph.D. program, which provides rigorous and innovative training in science and biotechnology.