Do it for you, and be strong in your convictions - Alexandria K Falcon

Alexandria K Falcon conducting experiments in the lab
Photo: Daniel Oberbauer

Alexandria K Falcon '19

Cell Biology

Tell us about your first generation background. Where did you grow up and what is your family history? Share something unique about your story.

I was born and raised in the Central Valley in a small town outside of Fresno. I was raised by my grandparents and my mom as a single parent in an economically disadvantaged low-income community. My grandpa dropped out of school at 3rd grade and my grandma at 8th to work in the fields and help support their families. Despite this lack of education or what people would consider an unusual upbringing, they are some of the wisest people I know and are part of the reason I've made it this far.

With my education I have become a force to be reckoned with and will continue to succeed because I am my grandparents’ granddaughter.

How did you end up in college? What brought you to UC Davis?

My mother encouraged me to read constantly as a child and I grew up loving to read and going to our local library. As a result, I was always very accomplished academically from elementary school through high school. I was tracked into college through the honors and college prep classes and was highly encouraged to attend a 4-year university by my teachers at the time. I had already known I wanted a higher education because it would allow me to provide for my family. The challenge was that I had no clue what I wanted to do.

I remember being told as a junior in high school while I was thinking about higher education that I was smart enough to make a difference and that it'd be a shame if I didn't try. I ended up at UC Davis because it was far enough from my hometown that I felt independent but not so far I couldn't go home for special celebrations or breaks.

Were you afraid about going to college, or when you first arrived?

When I first arrived I felt completely alone. I felt like I was surrounded by people who were smarter than me and that no matter how hard I tried or worked I couldn't reach the academic level I had become used to in high school. In addition, I hated the idea of disappointing my family or not being a good role model to others like myself. I know now that while it was hard at first, finding and using the resources available really helped me become my own person. I don’t work hard because I feel like I need to live up to some idea of what students should be, but because it was something I wanted to do for myself. Getting into research gave me the motivation to be my own person and pursue my own dreams, providing the opportunity to help others like myself who also struggle with who they are.

How your background helped you?

I come from hard-working, strong-willed people who pushed past all the disadvantages thrown at them to make a home for their families. I understand the importance and value of qualities that go beyond academics and it gives me strength to know that I am more than just my grades or transcripts. The experiences I've lived through and choose to have now are what make me who I am, and that is something unique to me and myself alone just as it is for all of us. I felt empowered by my background and I’m proud to share it.

Have you been mentored by a faculty member/advisor on campus? Has someone on campus made an impact on you?

Mitchell McCartney from the BioMEMS group here on campus was the reason I was pulled into research and really encouraged me to become my own researcher as I worked with him. He empowered me as a first-year student to work hard and earn the responsibilities I was trusted with. UC Davis is lucky to have a lot of hidden gems like him on campus and I feel grateful to have been supported by him personally.

The best thing about your college experience so far?

Research and the people I've met because of it. When I arrived on campus I had no idea what it was or that it was a possible career choice for someone like me. Now, having been involved for so long, I can say that I have found what I want to do with my life. I have met so many people through the work I pursue and have a chance to help many more directly because of the research I conduct. That connection is something I wouldn't trade for anything.

What would you tell a new UC Davis student?

You are not alone. Coming from a background of disadvantage doesn't mean you aren't capable. Making it to UC Davis shows the promise you have. Don't wait for people to hand you an answer or opportunity, go out and find what you want for yourself. The Student Community Center has hundreds of resources for you to take advantage of including many students like me. As far as classes are concerned you should always be attending, asking questions if you don't understand, setting aside quality study time, and attending office hours. The opportunities you can make for yourself by doing well in class and getting to know the people who are teaching you are boundless.

What are your future goals?

I want to get a PhD or MD/PhD, be a researcher in human neurological disorders, and make life better for those that struggle with them.