Finding a community within School of Life Sciences

Michael Ashley plugs in, finds passion for biology, health and helping others


May 9, 2016

Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2016 commencement. See the rest here.

Michael Ashley had no idea what he wanted to study when he was a senior in high school. He knew he liked chemistry and biology. So, when it came time to pick a major, he figured the School of Life Sciences was worth a try. According to Michael, it didn’t take long to decide how he felt about the choice. ASU graduate Michael Ashley Download Full Image

“I definitely warmed up to it fast,” said Ashley, who majored in biological sciences (genetics, cell and developmental biology concentration) with a minor in biochemistry. “I’ve always had a passion for science in general, but it was the way the School of Life Sciences (SOLS) felt like a close community within ASU that I fell in love with.”

Once he was hooked on the community, Ashley found many ways to be involved. After a good experience in the SOLS undergraduate mentorship program, he joined as a mentor himself and eventually became one of its most senior members. He also became a Supplemental Instruction leader through the University Academic Success Programs, which led to an opportunity that came to define his undergraduate career.

Ashley joined assistant professor Sara Brownell, associate professor Miles Orchinik and a number of graduate students in their efforts to keep growing the School of Life Sciences BioBridge program. The two-week program provides incoming students the tools and resources they need to succeed in college before their first semester even starts. Ashley took an active part in the execution of the program, helping students acclimate to an active-learning classroom environment.

While Ashley was assisting with BioBridge, he was also busy working as a medical scribe at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in downtown Phoenix. There, he watched an emergency-room doctor save a patient’s life — which cemented his decision to pursue the profession himself.

He answered a few questions about his time at ASU before receiving his degree this week.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My “aha” moment was in high school when I started studying biology and other STEM subjects. I realized, “Hey, this is pretty cool and I seem to be good at it.” Since then I have only become more interested the deeper I go into my studies.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: One of the biggest perspective changes I had was when I started working as a scribe at a hospital. As biological sciences major, I have studied and understand the molecular underpinnings of many diseases and conditions. In the classroom, we are fairly far removed from the diseases we study. Seeing and working with patients firsthand made me understand the importance of both research and in medical treatment.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because they have a fantastic biology program, which has more than adequately prepared me for my future endeavors, provided me with scholarships to help for the expenses associated with college and offers students an extensive support network designed to help students succeed.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My one piece of advice would be to take advantage of the many opportunities at ASU. Being a large school, ASU has many opportunities to get involved with research or just to find an on-campus club with people who have similar interests and passions as you do. Either way, ASU is so diverse and offers so many opportunities that there really is something for everyone.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus would have to be Old Main and its lawn. I’ve gone there more than a few times to just relax between classes or to study during the day.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be applying to medical school while continuing to work as a medical scribe during my gap year.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would like to put the money both into Alzheimer’s research and into care for Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s seems to be a pretty underserved population in medicine despite the disease becoming more prevalent and the huge emotional and financial tolls it takes on the families of patients.

Jason Krell

Communication and events coordinator, Center for Evolution and Medicine

480-727-1233

Excelling outside his comfort zone

Isaac Hernandez leaves home state of Washington to pursue criminial justice at ASU thanks to a military scholarship


May 9, 2016

Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2016 commencement. See the rest here.

Following in his brothers’ footsteps, Isaac Hernandez knew from a young age he wanted to join the U.S. Army and major in criminal justice. His mind was set on success from early on, which influenced him to join the dual-enrollment program at his high school, allowing him to complete an associate’s degree upon graduation. ASU graduate Isaac Hernandez Photo by Lisa Robbins/Department of Military Science Army ROTC Download Full Image

The Washington native sought new opportunities and experiences outside of his small hometown. His first thoughts were enlist in the Army National Guard, but a recruiter pushed for him to pursue Army ROTC. He was offered a Guaranteed Reserve Forces Duty (GRFD) Scholarship and began his journey at Arizona State University

“I was offered a full ride to attend an out-of-state school,” Hernandez said. “No one in my family had attended an out-of-state school, but I took the opportunity.”

Hernandez will earn his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and commission from Army ROTC as an infantry officer for an Army National Guard unit in Washington. He will also receive the Moeur Award at the Commencement Ceremony.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?  

Answer: My two brothers were criminal justice majors and I have looked up to them since a young age, so I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I wanted to help people and be involved with law enforcement.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: The biggest thing I learned at ASU was how build relationships with people who care about you, such as mentors who can help if you have questions. Also, to have the humility of knowing that you won’t always be right, but you can rely on these people to guide you.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Coming out of high school a lot of my friends stayed in state, and I felt I wanted to challenge myself. Not a lot of people from a small town of 7,000 people can say they were able to leave their comfort zone, take a risk, jump on an opportunity and just go with it. ASU provided me with those opportunities to do something different than others.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Give your best at every opportunity, whether it counts or it doesn’t — you should always try your best — because you never know who is watching or taking note.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The Sun Devil Fitness Center field is going to be pretty memorable. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I was there at 6 a.m. for physical training. When I come back in 30 years from now, I’ll remember how I used to wake up at 4:50 a.m. to be standing in formation by 6 a.m. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite spot on campus, but I would say it’s the most memorable spot. It’s the place where my peers and I were motivated by the cadre or upperclassmen, we pushed ourselves and helped each other out. Comradery was built on that field.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?

A: I plan to move back to my home state of Washington and serve as an infantry officer for the Army National Guard, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment. As far as my civilian career, I’m in the hiring process for the U.S. Border Patrol. If this doesn’t work out, I plan to pursue law enforcement in Washington. My goal is to become a special forces officer for the National Guard, and hopefully join a SWAT team and become a SWAT commander.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would help disabled veterans in whatever way possible. This goes back to being a leader: You want to take care of your soldiers because even when they get out they are still soldiers. They will always be soldiers. I would hope to have some sort of impact even if it was just one life.

Written by Stephanie Romero