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UA student paves the way for other women in STEM

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Posted at 6:31 AM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 21:54:25-04

She's passionate and very smart.

"I'm so excited to be able to graduate. I'll forever be a Wildcat."

Alyssa Peterson is the first woman in her family to graduate from college.

"I'm the oldest of five girls. So, women empowerment was pretty much engrained in me since a child," Peterson said.

She's taking that empowerment and bringing it into the STEM field.

"I'm actually triple majoring in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology and in religious studies," Peterson said.

The inspiration behind her studies comes from her time in Africa.

"Life changing is the only way I can describe it. It truly changed my life for the better."

When Peterson was 18 she spent the summer with families in Kenya.

"Some of the big things that I noticed were the amount of happiness people had."

Happiness despite the struggles. Peterson grew close to one girl whose entire family died of malaria.

"While I was there i was able to see the prevalence of mosquito borne diseases such as malaria and Zika and dengue fever," Peterson said.

An experience she'll remember forever and a big reason why she picked religious studies as one of her majors.

"To try to help me understand communities that I plan to serve better by understanding their culture through religion," Peterson added.

After graduation, she has her eyes set on getting a PhD.

"I would love to do a PhD in infectious disease research and vaccinology and ultimately, hopefully, start my own nonprofit organization to try to help find cures."

The pandemic playing a role in what she wants to do.

"I think what the pandemic did for me was actually inspire me to do more volunteer and more public health," Peterson said.

She is also the vice president of a club on campus that works to bring more women into the STEM field

"That has really enriched my experience at the U of A because of the wonderful ability I've been able to have to mentor other women in STEM as well as learn from other women in STEM."

A mission she's proud to be part of---is making sure girls everywhere dream big.

"Feel empowered and feel like you can do whatever you set your mind to do," Peterson said.