Sally Acebo

Student Chemist Has Research in Her Blood

Sally Acebo, a junior chemistry major at the University of St. Thomas, comes from a family of healthcare specialists. It’s no surprise that she thrives in science, research and helping others.

The Katy, Texas native’s father is a surgeon, and she aspires to follow in her mother’s footsteps to become a pediatrician. Her godfather, who is also a doctor, recommended she explore St. Thomas for college because of its reputation for preparing students for medical careers. UST has a 70 percent success rate of pre-med students gaining admission into medical school, which is above the national average.

As a Catholic, Acebo appreciates how the University integrates faith and reason.

“St. Thomas is a nice, small community environment,” Acebo said. “The Chapel of St. Basil on campus and all the events going on make UST a great place to study and have fun. It’s both religious and academic.”

Acebo’s semester-long research efforts in biochemistry will lead her and a team collaborating with students from Houston Community College to present their research at the American Chemical Society Regional Meeting in Baton Rouge, La. in November. The research focuses on investigating potential drug candidates from natural products in the environment.

“Undergraduate research was beneficial to me in so many ways,” Acebo said. “I was able to reinforce classroom knowledge, work on time management skills and communication skills. Overall, research boosted my confidence in my laboratory classes. I feel that I have an academic edge on getting admitted into medical school.”

Dr. Elmer Ledesma, assistant professor in chemistry, is Acebo’s advisor, and she says his expertise has been invaluable to her. He inspired her to become a teacher’s assistant, where she found her zeal for mentoring.

“She is academically strong and keeps herself very busy,” Ledesma said. “She has been a resident assistant in Guinan Residence Hall, a general chemistry lab teacher’s assistant, and more recently a chemistry tutor helping an HCC student in general chemistry.”

“I like helping people because I knew how they felt and how to help them,” Acebo said. “I knew exactly what they were going through because I went through the same thing.”

Integrating mentoring, science and medicine initiatives in many aspects of her academic and social life, Acebo is an active member of the American Chemical Society and was a member of Health Occupations Students of America. She said ACS allows her to stay focused on her goals. She volunteers with ACS at various events including giving chemistry demonstrations at local elementary schools.

Ledesma said UST is providing underclassmen with the skills to land jobs through its academic research programs. Acebo plans to attend medical school after graduation.

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