Ashley Vance ’16 studied the dead. Dylan Sosa ’17 researched a little-known infection. Esmeralda Perez ’16 became a mentor. This is just some of the impressive work being done by our students. Read more about our outstanding Hilltoppers — and what they plan to do next.

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The Mathematician

Abigail Edgar ’16 says studying math is the craziest thing she’s ever done. Edgar, who started as a History major, wanted a challenge, and math’s infinite possibilities offered her just that. As a Math major, Edgar used graph theory to determine how two of every three people agree on at least two issues — and she received an outstanding presentation award at the Mathematical Association of America MathFest conference in 2015. “To solve a math problem, even a complex one, you have to ask the right questions,” Edgar says. “The most difficult part is setting it up; the rest is computational.” Now that she’s done her part to remind us all that we’re more alike than different, she’ll use her math skills to study earthquakes and geology as a graduate student at the University of Texas–Austin. But first, “I'm going to chaperone some field trips and make a lot of home-cooked dinners to reconnect with my family before I give my brain back to school.”

The Mentor

Aspiring special education teacher Esmeralda Perez ’16 thinks everyone deserves a passionate educator. As a first-generation college student, she turned her education into multiple teaching opportunities. She’s a peer academic coach for other students in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and in the Hilltopper Mentor Program Alliance, where she mentors at-risk students from International High School in Austin. Throughout her four years, she’s mentored 11 students. Now, she’s looking forward to helping those who need it most. “I was inspired by my professor who said each special education student is unique,” Perez says. “Children with disabilities deserve a passionate educator to guide them on their path to success.”

The Detective

Dylan Sosa ’17 is curious about the secrets of life. It’s why he’s studying Bioinformatics, which combines computer science, statistics and mathematics to explain biology. Last summer, Sosa spent time at the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, as part of the Opportunities in Genomics Research Undergraduate Scholars Program. Sosa studied the genomes of two flatworms that cause paragonimiasis, an infection that is often misdiagnosed as tuberculosis, and worked to develop tests to diagnose it quickly and correctly. “The disease is rarely studied, so I wanted to create a framework for a drug to be developed,” he says. After graduation next year, Sosa wants to go back to Washington University for graduate school and continue his quest to find answers. 

The Historian

You can tell a lot about a civilization by how they buried their dead, says Ashley Vance ’16. It’s why she majored in History and studied Andean (specifically Inca) burial sites, where many were entombed with Spondylus shells, which are commonly called “thorny oysters.” “Burial goods offer a dynamic glimpse into the region’s trade, values and religion,” Vance says. “I can think of no way to better understand an illiterate civilization that couldn’t document for itself.” Vance says she loves sharing her historical discoveries, so she created the Hilltop Historians, a group dedicated to raising historical awareness. So far, the group has toured haunted places on campus and held various historical trivia nights. Vance plans to study Andean mortuary archaeology in graduate school at the University of California–Santa Barbara or the University of Texas–Austin. 

The Journalist

Amid the back-and-forth banter between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primaries in 2008, Jacob Sanchez ’16 became hooked on politics. “For a while I wanted to go into politics, but then I realized I’d rather be interviewing politicians and holding them responsible for their actions,” Sanchez says. His interest in political science and reporting led him to Hilltop Views, the student newspaper at St. Edward’s. He’s written stories for the publication since he was a freshman and is now the print editor in chief. Sanchez is also a fellow at the Texas Tribune, which helps student journalists hone their skills and prepares them for the modern newsroom. Sanchez hopes to be a full-time reporter in time to cover the 2016 general election.

The Leader

“The perfect Hilltopper is tolerant, lives with integrity and is a humanitarian,” says Dominique Martinez ’16, who spends a lot of time with fellow students as executive director of the Student Leadership Team. Her favorite activities during her three years on SLT have been going on staff development and social outings, learning about Enneagram personality types and how they function within a team, and developing personal leadership philosophies. “We accept beliefs that are different, help others through service and follow ethical principles we set for ourselves.” Martinez is hoping to be a model Hilltopper next year in Malaysia as a Fulbright teaching assistant, for which she is a finalist.