Student leaves her mark on the field of Ecology


Connor Martinez

Laura Valdez an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology UTEP student is graduating this semester.

Levi Carlos, Staff Reporter

Like many in the El Paso area, Laura Valdez is a family-oriented person with grand future ambitions. Valdez has an appreciation for plants and loves to share this sentiment with her grandmother. Whether it is sharing plants or watching YouTube videos with her grandmother, Valdez has enjoyed bringing her two worlds together.  

Laura Valdez is graduating this Fall with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, but more than that, she has been a steward of learning on the UTEP campus. 

 Valdez began studying biology at UTEP with the intention of going into medicine. However, that changed when she discovered the full range of potential in studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  

“In this program, I decided or came to the decision that medicine wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue anymore. I was more passionate about ecological studies,” said Valdez. 

Valdez was introduced to this field by studying bees native to the El Paso region, which captivated her. She was tasked with cataloging bees native to areas around the borderland and learning about them.  

Since arriving at UTEP, she has been both a mentee and a mentor. Once in the field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Valdez was offered an intern position in 2019 and later a mentor position in 2020.  

The opportunity to be a mentor is typically only offered to graduate students, but it was offered to Valdez as an undergraduate. 

Valdez still considers herself a mentor, and admits she still visits her mentor at the lab for advice and to continue learning.  

Along with being a mentor, Valdez has spoken about her research at the LSAMP and Chihuahua Desert conferences. 

“Conferences actually have made a lot of impact in the passion that I have to do what I do and to keep doing it in the future,” said Valdez.  

Speaking at conferences allows Valdez to share her work and passion with others and is something that she plans to continue doing. Valdez embraces every opportunity to speak about her work.  

She usually encounters two kinds of people when speaking at a conference: those who have a general idea about her study and those who have never heard about it. In either case, the discourse that comes with meeting these people is fulfilling.  

“When I present to people who don’t often understand even what ecology is let alone what I’m studying, they’re very often taken aback by how broad this information is or how important the information that I’m presenting to them is,” said Valdez.  

In the future, Valdez would like to take her mentorship a step further by becoming a teacher and sharing her appreciation for ecology with future biologists.  

After she graduates, Valdez plans to attend graduate school to continue following her passion for research and her long-term goals. She hopes to one day be a professor at a university.  

Levi Carlos is a staff reporter and can be reached at [email protected]