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Brooklyn Aragon Wins National Institutes of Health Fellowship

February 17, 2021

photo of Brooklyn Aragon

Brooklyn Aragon

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University chemistry senior Brooklyn Aragon received a biomedical post-baccalaureate fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.

Aragon of Las Vegas, New Mexico, has earned a 4.0 GPA to date and is the first in her family to attend college. Her concentration is in biochemistry and she has a minor in biology. She will graduate in May 2021.

“This paid NIH fellowship will last one to two years and will be in the National Center for Translational Science, where disciplines work together to fast track drug development,” Aragon said. “I’ll be working in a medicinal chemistry lab with leading scientists to help speed up the drug development pipeline.”

This is Aragon’s second experience at NIH. She had a biomedical internship there in the summer of 2019 where her work focused upon cancer fighting cell processes. She stood out in the internship and was invited back for the fellowship.

“I know I’ll be working in the same lab alongside the same brilliant scientists I worked with in 2019, but with more independence. Whatever I end up doing I know it will be innovative and cutting edge,” Aragon said.

Aragon said she fell in love with research at her 2019 NIH internship.

“I’m interested in pursuing an MD/PhD combined program. A combined degree will allow me to not only help patients one-on-one, but I could also potentially help the masses with my research,” Aragon said.

Aragon said when she went to the National Institutes of Health in 2019, she had “imposter syndrome” at first.

“Then I realized I had something none of the other students from prestigious colleges like Harvard, Vanderbilt and Yale had. I had a genuine connection with my Highlands professors. Because of this, I believe I have a deeper understanding of certain subjects and I have more confidence in my abilities,” Aragon said.

Aragon said Highlands chemistry professor Shipra Gupta stands out as one of several chemistry professors at Highlands who inspired her as well as physics professor Joseph Sabutis.

“Dr. Gupta’s organic chemistry class was challenging, and I have an excellent understanding of organic chemistry thanks to her. She pushed me beyond what I thought I could do, which makes me better prepared for this NIH fellowship,” Aragon said.

Gupta said Aragon is an exceptional student.

“What makes Brooklyn exceptional is her steadfastness and perseverance. When other students are busy counting obstacles in their course, Brooklyn is busy finding ways to overcome them. Her positive attitude propels her far ahead of others.

“Brooklyn is very smart and a hard worker. Also, during extracurricular activities I observed that she is a go-getter. She is ready to traverse that extra mile,” Gupta said.

Aragon won Chemistry Student of the Year honors twice at Highlands, first in 2019 for general chemistry and then in 2020 for organic chemistry.

Outside the classroom at Highlands, Aragon served as a Supplemental Instruction Leader for chemistry and as a tutor for advanced math, both through the ARMAS Center (Achieving in Research, Math and Science).

Aragon, who is an orphan, said the supportive, caring environment at Highlands is especially important to her.

“By the age of 11, I lost both my parents to drug addiction. I was very lucky to have my grandmother, Mary Gutierrez, take me in. At Highlands, it feels like family because people truly want me to succeed and encouraged my resilience,” Aragon said.