Photo of Mikayla Roybal
Mikayla Roybal

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University biology sophomore Mikayla Roybal has won a competitive paid internship with the National Institute of Drug Addiction at the University of California–Irvine for the summer of 2019.

“From this internship, I am hoping to learn more about the underlying psychological and neurological effects that drug abuse has on someone and why it is so difficult to break an addiction,” Roybal said. “This internship will also allow me a unique lab experience that will be relevant to my medical school aspirations.”

Roybal is an 18-year-old Las Vegas, New Mexico, native and 2018 Robertson High School graduate. She started her academic career at Highlands early, at age 16, as a dual-credit high school student.  

“My work ethic thus far has been driven by my desire to retain as much knowledge as I can in several different science subject areas in order to be well rounded. I possess a highly competitive attitude when it comes to academics and I strive to always reach my full potential. Knowledge is a powerful tool to have and once you have it, no one can strip you of it,” Roybal said.

Roybal said that Highlands offers science majors extensive help toward their success, such as support from ARMAS, the university’s Achieving in Research, Math and Science Center.

“ARMAS provides a welcoming, safe environment for students to study, work together and receive help from peer supplemental instruction leaders who motivate and assist in helping students find success. ARMAS is also like a family that provides comfort to stressed science majors,” Roybal said.

Roybal said biology professor Jessica Snow has influenced and inspired her the most in her time at Highlands.

“Dr. Snow is a valuable resource for pre-med students such as me, helping guide students on this difficult journey. As a female science professor, Dr. Snow is a role model to me, showing me that knowledge is power, and success is possible through hard work and dedication. She taught me that anything is possible and I’m very grateful,” Roybal said.

Snow said that Roybal’s motivation to succeed is exceptional.

“Being only 18, Mikayla far exceeds my expectations,” Snow said. “She is one of the top performing students in my biology courses, always demonstrating how hard she works to master the material.”

Snow said she is proud of Roybal taking the big step with the UC-Irvine internship to learn the science of drug addiction.

“I believe this internship will propel Mikayla forward immensely. She will do everything her mentors ask of her, representing Highlands and our state well,” Snow said.

Roybal said her professional goal is to attend medical school and then specialize as a forensic pathologist.

“Women are underrepresented in forensic pathology, which has always fascinated me. I hope to help provide justice for individuals who die as victims of criminal acts. This will also help victims’ families find closure,” Roybal said.