Office of Alumni Engagement

Sarah Joelle Cox-Vazquez

I graduated from Alma in:

2015

I studied:

Biology with lots of chemistry mixed in

My hometown when I was a student was:

Fenton, MI

I currently live in:

Singapore

What is your current career/professional role?

I am a research scientist at the National University of Singapore. Currently, my research focuses on increasing sensitivity to detect/characterize DNA and other biological molecules.

My most vivid/best memory of my time at Alma is:

Being a part of the competitive cheer and stunt program! I feel so lucky that I was there when the program was taking off. It was so awesome being able to travel around the country and compete with the college’s support. Spring terms were great too! I went to New Zealand for one and did a bike tour of Michigan for the other.

Statement about how Alma impacted your personal and professional life since graduating.

Regarding my professional life, I truly owe my career in science to Alma, specifically Professor Scott Hill. When I started at Alma, I thought the only way you could do anything with science would be by working in a medical field (for me, I thought I wanted to be a dentist). He was the one who approached me, thinking I may be a good fit in research and invited me into the lab to start an independent research project. He encouraged me to apply for my first summer research experience at the University of Michigan. I was hooked after that summer, and I knew that scientific research was for me. So I went back to Alma and continued doing research there with Professor Hill and then went on to graduate school for my Ph.D. in chemistry at Michigan. Regarding my personal life, some of my closest friends were my college roommates, neighbors, and teammates, and I feel so lucky to have met them at Alma!

What current service and/or philanthropy activity are you involved in?

Unfortunately, since I moved to Singapore right before the start of the pandemic (Jan 2020), the opportunities to get involved in service activities have been limited given social distancing guidelines in Singapore. But while I was still in graduate school at the University of Michigan, I did many science outreach activities. I was a science communication fellow through the natural history museum. I would set up interactive science learning activities for the public at community events to educate them on protein misfolding diseases (Alzheimer’s or type II diabetes, for example). I also lead chemistry summer camps for middle and high school kids to do hands-on experiments at the universities’ teaching labs.

Advice I would give a new graduate:

Take any opportunity that falls into your lap; you never know where in the world it will lead you!

What would you say to a prospective student and their family who was trying to decide if Alma was right for them?

Going to Alma is right for you if you want your professors to be actively engaged in helping you learn. The small class sizes made a difference for me when trying to understand complex material because my professors knew me personally. I wasn’t just one of a thousand students in their class. They all always took the time to help me understand the material. It is also a great place to be still able to participate in athletics while maintaining a healthy balance with classwork and other activities.

Why Alma still matters to me.

I feel that I received so much support from the college during my time there as a student and even after as an alumna. Now that I am in a position to give back, I feel delighted to pay it forward.