Somebody else saw his potential differently, however. An adult in his school who served as what Lopez-Urioso calls his “de facto college advisor” thought he had the intelligence and creativity to be a scientist, and she encouraged him to apply to a new summer program at the U-M Life Sciences Institute.
Lopez-Urioso applied and was accepted. In the summer after his sophomore year, and again after his junior year, he spent six weeks living in a U-M dorm, exploring the city and learning about college life, all while conducting hands-on scientific research.
“Before, I just kind of felt there was no way I was going to get in,” he says. “But then I was able to talk to people who were there and see that the people in my lab are all coming from very different backgrounds, and my anxiety about applying just fell away. It’s one of the main things that really made me apply to U of M — being an Aspirnaut.”
A little more than two years later, he was settling into his dorm as part of the Michigan Research and Discovery Scholars (MRADS) learning community in the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, a member of the U-M Class of 2024.
Across the 2019 cohort, the CEDER evaluation found a substantial increase in students’ desire to apply to U-M, their comfort with the college application process and their confidence that they would be accepted into college.
In fact, all six 2019 Aspirnauts ultimately applied to U-M. Four were accepted and began their freshman year in September. One student enrolled in Michigan State University this fall, and another enrolled in Northern Michigan University.
“Experiencing the environment of the campus, going into the lab and also just getting to connect with the other Aspirnauts — with people who really care about science as much as I do — all of it made me want to come to U-M,” says Keegan Hill, the first Aspirnaut from the Upper Peninsula. Hill turned down offers from several other schools, including the University of California, Berkeley, Northwestern University and Washington University, to join his fellow Aspirnauts at U-M.
“If we really want to get serious about expanding access to and representation across the scientific enterprise, we have to reach out across all of Michigan,” says U-M Provost Susan Collins, Ph.D., who is excited about the potential impact of this program for aspiring scientists throughout Michigan. “We need to connect the world-class resources and opportunities at U-M to potential future scientists all across the state. And we are already seeing the difference that this type of immersive, supportive program can make in helping more students pursue their goals.”