Dean's Scholars | Career Paths

Career Paths

Research/ Academia


aving been involved in research throughout their undergraduate career, Dean’s Scholars are uniquely well-positioned to pursue a career in academia. Moreover, being a Dean’s Scholar can open doors into some of the best and most prestigious labs at UT Austin and beyond. As a result, Dean’s Scholars has a fantastic track record of sending its students to some of the best graduate programs in the nation.

Graduate school acceptances include: Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, Princeton, Stanford, Duke, University of Washington, Columbia, Cambridge, Oxford


Dean’s Scholars may be research focused, but we go on to do much more than just research. Every year, numerous Dean’s Scholars delve into the world of industry through paid internship during their underclassman years, and fulltime positions after graduation. The companies we work for include household names and Fortune 500 superstars such as Google, Qualcomm, Procter & Gamble, Amgen, Microsoft, Amazon, and many, many more.


While Dean’s Scholars is a mainly research focused honors program, don’t fret if you are interested in medicine! If you are interested in pursuing an MD/PhD or just approaching medicine from a research perspective, Dean’s Scholars is for you! We have the tools and connections to help you find a research lab as soon as you want to, and there are many DS upperclassmen who have sage advice to help you navigate the confusing path to medical school, from which classes to take to the MCAT and medical school application process. Our alumni have an amazing track record going to prestigious medical schools, within Texas and beyond, and we hope you’ll join those ranks! Also, we have a 100% acceptance rate to medical school. Let me say that again…

We have a 100% acceptance rate to medical school!

That’s pretty incredible right? If you are interested in medicine/research or even on the fence about it, Dean’s Scholars is the place for you!

Medical schools acceptances include: Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University of Michigan, Baylor College of Medicine, UT Southwestern
MD/PhD programs at: University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Baylor College of Medicine, UT Southwestern

Other Career Paths

Aside from research, medicine, or industry, some Dean’s Scholars go on to study a variety of disciplines and work in a diverse set of fields. Many Dean’s Scholars do a great job combining their other interests with the sciences, whether that be through an additional major (or two) or another honors program. If you aren’t sure about where you might end up after college, don’t worry; you aren’t restricted to research, and you have the freedom to pursue anything, from teaching to theology.

Dean’s Scholars Recognition: From Graduation to the International Stage

Every year, the College of Natural Sciences picks around 20 graduating seniors (fewer than 1% of the class) to be honored as a Dean’s Honored Graduates, the highest honor that they can receive. More than half of all Dean’s Honors Graduates each year come from the Dean’s Scholars community, which really speaks to the quality of the students in the program and the rigor of their studies. Not only are we recognized at the university level, but at an international one as well. Every year Dean’s Scholars has multiple national award finalists and winners including Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, Gates-Cambridge, Mitchell, and more. These highly competitive awards honor our students as some of the brightest young minds in the nation and offer financial support for continued graduates studies and/or research. Dean’s Scholars make up an incredible majority of these national award recipients from the college. If you are looking for a program with extraordinarily talented members, you’ve come to the right place.

95% of national award (Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, etc.) recipients from CNS come from Dean’s Scholars.

Meet the Dean’s Scholars

Now that you’ve seen what Dean’s Scholars do after graduation, let’s meet some current and former Dean’s Scholars and see what they’re up to.

Research/ Academia

Meet Will Berdanier – PhD Physics Student at UC Berkeley


Winner of the 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and 2013 British Marshall Scholarship
Dean’s Honored Graduate, DS Alumnus, Class of 2013

What are you doing now?
“I study condensed matter physics, which seeks to understand what kinds of ordered states of matter can emerge from the chaos of strongly interacting many-body quantum systems, such as superconductors, Bose-Einstein condensates or topological insulators. In particular, I’m interested in how we can use recent advances in condensed matter physics to construct a certain kind of quantum computer — called a “topological” quantum computer — that is inherently immune to errors. My current project is to investigate ways to realize strange particles called “parafermions” by shaking quantum systems in clever ways (this technique is called Floquet analysis).
My biggest hobby has always been playing violin, and some of my fondest memories from DS are playing with the DS quartet at the holiday dinner and Musicale. I’m continuing to play in small ensembles, and recently had a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings with a UCSF-based group called Strings Collaborative.”

Do you have any particular memories from Dean’s Scholars you’d like to share?
“Coming to Texas from Colorado, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in right away — that most people would have a clique of high school friends that they would stick with. This worry melted away on my first DS trip to Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory. As we all linked arms around one of the largest telescopes in the world, I felt the warm glow of knowing I had found a community in the vastness of UT.”

What did DS mean to you?
“Dean’s Scholars was a quirky, brilliant family. I can’t overstate how important it was for me socially — many of my closest friends came from the program, and the bonding with students and faculty at the various trips, dinners and, of course, Friday Lunches, gave a unique flavor to my undergraduate years. But it was also a program that pushed me to be better — in academics, in research, and in giving back to the community. All in all it was a wonderful melting pot of intellectual talent, fascinating hobbies and nerdy science camaraderie — and being a Dean’s Scholar was a privilege I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Meet Hannah Hasson – 2nd year- Majors: Astronomy and Physics


Vice-President of Undergraduate Women in Physics, Published in Nature, Dean’s Scholars Council, Summer researcher at Rice University

Career plans?
“Graduate school for astronomy and then a research position or science popularizer (like Neil Degrasse Tyson)”

More about me:
“I love theatre, especially sketch comedy. I was the director of my high school production of “1984”, and I can put my left foot behind my head!”

How did DS help you get to where you are?
“Having the community coming into college right off the bat made college much easier to adjust to, and I had people to turn to for advice. Also, taking the DS seminars really shaped my idea of grad. school and pushed me to continue doing research, which I love so much.”

What do you like the most about DS?
“The community aspect for sure. It’s rich, cultured, and supportive, which is especially helpful in such a big university. It’s crucial to being successful as you start college and make that big change in your life.”

What research do you do, and what have you learned from it?
“My main project deals with the Texas Petawatt Laser, and the gist is we zap pellets of metal to generate highest amount electron positron pairs. My portion was processing and analysing the lab’s data and putting together a filter stack spectrometer and scintillating crystal gamma ray detector. You get exposure to so many things in research that you don’t learn in classes. This makes all my classes so much more interesting, and I’m actually excited about going to school and filling in those gaps of knowledge.”

Meet Luis Valencia – 3rd year- Major: Biochemistry


Head of the DS Friday Lunch Committee, Mentor for the Virtual Drug Screening stream (Freshman Research Initiative), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Student Chapter.

More about me:
I’ve lost over $45 in misplaced umbrellas in the past two years.

Tell us about your research:
I’ve worked in 3 research labs so far and will soon have worked in another. All my research has involved proteins, and so I’ve learned that I love proteins! One of the biggest learning experiences was through my first research lab, the Virtual Drug Screening stream in the FRI. We searched for novel drugs by computationally screening libraries of drugs against a protein model, and then testing the drug in vitro with the protein that we made ourselves in lab. It taught me all of the fundamentals of biochemistry research, and it prepared me to be a good candidate to apply for other research programs.
I currently work in a biochemistry lab where I am studying in vitro biocatalytic systems involving polyketide synthases. In essence, we are studying enzymes involved in the synthesis of natural products and attempting to use this knowledge to either rationally engineer enzymes or develop methods to synthesize molecules of interest using existing proteins in unnatural combinations.

From this whole experience, I’ve come to realize that research is just the process of asking then answering a question and this process can be applied anywhere, any major, any industry – even social life.

Career Plans:
I would love to go into academia and continue to do research in the field of biosynthesis. I might also like to go into industry, but academia is the real dream.

How did Dean’s Scholars help you get to where you are today?
Faculty from the DS program and fellow DSers have greatly helped me get to where I am today. When I first started studying at UT I felt like I was behind. I knew I wanted to study science, but I had no idea what a science career looked like or what I should be doing to prepare for one. Dean’s Scholars provided help and support for all of this through advice from peers and professors, and seminars informed me on what my options were for a research career and how to take advantage of opportunities on campus for research.

What do like the most about DS?
I love the DS community! It’s such a great experience to go through your undergraduate years surrounded with friends you’ve known since freshman year and that share a strong interest in science with you. I love the way that DSers help each other out and give each other advice and support. Many of my biggest role models throughout my time here at UT have been other DSers. From these people I’ve gained great study habits, I’ve learned about many great research opportunities, and I’ve received tons of great advice on how to pursue different research opportunities and how to prepare for graduate school. It’s a very great tight knit community!

What advice do you have for an incoming DSer?
Get as much advice as you can from upperclassmen and professors. They’ve been through the same experience and can help you get the most out of your time at UT. Enjoy DS, go to events, play intramural sports, and meet as many people in DS as you can your first year!


Meet Ritwika Mitra – 3rd year- Major: Computer Science


2-time summer engineering intern at Google; Vice-President and Co-Founder of the non-profit Renaissance Now; Channel owner, producer, and director of Supportren YouTube Channel

Career plans?
“I want to go into industry, especially in the robotics or machine intelligence stream.”

How did DS help you get to where you are?
“First, within its community I found many friends who helped me realize what I want to do, pushed me to take challenging classes, editted my resumes, and answered a lot of my research questions. It also helped me enroll in honors classes, like AI honors, which helped my learning experience.”

What do you like about DS?
“It’s community and support is invaluable. I’ve made some of my best friends through it, made some great memories at its social events (especially Fort Davis!), and can’t imagine where I’d be without it. I’m always surprised by how supportive each member is to each other.”

Advice for a entering DSer?
“Be social! In your first couple of months, go to as many social events as you can because it’s the best time to meet new people (and get free food). Also, never will you, or any of your peers, be more friendly than in your first semester.”

Meet Annabel Wang – 2nd year- Majors: Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering


Internal VP of Society of Women Engineers, Texas Orange Jackets, Publicity Committee Head for the Engineering EXPO, Engineering Ambassador, Undergraduate TA for Originality in the Arts and Sciences (the UGS all DSers take)

More about me:
I also did Process Research & Development at Procter & Gamble last summer. This summer I will be interning with Accenture Consulting in their Technology Division. I’m passionate about exciting and educating students about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and coordinate all the outreach programs within the Society of Women Engineers. We organized a new middle school camp in the fall and a new high school camp in the spring. We’ve co-hosted events with Girl Scouts and Girl Start.
More profoundly, I’m passionate about enabling others. Within the Texas Orange Jackets, my new member class and I are working together to raise awareness and funds to combat the issue of food insecurity on campus. We plan to establish a flexible University – administered fund with UT’s Student Emergency Service to serve as a resource for food insecure students.

Tell us about your research:
I was doing research with Dr. Alper in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Essentially, our lab focuses on hijacking cellular processes to figure out how to produce certain desired compounds (biofuels, pharmaceuticals) at high yields. I learned a lot about laboratory techniques, communication, and promoters. Research gives you the opportunity to really get into a topic you’re interested in and get your hands dirty (the amount of messiness really depends on you). You learn so much about your chosen topic because you really need to know the outside literature and read lots of papers.

From this whole experience, I’ve come to realize that research is just the process of asking then answering a question and this process can be applied anywhere, any major, any industry – even social life.

Career Plans:
I plan to pursue a career in consulting after graduation.

How did Dean’s Scholars help you get to where you are today?
DS helped me identify professors (via honors classes, DS Lunches, etc.) I was interested in doing research with. The program provides a diverse network of people, students and faculty. It’s super cool to hear about what people are interested in and where they are going!

What do like the most about DS?
I like the people in DS and the bonding activities that DS Council puts on. We have trips and nice dinners each semester. Some places we’ve been to are Fort Davis, Port Aransas, and Colorado Bend. Spending 9 hours on a bus together is a great way to bond – in addition to the memorable experiences made when you actually arrive.
We often have DS game nights with some kind of food (waffles?! Ice cream?! Hot Chocolate?!) and play board games. Finally there’s the famous DS lunches where we bring professors from across the university to chat and have lunch!

What advice do you have for an incoming DSer?
Go to events and meet people. Not just DS events but university wide events, department specific events etc. Use what you learn to figure out what you’re interested in. Know that your interests change. Never stop learning, never stop asking questions and never stop that self-evaluation.


Meet Patrick Hunt – MS2 in the Baylor College of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program (DS class of 2014)- Major: Biology


At Baylor I am involved as a member of the Pinkie Pinning Anatomy group, as a Anatomy Buddies organizer and tutor, as a member of the BCM MSTP Student Operating Committee, as a member of the BCM MSTP Social Committee, as a Genetics Parents Night Out volunteer, as a From Stress to Strength Autism workshop volunteer, and as a Lector & Eucharistic minister at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.
While at UT, I was involved as a DS Council Member, a researcher in Chris Sullivan’s lab, a TA for Dr. Laude’s CH301/CH302 course, a Senior Resident Assistant at Duren Residence Hall, a Thursday Morning Outreach volunteer at St. Austin’s Catholic Church, and a Parish Pastoral Councilmember at St. Austin’s Catholic Church.

More about me:
One time Chevy Chase’s sister asked me for a ride to New Mexico, but I was busy.

Tell us about your research:
In my senior thesis project, I looked for miRNA regulation of human polyomavirus large T-antigen expression. I found evidence that human polyomaviruses do not regulate large T-antigen expression in the same method that SV40 regulates large T-antigen expression. From this I learned that sometimes a negative result is just as exciting and interesting as a positive one.

Career Plans:
I want to practice as a physician scientist at an academic medical center in the field of neurogenetics. I want to work out better understandings of autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in hopes that understanding can lead to better treatments. It’s important to me to be able to practice medicine, continue research and teach in that position.

How did Dean’s Scholars help you get to where you are today?
DS was by far my favorite thing that I was involved in at UT. I know that conversations that I had with other DSers helped me get excited about learning and about science. This spurred me through research at UT and pushed me to continue researching in graduate school. Opportunities through DS (research, teaching, leadership) helped me learn more about what I wanted out of my career. Lastly, talking to older students in DS allowed me to get perspectives on medical school, research and MD-PhD programs that helped me make decisions about my future career.

What do like the most about DS?
DS is full of so many interesting and fun people and so many people who love to learn. Every conversation that I had with another DSer taught me something new. The mentors in the program (as well as the administrators) were always amazing and really helped us make the most of our time at UT. Honestly, there are too many things about DS that I love.

What advice do you have for an incoming DSer?
Get involved. Be nice to everyone. Make friends with strangers. Enjoy Austin, UT, and DS. And be aggressive with applications – you miss every shot that you don’t take.

Meet Mandy Justiz – 1st year- Majors: Biochemistry and Plan II

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Forty Acres Scholar- Finalist Weekend Planning Committee, Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority, Dean’s Scholars Council

More about me:
“I’m from Austin, and I’m obsessed with fish! I love marine biology, and I actually used to breed fish before college. I also really love to sing, and I used to be in choir in high school.”

Research Accomplishments
Currently in Antibiotics Research Stream, starting work in Dr. Zakon’s Lab

Career Plans:
“I’m learning towards medicine, but still considering research (or research within medicine).”

How did Dean’s Scholars help you get to where you are today?
“Having the weight of the DS name behind you is really incredible and really opened doors for me. Once I was in a DS Friday Lunch and really loved the lecturer, Dr. Zakon. I went up to him afterwards just to talk about fish, but he offered me a position in his lab without knowing anything about me except that I was a Dean’s Scholar.
Having that community of people to fall back on is amazing, especially in such a large university. DS has a really strong social component to it, it isn’t just an academic program. Also, Mark ,the special academic advisor we have, is absolutely incredible- I could to him for anything.”

What advice do you have for an incoming DSer?
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Some of my classes were tough and I wasn’t prepared for them right at the start; reaching out to other DSers and advisors really helped me out. Just because we are in an honors program doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help.”

Other Career Paths

Meet Patrick Haley – 4th year- Majors: Computer Science, Plan II, and Philosophy


Rhodes Scholar Finalist, Chair of DS Council, Editor in chief of the Undergraduate Research Journal, Co-chair of the Research Student Advisory Council, Co-chair of the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship Committee (Friar Society)

From: Austin, TX

Research Accomplishments:
Two 1st author publications, One co-first-author publication, presented at two international conferences

Career Plans:
Graduate school with a PhD in Theology, then become a professor

How did Dean’s Scholars help you get to where you are?
“Being around people who are excelling in their own field and pursuits, even non-academic ones, has pushed me to do the same in my own fields.”

What do you like the most about Dean’s Scholars?
“The program is designed to be a community, not an academic award or a brag session. It’s about people caring for one another and supporting each other in their own pursuits.”

What research do you do, and what have you learned from it?
“I’ve done work using computer simulations to study evolutionary biology and animal behaviors. What I’ve really taken away from this is how computer science can be used to aid other scientific disciplines.”

Meet Mica Kohl – 2nd year- Majors: Computer Science and Social Work


I am fundraising officer of the UT Women’s Rugby team (been to Nationals for past two semesters), and I will be president next year. I individually went to the Rugby National All-Star Training Camp (which recruits for the Collegiate All-American Team) after only one year of playing. I am a member of the Natural Sciences Council, Dean’s Scholars Honors Council, and a senior volunteer at the Austin Child Guidance Center (a low-cost counseling and psychiatric center for children).

More about me:
I have two pet pigs, and I grew up on farm! My mom was in the inaugural class of Dean’s Scholars, too!

Research Accomplishments
Mentor for my FRI lab, Computational Materials, and I was an UGTA for the research methods class all honors freshman have to take.

Career Plans:
I’m still figuring my life out. I want to teach, maybe after I graduate or maybe after I do something else for awhile, but I know I want to find my way back to the classroom. I’m considering going to graduate school to get a master’s in computer science or social work. I think either of those degrees would inform my teaching, and let me do more before I go back to what my passions are!

How did Dean’s Scholars help you get to where you are today?
People here are from different backgrounds, academically and otherwise, so it’s cool to see where they are going and what they are doing.
Everyone is also a really good mentor – helping me figure out my life, academically and otherwise.
It’s nice to see friendly faces on campus, especially in the beginning of school when you don’t know a lot of people. Also, DS is really great about helping you get involved in research as soon as you want to!

What research do you do, and what have you learned from it?
My lab uses computational methods to find, identify, and optimize catalysts to use in lithium-air batteries. It was initially intimidating because it was an interdisciplinary lab, and there was a lot of chemistry involved. However, the environment was really encouraging and it was rewarding to learn about chemistry outside of a classroom setting. It was helpful for me and what I want to do in the future. I want to use computer science as a tool for another discipline, rather than focusing on pure CS. This lab helps me actually do this in a real situation.

What advice do you have for an incoming DSer?
Most importantly, find communities where you are loved, welcomed, and valued. These people can help when you are having a tough time, and it’s important to have a support network like this at a school like UT. You start off with a tight community from Dean’s Scholars, so take advantage of that.