Daughter of Jazz Ambassadors' bassist accepted into rigorous science program

By Lisa R. Rhodes

News story photo
Photo credit: Courtesy of Fort Meade Soundoff
Julia Lopez, daughter of Jazz Ambassadors bassist Master Sgt. Jeffrey Lopez, is a graduate of Meade High School, class of 2010.
Julia Lopez likes to dissect dead cats.
She spent the summer of her freshman year at Meade High School in a pre-college human anatomy class at Brown University in Providence, R.I. She dissected cats and their internal organs and also drilled holes in their skulls to examine their brains.

"It was awesome," said Lopez, a graduate of the class of 2010. "It cemented my love of human anatomy and physiology."

The 18-year-old has been accepted into the competitive Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to study biochemistry and pre-med. She aspires to become a heart surgeon and a medical researcher who builds human organs.

Lopez will receive a $15,000 annual scholarship for four years of study. The remaining $7,000 of the program's $22,000 annual tuition will be covered by her parents and other scholarships, such as $750 from the Association of the U.S. Army Fairfax-Lee chapter, and a $2,360 Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship from the Army Emergency Relief Fund.

"I was very happy; that's been my goal," said Lopez about her admittance to the program. "I've been working very hard."

The Meyerhoff Scholars Program was created at UMBC in 1988 to address the shortage of blacks, especially black men, who successfully pursue careers in science and engineering.

The nomination-based application process is open to prospective freshmen of all backgrounds who plan to pursue a doctorate in the sciences or engineering. Each year about 500 to 600 applicants vie for a spot in a class of 50 to 60 students.

"It is wonderful that [Lopez] was recognized as a Meyerhoff scholar," said Jonathan Putt, chairperson of the Meade High counseling department who nominated Lopez for the program. "She certainly earned it, and 100 percent without reservation, deserves it."

Lopez was enrolled in Meade's International Baccalaureate Program and had a weighted GPA of 4.3. She scored a 2020 on her senior SAT and completed IB chemistry and biology, which are the academic equivalent of an Advanced Placement class in those subjects. Lopez ranked 14 out of a class of 438.

"Julia embodies many of the traits of the IB Learner Profile. She is an inquirer, thinker, open-minded, knowledgeable and reflective," said Jennifer Quinn, coordinator of the IB program at Meade High. "I'm so excited for her."

Admittance to the Meyerhoff Scholars Program was not the only achievement for Lopez. She was offered $115,600 from Johns Hopkins University; $68,000 from Stevenson University; $28,000 from Towson University; $26,000 from York College of Pennsylvania; and a president's fellow award of $8,000 from UMBC.

Lopez was awarded the second-highest amount of scholarship offers in her class, totaling about $360,000.

She said she chose the Meyerhoff Scholars Program because it prepares students for admittance to the best medical, graduate and doctoral science programs in the country.

Initially, Lopez planned to be an interior designer. "My entire family is artistic," she said.

Her father, Master Sgt. Jeffrey Lopez, plays bass with the Jazz Ambassadors of the U.S. Army Field Band. Her mother, Hazel, was once a dancer and now works as a supply technician with IAP World Services. Older sister, Melody, is a sophomore at Towson University studying illustration.

"We're quite excited," said Jeffrey Lopez about his daughter's achievement. "This is the first step of many steps toward her goal."

Lopez's interest in science and medicine were sparked after she took a biology class in her freshman year. "It opened my eyes and I fell in love," she said, noting she enjoyed the classwork and the discovery of learning new things about life and living organisms. "I decided to be a doctor."

Just last month, her father found an article online about the work of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology in tissue engineering. The researchers are exploring ways to build new human organs by encapsulating living cells in cubes and arranging them into 3-D structures. The technique is called micromasonry.

The Meade High graduate was fascinated. "My goal would be to build the [human] organs and put them in [the body]," Lopez said

After she completes the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, Lopez intends to enter an MD/Ph.D program so she can eventually practice medicine and conduct research in the field.

During the next four years, Lopez said she hopes she can land an internship at MIT to "see all of its wonders" and learn more about micromasonry.

"It's hard to believe you can build something that grows inside the human body," she said. "It kind of defies nature, but I like it."

Editor's note: In the June 17 issue of Soundoff! Lisa Rhodes began an educational series highlighting four Meade High School graduates awarded scholarships to college or accepted to military academies this fall. Julia Lopez is the final graduate in the series. Information for this story was taken from http://www.umbc.edu/meyerhoff/ and http://web.mit.edu/press/2010/tissue-legos.html.

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