David Sanchez Godinez

Oakes '21, molecular, cell, and developmental biology

David Sanchez Godinez (Oakes '21, molecular, cell, and developmental biology)
David Sanchez Godinez (Oakes '21, molecular, cell, and developmental biology)

When David Sanchez Godinez was a boy, he used to ask his parents question after question about the way things worked. 

He wanted to understand the inner workings of the world. 

“It was annoying for my parents to deal with, but they did a great job of encouraging me to explore whatever caught my interest,” Sanchez said. 

At the time, he had no idea that the world was full of unsolved mysteries. 

“I always assumed that most things had already been discovered,” he said. 

While working on a research report in his biology class at Granada High School, Sanchez discovered that the textbook answers were in short supply. It was up to him to make his way forward. 

“I realized that research was relevant, and there are still big problems to solve," Sanchez said. “For some reason, that made a lightbulb flash in my brain.”

Sanchez arrived at UC Santa Cruz with a passion for scientific exploration, but adjusting to college life was a challenge. A first-generation college student, he could not turn to his parents for advice about coping and thriving at a university.

“It was on me to apply myself and make use of my college education,” he said. “I think being thrown into independence is difficult, and I’m definitely lucky to have been surrounded by hard-working and caring people.”

Taking a full load of science classes and getting hands-on learning honed his scientific knowledge—especially his experience working as an undergraduate researcher in the Doug Kellogg Lab, where he studied the ways budding yeast translate their growth into signals that drive cell cycle progression. 

“Courses teach you about important fundamentals in the field, but applying that knowledge to a scientific question is a whole other learning experience,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez was a fellow in the UC Santa Cruz’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, which trains high-achieving students to help prepare them for entry into graduate programs leading to a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences. 

Funded through the National Institutes of Health, the MARC Program's goals are to increase the numbers and success rates of underrepresented scientists and to prepare students for biomedical research careers. 

He also made time to do peer outreach as vice president of UC Santa Cruz’s Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) chapter, helping students thrive during a time of social distancing and online classes. 

“Volunteering and giving back to my community are important because those principles helped me get to where I am today," he said. “I had teachers who went above and beyond for me, and that passion helped shape who I am. My mentor in the lab does not get paid to train and mentor me, but his patience and encouragement have shaped who I am as a scientist.

“That is why I try my best to give back to my community,” Sanchez said. "With SACNAS, we show students from all walks of life that STEM is for everyone. It isn’t a field exclusive to men or rich people, and anyone can enjoy what nature has to offer.”

Sanchez thought about taking a break and relaxing a bit before heading off to graduate school. Instead, he is going directly into the UC San Francisco’s Tetrad Ph.D. program, which provides rigorous and innovative training in science and biotechnology. 

“Actually, I’m going to do a summer rotation in the lab there, as well!” he said. “I’m looking forward to training to become a better scientist.”