Seven professionals in a variety of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career fields provided insight into STEM-related careers to a roomful of Galveston College students during a STEM Career Panel on Oct. 2 in the Seibel Wing.


The seven panelists included Michael Merritt, Lab Tech I for Karbach Brewing Company, Dr. Irma Cisneros, Director for Neuroinfectious Diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Alejandra Martinez, seventh grade Science Teacher for the Eagle Pass Independent School District, Jessica Rydlund, Core Technician at Lonza, a biotech manufacturing company, Michelle Johnston, Research Coordinator and Acting Superintendent for the Flower Garden Marine Sanctuary, Kait Brogan, Vessel Operations Coordinator for NOAA Corps with Flower Gardens Banks and Luis Hernandez, Lead Systems Analyst and Database Administrator for Galveston College.


During the career panel, the panelists were asked questions by GC student moderators Rain Ebbett and Xochitl Ramirez about their careers, educational journey and experiences.


“Growing up, I really liked math and science, and I wanted to be an engineer. I went to a university first and dropped out, and I didn’t realize I was forfeiting a bunch of money,” said Rydlund, who works in the biotech field for Lonza as a core technician. “I went back to school, but to a community college taking general studies. I got more grounded. It was eye-opening. There was a lot more diversity in student age groups and I took advantage of all the resources a community college has. It was a good opportunity for me to figure out what I wanted to do and figure out my pathway.”


Galveston College Lead System Analyst and Database Administrator, Luis Hernandez, described how he overcame barriers during his educational journey that led him to a career in a STEM-related field.


“You have to break barriers up in small chunks,” said Hernandez. “I took the approach of asking the simplest of questions, ‘Why?’ Like when you were a little kid. I also worked while I went to school so it took a little longer, but I reached my goal.”


The Director for Neuroinfectious Disease Initiative at UTMB, Dr. Irma Cisneros, shared with the students how she was introduced to a career in STEM.


“My parents didn’t know how to support me,” said Cisneros. “I saw the movie ‘Outbreak’ and I thought it was so cool, seeing people running around in big yellow bio suits helping solve a problem.”


Research Coordinator and Interim Superintendent for the Flower Garden Banks, Dr. Michelle Johnston, discussed how her passion for marine life became her career and the importance of networking.


“I grew up in Ohio and went to Sea World when I was young and I knew then that I wanted to be a marine biologist,” said Johnston. “I left Ohio to go to college. I came from humble beginnings so I couldn’t afford not to work while in school. I worked at Disney for a year and later got an advanced internship at Disney. I also got to live on a remote barrier island in South Carolina and then worked at a sea turtle hospital and got to rehab turtles. It’s all about networking and getting to know people.”


Prior to and after the event, students had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the panelists and ask questions about their chosen careers and experiences.


The STEM Career Panel was generously funded by the National Science Foundation HSI Program (Grant No. 2122825).


For more information about STEM programs at Galveston College, visit



Galveston College was founded in 1967 and is a comprehensive community college providing the residents of Galveston Island and the surrounding region with academic, workforce development, continuing education and community service programs.