Alumni Stories

Are you a UCAS alumnus or alumna? Send us your story!  
Contact us at

I definitely don't have the most exciting story of all the UCAS alumni. I still follow many of my friends from the UCAS class of 2010, and I'm fascinated by where we've all ended up so far. I know one is an epidemiologist, another is an astrophysicist, another works at google, another is an audio engineer, another is a librarian (and I hear she runs the best reading times for children) ... and I know that's just the tip of the iceberg.

As for me, I'm working on a PhD, so you can probably call me a "career student". After graduating from UCAS, I went on a two year mission for my church to Romania. I married my best friend of six years (a UCAS alumnus that I took to Sophomore prom) soon after I returned. I then received a BSMS from the University of Utah in mechanical engineering and robotics and went to work at Hill Air Force Base as a missile maintenance process engineer. Two years ago, I started a PhD at the University of Florida in Electrical Engineering. I'm on scholarship to work at Kirtland Air Force Base on satellite autonomy after I graduate. Most importantly though, my wife Ashley and I have three children, ages 5, 3, and 9 months - my little adventure buddies.

It's been 11 years since graduating, and my experiences at UCAS still deeply affect my life for the good. I find it hard to explain what I loved so much about UCAS, but if I had to break it down it would probably be that the administration trusted us, the teachers saw great things in us (and expected great things), and we had UVU as a playground to try out what we were learning in "real life". Most importantly, the UCAS student body was tight knit and inclusive. I was not an especially outgoing person, but I felt like I could go to the AC anytime and talk to anyone about how things were going. It felt like we were all in it together, just trying to be our best and figure out who we were. I don't know exactly how you create an environment like that, but we had it, and I am so grateful.

To UCASians today, I hope the environment of UCAS is just as empowering for you today as it was for us. But more importantly, I hope you realize your part in creating such an environment. Take charge of your education and take care of the people around you. Value your differences. It makes all the difference.  

After graduating from UCAS in 2014, I served an LDS mission in the Phillippines. After coming home, I became a "career student." I graduated from BYU with a degree in Epidemiology, got married, and then went to Yale to get a Master's of Public Health in Microbial Disease Epidemiology. The global pandemic hit while I was getting this degree. As such, I've been able to work forefront of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic doing disease surveillance, contact tracing, phylogenetics, and even worked in a lab that helped make the first spit test (we got to work with the NBA and NFL; to say I was excited would be an understatement). 

I graduated in the spring of 2021 from Yale, but I'm sticking around to get a Ph.D. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. 

Looking back at the doors that UCAS opened and the skill I learned there, I don't think I'd be where I am today had I not gone. UCAS taught me how to work and study the right way well before I really needed to. The faculty and staff created an environment that let me grow and figure things out while knowing how to push me beyond complacency. For that, I am extremely grateful. 

I graduated from UCAS in 2014, served an LDS mission, graduated from BYU Electrical Engineering in 2020, I am now working at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth Texas developing missiles.  

I was actually recommended by my Jr. High Counselor to go to UCAS. He felt I had the ability to do well there. And he was right! I learned a lot from UCAS and it actually helped open a lot of doors for me then and now. I am a first gen student, which means I am the first from my family to graduate college and get a degree. For me, UCAS was an opportunity I wasn't going to let go because I wanted to do something different in my life and make an impact in the world. Challenges I had while at UCAS were more personal struggles, but I was able to get through them with the help of the office staff and my teachers. Everyone wanted you to do your best and would help you in any way they could! If you needed help with school work, they would come before or stay after school. If you needed someone to talk to, they were always there and always willing to listen and give you advice. Without the support from everyone there, I wouldn't be where I am today. After UCAS, I stayed at UVU to get my Bachelors of Science in Family Science. Going to UCAS, cut the time to get that in half and I got it before I was 21! During my Bachelors, I had to do an internship with the Strengthening Families program and interned at Care about Child Care. The first program helped me work with families and be able to teach skills to their children. We taught them activities they could use to communicate better, share emotions with each other, and more. The second program, I helped prep things for meetings and trainings. I also helped organize all the material they use for their classes and trainings to correspond with the correct age level or group setting. These two programs helped change families in positive ways and teach them great skills and the other one helps educators, professors, and more be able to learn more about Child development and skills needed for their career areas. 
Now with my degree, I have moved to Oregon and I am currently working with Salem-Keizer School District. My degree is allowing me to work with middle schoolers in the classroom and assist with each child's needs. This is eventually helping me to become a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Child Therapy. I am hoping to apply to Grad school next year.

Read about Curt's amazing research in phages and pathogens.

It was January 19, 2017 when my friend Garret pitched the idea: “What if we used phages to cure disease?” We were sitting in the computer lab discussing what the next “big idea” could be in
science—something UCAS nerds often do on a Friday afternoon.

Since then, I’ve been involved in virus hunting, from bacteriophages to dangerous pathogens with pandemic potential. I remember back in 2018 giving a midterm presentation in Ms. Hay’s (now Mrs. Hay-Laubaugh’s) career exploration class about my future career in phage therapy. I told my classmates that one day I would work with scientists across the world to advance phage research and save lives. Today, I am on track towards that vision.

After graduating from UCAS, I got to be the first intern at the first phage therapy center in North America, UC San Diego’s IPATH, or the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics. Since its inception, other phage therapy centers have been established in India, Europe, and Australia, most notably in the UK after a Parliament hearing on “the antimicrobial potential of bacteriophages.” The World Economic Forum recently listed “designer phages” as one of the top ten emerging technologies of 2023, among innovations like flexible batteries and generative AI.

Since my introduction to phages at UCAS, I have been involved with colleagues from across the globe on advancing phage therapy as an alternative solution in the antibiotic resistance crisis. Phage therapy is now a hot topic among many groups, including biotech, agriculture, government, health care, and academia. One time, as a student at BYU, I received an email about a patient who was on the verge of death from a multidrug-resistant infection—a sea turtle named Shelly. I connected BYU’s phage labs with the phage therapy center and Yale University, and we were able to save Shelly’s life. This bench-to-bedside approach inspired other undergraduate students to get involved in phage research.

Since 2020, my interests have taken a turn from studying helpful viruses to understanding harmful ones. I worked on Covid-19 research and got to observe consortiums from government, academia, and philanthropy on ways to combat the pandemic. One of the most potent ways to combat future pandemic threats is through education. During the Covid-19 crisis, I joined a group at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard who are developing a new discipline called outbreak science. As you and many UCAS students know, we are iterating our program Operation Outbreak to safely simulate viral outbreaks in a classroom in order to teach via experiential learning. Our team at the Broad is writing the first textbook, Outbreak Science, which spans virtually every facet of an outbreak, from pathogens to politics.
In two months, I will graduate with my Bachelor’s degree at BYU, and the world is wide open for more virus hunting. Currently I am an intern at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in Bangkok at the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Disease Clinical Centre. Thailand fared well during the early stages of Covid, and I am meeting with leaders from the Thai government, healthcare, and academics to learn why. Particularly, I am here to learn Thai culture and scholarship, and to foster relationships between researchers who study outbreak science. Fascinated by books like The Hot Zone by Richard Preston and Outbreak Culture by Pardis Sabeti and Lara Salahi, I get to learn something new each day about the daunting nature of pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.

For my Ph.D. program, I plan to do surveillance research of Arenaviruses (e.g., Lassa virus, a deadly hemorrhagic pathogen endemic in West Africa) in animals and humans in Thailand. This will be through scientists at U.S. NIH, Oxford University, and Mahidol University in Thailand. 

Here are some good sources for students interested in phage therapy:

●    IPATH:
●    Phage Directory:
●    The Perfect Predator:
●    The Good Virus:

Here are some good sources for students interested in outbreak science:

●    Crash Course Outbreak Science:
●    Operation Outbreak:
●    Epidemic Tracker:
●    Prevent Epidemics:
●    Predicting Pandemics:

Curtis Hoffman

When I first learned I was accepted at UCAS, I was honestly a little nervous. I’d attended the orientation and filled out the paperwork, so I had some idea of how difficult this early college high school was expected to be. It was certainly difficult and stressful at times; I would sometimes spend hours on homework and stay up late to finish assignments. My struggle with mental illness made it more difficult at times, even made it seem impossible. But the thing I was not anticipating fully before I attended UCAS was the level of support I would so gratefully receive.

Math is definitely not my strong suit, and it never has been. At my old charter school, I would stay after school weekly just to get help on the latest assignment. UCAS was no different. The first day of Math 1010, I was skeptical. My instructor, Mr. Schiffman, seemed strict beyond any math teacher I’d had before. But as the semester progressed, I was pleasantly surprised: not only was he hilarious during every lesson, but he was willing to help students as much as he could so that they could succeed in his class. What amazed me the most was that even though he also taught at UVU in the evenings, he would leave his room open long after the bell rang so students could ask questions and get help with that day’s homework. He stayed right until he needed to walk across campus to his other class. It amazed me that with the added stress of teaching a college course, he stayed anyway and devoted his time to helping struggling students like myself when he could have been grading assignments or preparing for his next class. Thanks to his and my efforts, I was able to pass both Math 1010 and Math 1050. He even wrote in my yearbook that my level of understanding had grown faster than almost anything else he’d seen.

Mr. Schiffman was not the only person I give credit to my success. I also had the help of Mrs. Derbidge, now the principal of the Orem campus, who was also a former Math teacher. She used to teach my sisters! I would sometimes go to her office before a test I had that day to get help, and she obliged! I would even sit in the front office on one of the few chairs so she could walk me through the correct steps. She sacrificed some of her valuable time as a principal to help one struggling student. When she had things to do to keep the school up and running, she chose to help me instead. So if you struggle with any subject whatsoever, know that you have so much support from every angle. Even if that angle means showing up at the front office trying to hold back tears.

As a UCAS alumni, I promise that you have support. I promise that everyone in that building wants you to succeed, even if it doesn’t seem like it at times. I promise that you can do anything with the support of those who want to see your success.

I also give my thanks especially to Lorraine Rupper, Rebecca Laubaugh, Julie Schiffman, and Randon Olson for helping me to make it through my sophomore, junior, and senior years. I will always miss the UCAS faculty and staff! Thank you for giving your support and giving me the opportunity to share my story. As for my fellow UCASians and future graduates, I say this: You can do it!

Partnered with the Utah Valley University