Diana Popa, ‘25, a chemistry major, came to Tennessee Tech University because of the many research opportunities available. What she found in addition, her confidence, will guide the rest of her life.
For Popa, who has a concentration in biochemistry on the pre-medical track with an honors and psychology double minor, Tech’s description of its students as bold, fearless, confident and kind are linked. She believes that being confident comes as a side effect of being bold and fearless. The hardest part of initiating this fearlessness is branching out and getting to know those around you, she said.
For her, it started off with an exchange of awkward smiles, then ‘hellos,’ to eventually close friends, with more and more interactions and friendships being built. She realized that she had the power to decide the person she wanted to be.
She decided that instead of being in the background, she would take the risk to join the Student Government Association. She was asked to be the chemistry showcase magic show assistant and said "Yes!" even if it felt uncomfortable for her at the moment.
“Tech has taught me to say yes to opportunities that arise instead of shying away and staying in my comfort zone,” Popa said. “It is with every step that I have challenged my own abilities that really built up my fearlessness, boldness, and ultimately confidence.”
Popa grew up in Slidell, Louisiana where her parents moved to from Romania three days after 9/11. She lived there for 13 years, then moved to Memphis and graduated from Houston High School.
Popa said she fell in love with Tech’s campus and its beauty. She calls it cozy and homey but just big enough to meet different kinds of people. While the research opportunities available were enticing, she was also encouraged by the many clubs she said could inspire her in her future as a doctor.
“Little did I know, freshman year would make me realize just how many incredible opportunities we have at Tennessee Tech along with amazing teachers and fellow students,” Popa said.
She said a rewarding part of her experience at Tech has been working under Andreea Cojocaru in research. She credits Cojocaru with having a positive impact on her life, which reminds her there are many professors who provide a safe space for students.
“It was an incredible experience going to San Diego for the American Chemistry Society National Research Conference, and I look forward to many more exciting trips that allow me to present my findings,” Popa said.
Moreover, Popa said as a person, she feels rewarded by her friendships. She has become close with many students from the rugby club, her research group, other chemistry majors, honors students and even students just in passing walking to classes.
“It is because of these students that are now my friends that I feel like I have grown tremendously in confidence within myself,” Popa said.