Fresno State senior and Buchanan High School grad Sydney Fox has earned many accolades as a Smittcamp Family Honors College Scholar and a cross country/track and field athlete.
Fox holds several school records and ranks as the fourth-fastest cross country athlete in Fresno State history. However, as graduation nears, she is trading in her athletic kicks for lab coats.
Fox was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for the full 2022-2023 academic year in Iceland, where she will study the effects of microplastics in the human body.
“I’m kind of having a weird mix of emotions, honestly the past couple of months. It’s one of those where the finish line is so close and I’m ready to get my degree,” said Fox. “I’ve never lived long term outside of Fresno, so it’ll be interesting to see what the next chapter holds, especially after Iceland.”
A Change of Plans
As Fox prepares to graduate this spring, she reflects on her years at Fresno State. She admits that she wasn’t always sure about what she wanted to study and switched majors several times.
At various points, Fox has aspired to be a Broadway actor, a sports journalist, and a psychologist. Now she’s looking at an M.D./Ph.D. with a career focus in neurology or emergency medicine.
“I guess since like freshman year I’ve been drawn towards neuroscience, I always wanted to do possibly trauma research,” said Fox. I’ve been very fortunate that both through athletics and on my own time, I’ve been able to volunteer with Valley Children’s, which is somewhere where I had to go to a lot as a kid for different medical procedures and so that opened my eyes.”
During her spring break, Fox finished taking the MCAT and, while she has to wait a whole month for the results, she’s excited about joining the research team in Iceland.
“The more I got involved in the medical field, the more I see myself serving in different realms and I’m noticing how the concepts of both healthcare and sustainability have been interacting in almost every field that I’ve made my way into,” said Fox.
Microplastics Found in Icelandic Polar Ice Caps
Fox was told about the scholarship opportunity by one of her professors. However, it wasn’t until recently that she realized how microplastics are affecting the human body. New research shows plastic particles are turning up in human blood.
She reached out to the professor overseeing the fellowship, Dr. Hlynur Stefánsson at Reykjavik University in Iceland, who encouraged her to apply.
“He was like, I know that you reached out because of your interest in this project, but because of your biochemistry background we could really use your help on this project,” Fox said
The project will try to develop a procedure that can quantitatively and qualitatively analyze and identify microplastics found in the Vatnajökull Ice Cap — the largest by volume in Europe.
“Figuring out which kind of microplastics and how concentrated they are there is super important if we are to further advocate for regulations of certain types of plastics,” said Fox.
Watch: What Is Fulbright?
Sustainability in Action
Since joining the Sustainability club at Fresno State, Fox has advocated for sustainable solutions in the Fresno community.
She admits that “sustainability” is often used as a buzzword when, in reality, she sees sustainability in every sector of society and human life.
“People think of plastic straws, the environment, and climate change, but the word sustainability is really just about sustaining something over time,” said Fox.
Fox wants healthcare to be sustainable by creating a plan that’s feasible for everyone. The key ingredients: ensuring that people enjoy long and healthy lives by being diagnosed on time and receiving the care they deserve.
“That means building institutions where we can get out to rural or impoverished areas where health care isn’t otherwise accessible, and that’s where I really feel my heart being pulled,” said Fox.
Her Goal: A Thriving Fresno for All
Last summer, Fox worked at a community garden in west Fresno through AmeriCorps. The experience opened her eyes to the reality of food deserts and the challenges low-income communities face in accessing healthy, affordable food.
“I’m hoping that I can continue to build my education and advocate for the populations that we have here in the Central Valley,” said Fox. “I love Fresno and I want to see it continue to be a thriving city and I don’t want to see the system deteriorate because we’re putting into practice systems that can’t keep themselves held up forever.”
As Fox awaits her MCAT results, she has already taken the extra step of finishing up her EMT license.
“So optimally, I would start medical school when I came back (from Iceland) but unfortunately, the med school application process is a year long,” said Fox. “It’s pretty intensive, which is the reason why I’m not doing the applications this upcoming year. I want to focus my energy on this fellowship that I’ve been so graciously offered.”