I believe that God is the Master Scientist. . . . The greatest thing I've gained from BYU is the ability to think critically and make connections within science and religion.
A short ten-year-old girl leans on the steps in front of her and looks up at the massive, white-domed structure with two building wings stretching out on either side. Washington D.C. was a significant jump from north Salt Lake City, but Caitlin Silva (PWS ’23) came with a purpose: to advocate for disability-friendly policies on behalf of her two younger sisters, who have cystic fibrosis. This is one of several projects Silva participated in throughout her childhood to raise money for disease research and advocate for patients. These experiences cemented her desire to study genetics and pursue a career in genetic counseling.
Silva is all about choosing ‘and’ instead of ‘or.’
She knows she can be a mother and a scientist, as her research mentor Dr. Mary Davis taught her. “[Dr. Davis] sees my potential that sometimes I don't even see in myself,” Silva shares. “And [she] has given me the opportunity to try to reach . . . greater goals than I would have set for myself.” After submitting an abstract and poster to the American Society of Human Genetics conference, Silva chose not to present, despite being the lead author, because she was nine months pregnant. But she did everything in her power under the circumstances instead of imposing limits on herself and not submitting anything.
Silva celebrates that she can struggle with mental illness and help others who are facing challenges. Silva's found that the work she’s done for herself in therapy has given her empathetic skills that improve her work with the Crisis Text Line and as a Relief Society teacher.
For Silva, spiritual and secular learning fit together. Her professors, particularly Dr. David Jarvis, helped her understand how the content she learned in lecture halls and labs fits into God's larger plan. “I believe that God is the Master Scientist . . . The greatest thing I’ve gained from BYU is the ability to think critically and make connections within science and religion,” she says.
Both her past and present have guided her toward her current path. “I have a grandfather I never met, and an aunt I never met [who] I was named after . . . and both of them were scientists,” Silva explains. “I do believe that there's ministering angels, and that I was given some predisposition. Part of that might have been from ancestors before me that loved science, and part of it was my unique family experience.”
That ten-year-old who stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to advocate for disabled people has grown into a woman who sees the bigger picture, finds interdisciplinary connections, pushes her boundaries, and challenges expectations. Silva says she is excited to take what she’s learned and “help others develop and see their own divine potential and nature.”