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NEURO Honored Graduate: How Amos Avila’s Faith Made All the Difference

Before coming to BYU, Avila felt like “just one guy from South America,” a “no-one" just trying to find a better opportunity. But that changed during his time at the university. “For the first time, I believed that I could make it,” he shares.

Avila poses with arms folded in his lab. Light skin, brown hair, mustache, with a white wall background.
Photo by Tanner Frost

Amos Avila (NEURO ’24) learned to love reading while growing up. His mother would award him and his siblings with a new book if they earned good grades each school year. After doing well in his first year of high school, Avila chose a book with an intriguing depiction of the human brain on the cover. It was about the neuroscience of creativity. Little did he know that book would impact his trajectory in life and help lead him to study neuroscience.

Spiritual Roots and Neuroscience

Avila's grandfather, the photo of yellowish brown color. he wear's a suit and tie.
Avila's grandfather who was a counselor in Argentina's first stake presidency and the first Argentine to be a mission president.
Photo by Amos Avila

Avila’s desire to attend BYU in Provo stemmed from his dream to live near the spiritual roots of his church, where many around him shared the same values and beliefs. His ancestors were some of the first people in Argentina to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he wanted to attend the university that was founded and supported by the Church. Avila is grateful for his ancestors and feels “so blessed because people in Utah decided to go on a mission.”

A few months after coming to BYU, Avila joined Dr. Jeffery Edwards’ lab, studying memory, learning, and addiction. Avila has enjoyed getting a taste of several aspects of neuroscience in Edwards' lab. He is grateful for the many opportunities working in the Edwards lab afforded him, including the opportunity to participate in several professional conferences.

As a result of his studies and research, Avila feels he is more sensitive to the needs of others. Understanding the biology behind addictions or other maladaptive behaviors has made him less judgmental towards himself and others. While he knows that everyone has the agency to choose, learning about neuroscience has helped Avila understand God’s love and patience. "He knows how hard it is to achieve [our] potential,” he reflects.

Avila works with a syringe under a a hood with glass. The shot is taken from the side.
Photo by Tanner Frost

Faith Made All the Difference

In Avila’s first year at BYU, he started to believe he could succeed in his classes, but more than that, he truly started to believe in Christ and what He said about divine potential. “I believed in Him all my life, but for the first time—when he says that I have the potential to have an eternal family and actually go back to Him—I finally believed him.”

Avila’s experiences at BYU have helped him strengthen his testimony and his faith that things will work out. “I didn't achieve what I achieved because I am who I am,” he says. “I achieved what I achieved because the Lord was there with me. And I think that is the sweetest thing I learned during my time at BYU.” With this faith and testimony, Avila will pursue a PhD in neuroscience this fall.