What is your hometown?
A: I was born in Salinas, which is in an agricultural area of central CA. Salinas is best known for being one of the largest producers of lettuce and as the birthplace of author John Steinbeck!
Why did you decide to participate in SIMS/SACNAS (How did you hear about the programs?)
A: I heard about SIMS from an email that was sent to me and it sounded like a wonderful opportunity! I chose to participate because it was a great way to get a head start on classes, become familiar with campus, and meet new friends all before school even started! It was a wonderful experience and I continue to encourage incoming students to apply and participate in the program! I heard about SACNAS at SIMS and began attending meetings my first year at UCSB. SACNAS is a great organization focused on promoting diversity and ethnic minorities in the STEM fields, which I believe is incredibly important. The UCSB Chapter has a history of being a support network for all who are in STEM, but focused on fostering success in minorities in STEM. It was a rewarding experience helping our members and the greater community through workshops, talks, networking events, and outreach programs while also developing my own leadership skills.
Tell me about your experience in SIMS/SACNAS
A: SIMS was amazing, exhausting, intensive, and enlightening! The transition to college was made easier having participated in SIMS and I even got more sleep once school actually started! The best part was the network of people that I met: other incoming students who became my friends, as well as instructors, faculty, and CSEP staff that became incredible mentors and resources. I loved SIMS so much that I worked as an Academic Peer the following year and served as the coordinator in 2013.
SACNAS played a critical role in my undergraduate experience. As an officer and then co-president of the UCSB chapter, I developed my own leadership skills and had many networking and professional development opportunities. I was able to meet people from different backgrounds and with different interests, and who support a similar mission. SACNAS is like a little family away from home where everyone is happy to help and support one another. Since joining SACNAS, I have attended 4 national conferences (3 of which were during undergrad) and 1 regional conference. At these conferences, I had the privilege of presenting my research to an audience and learning about the many different graduate programs available to me across the country.
When participating in SIMS/SACNAS, was there anything that surprised you?
A: SIMS is described as an intensive program and yet, I still underestimated how jam packed the program is, but it was great! Something that was surprising was how friendly and approachable the UCSB faculty is, which I learned through the Dinner with Faculty event during SIMS. This was something that I continued to see throughout my 4 years at UCSB.
There wasn’t anything super surprising about SACNAS, but I was impressed with how much SACNAS did and continues to do for the members and the community. It’s wonderful to see students continue the great work and make events/programs better each year.
What motivated you to become involved in leadership with SACNAS?
A: I hadn’t planned on becoming a SACNAS officer, but Sergio Sanchez (co-president at the time) and Ofi both told me that they thought I would be a good person for the Social Events Coordinator! I believed (and still believe) in the SACNAS mission and decided it would be a great opportunity to gain leadership experience while contributing to the great work that UCSB SACNAS continues to do.
What are you most proud of from your experience as a SACNAS president?
A: I’m proud of many things! During my time as SACNAS co-president:
We expanded our annual spring outreach event to 50 students. We established an officer position to take the lead on planning the annual Spring Outreach event, which helped us stay better organized in the planning process. In fact, the first person who took on this new position was a former participant of the program! We became an official co-host of the Science and Technology MESA Day with MESA, LI, and NSBE. We won SACNAS Chapter Role Model Awards in 2012 (Outstanding Long-Term Sustainability) and 2013 (Outstanding Governance). We hosted now Nobel Laureate, Shuji Nakamura, at one our Lunch with Faculty events and had Academy Award Winner Theodore Kim as a guest speaker!
How did your experience in SIMS help you stick with science and engineering?
A: SIMS provided the wonderful opportunity to get ahead in my classes and experience hands-on research, which encouraged me to pursue additional research and extracurricular opportunities. Through SIMS, I also established a connection to CSEP and the great network of staff, faculty, graduate students, and peers. They became mentors and friends that guided me through the challenges of being a STEM major.
Did getting started in research early in your undergraduate degree make a difference?
A: It absolutely made a difference! I was able work in 3 different labs, learning about new fields and determining what areas of research I was most interested in pursuing. I knew, fairly early on, that I wanted to pursue a PhD and I was able to start preparing for graduate school in my junior year.
What did you study in your undergrad, and what are you studying now in graduate school/what are you doing for your research?
A: I majored in mechanical engineering and through my research experiences as well as my engineering electives, I found my interest in medical devices and biomedical research. In applying to graduate school, I looked for labs and universities that had interdisciplinary research that would blend my mechanical engineering background with applications in the biomedical field. I now work in the Orthopaedic and Developmental Biomechanics Lab at Boston University where I study how mechanical stimulation can alter bone healing and regeneration.
What motivated you to go onto graduate school?
A: I knew I enjoyed doing research and wanted to continue learning. Graduate school has allowed me to dive deeper into an area that I’m interested in and I feel that I am making a significant contribution my area of research.
What are your future plans? How did being involved in SIMS and SACNAS leadership influence these plans?
A: I currently have several thoughts on what my next steps will be. I am interested in R&D for a medical device company, which would hopefully be related to orthopedics. I am also very interested in STEM education and I believe it’s very important that we educate the public and younger generations about STEM. I was heavily involved in various outreach programs at UCSB through CSEP, SACNAS, and LI/MESA and have continued my involvement at BU through GWISE (Graduate Women in Science and Engineering). Whether it would be a full-time job or volunteering, I hope to continue being involved with STEM outreach, particularly to women/girls and ethnic minorities. I also have a growing interest in science policy; it’s important that we have scientists and engineers helping to inform policies that affect society. I have been considering applying for a science policy fellowship after I complete my PhD.
What did you want to be when you were younger? Is that still an interest of yours?
A: When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher. I considered that career until high school, where I took as many science classes as I could and participated in summer programs in STEM; I developed a passion for science/engineering and knew I wanted to pursue a career in STEM. This past school year, I have been a part of a fellowship program in which I was paired with a middle school science teacher and taught 2 days a week in the classroom. I have grown to appreciate even more, the hard work and effort that teachers put in every day to help their students succeed! However, I don’t think being a teacher, in the conventional sense, is something I want to pursue.
Do you have any advice for people interested in participating in CSEP programs and/or becoming an engineering major?
A: My pieces of advice are:
- Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way
- Network and find good mentors
- It’s okay to ask for help, you don’t have to do it alone
What do you like to do for fun? (What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?)
A: I enjoy reading and cooking/baking. I love to travel, explore new places, and learn about different cultures. My favorite subject in school was actually history, so I love going to museums, learning about everything and anything. Boston has so many museums and historical landmarks; I’ve been to many of them, but there are still plenty that are on my list! I also enjoy attending Broadway shows, ballets, and symphony performances – the great advantage of living in city like Boston! :)