What do you do?
My work focuses on the profiling of cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) in ultra-processed foods part of the Western diet, and the analysis of their toxicological effects in human health. It consists of a lot of bench work and cooking of popular food items in the US population to evaluate their COPs content and investigate more about their role in different chronic diseases.
Why did you choose this field?
I never thought I could work in this area! This was something totally new for me. As a chemical engineer, I started in the renewable energy field and did research work for almost 3 years. Unfortunately, things didn’t go how I expected. My first advisor (or PI) moved to a different university and had to leave. I was given the option to “finish” with a Master degree (thing that I did agree with) but that wasn’t my goal. I wanted to become a doctor in science so I took the hard decision of starting from “scratch” with a new advisor, and here I am, three years later, months away of defending my thesis! I feel extremely proud of being able to complete my PhD in just 3 years, since I started with a totally new topic in the Food and Health Engineering area where I could use my knowledge in chemical engineering! Special thanks to my new advisor, Dr. Ilce Medina-Meza, which has been WONDERFUL and extremely supportive in this whole process.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Passing my comprehensive was something I didn’t think was possible for me! I was told that starting with a new research topic was going to be impossible and unworthy, but I can say, I proved them wrong! In just a short amount of time (just 3 years) I was able to to pass my exam, present my work in front of the entire faculty, and even, was able to win 2 different awards in the same year because of my academic and research progress. Additionally, I applied and completed my application for a dual degree in the Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department. A lot of achievements! I would tell my younger self: “YOU CAN DO THIS! And you WILL!”
Why do you love working in STEM?
Since a kid I loved everything related to science. My family is full of teachers! And I had the pleasure of being taught biology, chemistry and health course by my own MOTHER! (It was very DIFFICULT at that time but now I see it as a blessing) I love the fact that with science you can do and work with everything that surrounds the world. You can contribute in a more efficient way and get that rewarding feeling of knowing that you help someone in someway at the end of a project. I look forward to keep working in research and most important, to work with younger generations, guiding them through this entire academic process. Becoming a mentor is one of my biggest goals.
Best advice for next generation?
You can do it. You are capable of changing the world little by little, and we all NEED you. This is our time and no one can stop you! Reach out other women and get together. Together, we are stronger!
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice” - Bob Marley