As a young Chicana, I grew up in a small Northern New Mexico town named Ojo Sarco. I was taught to work hard with my hands and live off the land.
Growing up in this kind of rural community, working and playing outside was normal for me, just as problem solving is now. I found myself being creative and finding ways to help my family construct a livable home or simply fix something that was broken, which generally meant using simple geometry and mathematics.
This motivated me to love school and led to my true interest in mathematics and a teacher who pushed me to pursue engineering.
My mother was a single mother and expected nothing less than A’s on my report card, which ultimately lead me to graduating high school as valedictorian. As a first-generation college student, my mother and I knew I should go to college but did not know how to afford it.
After submitting many scholarship applications, I was able to afford my entire undergraduate career and pursue my dream of being a mechanical engineer.
During my third year of undergraduate studies at the University of New Mexico, I learned of the McNair Scholars Trio Program, which introduces underrepresented students to graduate school through an intensive summer research and development program.
It opened up a new world of which I knew nothing about yet loved. I began to pursue a new dream in becoming a research engineer, and was encouraged to look for out-of-state research programs that would push my research abilities and personal boundaries. Through this I was accepted to the Summer Multicultural AccThrough this I was accepted to the Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training (SMART) Program here at CU Boulder. This program was also research focused and an introduction to graduate school here as well as to my advisor, Dr. Yifu Ding.
Why CU Boulder?
There are a few reasons why CU was the obvious choice for me.
First and foremost, I chose CU for the research and my advisor. Professor Ding and I have a great mentor-student relationship. I truly feel that he believes in his students and wants them to succeed. In pursuing my PhD in Mechanical Engineering, I am focused on Materials Science and fabricating hydrogel membranes for bio-filtration and desalination applications.
Second, being raised in Northern New Mexico surrounded by mountains, Boulder reminded me of home. I am also very family oriented, being a Chicana and raised by my entire family, I need to be within a reachable distance at a low cost. It is through God and my family that I am here today. Being here has given me the opportunity to continue to receive familial support and allows me to build a new network that will be my support system to succeed.
I have become a mentor with Trio Student Support Services and SMART here at CU, working with students like myself, inspiring them to continue pursuing their dreams. It seems that the entire university believes outreach is important and supports students who want to do outreach.
I received first-hand experience of this outreach within CU by being a part of SMART; I was not only paired with graduate student mentors in my field but was introduced to some of my closest friends.
CU is a very welcoming community that thrives from student excellence, and I believe it is the best place for me as well as others to pursue their higher education goals.