USC Graduate Students Inspire New Generation of Latinos in STEM

Students listen during the Research and Clinical Practice: Graduate Track Careers workshop at the Preparing for the Biotech Decade held at East Los Angeles College October 1, 2016. Photo by David Sprague

By Andrea Bennett

The “Research and Clinical Practice: Graduate Track Careers” panel discussion featured three USC doctoral students, who spoke about their passion for their field and the importance of bringing more young people of color into STEM careers.

Juan Enrique Arguelles Morales said he found his path in biomechanical engineering at USC Viterbi after some exploration.

“I wanted to be a pilot when I was your age,” he told the crowd of approximately one hundred high school students from Los Angeles. “So I decided to go into engineering, where I tried mechanics, then built robots, and later made prostheses. That’s when I met USC Professor Francisco Rivera-Cuevas, who introduced me to the world of biomedical engineering. Now, I am doing clinical research to help kids move better.”

Panel moderator Ite A. Laird-Offringa, associate dean for graduate affairs and director for programs in biomedical and biological sciences at USC, offered this advice to the students in attendance: “It is important to get a lot of exposure when you’re young. If you don’t try it out, you’re not going to know if you will love it. If a lab doesn’t offer an internship program, offer to volunteer to get the experience.”

Ivan Alberto Trujillo Priego, a doctoral student in the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, agreed with the panelists that young people should talk to people in the fields they may be interested in pursuing. All three doctoral students also shared their email addresses with attendees and urged the young audience to contact them for advice and mentorship.

Keck School of Medicine of USC doctoral student Maria de Fatima Reyes said she didn’t begin to pursue a career in medicine until she found a mentor at age 26 and discovered her calling helping women with cancer.

She added that, while people of color will face unique challenges and experiences as they pursue their career goals in any field, she urged the young people in attendance to go after their dreams.

“It is so exciting to see so many young brown faces in the audience interested in STEM,’ Fatima Reyes said. “The fact that you’re here…you’re already winning.”

October 1, 2016