UPRM doctoral student sets historical precedents as a pioneer in her program and recipient of international awards
By Mariam Ludim Rosa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monday, February 8, 2021
Doctoral student Yareni Patricia Lara Rodríguez, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering (INME, by its acronym in Spanish), at the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), whose research concentration is in Bioengineering, is a pioneer in her field, becoming the Department’s first doctoral candidate, after successfully presenting her preliminary oral exam and obtaining, during the past semester, several important and prestigious scholarships and international awards.
Yareni, who is a native from Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, set a precedent by being the first international student in Puerto Rico to receive the International Fellowship awarded by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). In addition, she received two other significant scholarships: one from the National Council of Science and Technology in her native country (CONACyT, by its acronym in Spanish), equivalent to the Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF), in the United States; and the Motorola Solutions Foundation Scholarship, awarded by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), an entity to which she belongs.
The student, who also obtained her second master’s degree from UPR Mayagüez, was selected as a LATinE 2020 Fellow, along with 18 other doctoral and post-doctoral students in the United States and Puerto Rico, to participate in the pioneering LATinE program: Latinx Trailblazers in Engineering, organized by the Purdue University College of Engineering. During the event, which was held virtually, Yareni obtained second place in the presentation of her research poster.
Likewise, she was recognized with the Career Development Award of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), of which she is a member, to researchers who have made significant contributions to the service of society and in the field of Biomedical Engineering.
“I am very thankful to my family for their unconditional love and support during my studies in Puerto Rico. These achievements represent opportunities for international students and women pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers. I am proud to be able to be an international ambassador for the Mayagüez Campus, of the University of Puerto Rico, and to know that my service to the community, work, and research, are of interest in bioengineering; and that I can be a role model for many girls and students seeking to join STEM disciplines. Having obtained these awards encourages me to continue giving the best of myself as a person and in my professional career, to have more and bigger dreams, and to be a representative of science in the world,” said the researcher in cell biology and molecular, who is in the final stage of her thesis.
In fact, her dissertation entitled Study of collagen synthesis by external stimuli, aims to find efficient ways to produce this protein for applications in wound healing.
“I thank my advisor, Dr. Paul Sundaram, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and my co-advisor, Dr. Nanette Diffoot, from the Department of Biology. Both professors have guided me with their experience and knowledge to carry out my research in the Biomechanics and Biomaterials laboratories at INME, and the Molecular Virology and Tissue Engineering laboratories in Biology,” she expressed.
“I also greatly appreciate all the support provided by Dr. José Lugo, coordinator of the graduate program, Dr. Rubén Díaz, director of the INME Department and Dr. Mauricio Cabrera, of the Department of Industrial Engineering, for being my mentor during the last 14 years,” added Yareni, who hopes to complete her doctorate in May 2022.
Yareni also participates in community outreach activities as a mentor in the Semillas de Triunfo (Seeds of Triumph) program of the Ciencia Puerto Rico (Science Puerto Rico) organization, which benefits high school students, and she is a Mentoring Lead in the Latino affinity group at SWE.
“One of my plans is to finish my doctoral studies and pursue a career in teaching and research. In addition, I aspire to continue including outreach activities that inspire girls and young women in the STEM area”, she concluded.
Dr. Jorge Haddock, president of the UPR, and Dr. Agustín Rullán Toro, chancellor of the Mayagüez Campus, congratulated Yareni for her solid educational trajectory full of achievements.
“From the university community, we celebrate the achievements of the talented student Yareni Patricia Lara Rodríguez. Her successes fill us with pride, and she and others are the engine to continue innovating and creating new opportunities for students who wish to pursue studies in the areas of STEM. Without a doubt, it is the beginning of a great future for her, who exemplifies the academic and professional excellence that we promote at the UPR. Her success is also a great motivation for other young people. We wish her the best in her future plans,” said President Haddock
“Knowing the success stories of our students fills us with deep satisfaction and validates the importance of graduate education and research. I congratulate Yareni on these achievements, which are just the beginning of a prolific career of significant contributions in bioengineering. May her example serve to motivate other girls and young women, as well as international students, to consider the Mayagüez campus of the UPR as her educational option. Congratulations!” said the Chancellor.