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ASU Students Help Hispanic Engineers Grow by Building Community

September 23, 2022

Hispanic and Latinx representation in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or STEM fields was not considered much. David Eduardo Flores-Prieto when he was an undergraduate in Monterrey, Mexico. Nearly all of his college students, faculty, and role models were Hispanic like him.

Even when Flores-Prieto spent a year as a graduate student, University of LondonThe college also had an established, close-knit group of Hispanic students who supported each other.

David Eduardo Flores-Prieto, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. You’ve created communities and supported existing communities. It is aimed at diverse groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially biomedical engineering. Graphic by Dana Hernandez/ASU
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He then arrived in the United States for his PhD at Arizona State University and soon realized that the situation for Hispanic students in STEM was different.

According to the United States, 2020 statistics The American Association of Engineering Education awards 9% of master’s degrees and 7% of Ph.D. I am taking About 20% of the domestic population.

Flores-Prieto found it difficult to identify role models and a dedicated support network to meet the needs of Hispanic international students like himself. So he decided it was time to take the lead and become an advocate for his community.

“It was important for me to understand that if change was going to happen, I had to contribute,” says Flores Prieto. Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at ASU.

Since beginning her advocacy, Flores-Prieto has been passionate about helping Hispanic and Latino students succeed in biomedical engineering and STEM, not just at ASU, but across the country.

Daniel E. RiveraA professor of chemical engineering at the Fulton School and a self-identified Hispanic, he believes that the diversity of Hispanics and Latinos, and the diversity of all people, is what strengthens society in engineering. I’m here.

“We are Hispanic/latinA gender-neutral term that is sometimes preferred for people from Spanish-speaking lands or cultures or from Latin America or their ancestry It’s culture and heritage,” says Rivera. “Diversity makes the efforts of David Flores-Prieto more valuable and appreciated.”

Building a support system from scratch

Flores-Prieto was excited to begin working with his advisor on neurodegenerative disease and traumatic brain injury research. Sarah Stevenfeld, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the Fulton School. However, the move to a new country to start his doctoral program came at a particularly difficult time.

“I started the program in January 2020 and COVID started in March 2020,” he says.

Flores-Prieto realized that ASU didn’t have an established group for Hispanic international students like she had at University College London, and decided she needed to create one. Within months of the pandemic beginning, he worked with colleagues in Mexico to Mexican Graduate Association for International Students at ASU.

The organization not only provides resources for international graduate students to facilitate a smooth transition to life in the United States, but also supports peer mentorship, professional networking, and cultural events.

After more than a year of interacting online only, the association was able to hold its first face-to-face event last year. This is a proud moment for Flores Prieto. Finally, group members were able to meet other Mexican graduate students at ASU and enjoy trivia games, food, and fun experiences.

“Just knowing that there is a community out there that can support you, I think that is what we wanted to do and we delivered it,” says Flores Prieto. ASU Graduate School Staff and Group Faculty Advisor, Professor Enrique R. Vivonito meet this need of a student like him.

Become part of a larger advocacy network

Flores-Prieto rapidly expanded its advocacy efforts beyond the ASU, LatinXinBMEA group founded by . Brian Aguado When Ana Maria Porrasaims to diversify biomedical engineering in academia and industry through mentorship and a welcoming virtual community.

Flores-Prieto often mentors undergraduates in the LatinXinBME community considering graduate school and is active in a separate mentorship program with undergraduates at her alma mater in Mexico. Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.

He found that Hispanic international students can face cultural expectations and community-specific challenges. Through his role as mentor at LatinXinBME, Flores-Prieto provided in-depth discussions on issues such as supporting returning families with a graduate student’s salary.

“Role models and mentors are very important, especially for Hispanic and Latinx students who choose STEM studies and academic careers that require multiple degrees and have high ‘barriers to entry’.” says Rivera. “Having the opportunity to talk to someone who can confirm that the challenges they face are not unique, fighting ‘impostor syndrome,’ or simply having someone who can pronounce your name properly is a great way to help Hispanics.” It can be very meaningful to a Keio or Latino student.

In addition to mentoring undergraduates as they take the next step in their academic journeys, Flores-Prieto is an experienced LatinXinBME student who has experienced the same challenges he faces as a PhD student today. We also get support from our members.

“There are a lot of professionals at all levels. It’s a huge community that supports professional growth and helps every member get where they want to be,” says Flores-Prieto. “There are some points in your training where you have these huge hurdles that you have to get over and they look so big sometimes that you think there is no way out.” It would be helpful if you could help me.”

Leading diversity initiatives on a nationwide scale

Flores-Prieto recently had another opportunity to help biomedical engineering students across the country. National Student Branch of Japan Society for BiomaterialsWith the support of a strong team of student leaders, he already plans many ways to make a difference and inspire future biomedical engineers of all backgrounds.

In this two-year role, Flores-Prieto manages the Society for Biomaterials student chapters across the country and supports their operations and events. biomaterials day like something Hosted by ASU Chapter on October 10.

Events like this show how biomedical engineers are making a difference in the world.

One of the speakers at this year’s ASU event was Edward A. Botchway, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and current chair of the Biomaterials, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Flores-Prieto previously heard Botchway talk about his journey to address sickle cell disease, an underfunded problem affecting black communities in the United States.A problem that affects his community Finding solutions to. It has driven him to encourage Hispanic scientists and engineers to do the same for problems in their own communities.

Flores-Prieto is now more deeply involved in the diversity, equity and inclusion work of the Society for Biomaterials. Building on the success of past events for historically black colleges and universities, a panel of black faculty spoke about opportunities in biomedical engineering. Flores Prieto gathered Hispanic faculty to Hispanic service agencyis the outstanding award won by ASU this year.

Grassroots activities to promote interest in STEM among Hispanic children

While many of Flores-Prieto’s efforts focus on helping Hispanic students who are already attending college and earning advanced degrees, outreach efforts can start early. I believe it is important.

Flores Prieto himself has been immersed in science all his life. Both of his parents were doctors and encouraged him to pursue medicine as well. His exposure to engineering education opportunities allowed him to find an exciting career path in biomedical engineering.

But he recognizes that many Hispanic children may not have the same level of access or awareness of STEM opportunities.

To fill that gap, Flores-Prieto regularly volunteers. Letter to a former scientistpair volunteers with K-12 students pen palThey exchange “snail mail” letters in which Flores-Prieto shares his STEM journey and explains how his correspondent’s interests intersect with the engineering field.

Although this program is not aimed at Hispanic students, many of the organization’s partner schools are located in California, which has a large Hispanic population.

“This is an effort to humanize STEM professionals[that is, students]are not just thinking about humans in lab coats,” says Flores-Prieto. “We are just people and these are the careers we have chosen.”

Touched by the possibilities of an engineering career, Flores Prieto started on the path to a PhD in biomedical engineering. During his undergraduate studies, he read articles in research journals and learned about the field of tissue engineering.

“STEM professionals are involved in a lot of fun things kids don’t know about,” says Flores-Prieto. “So we need to get them involved as soon as possible.”

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