I am originally from a small town in Panama, a country in Central America. In 2016, I transferred to UC Berkeley as a first-generation college student. I did not have a deep understanding of what an undergraduate education entailed. Cal NERDS eased the process and shed some light on what steps and mindset I needed to have to excel at Cal and in life. I participated in three Cal NERDS programs (STEMinist, CAMP, and UC LEADS). Through the University of California’s Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees (UC LEADS), I was provided with two years of funded experimental microbial biology research experience at Berkeley. I was awarded a medal for poster presentation at the NSF LSAMP Research Conference in UC Irvine, and also at the UC LEADS STEM Research Symposium in UC Santa Barbara. UC LEADS awards provided me with funding to present my research at the International Symposium on Microbial Ecology (ISME) in Leipzig, Germany. I graduated with a degree in Molecular Environmental Biology, with an emphasis on Microbiology, and I am currently working on developing the skills to pursue a graduate program in bioinformatics.
As a first-generation college student, I was lost in the plethora of information available online pertaining to research, academia, and STEM. Thanks to Cal NERDS, I was able to do two years of microbiology research, and have access to resources that acted as a light guiding me through the chaotic and complex world of scientific writing, research proposals, and other opportunities that I would have otherwise not been able to afford.