The Michigan Engineer News Center

First generation graduate student has a heart for others

Genesis Lopez wants to inspire and mentor younger generations by introducing them to STEM fields.| Short Read
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IMAGE:  Genesis Lopez

Genesis Lopez is a busy third-year chemical engineering graduate student.  She is the second-year representative and bagel chair in the ChE Graduate Student group (ChEGS) and is vice president for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).  She is also on the Graduate Student Advisory Committee for the College of Engineering.  This fall she is organizing a canned food drive for the holidays.  Fellow grad students help her get ready for the food drive in the photo below.

A native of Albuquerque New Mexico, Genesis is the first generation in her family to attend college. Her parents, both from Mexico, always encouraged their daughter to go to college. Genesis knew that she would need to apply for scholarships if she was going to get a degree.  She joined the Marine Corps JROTC in her freshman year of high school and one of her JROTC instructors saw that she was good student and directed her to people who could help her complete college and scholarship applications.

Genesis selected the University of New Mexico for her undergraduate studies.  Initially she thought she wanted to study forensic medicine but soon became interested in biomedical science.  Diabetes runs in her family; her father is diabetic and now her eleven-year-old brother is pre-diabetic so she has seen how difficult it can be to go through life with a disease.  It’s not surprising that she was moving toward a profession where she could help cure or treat chronic disease.

As an undergraduate she was part of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which assists low income and underrepresented minority students prepare for doctoral studies.  Through this program she was able to work in a lab doing Alzheimer’s disease research. Her project was modeling cell membrane systems to detect membrane disruption. This opportunity reinforced her decision to do medical research.

The McNair program not only introduced Genesis to research but also assisted her in preparing for the GREs and applying for graduate schools. She was also encouraged to continue her education by her research advisor, Eva Chi, who suggested to her that Michigan would be an excellent school to attend for her graduate studies.

When she visited Michigan as a prospective student, she says she felt comfortable in the environment and felt that the students and faculty would be supportive.  She was also impressed with the many research options she would have to choose from for her doctoral degree. It didn’t hurt that then program advisor, Professor Lola Eniola-Adefeso, telephoned her to try to persuade her to come to Ann Arbor.

Today, she is a member of Eniola-Adefeso’s group and has chosen a project where she is looking for more effective treatments for cardiovascular diseases, specifically in the area of vascular targeted drug delivery. Genesis is examining ways to target the blood vessel wall with drug carriers in order  to encapsulate drugs or imaging agents to treat and diagnose inflammation in its early stages. She focuses on the improvement of biodegradable drug carriers by chemically modifying the surface to achieve effective binding to the vascular wall.

In her free time, she participates in many activities in Ann Arbor such as kayaking and hiking.  She is enjoying the temperate summers and Ann Arbor’s relative proximity to large metropolitan areas such as Chicago and New York City. She adds that she has never experienced living on a campus where the students are so dedicated to their sport teams!

Genesis is pleased that she has had the opportunity to mentor students through the Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach (CEDO) and to participate in student recruiting at National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineering (NOBCChE) and SHPE.  In the past year, she has had a chemical engineering undergraduate student and a high school student working with her in the lab and has enjoyed guiding these students in this setting.

About her research work and her numerous extracurricular activities, Genesis says, “I am passionate about my research because I see its potential impact on the lives of people who are living with difficult diseases, but aside from that I have a strong desire to inspire and mentor younger generations by introducing them to STEM fields.”

Congratulations to Genesis for  winning a North Campus Dean’s MLK Spirit Award for her work with SHPE and for serving as chair of the Graduate Student Advisory Committee.


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