Scholar of the Week

Sandra Gonzalez
University of Arizona

Coming from humble beginnings, raised in government-housing, by an immigrant single-mother who worked as a hotel housekeeper. Sandra Gonzalez was motivated by her mom’s work ethic and tireless efforts, to succeed academically. Today, Sandra is a senior biomedical engineering student at The University of Arizona, where she is characterized by her peers as a “dedicated, caring and highly intelligent student with a very promising career as a scholar-researcher.”

This accolade speaks volume for a young lady, who had to break the language barrier and learn English, when she first started elementary school. This resolve and perseverance has defined Sandra throughout her undergraduate career. In fact, she is described by one of her faculty “as among the top three of her 28 undergraduates in her laboratory,” because of her ability to “think outside the box,” her tenacity to try new experimental techniques, her attention to analytical details and perseverance in measurement re-tests. These characteristics are hallmarks of a successful scientific researcher.

This characterization comes as no surprise because Sandra aspires to earn her doctorate in biomedical engineering and become a professor with her own research lab at a top research institution. Enroute to this goal, Sandra has amassed numerous opportunities to propel her along that career path. She has served as a preceptor, assisting faculty teach incoming first-year students on research readiness. She participated in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) internship, where she worked under the mentorship of Dr. Jeffrey La Belle at Arizona State University. Sandra’s work, titled, “The Development of an At-Risk Biosensor for Cardiovascular Disease” was published in the Biosensors Journal.

For the past two years, she has been a trainee under the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program at the University of Arizona, where she works under the guidance of Dr. Mark Pagel. Her research involves developing a new method that measures the bio-distribution of lanthanide ions in mouse tissue using NMR spectroscopy. This research is leading to another peer-reviewed publication for Sandra. This past summer, she took a break from the MARC program to intern at the Stanford Amgen Summer Research Program, in a biomedical and electrical engineering cardiovascular research laboratory.

Aside from her academics and research, Sandra has made sure to give back to her community, while also honing her leadership skills. She has served as an Engineering Ambassador, is a member of the Order of Omega Honorary Fraternity, and has served as vice-president and secretary for the Gamma Alpha Omega Sorority. In addition, she has served as a math tutor to both the federally-funded TRIO program and also the Math Department. Currently, she is also a mentor to Alta Vista High School students.

Recognized by her peers as a “budding scholar” and her colleagues as “a supportive colleague, mentor and assistant,” Sandra has taken hold of her leadership reigns to pave the way as a scholar and researcher in the field of cardiovascular disease. As she states, “Although a doctor over his/her lifespan may help hundreds of patients, one single, powerful device could impact the lives of millions.” Sandra’s goal is to design that one single device.

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