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Alejandra Suarez-Arnedo

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring
Ph.D. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering

Bio

Alejandra Suarez-Arnedo is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering. Before joining The Graduate School, Suarez-Arnedo earned a B.S. in chemical engineering and microbiology from the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. She also received an M.S. in biomedical engineering and microbiology from the same university. 

Suarez-Arnedo works in the Segura Lab, which creates therapeutic materials to promote wound healing and tissue regeneration. She is also passionate about mentoring the next generation of scientists, especially those who belong to underrepresented groups. Since joining the Segura Lab, she has successfully mentored two high school students, two undergraduates, and one Master's student.

At Segura Lab, Suarez-Arnedo studies how the granular nature of MAP scaffolds contributes to wound resolution. By changing her material's mechanical characteristics, she hopes to reduce the mechanical forces exerted by cells and control the fibroblast-myofibroblast transition. The intended outcome of her research is skin regeneration.

On Mentoring

What is something you have done as a mentor that you are really proud of? 

I am proud of the long-lasting relationships I have built with most of my mentees. These relationships extend beyond the academic setup and continue even after our mentor-mentee interaction has ended. It warms my heart when my mentees continue to reach out to me for advice or simply to catch up. I am also proud of how my mentoring has ignited a passion and motivation for science in my mentees. For example, it has been incredibly gratifying to hear my current high school mentees talk about how much they love coming to the lab and how excited they are to continue working on research in the future.

How have you evolved as a mentor compared to when you first started mentoring? 

I have noticed that every time I mentor someone, I become more patient and gain a broader perspective on how to adapt to each mentee's learning pace. With my current mentoring relationships, I tend to be more self-reflective and frequently evaluate whether my style is aligning with both parties' needs and expectations. This approach has led to a more dynamic mentoring experience, allowing for open communication and collaborative decision-making.

How do graduate students benefit from serving as mentors? 

As a mentor, you develop soft skills that are beneficial not only in academia but also in any future career path. I have observed that mentoring has helped me become a better communicator because I constantly look for diverse ways to express my ideas. Moreover, mentoring has taught me to manage my time efficiently since I need to accommodate multiple schedules as well as balance my own work. Finally, serving as a mentor has made me more receptive to new ideas and perspectives for my graduate research, which is invaluable.

IN THEIR WORDS

Excerpts from Suarez-Arnedo's nominations

“The reason I was able to learn so much was because of how great of a teacher Alejandra is. Her ability to tailor her instruction in a simplified manner made it possible for me to grasp difficult scientific concepts with ease. When I didn’t understand something, she was patient with me and tried many different ways to teach it to me until I understood.”

“Alejandra has consistently demonstrated a commitment to fostering my growth as a researcher. She goes above and beyond to ensure that I not only understand the intricacies of wet lab work but also acquire the skills necessary to navigate the complexities of independent research.”

“Alejandra champions inclusivity and diversity. She actively supports underrepresented students, recognizing the significance of diversity in our field. Alejandra has a unique talent for recognizing the strengths and potential of people who harbor passion for research and personal growth. She mentored a diverse group of students, including high school STEM lovers, undergraduates, and early-career graduate students in my lab and beyond."