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Alumnus Profile: Juan Pablo Ruiz, BSBE ’13

Current City: Bethesda, Maryland

What did you do in the year immediately after graduating?
Shortly after graduating, I was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to conduct research on African Trypanosomiasis, a parasitic disease, in Tanzania for nine months.

What do you do for a living now? What does a typical work week look like for you?
I am currently finishing my PhD in biomedical sciences with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Oxford-Cambridge Scholars program (OxCam) and am due to submit my thesis in October. Since completing my experiments, a typical workweek consists of a lot of data analysis and writing of data I have collected over the past four years as a student at both Oxford and the NIH. I also volunteer some of my spare time outside of work to an organization known as Future of Research, as well as run my own blog, Labmosphere.com, both of which strive to empower early career researchers and drive some of the systemic changes desperately needed in academic science.

In what ways did your CoE experience have an impact on your career and who you are today?
The research I was able to do as an undergrad in Dr. Herman Cheung’s lab was critical for my decision to pursue a PhD in the field of biomedical sciences and to focus my work on stem cell and developmental biology. Herman’s guidance, as well as the welcoming and supportive lab environment that he runs, were critical in my career development as a scientist. I also remember very fondly the support and mentorship I received from my academic advisor, Dr. Noel Ziebarth, whose lab I also had the pleasure to work in.

Describe your most memorable moment as a student at the College of Engineering (CoE).
I fondly remember the campus and the College itself. There were days when I would ride my longboard from one class to the other to then hop on the metro and head over to the lab at the medical campus to conduct experiments. I have great memories of both the excitement and novelty of my first semesters as well as the independence and security of the final ones.

What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
I would say be very critical of and ask questions of the labs you want to apply to and work in. Interview alumni of the lab and look at their own career trajectories, as well as ask whether or not they’d join the lab again if they had to do it over again. Finding a good and supportive lab environment, as I did in my undergraduate years at UM and during my PhD, are crucial for developing your skills, career, and confidence as a scientist. I also would say to be very open, from the beginning, to exploring other paths beyond the professoriate from the beginning of your PhD. There are many exciting career and professional paths which require trained scientists as much as academia does. Above all, seek many diverse mentors and learn to advocate for yourself and your career early on.

How would you describe CoE in seven words or less?
Ask questions, solve problems and help others.

Disclaimer: The above responses are Juan Pablo Ruiz’s opinions and do not represent those of his program or funding agency.

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