IN LSAMP Scholar shares strategies from her experience at TSRI DiVERGE

Sunny research in January! This is a dream for most of us enjoying the frigid temperatures and snowfall in Indiana from the winter cyclone that welcomed 2018. Learn how one student used her skills and experience to make this dream a reality.

Celia Ochoa, a 2017-18 IN LSAMP Scholar studying at IUPUI pursuing a career in biomedical research was accepted to attend the 2018 Diversity Visitation Event for Research and Graduate Education (DiVERGE) program held on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in January. She shares insight from her experience and advice for future students interested in applying for professional development opportunities.

Celia’s shares how attending DiVERGE helps her prepare for her future career in Biomedical Engineering

Attending the DiVERGE seminar helped me prepare for a career in biomedical research by connecting me with students and professionals that are interested or that already have careers in the field. I was able to learn more about the admissions process for graduate school from committee members themselves and current graduate students. I also had the exciting opportunity to attend grad student poster sessions, researchers’ seminars, and even tour the labs at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). In addition, I learned about the importance of having research experience as an undergraduate student and to preview TSRI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program. Furthermore, I learned about the type of involvement and steps that I should be taking now to prepare for a successful career in biomedical research.

Celia’s advice for students preparing for graduate school

When applying to graduate school, applications will typically include a research statement, statement of purpose, letter of recommendations, and GPA/test scores. In the research statement, it is important to be able to articulate the significance of your research and “what you did”. While in the personal statement it is your opportunity to explain “what you want to do” and how you would be a good fit for the institution/graduate program. Ultimately, members of the admission committee are looking for applicants that are passionate about research, have a strong ability to well articulate their research experience and career goals, and show that they have the potential and grit needed to succeed in graduate school and beyond.

Celia’s advice on how students can prepare competitive applications

Always read the requirements and materials closely to ensure that you meet all requirements and that you have time to gather your material including letters of recommendation. I recommend students interested in applying to take a moment to reflect on why research is important to them or why they are considering graduate school. I find that when you are genuinely interested and excited about applying to a specific program or opportunity like the DiVERGE program, it further motivates you to do research about the program and helps you in submitting an application that truly stands out

Tips to gather letters of recommendation that will spotlight your application

When requesting letter of recommendation, ask your professor, employer, coach or if you have research experience preferably your research mentor/primary investigator to write you a GREAT letter.

Provide your recommender with your resume and sharing anything specific you may want them to include can help them through the writing process.

How will her experience at DiVERGE be applied in her future STEM career

One of the most important outcomes that I learned from the DiVERGE program is to find what motivates and drives me as an aspiring scientist and engineer. In science, new discoveries are continuously being made; however, this often comes with many moments of failure. Therefore, it is important to be able to have something that keeps you driven and to not give up even in face of adversity. I believe that staying committed to my values and focused on my research goals will be important in the development of my future STEM career.

Can you share any activities from DiVERGE that impacted your professional development?

Before arriving to TRSI, we were asked to come prepared to deliver and share our elevator pitch. Initially, I was very intimidated given that I knew the other participants also came from top universities and were heavily involved in incredible research projects. I wrote down my elevator pitch several times, watched online tutorials for advice, and recited my 60 second opportunity to stand out speech to myself on the plane multiple times. When the time finally came, we essentially, had a “speed dating” style set-up to allow us to practice and share our elevator pitch with one another. To my surprise, participating in this activity was not as scary as I initially thought. By the end of it, I felt more confident about talking about my research and goals. Most importantly, I also had the opportunity to learn from the other participants and share the excitement about similar research/career interests. I put my new confidence and skills to use later in the program by having interesting and intellectual conversations with primary investigators about their research and my own, as well.

Celia’s call to action

I would like to challenge more students to take advantage of programs like the DiVERGE visitation program at Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). As a low-income, minority, and woman in STEM I find it difficult to afford to travel to visit graduate programs on my own or to even make attending graduate school a reality. However, through DiVERGE I was able to visit their institution, learn about graduate school, summer internship/research opportunities, network, learn career development skills, and hopefully motivate more students to invest time to pursue their goals, as well.

Want to learn more about IN LSAMP at IUPUI?


Dr. Tamiko Porter

Indiana LSAMP Conference

At the IN STEM LSAMP Conference, join higher education faculty, administrators, and staff across Indiana who are leading the efforts to increase participation of URM students receiving STEM degrees. The one day conference includes keynote presenters sharing real success stories, as well as breakout sessions providing how-to instruction for students on building professional networks and preparing for post-baccalaureate career opportunities, and graduate school preparation.

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