April 23, 2019
Andrés Moya Rodriguez was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Prior to coming to the University of Chicago, he completed a BS in chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus and did a year-long post-baccalaureate program at Yale University. He's currently in his third year of studying biophysical sciences at UChicago. We interviewed him via email about his experiences at UChicago.
What have you been studying or researching as part of your program?
I am studying the hemodynamics of hypercoagulable veins of End-Stage Renal Disease patients.
Why did you choose the University of Chicago?
I chose UChicago because of the dual-mentorship format of the Biophysical Sciences graduate program. Given that I had a myriad of research interests before starting my PhD, it was quite comforting to be part of a program that allows you to thoroughly explore PIs and ultimately have two mentors one from the biological sciences and the other from the physical sciences. This allowed me to create an innovative and interdisciplinary research project with much freedom and ease.
Also, Chicago is in one of the most fun cities in the US! Therefore, doing rigorous high-tier academic research while enjoying all the entertainment venues Chicago has to offer is a balanced and healthy way to spend the graduate school years.
Describe something you are proud of accomplishing at UChicago.
I am particularly proud of being part of Clubes de Ciencia Mexico 2018. I was able to design a hands-on experimental course on cancer that I then taught with a local graduate student in Chihuahua, Mexico. We taught the molecular biology principles of cancer as well as advances in anti-cancer natural treatments. It was quite fun and rewarding to teach Mexican undergraduates how to use a pipette, do proper tissue cultures, prepare natural extracts from plants, and quantify cancer cell viability post-treatment. These outstanding students were really excited about the project and openly expressed their motivation to pursue graduate studies, which made very happy and proud!
Also, I am currently working with a great team of graduate students to organize a videogame night fundraiser event for the B+ Foundation, which provides financial support to families with children afflicted by cancer.
What's something you love to do outside of the classroom and lab?
When I am not in the lab, I spend most of my time going out to restaurants, attending random events and festivals across the city, and hosting movie and game nights at my place with my friends. I do try to work out in the remaining 5% of my free time.
What are your plans post- UChicago?
At the moment, I am highly interested in developing research outreach programs as well as teaching at an undergraduate level. I am very passionate about exposing Hispanic and African American communities to scientific discoveries in order to motivate individuals to pursue STEM fields and mitigate underrepresentation in STEM.
What support have you received at UChicago that was particularly valuable to you?
The most valuable UChicago resource I have taken advantage of has been the NSF GRFP workshops. Given the current scarceness of funding for academic research, it can be quite stressful to secure resources in order to continue your graduate work. That is why I attended the NSF GRFP workshops in order to build a strong and competitive application, which definitely paid off after I was awarded the fellowship. It has alleviated some of the pressure that we feel as graduate students. Also, I have attended myCHOICE events, which have broadened my horizons in terms of potential career paths for scientists.
If you were speaking to someone who wants to learn about UChicago, what would you tell them?
UChicago fosters high-caliber interdisciplinary research that produces innovative work. They not only help you carry out outstanding research, but they also have resources such as myCHOICE, which allows you to explore future career paths, get internships, and improve your CV for the dream job you want to pursue after graduation. Overall, it is a great place to forge a promising professional career and network as a scientist.
How has your background or experience prepared you to contribute to an environment where diversity and inclusion are valued?
Given that I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, I sometimes feel a tad out of place (culturally speaking) with the somewhat limited Hispanic representation. That fact fuels my motivation to shape a more diverse pool of future scientists. I believe the academic world can benefit from interactions with promising students from highly diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. As I experienced in Puerto Rico and Mexico, these students bring unanticipated and creative ways to solve scientific problems, contributing ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation to the field. Thus, I advocate for broader minority inclusion in academia through my engagement with community outreach initiatives aimed at Black and Hispanic communities as well as the female demographic.