Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles highlighting the diverse group of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory summer students.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) student internship program is designed to allow students to engage in work-study employment opportunities in relevant science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and administrative fields during the summer academic break. This year, LLNL is proud to welcome more than 600 students from universities nationwide and around the world.
Introducing Dayanara Lebron Aldea:
Full name: Dayanara Lebron Aldea
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
University attending/educational background: Recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in biomathematics from the Universidad Metropolitana in Cupey, Puerto Rico.
Graduation year: 2015
LLNL Directorate you are working in: Computation
What interested you in pursuing a summer internship at the Laboratory?
Tony Baylis (the Lab's diversity programs leader) thoughtfully encouraged me to pursue a summer internship here. Through him, I have learned about the many different types of research here at the Lab, and all the areas where someone like me, who is interested in computer science, could apply knowledge. I am very interested in genetical statistics and computer science and saw the unique opportunity here at the Laboratory that allowed me to merge those interests into research.
What are you working on at the Laboratory?
I will be working at the Computation Directorate, in collaboration with the Bioinformatics Department, focusing on clustering human and microbial genomes.
What do you enjoy most about interning at the Laboratory?
There is an amazing opportunity to network and connect with scientists that work in my area of interest and who are willing to share their experience and knowledge and provide help and guidance. So far, I am really enjoying LLNL and the innumerable opportunities for both professional and personal development.
What have you learned (or are learning) that has made a difference to you?
I am still really new here, having just begun my internship. One of the things I have learned so far is the importance of allowing people to get to know you and your abilities. There are vast opportunities available for those who are willing to work hard, who have creative ideas and are willing to open themselves to other people and show them their potential.
Where do you see yourself after graduation? What is your dream job?
During my undergraduate studies, I found a passion in research and teaching. I had my first research experience in my senior year in high school at the age of 17 in the area of biomathematics, and due to my performance and dedication, the program awarded me a National Science Foundation scholarship for my entire bachelor's degree program. I also had the opportunity to conduct six investigations at various universities, which ended in my first publication entitled, "Integrated genomic and BMI analysis for type 2 diabetes risk assessment." In addition, I served as a biostatistics mentor-teacher for pre-college students and as a tutor of calculus. These opportunities made me realize the type of impact that we can create in people from different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels through mentoring in research. My dream job is to become a biostatistician researcher. To accomplish this goal, I plan to pursue a doctorate in genetical statistics.
Who/what has inspired you to pursue an education and career in a STEM field?
The person that influenced me the most to pursue a higher education was my mentor, Ana Vazquez, from the University of Wisconsin. She is a statistician (from Uruguay) that develops genomic-based statistical methods for human health and investigates the genetic architecture and effects of complex traits such as obesity. I look up to her because of her character, abilities and nice spirit. She had to overcome a language barrier, life situations and has worked hard to become the great scientist she is. For two years, she was very supportive and provided guidance in every aspect of my life, both professional and personal. I didn't know about the applications of statistics to genetics, until she gave me the opportunity to do research in this area. The breakthroughs that are constantly being made to improve public health are amazing.
What has been your biggest challenge to overcome?
During the course of my undergraduate studies, I had two to three jobs on top of taking 18 credits per semester due to scholarship compliances. These demands on my time, in addition to the day-to-day situations I encountered, created a challenging environment for me as a student.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
Being a minority and a woman doing research in STEM, I feel is an accomplishment by itself. However, my biggest accomplishment so far has been finishing my bachelor's degree in biomathematics.
As a college student, what is the most important lesson you have learned?
The most important lesson I've learned is that excuses only satisfy the one who gives them. We encounter several situations on our path that don't allow us to perform as well as we could have; but you either choose to be consumed by the situation and use it as an excuse or you decide to take control and work around it. Work hard for what you want to accomplish in life.
What advice would you give a high school student?
You may not have any idea of what you want to do in life or what you would like to study, and you may feel like you are not good enough. Reality is that most people, including me, at that age didn't know either. Start by choosing an area that meets one of your interests, and try it. Never underestimate your capabilities and don't give up. Success is for those who work for it, so don't let yourself be a product of your environment.
What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
Primarily I would say that I love to sleep in my spare time. My hobbies include traveling, dancing to Latin music, reading books and playing paintball.
What is next for you/what are you looking forward to?
Since my internship will continue through January, I am excited to learn more about the Laboratory and really delve into research. In October, I plan to apply to graduate school so that I can pursue a master's degree in statistics. I will be applying to the University of Iowa, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Florida at Gainesville and the University of Texas at Austin.
To learn more about summer internships and the Laboratory's scholar programs, visit the scholars@llnl website.
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