9 1 17 Mexico 1000x698px

Rivero Discovers KGI Through Clubes de Ciencia México Initiative

Elsy Rivero dreams of starting her own medical device company to help people in her home state of Yucatán, Mexico. Enrolling at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) this fall is a strong step toward her goal, providing her with the opportunity to work toward her Master of Business and Science (MBS), with a major in medical devices and diagnostics.

Rivero’s decision to continue her education at KGI also helps fulfill the goal of Sofia Toro, KGI’s dean of student engagement and enrollment services, to diversify the student body.

“KGI wants to expose all our students to ideas and experiences from other countries,” explained Toro. “International outreach is an important investment for us.”

Last summer, Toro spent two weeks visiting four cities in Mexico. She was looking for students who would thrive at KGI and add essential perspectives on an expanding global economy.

Toro visited Mexico and joined Paola Hernández, PhD candidate at KGI, at Clubes de Ciencia México (CdeCMx). Hernández, a native of Mexico City, is on the board of directors of CdeCMx, a non-profit organization whose mission is to expand access to high-quality education in STEM and to inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators in Mexico and Latin America.

By touring Ensenada, Monterrey, Mérida, and Guanajuato with Clubes de Ciencia México, Toro was able to meet top science students with entrepreneurial aspirations who want more than just a science education. In turn, the students in the clubs were exposed to what KGI offers: an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines business and engineering – the only graduate program to offer this.

The recruitment trip was a success. Toro offered admission to KGI’s MBS program to three outstanding CdeCMx students, including Rivero, who attended the Mérida CdeCMx week; all accepted and will start at KGI this fall.

Rivero credits CdeCMx, and the encouragement of both Dean Toro and Hernández, with her decision to continue her education at KGI. “It is the perfect place for me,” she said.

Hernández is the instructor of “Bioentrepreneur: Unleash your inner innovator!,” a science club that is very popular among young students like Rivero. Students rave about Hernández’s emphasis on the value of networking-especially in today’s world, where international relationships are increasingly important.

Hernández also teaches students about conflict resolution and team dynamics. “Working in teams at CdeCMx is exactly the same as if you’re working with a big multi-corporate team in China,” she said. “It’s mostly how you communicate with people.”

According to Hernández, she is not merely creating summer workshops with CdeCMx; she is helping create a movement- the science education revolution. “We engage with local people, local universities,” she said. “We’re not like a circus that just comes to town, and then pulls up its tent and leaves.” Online courses continue throughout the year, called CdeCMx miniMOOCs, with this year’s topic being “Frontiers in Energy Research.”

CdeCMx workshops are taught by two instructors: one from Mexico and one from the United States. Instructors are all graduate students or postdocs, passionate about solving problems using what they already know.

Because the instructors represent the students’ own aspirations for themselves, they’re considered “rock stars,” according to Hernández. “They even have fan pages set up for us on Facebook.”

Hernández serves as one of four directors on the board, with two others from Harvard and one from the University of California, San Francisco. CdeCMx, originally formed by Mexican PhD students and postdocs at Harvard, engages with local educators and leaders at seven sites in Mexico at this time, and the wait list to become a host institution keeps growing.

Over the last three years, 162 clubs were implemented in Mexico, with 300 instructors and 2,200 students participating. Corporate sponsors and donors include Amgen Foundation, CONACyT, SENER, MISTI-MIT, Fundación México en Harvard, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in Harvard, and Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, among others. CdeCMx is under the umbrella of Clubes de Ciencia Latin America, which includes Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and Brazil.

After she receives her PhD, Hernández plans to pursue her own dreams in the field of technology innovation. She is considering several options, including continuing her work as a computational biologist and business strategist with Abraxas Biosystems, a startup in bioinformatics whom she advised to redirect efforts toward more profitable opportunities in the life sciences data analysis sector.

Meanwhile, Rivero is excited about her first trip to Southern California to enter KGI. She said she looks forward to engaging in a new kind of engineering, learning from people from other countries, and gaining experience about the management of companies.

She recognizes that she, too, has much to offer. “I want to share what I’ve learned, how our government works, our deficits and strengths,” she shared. “The strongest quality for me as a Mexican is that when we have a chance to help people, we do it. If you can create something, you can help not just one person at a time, but a whole lot of people.”

That’s what KGI and CdeCMx are doing: inspiring and developing the next generation of scientists, full of dreams and the entrepreneurial skills to realize them.