Meet Gabriela Dominguez
What is your major?
I am a Biology major with a specialization in Interdisciplinary Biology. I also am minoring in Anthropology and Health & Wellness.
Why did you pick this major?
What drew me into this major was realizing that I did not want to be limited in the knowledge and skills that I acquired throughout my time in college. My intent was to create a flexible learning experience in which I learned and considered all aspects of what my career field entailed. Pursuing an interdisciplinary approach has allowed me to focus on how I want my education to best reflect what it is I want to accomplish as a professional in STEM.
What year are you in school?
I am a third year student (junior).
What are your future career goals?
As a student on the pre-health track, my future career goal is to integrate my current healthcare and research experience into discerning how to develop advancements towards proper patient care and education as a future healthcare provider.
What made you interested in this career choice?
From a young age, I first challenged misconceptions about the healthcare education that was being taught to me by those close to me. I grew up in a community that was enriched with cultural values carried over through centuries of anecdotes taught by our previous ancestors. These were the values that strengthened our community, but for some members, it was all they relied on. While I valued all that I learned from my cultural background, I was also open to learning about changes currently being made in the world. It was the topic of healthcare in particular that made me question the previous perceptions I had learned about health and medicine. Through my own research, I was made aware of the several treatment options available through the advancement of modern medicine. However, not everyone has the same access to this kind of information, especially in underserved communities like the one I grew up in. I knew from then on that I wanted to contribute to providing opportunities for everyone to have equal access to patient care and education. To bridge this access to underserved communities would provide people with more healthcare options and eliminate health disparities.
Was there a person in your life who influenced your interest to pursue a career/major in STEM? How did they encourage/support you?
My grandmother. She is my beacon of light. Whenever I felt that something was not going well on my path to a career in STEM, she would snap me right out of it with a quote I hold dear to my heart. It goes, “Todo tiene remedio, menos la muerte.” It means “Everything has a remedy, except death.” It always makes me laugh, yet it never fails to make me realize that there is no such thing as excuses. She helps me understand that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
When did you know STEM was the right path for you?
While my passion for a career in STEM goes as far back to when I was in grade school, there was one particular moment that made it click in my mind that this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That moment came while I was working as a direct support professional at Maryhaven Center of Hope. In the year that I had worked there, I had grown an insurmountable devotion to the individuals that I took care of. They taught me the most important lesson of all: to be patient, kind, and understanding. I cannot stress enough how important that lesson was for me when learning to understand the expectations of my role as a healthcare provider. To be able to go through all the ups and downs, as well as all the gains and losses with the individuals only to continue moving on is not an easy thing to do. Seeing other DSP staff struggle with this only showed that this was not a career path for everyone. If it were not for this experience, I would not have been prepared to realize early on that this was the right path for me.
Did/Do you participate in any STEM related activities?
I have worked as a research assistant in Dr. Maricedes Acosta's laboratory (Department of Physiology and Biophysics) since the fall semester of my sophomore year. My current project focuses on the role of microglia in health and disease. I am also a part of the Academic Associate program in the Emergency Medicine Department at Stony Brook Medicine. As a clinical research associate, I am responsible for screening and enrolling patients into research studies, collecting medical data, and processing samples as needed. Through CSTEP, I have participated in various research opportunities that have prepared me for a career in STEM. From starting out in the INSPIRE program and BNL Mini Semester program to winning a poster award for my research at BNL last summer in the Department of Energy’s SULI program, I cannot thank CSTEP enough for the experiences that have allowed me to continue advancing into a future career as a healthcare professional.
How do you find the classroom environment in your major? Is it welcoming/enjoyable?
I’ll admit it took some time for me to adjust to a large class setting throughout my first year at SBU. Coming from a small school w here the graduating class of my year had 62 students, I was used to recognizing the names of all my colleagues and being able to interact with them often. There tends to be more accessibility to professors when the class size is smaller and more personable, which was something I favored. However, while I do still prefer learning in a small class setting, I was able to optimize my experience in a large class setting after being made aware of the resources available to me outside of class if I struggled with understanding a lesson during class.
Do you have any role models on campus? Who are they?
Carrie-Ann Miller is the most amazing person I have ever met, and I am more than eager to call her my role model. She has been there for me through it all since the start of my sophomore year. We first met through CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program) when I came to her for advice on gaining research experience. I came out from that meeting in awe and relief that I found someone at college I felt comfortable with sharing about how I felt and my experiences at school. What came from that one meeting were various meetups over the next year and a half. Sometimes I would just stop by just to chat about how our day was going. Carrie-Ann is more than an advisor to me. She has inspired me to be the strongest version of myself as I continue jumping through the hoops and over the hurdles of college and beyond.
Do you feel you have adequate access to materials and knowledge relating to your major?
I do feel that I have adequate access to materials and knowledge relating to my major. Stony Brook University has provided me the resources and capability to flourish academically and professionally. I knew when I chose to attend this school that this would be an environment that would allow me to excel as a student and advance towards my future career.
Is there anything you would change in the requirements of your major?
I would like for there to be a further emphasis on career exploration and preparation on the requirements on all majors in general. If we had career seminar courses implemented, students would have a better idea of what a career in their intended field is like. The sections of the career seminar courses would each have a different theme modeled by the career communities as shown by the SBU Career Center (e.g. Healthcare, Business, IT & Engineering).
Do you feel responsible to encourage the younger generation to pursue STEM careers? How might you do this in the future?
Absolutely. Without mentorship, I would not be where I am today. I met my first mentor in high school, my chemistry teacher. He encouraged me to look for opportunities beyond what my school had to offer. It was the push I needed to prepare for college and the path I was pursuing towards my dream career. I hope to do the same as he did through my profession as well. By mentoring students and allowing them to shadow me at work, I will be able to guide them through what it’s like to work in the medical field. It is that type of exposure early on that not only prepares the younger generation for their future careers but also gives them the confidence to understand that this is what they want to do when they are older.
Were you always a STEM major or did you switch? If so, what made you switch? How do you feel about your choice?
While I was always a STEM major, I did recently switch my major from Biochemistry to Biology. What drove this switch was a change of interest in what I wanted my major to encompass. While my upper elective biochemistry courses did interest me, I did not want to make it the sole focus in my intended major anymore. I wanted to have more leeway to learn about different aspects of biology and how I can apply it to my future career. With the Biology major, I was able to choose an interdisciplinary focus that allowed me to explore those different aspects I was looking for.
Are there any further comments you’d like to make that can be added to your “Spot Light”?
One piece of advice I’d like to give to all students pursuing a career in STEM is to never compare your path to your career to someone else’s. I have seen students time and time again give up on their goals because they feel that they are not doing enough to get to where they need to be. I assure you that we will all have different paths when getting to the same goals.