Meet Hillary Ramos Espinoza
What is your major?
I am currently majoring in Biology while minoring in Health, Medicine, and Society.
Why did you pick this major?
Majoring in Biology allows me to study every aspect of the living organisms, from the biology of the organism building up to the biochemistry within the organism. I believe that this major will help me have a better understanding in my future career.
What year are you in school?
This Fall 2020, I am going into my junior year at Stony Brook University. However, I have taken multiple AP courses and college-credit courses in high school in which I am a semester ahead by credits.
What are your future career goals?
My future career goal is to obtain a joint Medical Degree with a Masters in Public Health to become a physician. From courses and personal experiences, I’ve learned about the Hispanic Paradox and the cumulative disadvantage perspective between white and black health outcomes. This has expanded my career goal to provide first-rate healthcare access to disadvantaged minorities and possibly work with Doctors Without Borders. I would potentially like to specialize in pediatrics or any specialty that may spark my interest in the future.
What made you interested in this career choice?
I have always had an interest in science, specifically how the body worked and healthcare during my high school education. My family has had a long history of medical disease which required many medical examinations which I would learn about when I sometimes translated for them. However, it wasn't until my mother’s battle with ovarian cancer that I decided I wanted to become a physician. During her treatment, I was able to learn and practice some medical procedures that were needed for her at home and hospice care, such as changing her IV and administering her medication, which set my mind on becoming a physician.
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 parents always wanted me to take advantage of many educational opportunities from a young age in order to be successful in the future. They would enroll me in as many different summer programs/activities for me to then choose the ones of my liking. As a result, many of the programs I chose were STEM related fields; in which my parents fully supported and encouraged my decisions to continue to participate in them. Although we were a low-income household, they always found a form of transportation and paid for any expenses related to my participation in the programs.
When did you know STEM was the right path for you?
It actually wasn’t until my mid-junior year in high school that I decided to go into the STEM field. I was taking various elective courses to have a sense of what I enjoyed doing the most. When I eventually took AP Biology in my senior year, I was fascinated to learn about the human body and how the various parts functioned together to maintain a healthy body or what changes could affect the health of the body. I believe this culmination was brought on by the participation in the STEM summer programs and advanced science courses I took.
Did/Do you participate in any STEM related activities?
One of the first STEM related programs I participated in was TechPrep, in 2010 in 6th grade, at SBU. I participated in this program for 3 years where I learned about biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, and engineering by creating various weekly projects. As I continued high school, taking advanced STEM courses, I participated in SBU Health Careers Academic Readiness and Excellence(HCARE) Summer Academy. I participated in workshops and listened to presentations about allied health and related health profession s and prepared in college readiness/career planning. I currently participate in the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) which has helped me grow and develop in the STEM field. The advisors and peers have provided me with support and guidance through my academics and have given me tools/information to be closer to preparing and achieving my career goals in STEM.
How do you find the classroom environment in your major?
Although I came from a large graduating class of about 1,200 students, it was definitely a huge transition from a small classroom to a 300 person lecture hall. However, I get to meet other peers that also enjoy learning the concepts and have similar goals, the professors are always welcoming to me and able to speak to me in person, email, or during office hours. I do enjoy when courses have a recitation in which I see this opportunity as a good time to refresh my knowledge and ask questions to the TA about some misunderstandings. I am now accustomed to the larger lecture halls in which I’ve learned to properly take notes and used the resources provided by the professors to successfully understand and complete the course.
Do you have any role models on campus? Who are they?
Amelia Camino has been such a great mentor/role model to me in CSTEP; she’s studying Physics and Applied Math and Statistics(AMS) and does research at Brookhaven National Laboratory. She has helped me engage more within the CSTEP community and has pushed me to use available resources on campus to find and apply to opportunities that will give me a better understanding of my future career. As well, Carrie-Ann Miller has been such an amazing role model on campus. I had met her when I did TechPrep and have reconnected when I joined CSTEP in Spring 2020. She has been part of many outreach community science programs that help students from minority backgrounds that have an interest in STEM. Both of these women have made me a better student and continue to motivate me to pursue certain opportunities. Without them, I would not be part of such amazing programs that are making huge impacts in the STEM field.
Do you feel you have adequate access to materials and knowledge relating to your major?
I believe I do have adequate access to materials and knowledge relating to my major at Stony Brook University. I have been provided with proper school resources from my pre-med advisor, Biology department advisor, CSTEP advisor, and from the career center. SBU has a vast amount of access and connections to incredible research opportunities and hands-on experience on campus and the hospital. These materials and resources relating to my major will also help me excel in my future career.
Is there anything missing that would help you learn/expand your knowledge?
As a pre-med student, I believe that there should be more introductory level medical school courses besides the general sciences. Although there are prerequisites for admissions, I believe that these types of courses would give pre-med students an idea of the format/concepts of medical courses. As well, I believe that with the connection the university has with the hospital, a directory/bulletin could be made of physicians that are willing to have students shadow them. I understand how for some students it could be hard/nervous to ask multiple busy physicians for this opportunity. I feel like students would be more willing to reach out to the physician if they know that the physicians are willing to provide this opportunity.
Is there anything you would change in the requirements of your major?
I believe that all majors should include a communication course on diversity and inclusivity. SBU is forming and educating future professionals that will be servicing people with their knowledge, in which they should be able to provide their knowledge in their future career in a positive manner that does not offend or discriminate individuals. Depending on the major or field the student is entering, such as healthcare, business, or education, it would determine how to present/communicate themself professionally in that field.
Do you feel responsible to encourage the younger generation to pursue STEM careers? How might you do this in the future?
As someone that was encouraged from a young age from various science mentors/programs, I do feel responsible to encourage younger generations to pursue STEM careers. I was first encouraged in middle school by TechPrep mentors and without programs like this feel like I probably wouldn’t have gone for a STEM career. I started mentoring younger generations, while in high school, to pursue their college and career goals in the Brentwood community. Brentwood has such a large diverse minority community, and as an alumni, I would like to help guide and mentor students to pursue STEM careers. I’d like to introduce them to introductory STEM courses so they have an idea of what they would do in specific STEM fields. As well, I like to mentor future SBU students in CSTEP the same way I was with my mentor. I want to inform them of various resources available to them to succeed and encourage them to apply for opportunities they wouldn’t have known were possible to achieve. Through guidance, I would like to make the younger generations feel confident and strong to pursue STEM careers; careers they never thought they had the opportunity or resources to pursue.
Were you always a STEM major or did you switch? If so, what made you switch? How do you feel about your choice?
I was always a STEM major at SBU; originally wanted to major in Health Sciences and concentrate in Public Health. However, with the pre-med prerequisites that I need to complete and the courses for Health Sciences, it would require taking courses during the winters and summers to graduate with 4 years in my case. I’ve decided to major in Biology in my undergrad and obtain a Masters in Public Health with a Medical Degree as a joint degree. I feel like this option allows me to excel more in my academics; I have my off-semesters available for more opportunities to do research or clinical experience or volunteer. By pursuing a Masters in Public Health, I can further study in depth Public Health such as racial disparities, social and environmental factors that influence one's health.
Are there any further comments you’d like to make that can be added to your “Spot Light”?
At times, you may feel like you have Imposter syndrome, or doubt you will get a certain opportunity or succeed, especially in STEM fields that are competitive. However, remember that you have made it this far and that there is still room to continue to grow and succeed. When I first started at SBU, I didn’t have the perfect 4.0 GPA; I then started studying properly and using resources available to help improve myself. I took the chance of applying to the INDUCER Program when I felt that I lacked research skills and a perfect GPA; however, I made sure to demonstrate to the committee through my essay and interview that I am resilient, have a strong work ethic, and that I am dedicated to putting my best foot forward to their mission. Now, I am a new 2020 INDUCER research fellow that will be working with SBU students and faculty. If you set your mind on your goal, you will be able to achieve what you set out to do.