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#STEMStories: Ana, Biomedical Engineer, USA

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

My name is Ana Maria Porras and I am a biomedical engineer. I finished my Ph.D. in 2017 and I am now a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University. I spend my days studying the bacteria inside our guts and finding ways to understand how it is that they have the power to control our health.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

I think I always knew I wanted to be a scientist or engineer. My parents were engineers and I enjoyed solving problems and making things, but I knew I didn't want to build bridges or cars. One day, my mom, who was a professor, came back from visiting another university, where she had heard for the first time about bioengineering. From there, I did some research and learned that biomedical engineers solve problems in human medicine and I fell in love with the field.

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

The people I work with and knowing that I get to learn something new every day. Sometimes, it's even something nobody else in the world knows yet!

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

Two things: time off with family and friends, and dancing it out! Just two days ago I had a pretty busy and kind of rough day at work. I was stressing so much about several deadlines I have coming up. After work, I went to my dance rehearsal with 3 other friends and once we started dancing and laughing, all the worries of the day just went away.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

Dr. Kristyn Masters, who was my thesis advisor during my Ph.D. Kristyn taught me everything I know about being a good scientist, and more importantly, about being a good caring mentor.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

Talk to as many people as possible and learn as much as you can about all the possible careers out there! There's so much you can do, the sky is the limit.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Let your curiosity guide your path
  2. Don't let others tell you what you can or cannot do
  3. Find friends and mentors that can support you in the journey

8.  How do you measure your success?

First against myself by thinking about how far I have come and how much I have learned at each stage of professional and personal career. Second, by evaluating the people and communities I have been able to interact with and hopefully contribute to in some way.

9.  Where can we find out more about your work?

Follow me on social media (see below) to learn about microbiology and see the cute crocheted microbes I make! You can also visit 

the lab website: https://www.britolab.org/people

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

SO social! Find me on Twitter and Instagram @AnaMaPorras. If you speak Spanish, I'm also on Instagram and Facebook @anaerobias. And here is my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ana-maria-porras/