February 22, 2024

Edith Lozano Perez, a 2022 Aspire Leaders Program alumna and chemical engineer from Guadalajara, Mexico, visited the Aspire office and met with our staff during a trip to Boston last year. She toured top universities and received guidance from expert bioengineers around the city. This was part of her grand prize for winning the 2022 iGEM Design League contest for her team’s project, Synthetic Biobots. Lozano Perez was grateful for this all-expenses-paid trip from iGEM and felt ready to make an impact in this field after her experience. 

“This trip helped me to expand my knowledge about what I can do with my pathway,” she said.

Following Opportunity

Lozano Perez grew up in a town near Guadalajara that lies between two schools: the University of Guadalajara and the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes. While most of her friends went to the smaller Aguascalientes for university, Lozano Perez was eager for a challenge and applied to the University of Guadalajara. Here, she found the opportunity to connect with a variety of different people.

“It was challenging, yes, and I was scared because I was alone,” she said. “But over time, it was amazing, because I met a lot of people that were from other countries and it was an opportunity to talk with people from different backgrounds. Now I see it was a good choice.”

While working on her bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering, Lozano Perez entered a contest hosted by the iGEM Foundation. This contes allows students from Latin America to submit proposals for synthetic biology solutions to local problems within their communities. She and her classmates proposed producing a synthetic biopesticide from black pepper to deter caterpillars that destroy corn crops. Their project, Synthetic Biobots, won the grand prize, and Lozano Perez travelled on a fully funded trip to Boston, Massachusetts to meet with pioneers in the chemical engineering field. 

Despite her best efforts to hold off on sharing the news, Lozano Perez’s accomplishment became the talk of her town within a week – and she received massive support from her community. 

“She’s started to be famous locally,” Carlos Adrian García Zambrano, her team’s advisor, commented.

Empowered to Dream Bigger

Lozano Perez spent five experience-packed days exploring Boston and connecting with experts in her field. Not only was she able to visit the Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campuses, she also had the opportunity to work with iGEM’s partner, Ginkgo Bioworks, a biotech company specializing in genetic engineering. She received guidance and mentorship, attended workshops, worked on developing her project further, and gained insights about careers in biotech. 

During her trip, Lozano Perez connected with a multitude of inspiring leaders in executive positions. She was both shocked and delighted to find that everyone was helpful. These conversations with executives opened her eyes to the many opportunities in her field. 

These discussions helped Lozano Perez to combat the impostor syndrome she felt only a few weeks prior, and she could more clearly envision herself working in the chemical engineering field.

“It was amazing,” she recalled.

Another highlight of her visit was viewing professional labs and realizing that these professionals are working towards their goals like any researcher. Seeing the door to their equipment storage held by a chain of gloves reminded her of similar “tricks” she’d seen in the labs back at home.

“It’s a relief to know that even great leaders have problems,” she said. “You know they are like you, and [it makes you realize] you can reach those kinds of goals.” 

Her team advisor who joined her on he visit summarized the most invaluable lesson.

It’s a relief to know that even great leaders have problems. You know they are like you, and [it makes you realize] you can reach those kinds of goals.

“What we like the most is [that] this trip helped to show us that we can dream bigger,” García Zambrano said.

Lozano Perez’s entire experience left her with a greater perspective of her field and career. She plans to seek out and vouch for better opportunities for herself.

He noted that great people exist everywhere and are equally deserving of these kinds of chances – a notion shared by Aspire’s Co-Founders.

Joining Aspire

Lozano Perez first learned of the Aspire Leaders Program — previously the Crossroads Emerging Leaders Program — while following opportunity groups online. She fell in love with the idea of the program and applied a year later when she was able to dedicate the time to it. 

“What I loved the most was the advice that we had in the [resume] workshop,” she said. “I’ve been applying to a lot of opportunities with that advice — it helps me a lot.”

Lozano Perez enjoyed connecting with peers around the world through the program. This was something she sought out when going to university.

“Aspire gave me the opportunity to talk with other [like-minded individuals],” she said. 

Engaging with the connections she created resulted in an incredible butterfly effect as well. Friends she made during the program connected her to a variety of resources. She even joined a course that helped her to complete her thesis. 

“If I didn’t [go] to that group of people that I met in Aspire Leaders, maybe I [would still] be stuck [on my thesis],” she said.

The Future

You can always continue growing and continue learning. There’s always an opportunity to improve.

Lozano Perez currently works for OKKO Super Foods as a process analyst. After her experiences in the Aspire Leaders Program and on her trip to Boston, she realizes the many options she can explore.

“Now, I think that I am restructuring all the plans that I had — especially [within my] industry,” she said. “It’s a big opportunity to work with other companies that have better opportunities [and positions].”

Lozano Perez hopes to pursue a PhD in her field and continue research.

“You can always continue growing and continue learning,” she said. “There’s always an opportunity to improve.”


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