Lewis University, Romeoville, IL
Major: Biology BS
Liliana will graduate from Lewis University in December with a degree in Biology. She is a first generation college student, both parents immigrating from Mexico. After her parents immigrated, her dad began working as a landscaper and her mom as a janitor in Chicago public schools. Her mom as just recently gone back to school to get her associate’s degree and is now a respiratory therapist. For Liliana, it was the hardships her parents endured that motivated her from a young age to want to pursue medicine and become a doctor.
She remembers having a book about doctors when she was five years old, and ever since then she has wanted to be a doctor. In seventh grade when her teacher introduced a chapter about the earth, the earth’s layers, and the sun, she developed an interest in all areas of science after that. At an early age she thought Einstein was “a cool dude”.
Liliana says she loves to socialize as an extrovert, and loves getting to know people on a personal level. While she wants to attend medical school, Liliana’s passions lie in mending the gaps in racial and social justice through developing methods to reach equity. While she is looking forward to becoming part of a research project centered around policing at her home institution, she likes to integrate social justice into her everyday hobbies. Besides racial justice, Liliana loves being outdoors and working out at the gym. She looks forward to getting more into yoga and Pilates. She also would like to start playing the piano again as a hobby, her favorite composer being Beethoven. Liliana is fluent in Spanish, and has tutored kids ranging from preschool (teaching Spanish) to 6th graders.
During the REU summer program at RIT, Liliana is working with Drs. Kate Wright and Dina Newman on exploring how biologists and biology students conceptualize race versus ancestry. Liliana is interviewing experts and students from a variety of institutions and is gathering information on how experts and students discuss topics of race and ancestry. Liliana admits that before doing research on the topic she was unaware that race was a social construct and not a biological variable. She wants more individuals to realize this, as she feels it will change biases and the quality of medical care and educational instruction.
Unlike race, “ancestry is a biological variable and it is dictated by lineage, roots, and therefore you can link it to genetics with biological merit,” stated Liliana. “I hope people reading this excerpt (especially future REU students) will be inspired to do more research around diversity and inclusion for biology. Race is a book cover, ancestry is the contents within the book,” an analogy she says came to her during this interview.