From ‘Project Daydream’ to clean water tech, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month celebration poster
Neil Adelantar

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month, which began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 as a time to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Princeton Engineering celebrates the outstanding contributions of our students, faculty, researchers and alumni of Hispanic heritage.

For more stories like those in the posts below, follow us on Instagram.


 

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#PrincetonEngineers: “There’s a huge issue with #DACA students, and I’ve experienced this myself. HR departments in the private sector aren’t well informed about what DACA is, and there’s a huge miscommunication of what’s possible for a DACA student or graduate to do. We wanted to be able to fill in the gap, so in 2021 we started Project Daydream with support from the @kellercenter’s eLab Incubator. I’m working with Kevin Andrade ’21 *22 @kevinandrade.jpg and Mariana Bravo ’24 @maribravoo.

The idea is to educate and partner with industry HR departments to make sure they understand the possibilities for DACA students — that they can work in these different sectors. We have DACA students becoming dentists and doctors and doing all these different things, and a lot of the time these are one-off scenarios because they’ve managed to ask the right questions and had the energy to actually push through and keep probing to get into school or employment. But so many others have just been dismissed, and it’s leading to an inefficient ecosystem in the U.S. There’s a huge shortage of employees now in sectors like nursing and engineering, and all of these DACA students can be employed and fill those gaps. I think the country is limiting itself from all this potential.

We’re working with some professors and reaching out to different lawyers to see what we can tell students to say and ask during job and internship interviews, so they can mention DACA but keep it from working against them. We’re creating an information sheet for DACA students for the application and interview process.

We’re also developing a campaign to collect donations from students nationwide for DACA-specific scholarships. The motto is ‘students funding students.’ I think young people as a whole are seen by older generations as naysayers or complainers. We wanted to say, hey, we’re young but we see a problem that’s been started by older generations, and not only do we want something to change, but we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re making the change happen.” – Jose Yanez ’20 *22 @juniooorrrr #hispanicheritagemonth #princetonalumni (photo by Sonya Isenberg ’20 @sonyakatarina)


 

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#PrincetonEngineers: “In elementary school I was obsessed with rocks and would collect them whenever I went on a hike or to the park. I think that interest in geology was the start of my pathway into environmentalism. Whenever there were science fairs, I leaned toward experiments related to plants. One of my experiments from second grade is still alive! My mom is maintaining it back home in Texas. (see 2nd photo in this post)

As an undergrad at @lifeatpurdue, I started taking environmental engineering courses for fun. I realized how interesting the material was and how passionate the students and professors were. I started out in chemical engineering, but halfway through my junior year I switched to environmental engineering @purdueeee, and I’ve stuck with it since.

I’m Peruvian American — I was born in the U.S., but both my parents are from Peru. Through a summer job at Purdue working as an interpreter for a few visiting professors from Peru, I got connected to a professor in my program and did a research project mapping out potential water sampling sites in Arequipa. I have a special connection to this project since my dad is from Arequipa, and most of my relatives still live there. The @arequipa_nexus Institute was started to solve various environmental issues in that area, one of which is water quality related to mining. A lot of mining companies from North America and Europe have set up locations in Arequipa because the environmental laws are really relaxed, and unfortunately that has led to metal contamination.

At Princeton, I’m working with Professor Peter Jaffé on addressing PFAS (aka “forever chemical”) contamination. The lab has discovered a naturally occurring soil microbe that can break down PFAS, and we’re trying to see if we can apply it to wastewater through an emerging technology called microbial electrolysis cells, and I’m now working to scale up the system. Someday it could be tested in a pilot study using actual wastewater that has PFAS. It’s fascinating to think about how my work is contributing to new technology in the long term.” – Camila Llerena-Olivera, Ph.D. candidate, civil and environmental engineering #hispanicheritagemonth


 

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#PrincetonEngineers: “I’m a junior in the computer science department, also doing a certificate in statistics and machine learning. I’ve been involved with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE or “SHEP”) @princeton_shpe since freshman year, when I was the communications chair. Since last year I’ve been the co-president. I’m also an advising fellow with @matriculateorg, helping low-income, high achieving students with the college application process.

My goal for SHPE this year is to grow it back after COVID. My co-president Ashley Ponce ’25 and I have been trying to have weekly events and get people more engaged with the club. We had a recruiting intro event with Bloomberg and PWiCS (Princeton Women in Computer Science). We’re having coffee chats on Thursdays, and an event with MongoDB along with @nsbe_pu (National Society of Black Engineers), and more in the works. (Students can sign up for the SHPE listserv at https://bit.ly/3EpWSIM.)

Both my parents are immigrants from Colombia, and I grew up in Piscataway, New Jersey, which is about a 30-minute drive from Princeton. Family has always been really important to me, and I think having them so close is good for me and for them, since my brother’s also in college.

I applied to Princeton as an international relations major. Then I took a computer science class my senior year of high school, just on a whim, and I really enjoyed it. So, that summer I switched into computer science. I find it very rewarding being able to see something you create come to life in that way.

When I was a freshman I was lucky enough to get an internship with Facebook though their @Facebook University program, and this past summer I worked at @Instagram helping with a feature called Reels Reshare Chaining. This makes it so if you click on a new reel you can scroll past and see the previous ones you sent or that people sent to you. Working with my intern manager and the rest of the team at Instagram was a really good experience. It made me grow as a programmer and a person.” – Julian Rodriguez ’24 @j.rod.6 #hispanicheritagemonth