Learn about PREP from Leslie Carrillo-Sáenz

Date: Thursday, July 19, 2018

Leslie Carrillo-SáenzLeslie Carrillo-Sáenz recently completed the Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP). This program is designed for recent graduates from traditionally underrepresented groups in biomedical fields to gain experience before entering graduate school. Learn more about Sáenz and how the PREP program prepared her for her future education and career.

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Undergraduate school: Northeastern Illinois University

Undergraduate major: Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematical Modeling

Why did you decide to participate in PREP?

I wanted to participate in the PREP program to gain a hands-on, long-term experience in a biomedical research environment. Particularly, I wanted to be involved with groups studying or identifying mechanisms related to pathophysiology of complex human diseases.

I was able to discuss my role and progress on projects in various outlets such as lab meetings and advisory committee meetings, which helped me obtain valuable feedback to utilize back in the lab. Overall, this program supported me to become ready for graduate school training.

How did PREP help prepare you for your future endeavors?

The PREP program helped me in many ways as an individual and student. I was challenged in various research settings and projects, which helped me learn how to adapt when the unexpected occurs. I also learned how to refine what questions to ask, their possible significance, and how to plan a process to solve a problem.

I had the opportunity to take graduate level courses through PREP, which helped me find pharmacogenomics and pharmacogenetics and led me to meeting my current mentor, Dr. Anne Kwitek. Dr. Kwitek and the other mentors I have met through PREP challenged me to think bigger and further.

PREP also helped me gain a confidence I didn’t know I had by gradually increasing my independence and working on my own research project. Besides this independence, I have enjoyed being part of my lab group to give me an environment to learn freely and discuss ideas as part of a collaborative group.

The PREP program also provided programming that allowed me to meet a variety of people from the University of Iowa and speakers from a variety of institutions and areas of expertise.

One of the best features of PREP was the community of friends, peers, and support that has been transformative during my development as a trainee. I am not the same person I was when I started the program in 2016. I am a more confident individual thanks to my diverse experiences here that will undoubtedly help me in my future endeavors.

What do you plan to do next?

I will be pursuing my Graduate Education in Medical Sciences (GEMS) at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Based on my research experiences in PREP studying etiological factors of preeclampsia and Metabolic Syndrome (MetS), I would like to pursue a graduate degree concentration in cardiovascular science.

I will miss the University of Iowa, my lab, friends and mentors tremendously, but for the meantime I am wrapping up my computational project in the Kwitek Lab this summer. I also have the opportunity to meet the next cohort of PREP scholars and hear their stories and goals. The PREP program has helped a seed of curiosity in me develop into a tree by the end of the program. It will be exciting to see how this continues a year from now.

Advice to others considering participating in PREP?

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain! If you are interested in attending graduate school, this program offers a multitude of resources and support to help you get to where you want to be in your educational journey. The University of Iowa has a supportive research community eager to help you develop your skills.

Learn more about our Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program