President Rosenberg recognizes SISH Worlds Ahead Graduates

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Walter Gonzalez

Ph.D. in Chemistry

Walter Gonzalez grew up in Argentina, and at just 5 years old, dreamed up his first robot out of aluminum cans he and his brother collected. At age 10, he tried extracting hydrogen from water based on instructions he found in his father’s old chemistry book. By 14, he was building small robots out of parts salvaged from old electronics and mechanical equipment.

His family immigrated to the United States two months before the 2001 economic collapse in Argentina. The move was difficult for 15-year-old Walter. He had no space or tools to build robots in his family’s small apartment. He graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in biophysics at FIU. He then set his sights on a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Under the guidance of Professor Jaroslava Miksovska, Walter studied protein interactions. His research provides a better understanding of the role neuronal calcium sensors play in Alzheimer’s disease, memory retention and one’s ability to feel pain. He is the first author of five peer-reviewed publications in top journals and has received two national awards for his research.

Walter takes pride in setting the example for his younger sister who graduated high school as valedictorian. He now understands the move to the U.S. was well worth it.

After graduation, Walter will conduct postdoctoral research in neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology. He wants to combine physics, chemistry, and biology to tackle some of the most challenging problems in neuroscience.

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Edmundo Barriga

Bachelor’s in Physics

Edmundo Barriga left his home and most of his family in Mexico six years ago to come to Miami to finish high school and eventually earn a college degree. This May he will be able to say he accomplished both as he graduates magna cum laude from FIU with a bachelor’s degree in physics.

After graduating from Miami Beach Senior High as part of the school’s first International Baccalaureate graduating class and completing Miami Dade College’s Honors program, he transferred to FIU in 2014 to pursue a degree in physics.

While at FIU, Edmundo worked with Professor Jörg Reinhold on groundbreaking nuclear physics research – including research done for the GlueX Experiment, the primary goal being the definitive and detailed mapping of the spectrum of a new family of particles called hybrid mesons, at Jefferson Lab in Virginia.

He was also active outside the classroom as the president of the Physics Sigma Pi Sigma Honors Society and as an event coordinator for the Society of Physics Students. Within the honors society, he helped start a student service organization that tutors and advises fellow undergraduate students and does outreach recruiting to local high schools and career fairs.

Once he graduates, Edmundo will set his sights on pursuing a doctoral degree in physics with a concentration in particle and nuclear physics and is strongly considering staying at FIU to continue his education.

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Daniela Salinas

Bachelor’s in Psychology

Daniela Salinas always wanted to pursue a career in science, but her visual impairment meant microscopes and beakers were not in her future. Thus, she turned to the social sciences, finding psychology. After taking an abnormal psychology course, Daniela discovered she wanted to specialize in anxiety disorders.

In the summer of 2015, Daniela interned at the Washington D.C. Public Schools’ Urban Education Leaders Internship Program. Daniela created a teacher resource guide providing best practices and strategies to foster a healthy and effective special education learning environment to improve the achievement gap for students with disabilities. She also had the opportunity to co-teach elementary school students with severe disabilities.

Daniela attributes her success to her Yaya (grandmother) — a colorful lady who raised her with all the love and spoiling in the world, helping Daniela discover her strengths (persistence) and weaknesses (impatience).

Additionally, Daniela credits her family for her drive and passion. She learned more can be done by those who want than by those who can, and that with a little help, persistence, passion for what we do — and a sense of humor — we can achieve anything.

A dean’s list student, and the recipient of the 2015-2016 Dr. Fareed Haj Scholarship Endowment for blind students, based on academic achievement and civic engagement, Daniela will pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

For more information on SISH's World's Ahead graduates click here.