Dayrin Mendez, a senior in biological engineering, has a “passion for helping those in need” and will use her UGA education as a springboard to obtain her medical degree.
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Rockdale County High School
B.S.B.E. in biological engineering with an emphasis in biomedical
University highlights, achievements and awards:
Throughout my UGA experience, I have been involved in many organizations. I have been a member of Engineers Without Borders since my freshman year and have served as vice president and, currently, as president. I am a College of Engineering ambassador, in which I get the chance to share with others the amazing opportunities that being an engineer has offered me. I have participated in the Science Venture Program, in which I spend time with high school students and share my love of science while motivating them to pursue a college career.
I also have been a member of UGA Red Cross, Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. I had the honor of receiving the annual Rotaract Student Service Award last year.
Along with my membership involvements, I have also led the efforts to help design a well and water purification system for the city of San Isidro in El Salvador. Years in the making, this international service project, coordinated through Engineers Without Borders, has allowed me to visit this country and work with government officials to provide a needed resource for the people of the community.
One of my biggest achievements has been working in professor William Kisaalita’s cellular bioengineering laboratory. I have gained valuable skills that have prepared me for my future career goals as well as made me a more complex and critical thinker.
Family Ties to UGA:
I am the first member of my family to attend the University of Georgia and the first generation of my family to complete studies in the United States.
I chose to attend UGA because...
The first time I came to UGA was during my high school sophomore year for the Georgia Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. I fell in love with the beautiful campus and all the activities that were available to students. When I looked into the biological engineering program, I realized that it was a perfect match, because the program would allow me to have a rich background in the sciences that would prepare me for medical school.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
… eating at the dining halls with friends and catching up on our day. I love the variety of food that is served at each dining hall and the special event dinners that occur throughout the year. Some of the best memories with my friends have been made when we have gone out to “Snellebrate” at 1 a.m. My favorite place to eat right now is The Niche, where I can get a delicious bowl of pistachio gelato.
When I have free time, I like...
… to go to the Ramsey Center. After a long day, I always look forward to spending a few hours releasing any stress or tension I may have. The PiYo classes are my favorite to attend. It incorporates Pilates, yoga, strength training and sports stretching all in one class. I first joined to improve my balance and become more flexible, but it also has become a great way to stay in shape and relax.
The craziest thing I've done is...
… hike up the highest volcano, Santa Ana (2,381 meters), in the country of El Salvador. When I traveled to San Isidro, El Salvador, with Engineers Without Borders-UGA I had the opportunity to stay at a campsite at the Volcano National Park, which boasts three volcanoes—Santa Ana, Izalco and Cerro Verde. Santa Ana has one of the most dramatic changing natural habitats as you reach different levels. We first walked through thick forest, but soon we saw colorful flower bushes and high grasses. The most breathtaking moment of the hike, however, came when we reached the top of the volcano and looked down inside to see the nuclear green boiling Sulfur Lake. The hike up the volcano took two hours and only one hour to come back down. Talk about an effective leg workout!
My favorite place to study is...
…the cellular bioengineering laboratory at the Driftmier Engineering Center. I spend long hours in the lab working on my research project, so it is always nice to just sit at my desk and study. All the laboratory equipment is inspiring, and I don’t have to worry about any noise or distractions.
My favorite professor is...
… William Kisaalita in the College of Engineering. Even though I have never had a class with him, I have had the opportunity to work in his lab since the second semester of my freshman year. I have shared my goals and dreams with Dr. Kisaalita, and he has always motivated me to keep going and always aim for the best. His advice is invaluable and through our countless talks about Engineers Without Borders, I truly came to understand my passion for helping those in need. I still remember a quote he shared with me during my freshman year that inspired me to devote my time to serving others: “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and helping people up.”
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
… Dr. Benjamin Carson. He caught my attention after I learned about his pioneering work in pediatric surgery and how he overcame difficult challenges throughout his life. It would be amazing to hear what motivated him and any advice he has for those like me who want to pursue a career in the medical field.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
… get back into martial arts. Growing up, I was very passionate about learning self-defense. I participated in countless sparring and grappling events and always excelled in them. At one point, my dream had been to become a black belt and participate in more championships. Unfortunately, a neck injury prevented me from achieving my goals. My younger brothers, however, both love martial arts, and I get to see them enjoy one of my favorite sports.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to...
… start an organization that would fund international projects in developing nations. Working closely with EWB-UGA, I have had the opportunity to see firsthand the need for funding such projects. There are so many willing and dedicated people who want to make a difference, but the lack of monetary support creates a barrier. There is no need for families and children to be worried about having clean water to drink at this time and age.
After graduation, I plan to...
… attend an M.D./Ph.D. program. I love working with children and I see myself specializing in pediatric cardiology. Having majored in biological engineering with a pre-med track, I realized there is a bridge between both professions that is many times overlooked. I want to have the opportunity to apply the critical thinking skills I have learned in my engineering program with the science background I acquired and be able to give patients the best care and treatment they deserve.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
Traveling to El Salvador twice with my friends from Engineers Without Borders-UGA is by far the highlight of my UGA career. I bonded with my fellow engineering peers and learned how to apply my engineering knowledge to a real world problem. I met amazing Salvadorian people who inspired me to use my talents to help others. Having been born in Guatemala and moving to the United States when I was 6 years old, it was such a personal accomplishment to be able to go back and serve a community that was so close to home. I learned to be thankful for what I have and never forget where I came from.