Note: Answers were edited for clarity.
Q. How did you become interested inchemistry?
A. I started college thinking I would go to medical school. But the first time I took organic chemistry, something about the subject really spoke to me. It was a puzzle, and putting it together was really appealing.
Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced in your academic career, and how did you overcome it?
A. Learning to believe in myself. I don’t know exactly how I overcame that other than through hard work.
I grew up in Bolivia, came to the United States at 18, and enrolled at Diablo Valley College. I spoke English, but had never taken a class in English. I needed to gain confidence to be competitive. When I transferred to Stanford, I had to prove again to myself that I was worthy of being there.
Going to graduate school was another leap. I was surrounded by even more accomplished peers and had to succeed in that environment.
Q. What kept you motivated to tackle these challenges?
A. I enjoyed running experiments and trying to get to the next step.
Now, with my work on paper diagnostics, it‘s so compelling to think about making tests that could improve people’s access to health care, especially in places with no electricity. The potential impact there is so large.