Sophomore making strides towards mechanical engineering dream

Gabriella Pinos/Assistant Entertainment Director

Although she had been awarded a full scholarship to the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Patricia Garcia decided to stay in Miami and take care of her ill mother.

It was through constant hospital visits that her passion for medical engineering and the different ways it is involved in medical equipment was sparked.

“I thought, ‘ok, this would be a perfect way for me to get involved in a major that could help others, but as well use my critical thinking skills and tie it together,” said Garcia.

Currently a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at FIU, Garcia has done it all, from developing three-dimensional skeletal muscle to finding regenerative solutions to heart failure. She has held internships at the University of Miami, Worchester Polytechnic Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology – all prior to her junior year.

For her, being able to research at these institutions has been a dream come true.

“If you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be at MIT working on the research project that I was working on, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” said Garcia.

She has since then participated in research opportunities and internships during her summers. Her first internship at the Worchester Polytechnic Institute involved finding a regenerative solution to heart failure.

Moving from Miami to WPI in Massachusetts was challenging for Garcia, who only had local experience working as an intern at the University of Miami.

“I was 18 at the time, a couple of days after graduation, and my first week there, I think it was my first day, I was like, ‘okay, this is cool.’ My second day there, I was like, ‘I don’t know that I can do this,’” she said.

It wasn’t until the following summer, when she was offered a summer internship at MIT to develop 3D skeletal muscle tissue, that Garcia felt she was in a different ballgame. While the research Garcia conducted in both institutions were in completely different fields, she said her experiences, especially at MIT, was hard to believe.

“…when I was doing research at WPI, I visited MIT for the fourth of July, and I didn’t think much of that. I thought, ‘maybe one day I’ll be more than just a tourist here walking through these halls.’ And then the following summer, I was at MIT being more than just a tourist,” she said.

As a woman in STEM, Garcia also said that her achievements have helped with her personal development. When she first enrolled at FIU, she noticed a huge contrast between the University’s co-ed courses and the all-girl classes at her high school, Young Women’s Preparatory Academy. In her Introduction to Computer Aided Drawing class, for instance, she is one of only three girls in the course.

Garcia said her experiences in this field have developed her maturity and confidence throughout her career.

“I guess it took me a while to believe in myself that I was capable and I was worthy of all these things, so these experiences have definitely been like, ‘if I can do it then why can’t you do it,’ type of thing,” said Garcia.

After graduation in 2021, Garcia hopes to work at a medical device company and, possibly, pursue a Ph.D. She is currently finalizing plans for a summer internship within Miami and hopes to get more involved with increasing the number of women in STEM at FIU.

For those who are still finding their own career path, Garcia suggests that students get out of their comfort zone just like she did.

“Once you make that first step, everything just becomes a lot easier,” said Garcia.

Featured photo courtesy of Patricia Garcia.

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