Say hello to Melanie Mendez (She/her/ella/elle)! Melanie is a scientist from Guatemala that studies the relationship between the immune system and bone biology during disease in the USA!
What kind of scientist are you?
I’m an osteoimmunologist studying how inflammation and antibiotics affect the development of post-traumatic osteoarthritis after injury.
What made you want to become a scientist?
I decided I wanted to be involved in science when I was in the 5th grade and I failed my first test ever, it was an earth science test and the teacher did not like me. She told me I would daydream too much, had my head in the stars, and always went off topic. She said I did not have a mind for math and science. I won the science award that year after getting a hundred percent on every single assignment and my ending project which was a replica of the solar system called “head in the stars.” It was an earth science project comparing earth to all the other planets, so definitely off topic and a little rebellion that did not go unnoticed. Later, I became interested in biology thanks to my 9th grade biology teacher. She was amazing and had a way of simplifying everything so it was easy for a kid with undiagnosed ADHD like myself to understand. She was so smart, funny, quirky, and gorgeous that I wanted to be just like her. I decided to become a researcher when I realized that it was the only field where I could ask why as much as I wanted and no one thought it odd. I like finding out why something does what it does, kind of like being a science detective. By the way, this was after realizing that dental school was not for me because the science aspect was fun but I don’t like teeth, it took me three years to figure that out. The bonus for me of doing what I do is that I get to satisfy my curiosity about everything around me while also helping the world. I think that helping out the world is kind of cool.
“I moved to the USA when I realized that the opportunities for growth did not exist in my home country.”Melanie Mendez
What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I am a Hispanic (native Guatemalan) and black mixed woman who is the first in her family to get a PhD. I moved to the USA when I realized that the opportunities for growth did not exist in my home country. There was one university and a very limited amount of research that could be done. Eventually I want to go back and help expand the STEM fields back home because I love my country but right now I need to work on becoming a better scientist.
What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I like to crochet, I speak three languages because I love to travel, and I love makeup so I’ve got a big stash that I like to play with.
If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I wish that we were better at communicating. I think that we wouldn’t stand out as #UniqueScientists if we made science more accessible. I only found out what a welcoming and fun place the science works was when I was fully in it. I wish that changed.
“I only found out what a welcoming and fun place the science works was when I was fully in it.”Melanie Mendez
Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My 9th grade biology teacher made me love science but a college professor suggested I looked into becoming a researcher. I never even considered research as an option until he said I could do it.
Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I told all my friends and family that I’m defending in December. It means I’ll be presenting my dissertation work and getting my doctorate!
WomenInSTEM, #BlackInSTEM, #LatinxInSTEM, #LatinasInSTEM