Intense wonder, family and society are important to Juan Jaramillo. They create the spark that drive him forward. MIT News featured the 2012 Aldine ISD graduate in a recent article.
Below are excerpts from the article written by Catherine Curro Caruso.
Juan grew up in a small town in Mexico before moving to the Aldine area at the age of 13. He recalls translating for his parents while he was still learning English.
“I think I had to grow up a little faster because my parents wouldn’t hold my hand for so long,” said Juan. “I’ve had to grow due to the necessity of helping them out. I think that’s been very meaningful for me.”
As a young child, Juan was curious. His father, a chemistry and physics teacher in Mexico, fueled that sense of wonder early. He would show his son classroom experiments.
“He had that inquisitiveness in him,” said Juan. “That was really positive in my development.”
Juan describes himself as a far-from-perfect student in high school. During his junior year at Nimitz High School, a friend gave him some advice. He applied for the Minority Introduction for Engineering and Sciences. The MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs offers the summer initiative. As a MITES student, Juan spent six weeks at MIT. He was completely immersed in science and engineering coursework. It wasn’t long before he realized that MIT was where he wanted to be for college.
“It was a dream come true,” said Juan.
At MIT, Juan was immediately attracted to chemistry. He describes it as “magical” and “interacts with your senses the most.” But, Juan wanted to help the greatest number of people possible. He decided to pursue chemistry within the context of engineering.
For two years, Juan conducted crystals engineering research with Allan Myerson. Myerson is professor of the practice of chemical engineering. Juan worked on designing a system called Pharmacy on Demand. The system is roughly the size of a refrigerator. It can synthesize raw chemicals into usable medications. This is especially needed in developing communities where shipping medications is difficult.
“It definitely fueled my drive to positively affect people through engineering,” said Juan.
Juan also pursued research in an area that interests him: grapes. He hopes to someday own his own vineyard. Near the end of his junior year, Juan jumped at the chance to work with Jean-François Hamel. Hamel is a research engineer in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Juan and the team worked on developing a new fermentation system. This became a full time project where Juan was involved in all stages of the research.
“This has been one of the most independent types of research that I’ve been able to have,” he said. “I’ve been able to be essentially what a grad is and conducting my own research.”
As busy as Juan is at MIT, he devotes time to Camp Kesem. It is a one-week camp for children whose parents are dealing with cancer. Juan has been involved in various leadership roles within the organization. He currently serves as the outreach and operations director. His goal is to help the children and their families as much as possible by raising funds to run the camp, ensuring campers have an amazing experience and providing support to the families throughout the year.
Initially, Juan worked as a counselor with 6- to 8-year-old campers. These young kids faced great adversity. But they had this boundless energy and enthusiasm. This inspired Juan. It was then that he began to rethink his path. He had this intrinsic urgency to help these children. He realized that he had never had that experience anywhere else. Juan wanted to have a more personal and immediate impact on people’s lives.
“I decided that what I want is to go into the medical field so I can continue to positively affect people,” said Juan.
Juan graduates with the Class of 2016 this spring. With medical school a little ways down the road, he has accepted a position. He will work for a biotechnology company called Lyndra. The company is working on extending the delivery time for medications. This innovation will help people who lack regular access to medical professionals.
“I think this is the best stepping stone into the medical field,” said Juan. “I think it will fuel my drive to go into helping people out just the way I wanted to.”
Juan hopes to provide financial support to his family. He wants to relieve some of the burden on his father, who has been working construction for years. Since he was young, Juan was instilled with the idea that “family comes first.” His goal is to help his father take a rest and finally retire.
“I am really excited that I am in the process of going into industry,” said Juan. “I can now help him (his father) out.”
When Juan was a child, his father encouraged him to read The Little Prince. The book describes the adventures of a young prince as he travels to different planets. Juan finally read the book when he was 19. He saw himself in the prince, who is fascinated by everything he sees and everyone he meets. The book made Juan realize that no matter where he is or what he is doing, he must always stay curious. He must stay excited about the world.
“Slowly, you can turn your passions into something negative. An obligation, almost, that’s not necessarily positive for you,” said Juan. “I wanted to make sure that … I had this happiness in me … That I always stay positive.”
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