Laura Pesquera Colom (’19 biology) always wanted a big university where she could build close relationships with friends and mentors. Still, leaving her small high school in Puerto Rico for Iowa State took courage.
“I was scared I wouldn’t have a community,” she said. “It was completely the opposite. Iowa State is a great place to find people who share your interests. Pushing yourself to meet those people is hard, but once you do that everything is easy.”
Now after four years of expanding her sense of possibility and potential, she’ll embrace a new adventure: at Harvard’s School of Dental Medicine.
Chase new ideas
Laura found her academic home in ISU’s Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology and in the lab of Professor Don Sakaguchi. That led her to undergraduate research achievements such as assisting with stem cell experiments, completing a biomedical engineering REU on retinal regeneration research and earning a LAS Dean’s High Impact Award for Undergraduate Research.
“Dr. Sakaguchi saw I was determined and willing to learn, and he pushed me. When it came to start doing independent research, he told me I could do it and it made me believe it.”
Create meaningful connections
During her junior year, Laura founded the Minority Association for Pre-Health Students (MAPS), which helps minority students at ISU who face struggles in applying to professional school. She created a space where students could talk openly and share resources.
“Imagine being a first-generation student, or from a low socio-economic background or from a family who doesn’t support you going into the health field,” she said. “If you don’t have a model or a person to look up to, you’re not going to go into it. Part of it is just believing in yourself and finding people who believe in you, too. Iowa State is a good place to find people who believe in you.”
Make a difference
Iowa State mentors gave Laura the confidence to apply to Harvard.
“Being here was already a miracle for me, and I didn’t think I could shoot for experiences of that caliber,” she said. “I had support from a lot of people, and they saw potential in me.”
Now her future goal as a dentist is to reduce health disparities in high need areas.
“I used to pretend I was confident,” she said. “I had a lot of doubts. After four years here, after so much support from mentors and meeting so many friends, I actually believe I’m going to be a great health professional.”
Laura’s adventure also included: