How one student overcame self-doubt in an intimidating career field
Eries Moreno has overcome an ongoing internal battle. It’s something that, as a psychology major, he knew as imposter syndrome — the belief that everyone else knew more than he did and that he wouldn’t belong in a prestigious career field. But with each growth opportunity he’s taken advantage of through UOG, less of his mind is occupied by self-doubt and more is dedicated to confidence.
Moreno, a junior who is simultaneously majoring in biology as well, is part of the BUILD EXITO program, a three-year program through Portland State University in which students from underrepresented backgrounds in scientific research are mentored by faculty and peers from their school to identify their research interests, learn how research is performed and documented, and ultimately develop a research project that addresses a health-related issue in the community.
"BUILD EXITO was the stepping stone that exposed me to research and the opportunities that are available in this pathway,” Moreno said.
With an interest in becoming a physician-scientist to research and improve health care in Guam, Moreno also became involved with the UOG chapter of the American Medical Student Association, which connected him to upperclassmen and faculty who have offered support and guidance in finding his path.
One upperclassman, senior chemistry major Julianne Ballon, told him about a summer program she’d participated in through Stanford University and encouraged him to apply.
Moreno was one of 20 students selected, along with UOG chemistry major Darlene Ferrer, for Stanford Cardiovascular Institute’s Undergraduate Summer Research Program. The 10-week program, held virtually this past summer due to the pandemic, included lectures on cardiovascular science, workshops on research writing and presenting, seminars on professional development, and opportunities to meet with admissions teams from related graduate programs.
“I was able to learn from and work closely with my principal investigator, Dr. Michael Ma. He runs the Ma Lab at Stanford, which focuses on congenital heart defect research,” Moreno said. “I was tasked to analyze and aggregate data from centers and hospitals all across the United States to find factors that would deem a specific heart surgery too dangerous.”
Even following the summer program, Moreno said he continues to keep in contact weekly with Ma and the lab team regarding the ongoing research.
Aside from the program providing him invaluable hands-on experience with real medical research, it taught him something about himself.
“I have come to realize that I was the only person limiting and doubting myself,” he said.
Moreno said he is grateful for the “overwhelming support” of his fellow Tritons, including Ballon and Jeried Calaor, and the College of Natural and Applied Sciences faculty, including Professor of Chemistry Tedros Bezabeh and Associate Professor of Biology Katharine Lofdahl.
“If it weren’t for them,” he said, “I seriously don’t think I would have considered reaching for such pursuits.”