Student Spotlight: Daniela Arenasviveros
Master of Biological Sciences
Although her father wanted her to be a doctor, Daniela Arenasviveros, a native of Colombia, found her calling as a biologist studying animals instead of people. Daniela received her Master of Biological Sciences degree from Texas Tech and is currently completing research for her dissertation while teaching in the Biology department.
Tell us about growing up in Colombia and what brought you to Texas Tech?
"Growing up in Colombia was great, despite the violence and civil conflict that the country was involved in for decades. I was raised in a big city where I was somewhat shielded from it. My parents are both smart and loving people that provided me with the best education (I always studied at a bilingual school) and taught me how to be a respectful and caring human being. My dad wanted me to be a medical doctor. When I told him that I wanted to be a veterinarian so I could study wild animals, he was the one that did the research and made me realize that what I really wanted to be was a biologist. I pursued my undergraduate degree in my hometown, and these were some of the best years of my life. I confirmed that studying the natural world is my true passion and I had the opportunity to explore places and see animals rarely seen by others."
"What brought me to Texas Tech is actually a very funny story. I was looking for schools that would allow me to be close to my sister and young niece in Houston. As I researched professors at Universities like Texas A&M, Rice, and others, I realized their research was what not what I wanted to do. During this time, a friend of mine in Colombia told me about a Bolivian professor at Texas Tech whose research was along the line of what I wanted to do. So I contacted Dr. Jorge Salazar-Bravo. We chatted for a while and he invited me to be part of his lab. I thought this is perfect! I get to go to school in Lubbock, Texas which means I'll be close to my sister and niece...little did I realize that Texas is such a big state!"
Tell us about your current research projects.
"Currently, I'm working on my dissertation project in which I will use a combination of molecular, genomic, and biogeographical approaches to better understand the diversification history of small rodents in the central Andes of South America, where diversity is very high but landscape complexity (which usually explains high diversity) is not. Parallel to this, I'm mentoring two undergraduate students in our lab who will learn how to apply phylogenetic information (which they will process and analyze themselves) to answer evolutionary and biogeographical questions. I am also working on two manuscripts for publication, one is my master's thesis and the other is the discovery of a new species of bat from the western Andes in northern South America."
What has been a favorite experience of your educational and teaching career so far?
"I have several experiences that I treasure since I have started with my higher education. The one that has always been there and keep amazing me every time is teaching. Even as an undergrad, during my senior year I was able to teach new students about the field techniques that we use in Biology and the work we do at natural history museums. As a graduate TA, I have been able to educate students on the principles of scientific research and even for a couple of times, change a student's mind about becoming a biologist, instead of just using the degree to apply to medical school. I will also remember the day one of my best students from a previous class approached me at the Rec Center to thank me for teaching her and the rest of the class the proper way to write lab reports and for being so strict about it, because it helped them to get an A on a lab report they wrote for their current class."
Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing an advanced degree abroad.
"For me, the main advantage of pursuing an advanced degree abroad has been the possibility to learn methods and techniques that I could never have learned in my country, simply because research is not at that point yet. Being able to live in a different culture and face different types of challenges has also allowed me to grow as a person and become more tolerant and aware of other people's differences. I would say that missing important dates and events with my friends and family is one of the main disadvantages of studying abroad. A couple of times I haven't been able to go back home for Christmas and that is always difficult."
What advice can you give to other international graduate students?
"For advice, I would tell other graduate students to find themselves a good group of people to surround themselves with. They become your support system and make this whole process much more bearable and fun. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help when needed. More people than you can imagine have or are going through the same struggles. We all have struggled at times and I definitely have faced struggles myself."
As you think about your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
"I am very proud of the Master of Biological Sciences degree I have already earned here at Texas Tech, and the life I have built for myself so far. But what I am possibly most proud of are the students I have been able to reach through my teaching."