Pursuing a degree in a foreign country can be difficult for any student but Maria Alejandra Torres Arango has never been one to back down from a challenge.
Torres Arango, a native of Medellin, Colombia, graduated from West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources with a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering in December 2017.
“I feel very happy to have reached this achievement at WVU,” said Torres Arango. “Becoming an engineer provides one not only with a great set of tools but also the criteria to solve problems, advance science and a perspective to approach life itself.”
Torres Arango always knew she wanted to be an engineer so that she could work in field that would allow her to make a significant impact on society. When her classmates at Pontificia Bolivarian University in Medellin told her about the great reputation and abundance of opportunities at WVU she knew she needed to apply.
Getting accepted into the University in 2011, was a life-changing experience that set Torres Arango on a path toward achieving her dream.
During her time at WVU, she was able to conduct ground-breaking research on new sustainable materials and serve as a mentor to more than 17 undergraduate and graduate students. She is especially proud of the fact that three of her female mentees received prestigious research opportunities from the National Science Foundation.
“I have met people from different cultural and professional backgrounds at WVU making my studies a very enriching experience,” said Torres Arango. “I had the pleasure to work with faculty, researchers and students from different fields who feel such passion for their research. I feel blessed to have been surrounded by the greatest minds and talents of my generation.”
According to Victor Mucino, associate chair for education and professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, only 16 percent of doctoral students in the department are female, making Torres Arango’s recent accomplishment both impressive and inspirational.
“I am not surprised at all at her success,” said Mucino. “Maria has effectively become a role-model to emulate. I truly believe this is just the beginning of an amazing success story for women in STEM in the United States and Latin America.”
Torres Arango plans to continue conducting research in the Unites States and has hopes of one day becoming a professor so that she can directly inspire the next generation of women engineers.
“I believe that one should always foster the advancement and development of newer generations, particularly women,” said Torres Arango. “More women in STEM fields would mean more inclusion of our ideas, creativity and hard work. Women are intrinsically curious and I believe this is essential for advances in research.”
In addition to her Ph.D., Torres Arango holds a bachelors degree in aeronautical engineering from Pontifical Bolivarian University (2009) and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from WVU (2013).
For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources:
College Relations office: 304-293-4086
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