Before coming to Colorado State University, Rai Romero didn’t know he wanted to study engineering. The first-generation college student didn’t know much about research, either, including how much he would enjoy it.
He graduated from Pacific Union College, near his Northern California hometown of Vallejo, with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but little exposure to research. He wanted to expand his horizons, and when he received the NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Fellowship, an award for historically underrepresented minority doctoral students, he applied to the doctoral program at CSU, where he could do lab rotations his first year.
“When I first went to college, I studied pre-med, but quickly realized I loved math and science too much, and didn’t want to let those go,” said Romero. “I’ve always had an interest in the medical field, so I chose to study biomedical engineering at CSU.”
Collaborative, supportive environment
Romero joined the lab of Matt Kipper in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and School of Biomedical Engineering, who works in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. There Romero worked on a project to engineer a bone graft coating to improve the healing process. His work on another research project also earned him credit for a patent.
“When I first came to visit CSU, it seemed like a collaborative and supportive environment,” Romero said. “It’s what stuck out to me when I interviewed, and it still does now,”
Romero is set to graduate on Dec. 16 with a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, and is preparing to pursue new research opportunities. He’s confident CSU has equipped him for whichever research path he chooses, inside or outside the classroom.
He knows that for many students, knowing the “why” behind course material helps them learn more effectively, and bringing real-world experience into the classroom as an educator can help.
“If I was able to get additional real-world research experience, it would be useful to bring that knowledge back into the classroom,” Romero said. “I really respect the people who can be great educators, and also have their research inform their teaching,”
When he does begin his career as an educator, Romero aims to be the type of professor he admired throughout his time at CSU: great at teaching and research.