Believing in people

Dawn Sumner and Marisol Juarez Rivera

Dawn Sumner and Marisol Juarez Rivera

Marisol Juarez Rivera is a graduate student in Earth and planetary sciences. Born to a family of migrant farm workers, she is the first in her family to graduate from college. At UC Davis, she has studied under geology professor Dawn Sumner, who in 2012 served as a co-investigator for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory team directing the Mars rover Curiosity.

“Dawn is not only an inspiration as a professor and scientist but also as a female scientist,” said Rivera.

Why is UC Davis the one for you? “As a student at UC Davis I have grown academically, professionally and emotionally. There are many people, mentors, professors and friends who I met here and have helped me throughout my undergraduate career and now as a master’s student. Because of the curriculum and these people I’ve met at UC Davis, I can confidently call myself a scientist.”

What is the best experience you have had here that you could share with us — something that happened to you uniquely because of your ties to UC Davis? “One key event that enhanced my interest in research was attending the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science 2011 National Conference. At this conference I presented my first research poster, won an award, and learned that I really enjoyed talking about science. I realized that I had the capability to become a scientist.”

What do you hope to be your legacy here at UC Davis — what marks have you made or changes that you hope will continue? “As the first person in my family to attend a university, specially coming from a migrant farm worker family, I understand the struggles, financial and cultural, that we face even before we come to college. I wanted to help and got to do it by being part of the Chicano/a And Latinos/as Engineering and Scientist Society on campus. Latinos are very underrepresented, and I hope to be part of that change. I also hope to be a mentor to those students who need it.”

Tell us about one person at UC Davis who has enhanced your life or your work? “My success in college has been the product of a community effort. Luis Ramirez and Daniela Torres were two English graduate students who took me in as a freshman. And Dawn Sumner is ultimately the most important person who shaped my undergraduate career. With her guidance I successfully completed my senior thesis and I am starting a graduate program that is intellectually challenging. Dawn is not only an inspiration as a professor and scientist but also as a female scientist.”