Hello World! My name is Alexander Alvara, I am a Fulbright Alum (2017-2018, Canada) and currently a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at University of California, Berkeley. My family is Mexican, Native American (Comanche and Tohono O'odham) and Puerto Rican.
In 2017, I started my research with the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children to develop, design, and test new surgical pediatric robotics. I worked closely with surgeons and scientists as a Fulbright Fellow to understand the problems faced by performing life-saving surgeries on small bodies and different techniques used to solve complex problems, or simply to diagnose illness better. As a leader in their field, Sick Kids and their Centre for Image-Guided Innovation and Therapeutic Intervention (CIGITI) was an ideal place for me to conduct next-level integrative robotic research.
During my off time in Canada, I made efforts to learn as much as I could about the local holidays, the food, the music, the lifestyles, and the politics. Looking into the politics of Canada was eye-opening and gave me a new insight into some of the indigenous politics as well as the international spectrum of people. Canada has a long way to go before the sovereignty of the indigenous tribes and the treaties engaged are upheld.
Now, speaking directly to those reading this. There are many more people who are smarter than I am, many more who come from a pedigree that traditionally agrees more with this life-style, but it shouldn’t stop you. You are good enough, you do deserve to succeed, you are smart enough, and the fields encompassed by the Fulbright program could use a little diversification in their elite ranks. I am the first in my family to pursue a Ph.D., a first-generation college student, a community college student, a high and college drop out, a low-income student, and someone who was previously homeless. If it weren’t for someone telling me to “at the very least try” then I do not think I would be where I am today.
So today I want to tell every person: “At the very least try. Apply, reapply, apply again and again and keep improving each time between applications. You will get it… eventually.”