Photograph of Johnny Mendoza

Johnny Mendoza – RUA Community Engagement Board Member

Johnny Mendoza, PhD Candidate, University of Michigan

Field of Study: Chemistry – Chemical Biology

RUA Affiliation: Community Engagement Board Member, Research Exchange and RUA22 Conference Participant

What are you currently studying and why did you choose it?

I’m currently in chemistry & chemical biology. Coming from a strict organic/inorganic background, working on developing novel catalysts, I was amazed by how often chemists (myself included) were trying to mimic what Nature had already mastered. As such, I decided to switch to studying metalloenzymes at the structural level, in the hopes of learning from Nature’s most creative chemist(s) and with the goal of harnessing their reactivity to develop novel biocatalysts.

Why did you choose to participate in RUA activities?

I have been lucky to have been mentored, officially and unofficially, by people since high school that helped nurture my love for science and nurtured my curiosity. Without their help and support, I would not be where I am today. RUA and its goal of helping traditionally underrepresented students explore/find their niche in science is an admirable one, and I hope to give back to RUA and hopefully help others find their place.

What is a highlight of your RUA participation?

The level of community and openness, especially at the RUA conference, was very new to me but something I had been seeking for a long time. The different backgrounds, diversity, and genuine willingness to help others was inspiring and something I hope I carry with me in my daily life.

What advice do you have for graduate students or postdocs?

Find your community, your social safety net, and find your niche/calling. There isn’t one path to get from point A to point B so explore if possible, be ok with failure, and rely on those that are there for you in both the good times and the bad.

What is one thing that you think everyone should read?

There are lots that come to mind but a recent one that has stuck with me is one about an immigrant trying to find a home away from home:
There are two types of immigrants: those who look back and those who don’t. I’m both. – Miguel Macias on NPR