Just six years after moving from Bogota, Colombia to Lowell with her family in search of better opportunities and a safer place to live, Paula Bustos earned a Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corp. (HENAAC) scholarship award and $5,000 for her excellence as an Electrical Engineering major at UMass Lowell.
“I have always been curious to know how things work,” says Bustos. “Ever since I was little, I found it fascinating to understand how technology works.”
HENAAC is a non-profit organization that promotes careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The organization is now called Great Minds in STEM and is expanding its roll in education programs and other efforts to promote STEM careers in underrepresented communities.
“I learned about this organization through a student club on campus called the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE),” says Bustos. “Being an active e-board member of the club, I was exposed to HENAAC when I went to one of the SHPE national conferences.”
Bustos was one of the 76 scholarship recipients selected from more than 600 applications submitted to the organization.
“I wasn't very surprised when I got the scholarship at first, since this is the second year I received it,” says Bustos, who received $2,500 each year, “but then when I found out how many people applied, I was shocked.”
She now lives with her parents and two sisters and has not been back to Colombia since she moved to the United States in February 2004.
“I have another sister who lives in Brazil,” says Bustos, “but she usually come over here to visit us.”
Bustos also belongs to not only SHPE but to the Latin American Student Association as well.
“These two organizations have helped me to get to know more students who share some of my interests and have helped me build a group of friends and future colleagues,” says Bustos. “SHPE has provided me and other members of the group with leadership and professional skills that will help us in our future careers.”
Bustos also worked at the Advanced Electronic Technology Center, a research lab run by Prof. Sam Mil’shtein.
“This has been a great experience which has helped me to build technical skills that one can only build when working an engineering job,” she says. “Since I'm very interested in community service I found electrical engineering a good way to understand how medical equipment works.”
To learn more about Paula's life on campus, check out her Hawk Talk blog entries.