Student helps make strides in scientific research

The seeds of UM senior Juan Pablo Ruiz’s passion for scientific research were planted at a young age, when curiosity set in about the world around him. That passion has bloomed into major academic achievements, including his most recent award, a Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to pursue his Ph.D.

For Ruiz, majoring in biomedical engineering and English is a great opportunity to combine what he is good at – scientific research – with something he believes is fundamentally important – human exploration.

“I have always been a fan of the sciences and every man in my family has practiced engineering,” Ruiz said. “I love math and logical ways of thinking as well, so I thought that [biomedical engineering] was the natural course to take. Interms of English, I have been writing since I was in middle school – short stories and novels. I actually wrote three unpublished novels before I even came to the University of Miami.”

Ruiz’s research includes working in a tissue-engineering lab with adult stem cells, as well as at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute for two consecutive summers.

Ruiz credits his mentor, Knight Chair Herman Cheung, for not only guiding his research activities, but also for his hard work and support throughout his time at UM.

Cheung said he is very proud of Ruiz, and honored to have played a part in his success.

“He is extremely focused and goal-orientated,” Cheung said. “Once he is convinced about the goal, he works tirelessly to achieve it. He takes advice well, and if he does not agree with the advice, he usually comes back with his version and discusses his reasoning behind it.”

Outside of the classroom, Ruiz serves as the president of the Biomedical Engineering Honors Society.

“It is still starting up from the ground, so it is still not as involved as I would like it to be,” he said. “But we are getting it up and running to pave the way for the next years and make it a more involved honors society.”

Ruiz also serves as a role model to his sister, Ana, a junior at the University of Miami.

“My brother has the gift of learning, not only does he have a very strong analytical side, but also a creative one,” she said.

Ruiz, who graduates next month, hopes to receive a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant that would allow him to study abroad for a year. He has already been accepted into the joint MIT/Harvard BME doctoral program to continue his studies in biomedical sciences.

When all is said and done, Ruiz hopes to fulfill his dreams of becoming a university professor. When asked about how he wants to be remembered, Ruiz said it was not so much about being remembered as it is actually making a difference.

“Whether that is through my writing or through the research that I do, I want to help advance the way that humans see themselves, and the way the human race is discovering itself,” Ruiz said. “The sciences allow me to do that in a more physiological, scientific and logical way and my writing allows me to do that through a more societal, psychological exploration of what it means to be human.

“It is not so much about be remembered, but about paving the way for people who are coming behind me, to be able to lead towards the advancement of the human race as a whole.”