Preparing the Next Generation of Scientists

This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how Dr. Veronica Segarra, assistant professor of biology, mentors students in and out of the classroom. 


Dr. Veronica Segarra supports her students in the classroom and beyond.

“She was the first person I called when I got accepted into Johns Hopkins University, and we both cried on the phone together,” says Maria Trujillo, a Class of 2016 graduate.

That’s the kind of impact Dr. Veronica Segarra is known to have on her students.

When Trujillo was an undergraduate student at HPU, she was a biology major and psychology minor. Trujillo was interested in conducting research through the many opportunities HPU offers students.

“When I first met Dr. Segarra, she gave a research presentation and explained how her passion is mentoring and helping undergraduate students become scientists,” says Trujillo. “I reached out to her and became very interested in her research.”

But Trujillo was also trying to decide between two different paths — graduate school and medical school.

“I needed to find a passion,” says Trujillo. “Dr. Segarra’s energy, openness and interactive ways in the lab really helped me get through my challenges. She was able to be there for me as a mentor and a role model and helped me achieve my scientific goals.”

Working alongside each other, Trujillo and Segarra investigated the ways in which cellular self-eating works at the molecular level in baker’s yeast cells. That led Trujillo to pursue graduate studies in scientific research at Johns Hopkins, where Trujillo is now a graduate student in the human genetics program.

Segarra joined the HPU family as an assistant professor of biology in fall 2015. Since becoming part of the faculty in the David R. Hayworth College of Arts and Sciences, she only has one problem – not having enough time.

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” says Segarra, about working with her students in the lab and the community. Segarra is committed to guiding her students in the classroom and in their research.

“HPU and the biology department are a good fit for me because I’m able to create freely, and my students are one of the driving forces behind that,” she says.

What Segarra enjoys most is watching her students go through the process of becoming scientists.

“While they’re learning what a scientist thinks about, how they generate questions and use information, they come up with the greatest ideas and hypotheses,” says Segarra. “They challenge me all the time, and I think, ‘That is actually very insightful.’”

Segarra and Trujillo still call, text and email each other to catch up, and sometimes Segarra will offer advice and guidance. After all, Segarra was Trujillo’s “research mother.”

“She will forever be known as a person who guided me through life, and I wouldn’t have gone into research if it wasn’t for her,” says Trujillo.

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