Dominic Romero’s hard work led him to great success both in the classroom and in the lab of Bioengineering Professor Sheila Grant during his time at Mizzou. And that hard work landed the recent MU Engineering alum a prestigious fellowship as he works to further his education.
Romero, a bioengineering graduate, recently was selected as a GEM Fellow, landing a $8,000 living stipend per semester, up to two paid summer internships with a GEM employer member and full tuition and fees at a GEM member institution — in Romero’s case, the University of Arkansas.
GEM, founded in 1976 at the University of Notre Dame, is an organization with the goal of increasing the amount of members of historically underrepresented groups in the engineering and science fields at the master’s and doctoral levels.
Romero said he had been introduced to GEM early in his academic career through an MU Office of Undergraduate Research program called IMSD-Express, which seeks to increase underrepresented group representation in biomedical research. That knowledge proved helpful when seeking funding for graduate school.
“It helps tremendously. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders that GEM is going to pay for tuition,” he explained. “It’s a reassurance to know that I will have that for the duration of my master’s program.”
He developed an interest in biomedical engineering early on and spent his Mizzou career focused on ways to improve lives for the better.
“Since working at the University of Missouri, I’ve been interested in biomaterials and tissue engineering, and this research group has helped me delve deeper into the biomaterials aspect, and specifically, controlling specific chemical structures,” he said.
As part of the IMSD-Express program, Romero had to create a list of faculty mentors whose labs he was interested in working in. Grant’s name topped his list, and despite never having met her, he reached out.
“Essentially what happened was I joined her lab meetings one semester, and from there, I started volunteering with some grad students. And I’ve been there ever since,” he said.
It was a shot in the dark that changed his entire trajectory. Before joining Grant’s lab, Romero said he was interested in completing his undergraduate degree, then setting out to find a job in the biomedical industry. But the research bug bit hard during his time in the lab, and the Kansas City native is now pursuing a career in academia.
“Working with Dr. Grant helped me see the value and importance professors have in mentorship and guiding developing undergraduate students,” Romero said.
Romero will be working in Jin-Woo Kim’s Bio/Nanotechnology lab at the University of Arkansas. As he sets off for the next chapter in his journey, he expressed his thanks to those who helped him along the way.
“I’d like to say thank you to my mentors for helping me throughout the process — Dr. Sheila Grant, (Director of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives) Dr. Tojan Rahhal and (IMSD-Express Undergraduate Director) Brian Booton,” he said.