Sandra Mendiola is nominated in the Lab Heroes Awards - TM

Sandra Mendiola, Biology, Emory University, USA

07 Dec 2023
Sandra Mendiola, Biology, Emory University, USA

"As Sandra’s labmate, I can’t imagine what my experiences would be like had she not joined the lab. Sandra recently defended her PhD at Emory. She conducts research on vector-borne infectious diseases, integrating transcriptomics, microbiology, and mathematical modelling. A quick glance of the awards Sandra has received makes it clear that she is an excellent scientist. Some of these include the Entomological Society of America Rising Star Award, Emory’s Graduate Program in Biology Academic and Professional Achievement Award, and NSF and USDA graduate fellowships. Her research accomplishments are only matched by the lives she has made better. Honestly, I don’t know how she does it all.

Sandra makes the lab a fun place to work. Noticing that reading papers can be a difficult task, she created a paper-a-day reading game for an entire month where we competed for stickers and a trophy. This game eventually spread to other labs in the department. She also plans celebrations for lab members’ accomplishments, designs humorous posters to boost morale, regularly filling the space with creativity and laughter. Sandra uplifts the spirit in a profession prone to negativity.

She is a pillar for those in need. She constantly helps lab members with experiments that are unrelated to her own research, extending a hand even late at night or on the weekend. When I moved back to Emory from Oxford, I had to wait months to get lab door access. Sandra offered to share her key so I can continue my research. This small gesture had an enormous effect on my career. I was able to collect the data needed to write the major paper from my postdoc without further delay.

On top of her research, she is an champion for inclusion and belonging in STEM. She works tirelessly to recruit and mentor marginalized groups through multiple leadership roles across campus, organizes events to promote unity among students and faculty, and generally leaves Emory in a better place than when she started. Sandra’s impact was evident at her defense, which was standing-room only. The graduate program director introduced her saying, “We often hear it takes a village to raise a graduate student. Well, it takes a Sandra to raise a graduate program.” Sandra is a hero by any definition. She is an exceptional scientist and person. Although Sandra is several years earlier in her career than me, I strive to be like her every day."

Nominated by Kim Hoang, Biology, Emory University, USA