HENAAC Award honors Sotelo as one of nation's top grad students
Luz Sotelo knows what it means to stay busy – with her doctoral research, course work, teaching and service activities.
In addition, she’s active in many student organizations both within the College of Engineering and throughout the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
That level of involvement has led to Sotelo being recognized as one of the nation’s top engineering graduate students.
Sotelo, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics, received the 2019 Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Awards Graduate Student Leadership Award (HENAAC) from Great Minds in STEM (GMiS).
She was one of two students honored from among 1,400 applicants for the HENAAC award and was also chosen for a $2,000 scholarship sponsored by Union Pacific. For more than 30 years, GMiS has recognized the achievements of America’s top engineers and scientists from the Hispanic community.
“That I’ve been able to lift up people and serve my community as a graduate student has been wonderful,” Sotelo said. “I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to develop the service side of my life and find the niches in which I can be more useful.”
This level of involvement is not something Sotelo thinks twice about.
“I tend to do the things I feel called to do, and I’m passionate about it. I don’t think too much about it … maybe other people do, but not me,” Sotelo said.
Since coming to Nebraska for graduate school in 2016, Sotelo has served not only the College of Engineering but the entire university in many capacities. They include vice president of student affairs and chair of the diversity and inclusion committee for the UNL Graduate Student Assembly, founding president of the Mechanical and Materials Engineering Graduate Student Assembly, and community service chair for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
She has also participated in and organized other events such as MATC Scholars (speaker), Introduce a Girl to Engineering day, Noche de Ciencias (Science Night), Graduate Coffee Hour Series, #HuskerOut, and the Lincoln High School Bilingual Career Fair.
Sotelo, who is advised by Joseph Turner, professor of mechanical and materials engineering, expects to complete work on her doctorate in Spring 2021. In addition to the demands of her research – the intersection between nondestructive evaluation with ultrasound and metal additive manufacturing – she is keeping an eye on her career goal of becoming a faculty member by gaining experience in other aspects of that job.
“There’s a lot to do in this intersection, but I keep pressing my advisor to let me be involved in other things faculty do, such as proposal writing and getting funding. That’s something a lot of grad students may not typically have access to. Dr. Turner, when I’ve asked him to be involved in more things, he’s said ‘OK. Let’s do it.’ He’s been very supportive and that plays a big role in everything I’m doing.”
Much of that passion stems from Sotelo’s experiences – including growing up in Mexico with parents who worked for a nonprofit organization. It has all formed a burning desire to pay it forward.
“My involvement stems from being a minoritized person – a woman, a Hispanic, a Hispanic woman,” Sotelo said. “I know a lot of people like me might not get noticed and fall through the cracks. I’m familiar with the struggle.
“I’ve been a nontraditional student, a transfer student, a student working three jobs trying to pay bills for my family while taking 16-18 hours a semester to get my bachelor’s degree,” she said. “That’s what makes me want to pursue a Ph.D. and be a faculty member somewhere so I can do for others what people have done for me.”
Submit a Story