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Where do you consider to be your hometown?

Bogota, Colombia Laura Mendez hiking on a mountain.

What is your degree program?

Ph.D. program in the Department of Biology

What motivates you?

We share spaces with different species, and we can turn our attention to see how they solve common problems navigating these spaces to apply in our own lives. Understanding animal locomotion goes close to my experiences in life as an athlete and living and working with people with injuries. I want to keep learning how the body forms adapt to perform certain behaviors, allow animals to survive in their environments. Using this knowledge to understand animal distribution and space needs for conservation, and help others apply these biomechanics concepts for innovations in medicine and engineering.

Why did you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

The environment in the Department of Biology is very supportive of their graduate students, this was one of the reasons that UNC-Chapel Hill was attractive to me. My advisor and lab mates were the second reason. Working in the Hedrick Lab, I was given the opportunity of freedom and to take risks in my research project, while working under the guidance and support of incredible animal biomechanics researchers (new and veteran!).

How have you built community at Carolina?

Getting to know people in the Department of Biology. It is a big department with people from all backgrounds making it exciting to learn from everyone. Also, attending events organized by Diversity and Student Success, where I get to meet other graduate students from a diversity of departments and share experiences. Joining student-led organizations that share my values, like WinSPIRE, where I have worked with an incredible team of women helping engage more young women and nonbinary students in STEM fields. Finally, by doing things I love like swimming and climbing where I get to meet students, faculty and staff from UNC-Chapel Hill whom I can connect with by our common interests.

Describe Diversity and Student Success in five words!

Inclusive, informative, welcoming, friendly, fun
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