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Mexican Student Brings His Talents to USC Viterbi

Mexican Student Brings His Talents to USC Viterbi
Juan-Miguel Ramírez-Rocamora, left, receives the Manuel Franco-Lopez medal from Mexican Supreme Court Justice José Fernando Franco González-Salas.

Juan-Miguel Ramírez-Rocamora began the doctoral program in USC’s biomedical engineering (BME) in August, but he had to take two days off in September to fly back to his alma mater for ceremonies honoring his academic achievements.

In Mexico City, home of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), he was honored twice for outstanding achievement.

First, together with 25 fellow engineering graduates, as well as students from other disciplines, he was recognized for academic honors at UNAM.

The next day, in a separate ceremony held, Ramírez-Rocamora received the Manuel Franco-Lopez Award, named in honor of the illustrious Mexican engineer.

Mexican Supreme Court Justice José Fernando Franco González-Salas, UNAM president Jose Narro-Robles and UNAM engineering dean José Gonzalo Guerrero-Zepeda honored him for being the first mechatronic engineering student to achieve perfect grades in all courses.

Those honors came after two others he already had received: the Gabino Barreda medal for best academic record in his specialty and the Gustavo Baz Prada medal for outstanding social service.

In addition, Ramírez-Rocamora is one of three incoming doctoral students from UNAM who will receive complete financial support under the terms of an agreement signed in 2010 between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), the equivalent of the National Science Foundation in the United States.

“The arrival of Juan-Miguel and his peers has great significance to us,” said BME chair Norberto Grzywacz. “First, they represent a significant increase in our ability to interact with Mexico. UNAM is one of the most recognized universities in the Spanish-speaking world, a region with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.”

“Second, Juan-Miguel brings not only an excellent academic preparation but also a significant amount of research experience and links to faculty and researchers there,” Grzywacz added. “While a student at UNAM, he participated in different projects designing prosthetic devices in the department of mechatronic engineering. Hence, he brings with him significant interdisciplinary research experience, an intrinsic feature of mechatronics. Such interdisciplinary research is essential to biomedical engineering. I forecast that Juan-Miguel will have an immediate impact on the level of readiness of our student body to perform biomedical research and on our interactions with Mexico.”

Professor Francisco Valero-Cuevas, who holds appointments in both BME and the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, played a role both in facilitating the agreement with CONACYT and in recruiting Ramírez-Rocamora to USC.

Valero-Cuevas, a Mexico City native who has spent his academic career in the United States, said “one of the first things I wanted to promote after arriving at USC in 2007 was to grow our academic and scientific interactions with Latin America and Mexico.”

He began working with CONACYT and several Mexican universities, including UNAM, to forge collaborative agreements in both research and student exchanges.

“I met Juan-Miguel during a summer exchange program that USC dean Yannis C. Yortsos, UNAM professor Jesús Manuel Dorador and I designed,” Valero-Cuevas said. “I interviewed him in Mexico City [and] he was selected to spend the summer doing research at USC.”

Ramirez-Rocamora subsequently became part of the first cohort of CONACYT doctoral fellows at USC, and Valero-Cuevas is now his doctoral adviser. The other fellows are Juan Enrique Argüelles Morales, who matriculated this fall with Ramírez-Rocamora, and Leonardo Nava-Guerra, who will arrive in the spring.

Ramírez-Rocamora is glad to be at USC.

“It’s fabulous,” he said. “The research facilities here are very well-equipped. In the BME, there are lots of connections between engineering, rehabilitation and medicine. It’s a great program. I love it.”

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