Laurel Fuentes began her academic journey at Fullerton College after graduating from Whittier Christian High School. She held many leadership roles on campus and a high grade point average which led her to transfer to Stanford University with an A.A. degree in biology and chemistry. She is now attending Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
Hornet: What made you want to come to Fullerton College or just community college in general after high school?
Laurel Fuentes: I decided to go to a community college after high school because I knew I was interested in science, but I wasn’t sure what job opportunities were available. Going to Fullerton College gave me the opportunity to explore many different career opportunities in the sciences. At FC I was involved in student groups and had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with professors about their experiences. Community college was also financially the best option. The science classes I took were able to transfer to any university I was interested in attending.
Hornet: Looking back, what are some of the benefits that the community college system has brought you?
Fuentes: Without being involved in the community college system, I would not have gotten interested in research. My high school did not have any science research opportunities or programs, so after going to Fullerton I was exposed to research as a career option for the first time. Many summer research programs I was involved in were only available to community college students, which I would have been ineligible for if I went to a four year university straight out of high school. Finally, the honors program at Fullerton College allowed me to meet many great students who were also interested in transferring.
Hornet: What made you choose the university you transferred to?
Fuentes: I transferred to Stanford after graduating from FC. I decided to go to Stanford because they had a strong focus on undergraduate research. They had many programs for students to work in any area of research you could be interested in and funding to support summer research projects. Also, the student population size was smaller so I felt I was able to be part of the community even though I transferred as a junior.
Hornet: What were some of your leadership roles on campus or in your community? How have those roles impacted your life or outlook on the world?
Fuentes: I was involved in East Palo Alto Stanford Academy at Stanford which was a group that offered free tutoring to junior high students in the area. I enjoyed teaching students and being able to answer their questions about high school and college. Although teaching them the class material was important, the greatest impact I had on them was being a mentor as a Latina in science. It was great to hear from many of my students that they had started to get interested in science and medical careers.
Hornet: Name any key awards or scholarships that you have received
Fuentes: I received the 2013 National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Diversity Research Supplement, 2012 Stanford Major Grant and 2011 Fullerton College Woman of the Year.
Hornet: Name one event, course, and/or instructor that has had some effect on the person you have become or want to become?
Fuentes: The mentorship provided to me by Dr. Wu at Fullerton College was probably the most impactful thing that changed my career goals. Initially, I was interested in a career in dentistry. However, after taking two biology classes with Dr. Wu, she suggested I apply for the UCI Bridges summer research program. After completing a summer of biomedical research, I knew I wanted to continue that in some way as a career.
Hornet: What are your plans after you graduate?
Fuentes: I graduated Stanford in 2013. I worked for a year at UCLA School of Dentistry researching salivary biomarkers for use as diagnostic screening tests. Currently I am at Harvard School of Dental Medicine pursing a dual degree: DMD and PhD. I chose this path because I fell in love with research after many different experiences and great mentors