UW Bioengineering undergraduate student Osvaldo Arias is a junior currently doing research in the Stayton Lab with Patrick Stayton, UW Bioengineering Distinguished Term Professor and director of the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute. The lab is focused on developing new drug delivery systems for new classes of biologic drug treatments and new diagnostic technologies that allow for earlier detection of disease. Osvaldo, who comes from Yakima, Wash., is working with genetically engineered macrophages (GEMs). His work involves administering GEMs in mice to see if they can combat bacterial lung infections.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m trying to determine if I should go into industry or academia. I have more experience with academia, and I’m very intrigued with it. I still need to look into industry. I know I’ll be happy with either focus.

Osvaldo Arias in front of lake with sailboats, wide shot

What surprised you about UW BioE?

The professors have surprised me in a positive way. Despite classes being taught online due to the pandemic, they were able to make the classes enjoyable and gave us the attention we needed. They are some of the best professors I’ve had.

Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself while being at the UW?

“Saying yes to opportunities is a good way to grow.”  – Osvaldo Arias

I’ve seen that taking advantage of opportunities usually leads to fun, happy experiences or to an opportunity for professional development. I’ve learned to be more extroverted and to say yes to things. I’m currently co-president of the UW Biomedical Diversity Community (BDC), which I joined my freshman year. The first day I attended a meeting, I remember seeing a lot of potential in being a member since I wanted to stay in the biomedical field. I have learned from the many graduate students and more experienced people who are members of the club. So far, it’s paid off. I was offered the co-president position, which I accepted. Saying yes to opportunities is a good way to grow.

Has your community supported you and if so, how?

My community has supported me quite a bit. The other co-president of the BDC club helped me get my current research position. She knew I had been looking for research opportunities my freshman year and when her lab had an opening, she helped me get into it. A lot of the people in the club are graduate students so they share helpful tips about grad school. They are my little window into the future.

I was also part of SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) for a year and then COVID hit, which ended all events. I hope to be involved in it again when we’re back in person.

Any advice for people considering UW BioE?

If you know bioengineering is what you want to do, you won’t be disappointed. Even if you don’t know what you want to study but know you want to do something biomedical, it’s a good major to go into because it provides a lot of different opportunities. You can go into academia, industry or even pre-med. I knew I wanted to stay in the biomedical field, and I knew bioengineering had multiple pathways to get into it.

What do you like to do for fun outside of school?

I enjoy discovering new locations to hang out with friends, whether that’s a coastal area or parks. Having a car this year has allowed me to find new spots to explore with friends.