When is a banana not just a banana?
For Nicolas Lopez, who grew up in a family who owned a banana plantation in Ecuador inherited by his grandmother, bananas are much more than a healthy snack.
Bananas represent the extensive support of his late grandmother and his journey from Ecuador to the United State at age 18 to become the first of his family to attempt higher education.
He has gone on to earn his undergraduate degree in biology at the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently pursuing a master’s in public health degree and a master’s of art in Latin American studies.
Lopez decided to apply for the Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program—which offers a five-day summer institute and internships to encourage master’s-level students and health professionals to pursue a doctoral degree and a cancer research career—to gain knowledge about the increasing prevalence of cancer among Latinos.
He felt the program was an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about pursing a doctoral program, as he hopes to continue with his studies and investigate the social factors attributing to chronic disease in minority populations.
Lopez said the Éxito! Summer Institute gave him much-needed motivation and tools.
“The Éxito! program did not only motivate me to pursue a PhD, it provided me with the necessary information and tools to succeed in the world of academia,” Lopez said. “During the Éxito! program, I was able to listen and learn from other people’s experiences about the process of applying into a doctoral program. Also, Éxito! helped to understand the importance and need of increasing the number of Latino doctoral students, and how we Latinos should be more involved on projects related to cancer research.”