Undocumented Postdoc Leads Cardiovascular Research Thanks to DACA

Yuriana Aguilar is the first undocumented student to graduate with a PhD from UC Merced (photo via Sasha Khokha/KQED)

Last year, KQED News interviewed Yuriana Aguilar, a biomedical researcher at UC Merced who was trying to determine what happens to human hearts before sudden cardiac deaths.

As the first undocumented student to obtain her doctorate at UC Merced, Yuriana took every advantage afforded to her by DACA — a 2012 program launched by President Barack Obama that shields young immigrants from deportation. Her professors praised her as a “superb” student while speaking to KQED:

Professor Ariel Escobar, who runs the lab, says Aguilar is the best student he’s ever taught.
“She presented her work at the Biophysical Society meeting. She was the only student in that session. They were all full professors and chairmen of departments, and her!” he exclaims. “She’s superb, superb!”

Now as a postdoc at Rush University in Chicago, IL, Yuriana worries what will become of the DACA program and undocumented students like her once Donald Trump is sworn in as president.

You can hear more about Yuriana’s academic journey and immigrant story in the following clip:

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