The Journey to MIT

I haven’t updated for a while so it’s about time! Here’s my story leading up to MIT TPP that will be featured in the quarterly TPP Alumni eNewsletter:

My journey started in Boise, Idaho, where I was born and raised. Both of my parents immigrated to the U.S. from Argentina, and arrived first in Northern California before my dad’s work with Syngenta sent him and my mom to Boise. There I started playing soccer—the national sport of my parents’ country—almost every day of every year without fault since I was three, and traveled around the country to play in competitive regional and national tournaments in my teens (at one point I got to play the national youth team of Iraq!). I also traveled to Argentina almost every year to visit family, and learned to speak Spanish fluently. Later, my parents separated and my dad moved to Brazil and Switzerland, so I also visited him there as well, but soccer always remained the constant.

After taking engineering and environmental science classes throughout high school, and learning about my mom’s work with an environmental engineering firm, at the end of high school I decided to pursue environmental engineering in college. The decision came one day during a field trip to a local wastewater treatment plant when I was amazed to see the treated water flow back into the Boise river, knowing that it still contained harmful pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals. By that time I had become very health conscious, customizing my training for soccer and reading all sorts of health articles from Dr. Mercola (THE health guru!), so the moment really inspired me to find a solution, and to learn more about the environmental technologies that could solve the problem.

A year later I ended up in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, following a series of events that started with a drive around the campus and digging up an important scholarship offer in my junk email the day before college decision day (watch your junk mail!). I turned down athletic scholarships at other schools with the hopes of playing Division 1 soccer, but unfortunately got injured during my first week of tryouts. I reluctantly decided to focus solely on my academics rather than keep spending time fighting for a place on the team. My drive for fitness did not die, however, and during my first year I wrote a personal fitness book called ProNature Fitness: Unlocking Radiant Health Through Smart Exercise. The pain of not playing competitive soccer was tough, but it improved over time as I slowly began to excel in my academics. I won a fellowship and internship with the EPA, did a research internship in upstate New York, and topped off my college career with some university wide awards. When it came time to choose the next step, I concluded that solutions to environmental problems were not just technological, but also financial and political, so graduate school was the right choice. I was choosing between MIT TPP and Stanford MS&E, and ultimately decided on MIT TPP because of the warmer vibe Ed and Barb gave during the application process, and because a flip of quarter (that happened to be a Massachusetts quarter!) said I should.

At TPP, I’ve gravitated towards the business and entrepreneurial part environmental technology solutions, focusing on Sustainability-Oriented Innovation with the Sloan Sustainability Initiative. My thesis will be on best practices, partnerships, and policies to push early-stage clean technology companies past the commercialization “Valley of Death,” so they can among many things better treat the water we send back into the environment.