BU Senior David Guarin On His Identities as a Latino and a Scientist

When you first meet David Guarin you will most likely see him surrounded by a group of friends in the Howard Thurman Center. David, with his laid-back smile, makes everyone in the group feel at ease and they all laugh as he delivers the punchline to a funny anecdote. I met David Guarin in a setting just like this during my freshman year at an Alianza Latina meeting (Alianza Latina is BU's Latinx cultural club). Initially, I didn’t understand what drew so many different people to David. I would see him at Alianza Latina (AL) meetings, and although he was a freshman, everybody already knew his name the moment he walked in. It kind of reminded me of an episode of Cheers

I soon got a chance to uncover that mystery when I became David's "twin" in AL's "Hermanos" program that matches freshmen with upperclassmen mentors. Being his "twin" showed me the many different sides of David Guarin. He is more than just the guy who knows everyone⁠—David is also incredibly smart, a compassionate friend, a talented researcher, and an active member of the Latinx community here at BU. So, this past Friday, I interviewed David about his identities as a Latino and as a scientist, so more people can get to know the deeper David beyond his winning smile 

As the son of two Colombian immigrants, AL is very important to David. He makes it a point to attend every meeting, even if he has to do homework during it. When I asked him about why he puts so much importance on AL’s weekly meetings, he said it’s important that people from “different Latin countries are fostering a bond” despite growing divisions in Latin culture. For David, it’s more important for Latinos to focus on what brings them together rather than what sets them apart. AL is the perfect vehicle to “take a step towards collaboration and unity in the Latinx community.” 

Photo Caption: David and I bonding over our mutual appreciation for bucket hats during an official Alianza Latina Outing 

Photo Credit: David Guarin

David is also the first person in his family to go to college in the U.S. AL allows him to connect with other first-generation students, like the third sibling in our family, Nicolle Varadalles. Being a first-generation student at a school like BU can be an isolating experience and it can be hard to meet anyone who has gone through the same things. But at AL, there is a community of fellow BU students who he can relate to and become friends with. Ultimately, for David, Alianza Latina is a place where he can feel at home in a massive school like BU. 

Being a first-generation student and Latino also connects to his medical research. David, who is a biochemistry and molecular biology major, does epidemiological research that explores the link between neurodegenerative disorders and certain types of cancers. This basically means that his research focuses on why diseases like Parkinson's put patients at a lower risk for certain types of cancer, like melanoma. Understanding this relationship, which is rarely studied, can lead to possible groundbreaking treatments in the neurodegenerative field. David just published a collaborative paper on his findings at just 19 years old. He reflected on all this by saying “who would have thought that anyone in my family would be a college grad and on top of that a published scientist."  To David, his accomplishments mean so much more because of everything he had to overcome to even get the opportunity to work in the lab where he did all of his research.

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Photo Caption: David presenting his research at a medical research conference in California.

Photo Credit: David Guarin

David⁠—who never considered this type of research until his father was diagnosed with Parkinson's⁠—is committed to "being a leader in this budding field," not only because of the personal connection to his father but also to advance the visibility of Latinos in STEM. "How many Latino scientists are there…And how many Latino scientists own their own companies." David's goals of getting his Ph.D., publishing more research in his field as a principal investigator, and eventually starting his own business, is not just for his gain. As he sees it, his biggest goals in life contribute to both sides of his identity; one side is as a scientist who is committed to bettering the lives of those closest to him, and the other is as a Latino who wants to elevate and inspire a wider Latinx community to get involved in science. /var/folders/ld/kyj7h4d51bqf_vht8ch__38h0000gn/T/com.microsoft.Word/Content.MSO/12EF1754.tmp

Photo Caption: David (back left) and his research team in California

Photo Credit: David Guarin

And that’s why David is such a unique person. His path in life is defined by how he can use his talents to give back to the community which is most important to him. Almost every student at BU is motivated by goals that will benefit their quality of life in terms of money or fame. But David is the rebel who works hard so that others can achieve after him. 

This may be the first article about David Guarin and his impressive accomplishments, but ten years from now it will just be one of many. 

 

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