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Costa Rican Students & Alumni at Rice

 Luis Diego Gene Antillon

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Luis Diego Gene Antillon, Graduate Student of Bioengineering, Global Medical Innovation.

My name is Luis Diego Gene Antillon and I am from a small suburb town called Santa Ana, about 20 minutes west from the Costa Rican capital of San Jose.

I am currently a graduate student in the Master of Bioengineering program, specifically in the Global Medical Innovation (GMI) track. Initially I pursued an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the University of Costa Rica but after realizing I had a strong passion for medical devices and healthcare, I transferred to the medical technology engineering program at Universidad Latina de Costa Rica where I graduated from last year.

During my senior year in high school I was invited to Rice University for a prospective visit and since that 3-day experience I had back then, I have always wanted to come back. For many reasons I could not consider studying abroad for my undergraduate degree, but last summer something unexpected happened: I attended a presentation sponsored by the Costa Rican Investment and Development Initiative (CINDE) on medical technology programs where Dr. Richardson (BIOE-GMI) was one of the presenters. At first, I had no idea Rice University was involved -In fact, I was just attending because my boss asked me to go in his place! When I heard about the GMI program I fell in love with it; I attended a short course about GMI and applied for the program as soon as I finished my undergraduate degree. Fast forward a few months and here I am.

What I love about Rice is that it is not JUST about the learning, it is an integral experience that has managed to prioritize personal growth and leadership within the highest quality of education one could ever imagine. My vision is to learn to innovate and pioneer in a field that has yet to be explored too much in my country and hopefully someday help contribute to our development as well as our global society as a whole. This is precisely why I fell in love with Rice on that short visit, 6 years ago.

Click here to check out Luis’s blog to learn more about his experience at Rice!
Click here to read Universidad Latina de Costa Rica’s article about Luis’ experience in the GMI program!


Dr. Jose Castro Nieto

Dr. Jose Castro Nieto-Received his PhD from Applied Physics in 2011

1. Why did you choose to come to Rice University to do your doctorate?

Prior to going to grad school I did an internship at NASA’s Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory. My mentor was a former Rice grad and he had a strong influence on where I should apply for grad school. I also applied and was admitted to another large state university in Texas, which was a big contrast because that school is very big, and Rice is very small . . . maybe less than 5000 students at the time. I did my Bachelors at the University of Costa Rica, which is a very big school, so I wanted to experience of a small campus, where interactions would be more personal, and I could have closer connections.

2. How can students, scholars and researchers benefit from Rice?

I think Rice is very well placed as an academic and research institution. Both geographically and academically. For people from Central America moving to a country that has seasons can be challenging because we don’t really have them. The weather in Texas is a good way to ease into having seasons. It’s also a short flight, so for me it was easy to go back to Costa Rica every year, and very easy for family to visit. Rice is also academically and technically very well placed with good options all around, and it’s in the middle of the country, not too limited by being on the East Coast or the West Coast. Now with multiple direct flights between Costa Rica and Houston, it is very close for anyone.

3. What makes Rice unique from other places?

Rice has a quirky, nerdy personality. Back in the day it wasn’t necessarily a good thing, but these days it’s become sort of fashionable to be that way . It is okay and fashionable nowadays to be nerdy! Rice has a very unique personality. It’s not a party campus, yet it’s not really a super nerdy campus. Rice has a lot of history, and the campus is beautiful. The neighborhood around the campus is also beautiful and the proximity to the Museum District is great, and allows for so many opportunities. Rice has a close connection to Houston, and in some ways, they have grown up together.

4. What’s your favorite thing about Rice?

I like the size and the campus. I think it is very nice when you can walk around the campus and see that there are a lot of people, but at the same time not be overwhelmed by the number of people. During the summer as a grad student, it was nice because you almost had the campus to yourself, but during the semester it becomes so active and is full of life. Also, the beautiful campus has so many places where you can go to study and to meet people. The location of Rice is also quite advantageous because of the neighborhood, and especially Rice Village, which was one of my favorite places.

Bio:

Dr. Castro Nieto has over 13 years of experience in experimental plasma physics and engineering. He currently directs the scientific research initiatives of Ad Astra Rocket Company Costa Rica, the international subsidiary in the city of Liberia, Guanacaste that is wholly owned by Ad Astra Rocket Company domiciled in the city of Webster nearby the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Castro Nieto leads the laboratory’s flagship experiment the VX-CR, which focuses on long term duration thermal management and plasma surface interactions for space applications. He also manages all renewable energy developments, including Costa Rica’s first hydrogen-based transportation ecosystem due to launch in June.

In 2016, Dr. Castro Nieto served as Co-Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee and Programme Committee for the United Nations/Costa Rica Workshop on Human Space Technology. This workshop organized jointly by United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the Government of Costa Rica, and the International Academy of Astronautics.

Prior to his work at Ad Astra Rocket Company Costa Rica, Dr. Castro Nieto managed the Transfer of Knowledge and Data Collection Program for Energy Services at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This involved forecasting, collecting, analyzing, and reporting of energy consumption data for all Olympic and Paralympic Venues. Additionally, he supervised a group of Energy Managers as part of the Data Collection Program including remote and in-situ metering, and developed the demand and consumption models to forecast energy and water consumption for London 2012. As part of the Local Organizing Committee for the London 2012 Olympics, he acted as liaison with the International Olympic Committee and future Organizing Committees, coordinated the Observers Program for Energy Services and co-authored the Energy Transfer of Knowledge report to the International Olympic Committee.

During his Ph.D studies, Dr. Castro Nieto was part of the team of researchers that developed and implemented the experimental setup to measure various properties of ultracold strontium ions. This team collected, analyzed, and modelled data as well as assembly and maintenance of ultra high vacuum, electronics, feedback circuitry, and optical setup of various cooling lasers for Rice University.

Dr. Castro Nieto has taught physics at the University of Costa Rica. He has also authored multiple peer reviewed publications and has been a speaker at international conferences in the USA, Germany, Canada and Brazil.


Guiselle Esquivel

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Guiselle Esquivel-Fall 2016 Visiting Student at Rice University

My name is Guiselle Esquivel, 21 years old. I come from Costa Rica a small country known for its biodiversity, majestic volcanoes, forests, and stunning beaches.

I am currently in my last year of a five year program in Industrial Production Engeneering at Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica.

Two years ago, I awoke an interest in the medical device industry, after assisting to The DMD conference. After this I started looking for courses that could give me this forming, this is when I registered for the Engineering Design in Medical Device Innovation course taught by Dr. Eric Richardson in Costa Rica.

It was a very enriching experience because we worked in multidisciplinary teams to propose solutions to unmet need in the health sector by using brainstorming and low fidelity prototypes. After the short course ended I knew that the project had started to develop had a lot of potential and a great social impact since it consists in improving the of enteral feeding process with premature neonates, so we decided to continue with it.  This is why the opportunity to carry out my graduation project to work on the medical device design and validation with Rice University in collaboration with the National Children’s Hospital in Costa Rica was presented.

I am extremely excited about this hands-on experience and grateful for this opportunity of the exchange program. My expectations are really high and I know this will be an experience of personal and academic growth in this amazing leader research Institution.


Jorge Andrés Lizano Pereira

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Jorge Andrés Lizano Pereira, Fall 2016 Visiting Student

My name is Jorge Andrés Lizano Pereira. I am 21 years old and I live in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, a place full of nature and biodiversity. I study Mechatronics Engineering at the Institute of Technology of Costa Rica. A couple of years ago I started to get interest in the medical device industry, so I began looking for courses and academic experiences out of college. On 2015 I had the opportunity to assist an innovation summer course given at Costa Rica by Dr. Eric Richardson from Rice University. It was a great experience for me and I was impressed by its forward-thinking approach. After the course, me and my partner committed to develop one of the projects we started at the course. We have been working since then on the design of a medical device that improves the enteral feeding process for premature neonates in collaboration with Dr. Eric Richardson. Right now I am on my last year of a 5 year program, so for my graduation project I decided to work on that medical device design. I am really excited to go to Rice to work on this project, as I know it is a leading research university with a high standards, specially in the Bioengineering field; which makes it perfect for the development of our project. I expect this to be an incredible experience for my academic growth, but also a chance to share my culture and learn from others.