Logo: University of Southern California

Star Mexican Student Brings His Talents to USC Viterbi School

BME doctoral student Juan-Miguel Ramírez-Rocamora compiled the best undergraduate engineering record in recent UNAM history

October 24, 2011 —

Juan-Miguel Ramírez-Rocamora began the doctoral program in biomedical engineering (BME) at USC in August, but had to take off two days in September to fly back to his alma mater for ceremonies honoring his academic achievements.

In Mexico City, home of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (known as UNAM from its Spanish

Juan-Miguel Ramírez-Rocamora receives the Engineer Manuel Franco-Lopez prize medal from Mexican Supreme Court Justice José Fernando Franco González-Salas
initials), he was twice honored for outstanding achievement. First, together with 25 fellow engineering graduates and others from other disciplines, he received “Recognition for High Academic Achievement” at the annual UNAM awards celebration.

The next day in a special ceremony for him alone, Ramírez-Rocamora received the Manuel Franco-Lopez award, named for an illustrious Mexican engineer. Mexican Supreme Court Justice José Fernando Franco González-Salas, UNAM President Dr. Jose Narro-Robles and UNAM Engineering Dean José Gonzalo Guerrero-Zepeda honored him for being the first mechatronic engineering student ever to achieve perfect grades in all courses taken.

The new honors came after two he'd already received: the Gabino Barreda medal for best academic record in his specialty and the Gustavo Baz Prada medal for outstanding social service.

Additionally, Ramírez-Rocamora is one of three incoming doctoral students from UNAM who will receive complete financial support under the terms of an innovative agreement signed in 2010 between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and CONACyT, the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico, the equivalent of the National Science Foundation in the United States.

"The arrival of Juan-Miguel and his peers from UNAM to our department of biomedical engineering has great significance to us,” said BME chair Norberto Grzywacz. “First, they represent a significant increase in our ability to interact with Mexico. UNAM is one of the most recognized universities in the Spanish-speaking world, a region with some of the world's fastest growing economies.”

Johnrocfrancisco 1 Web
Student and Teacher: Ramírez-Rocamora with Professor Francisco Valero-Cuevas
“Second, Juan-Miguel brings from UNAM not only an excellent academic preparation, but also significant amount of research experience and links to faculty and researchers there,” Grzywacz continued. “While a student at UNAM, he participated in different projects designing prosthetic devices in the department of mechatronic engineering. Hence, he brings with him significant interdisciplinary research experience, an intrinsic feature of mechatronics. Such interdisciplinary research is essential to biomedical engineering. I thus forecast that Juan Miguel will have an immediate impact on the level of readiness of our student body to perform biomedical research and on our interactions with Mexico."

Professor Francisco Valero-Cuevas, who holds appointments in both BME and the the USC Division of Biokinesiology, played a key role both in facilitating the agreement with CONACyT and in recruiting Ramírez-Rocamora to USC. Valero-Cuevas, a Mexico City native who has spent his academic career in the United States, said “one of the first things I wanted to promote after arriving at USC in 2007 was to grow our academic and scientific interactions with Latin America and Mexico.”

He began working with CONACyT and several Mexican universities, including UNAM, to forge collaborative agreements in both research and student exchanges.

“I met Juan-Miguel during a summer exchange program that Dean Yannis C. Yortsos from USC, Professor Jesús Manuel Dorador from UNAM and I designed,” Valero-Cuevas said. “I interviewed him in Mexico City; he was selected to spend the summer doing research at USC.”

Ramirez-Rocamora subsequently became part of the first cohort of CONACyT doctoral fellows at USC and Valero-Cuevas is now his doctoral advisor. Two additional CONACyT fellows are Juan Enrique Argüelles Morales, who matriculated this fall with Ramírez-Rocamora, and Leonardo Nava-Guerra, who will arrive in the spring.

And Ramírez-Rocamora is glad to be at USC.

“It’s fabulous,” he said. “The research facilities here are very well equipped. In the BME there are lots of connections between engineering, rehabilitation and medicine. It’s a great program; I love it.”