Leader Spotlight

Any exceptional educational program needs outstanding Leaders to make the program thrive. We are fortunate to have many of these Leaders with us semester after semester. Join us as we shine a spotlight on a few of our stars!

FEBRUARY SPOTLIGHT

Lorenzo Pla Serrano

What is your role in PLTL?

Bio 1 PLTL Leader

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

At first, being a PLTL leader seemed like an efficient method to stay close to many of the topics in graduate admission tests, such as the MCAT; however, after my first semester being a leader, PLTL became so much more than reviewing biology with students. Leading became one of the highlights of my week. When I was a student, PLTL provided a medium for sharing doubts and ideas about class content. As a leader, the program has served as a form of self-expression. As I strive to facilitate student comprehension, I often add my tips and tricks to help students understand and recall biology. Knowing that I was part of a student’s learning process has fulfilled me ever since my first session. 

I would say that my students, the connection we establish throughout the semester, and my interest in biology are great motivators for my continuation in PLTL; however, one of the main reasons why I love the program is because of how genuine and friendly the administration has been with me. I want to thank Nataly Amaya for all the help you offer, Diego Guerrero, for being a fantastic GD leader, and Shirley Ramos for inspiring me. Also, I am grateful for my family, especially my mother and father, who have served as motivators for PLTL, considering they are always interested in how my sessions go.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

After completing my Bachelor’s degree, I wish to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. In the future, I yearn to contribute to academia and the medical and scientific communities. I want to help patients and develop new methodologies for better care in our ever-changing world.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I conclude that the main reason why I was nominated is due to my genuine desire to help students and my firm belief in the program. I think that the PLTL team recognized my appreciation for leading and leaving an impact. As an optimist, I strive to produce positivity in everything I do, including leading my sessions. In the form of humor or compliments, I always try to draw a smile on others.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

Outside of PLTL, going to the movies is one of the primary ways I have fun. In the future, I would love to have a cinema in my own home. Other than films, I enjoy dancing, partying, and traveling with both family and friends. Researching, philosophizing, and writing also take up my leisure time.

What advice would you give new leaders?

I think that it is best to provide a list for this question.

  1. Embrace stepping out of your comfort zone (Part of self-discovery is an adventure.)
  2. Relate with your students (We were all students once; build on that.)
  3. If possible, employ humor (Laughter induces positivity.)
  4. Ask for help (PLTL could not exist without teamwork.)
  5. Respect GD (Reviewing with other leaders is crucial for smooth sessions.)
  6. Stay organized (Group papers accordingly to avoid any issues.) 
  7. Have fun (Lead your session your way, but remember to facilitate learning.)

What advice would you give to students?

The best advice I can offer you is to be present in the session. Even if you are not discussing a captivating topic, aim to develop a desire for learning and asking questions, essential skills in life. Also, remember that leaders are here to help you; thus, ask us questions. If we don’t know the answers, we’ll learn collectively.

 If you could relive one day of your life, which day would you choose to relive?

One day my entire family played Monopoly together.

 What acquired skill have you always wanted to learn?

Coding

JANUARY SPOTLIGHT

Liset Cruz

What is your role in PLTL?

Peer Leader 

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

I started PLTL as a way to get a letter of recommendation but as I got to participate and grow within the program I discovered how much I love to lead and how beneficial PLTL is for both students and leaders.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

I plan to pursue an advanced graduate degree in Epidemiology. My career goals are to eventually work in Public Health and hopefully one day the Center for Disease Control.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I’m not sure why I was nominated, I guess it’s because I have been a leader for a while and have always tried to help out in the program as best as I can.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

Besides being a Peer Leader,  I like going out to different Miami Restaurants, hanging out with friends and going to PLTL game nights!

What advice would you give new leaders?

I became a Peer Leader because of how good and encouraging  my Bio 1 Peer Leader was. She took me under her wings and showed me a lot of the things I know today, I would tell new leaders to not be afraid to find an experienced friend in the program and to ask them about everything they have doubts on. A mentor/mentee relationship could be a really fun learning experience.

What advice would you give to students?

I would tell students to not to be scared of the program, when you are a freshman, PLTL could be seen as intimidating but if you make sure you are prepared to participate and learn, the program will help reinforce the information learned in class while interacting with peers.

 What acquired skill have you always wanted to learn?

I have always wanted to learn how to play the piano.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

I would be pre-Law, studying to take the LSAT.

DECEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Skylar Agosto

What is your role in PLTL?

Bio 1 & Bio 2 Peer Leader

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

For me, being a leader for PLTL is about helping my students. I remember taking Bio 1, and Bio 2, and feeling like I was never going to make it through the semester, like there were too many things to remember, and PLTL always helped me study it a little bit longer, and make different connections between the topics. Mostly, I was able to see things from the different perspectives of my peers in the section, and to be able to facilitate that for my students is why I am here for the third semester. 

Being a PLTL leader is a lot like being a biology student all over again. We learn this material every week, before we can lead our sessions. And that is where my personal gain in PLTL comes from. Learning this material over and over again has really helped me be a better student, and feel more prepared for my personal goals. This information is now like second nature to me, and there are still things that I am learning for the 4th or 5th time, and they still confuse me. But doing this is helping me learn it for the MCAT, and medical school.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

I am studying now to take the MCAT in March, and then I will be applying to Medical School in June. Hopefully, I can get it on my first try, and start school again as soon as possible. I hope to make it through school, and get into a residency in Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

Having been a leader for 2 semesters now, and returning for my 3rd, I feel that I have made big strides and developed as a person, and as a leader. I do remember substituting on the last day of the semester when the program was really in a pinch. That is the only thing that I can think of, other than being the leader and person that I am.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

Outside of PLTL, I also work full time, and am very involved with my little brother’s high school marching band. Other than that, I do make sure to find time to practice yoga at least once a week, and I like to stay caught up with my favorite shows (including Grey’s Anatomy, going 16 seasons strong).

What advice would you give new leaders?

To any new leaders, I think my biggest advice would have to be to have fun with it. At the end of the day, you are a student just like them. This is an experience that you will remember forever, and some of the people you meet in this program will be in your life forever. You dedicate at least 5 hours a week to this program, and while there is a lot of information, and a lot of responsibility, there is no need to stress yourself out too much. Learn the material, lead your session, and laugh, Always remember to laugh.

What advice would you give to students?

There is life after biology, I promise. Whether you are a biology major, or a psychology major (like myself), sometimes it can seem like this class doesn’t go by fast enough, or it goes by too fast for all of the information that they want you to learn, and yes, there is a part 2. But you will make it through, and you will pass, as long as you use the tools given to you. One of the biggest tools in your arsenal, believe it or not, is PLTL, and I really recommend that you take full advantage of it. This is the place to ask the questions that you may have about the topic that we are working on that you maybe couldn’t have asked in class. To talk through these topics with your classmates, and make sure that you really understand it. We are here to help you, that is what this whole program is centered on.

 What would people be surprised to find out about you?

I think people would be surprised to find out that I really enjoy spending time at home. A lot of my stories, some of the funniest moments in the last could years have happened with my friends, usually out at a club or the beach. And while those are all great moments and memories that I will cherish forever, I like to spend as much of the little free time as I have at home on the couch.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

Having already graduated with my Bachelors Degree in Psychology, I can say that I am so glad that I chose the major that I did. However, if I had to go back to school, or start all over, I might get a degree in Education. Or a degree in Biology. I believe that teaching the next generation is very important. Providing them with the education they need to carry on in this world and make a difference is just as important if not more than educating ourselves. It requires a talent and a passion, as well as a lot of patience, and it’s probably the only other thing that I could have done other than becoming a doctor.

NOVEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Renata Pacheco

What is your role in PLTL?

Ecology PLTL Leader

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

I enjoy having the ability to help others make connections and reach their potential when it comes to learning.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

My short term goals include taking my MCAT exam to apply for school with successful acceptance (fingers crossed!) My long term goals include becoming an Emergency Physician and traveling the world.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I definitely enjoy leading and always do my best to bring good energy to the group; I also always put as much effort as possible into the content of my sessions and keep myself very organized in order to have a smooth session.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

I love to go rock climbing, running, traveling and spending time with my friends/family

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

I was involved in theatre productions all throughout grade school; If I didn’t pursue medicine I’d pursue musical theatre!

What advice would you give new leaders?

It’s definitely important to get to know your students in order to best help them approach questions and problems. Helping them making connections instead of telling them will be difficult but you’ll do great!

What advice would you give to students?

You know more than you think you do! These classes can get very overwhelming and there’s a lot of information to consider! Making connections is a great way to reinforce what you learned so it’s important to come to your session with your notes, your textbook and PLENTY OF QUESTIONS. Asking questions gives an idea of where we can help you, PLTL is designed to cover all the concepts you might not be sure about. So, ask questions if you’re not sure!

OCTOBER SPOTLIGHT

Jordan Moliver

What is your role in PLTL?

Histology Lab Leader and Supervisor

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

I have been in a variety of tutoring, coaching, and lecturing roles for over a decade. I find teaching incredibly rewarding.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

I am currently applying to medical schools and hope to be a research physician.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I put in a lot of time to prepare my sessions and am constantly looking for ways to help my students improve.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

Miami life is fantastic. I love all the little city hubs, going to concerts, and hanging out at the beach.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

Before starting my premedical post baccalaureate at FIU, I worked in the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Unit. If I wasn’t a science major, I would continue doing legal work.

What advice would you give new leaders?

Learn your students and make the knowledge personal to their goals.

What advice would you give to students?

Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Don’t underestimate any information because obscurities have a way of being useful in the most unexpected of ways.

SEPTEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Elisabeth Lashbrooks

What is your role in PLTL?

I lead sections for Ecology.

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

This is my fourth semester leading Ecology sections and every semester I learn something new, retain more and developed a better understanding of it. Being a PLTL leader has made me more comfortable speaking in groups and having led seven sections, not counting the current semester’s, all with their own dynamics I have learned how to handle different scenarios ranging from having peers that refuse to participate to peers who talk so much they go off topic.

 When I participated in PLTL as a student I had a leader who shared his way of differentiating terms based on association, which stuck with me and helped me on an exam. I got involved with PLTL so I could do the same for my peers. Getting feedback from them keeps me motivated to continue; occasional a peer will share that they remembered our discussion during their exam and felt confident with their answer, or a peer will be struggling with a topic at the beginning of our discussion and then suddenly gets excited because it finally clicked for them. Both are nice to experience since it shows the effort is paying off. 

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

I’m set to start a master’s program for biology in January and I’m hoping that will help me decide which microbiology or cell biology related field I want to study at a higher level.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I believe I was nominated because I’m willing to help with whatever is needed. When another leader isn’t able to lead their section and my schedule allows, I’ll cover it for them. This semester extra sections were needed to accommodate the number of students wanting to participate, so I volunteered to lead two additional sections.  

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

I’ve developed a fascination with museums, zoos and aquariums, so whenever I have free time, my daughter and I will go explore a local one.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

I majored in finance for my first bachelor’s and have an interest in taxation law, so if I weren’t heading towards a science field I’d likely be working for the IRS.

What advice would you give new leaders?

One of the hardest parts of being a leader is that we facilitate the discussion rather than give answers, but it’s easier if you’re prepared. Group Discussion helps since it serves as a refresher on the concepts that apply to the workshop questions, but to indirectly lead our peers to the answers we have to know the material well.  Before I lead a workshop I reread the sections in the book, making sure I understand all the examples because they can often be related to the workshop question if the discussion get stuck. I also take note of questions I had or that peers have had in previous sections and try to have a plan of how to handle them. 

What advice would you give to students?

With PLTL, along with a lot of things, the more effort you make the more you’ll get out of it. If you come to the workshop without reviewing the material that’s going to be covered, you can’t contribute much and it reduces the benefit of active learning for both you and your peers.

AUGUST SPOTLIGHT

Amanda Cantor-Sanchez

What is your role in PLTL?

Currently I lead sessions and mentor other leaders. I am also the Chair of Recruitment, so I encourage students to become leaders and leaders to continue with the PLTL program.

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

I love the community surrounding PLTL. It’s a wonderful group of people who aren’t all going for the same career, so you get to meet people that have different interests. In PLTL we work to understand biology at a deeper level and I think that will help me when I take the MCAT. I continue with the program because I love the people I meet and I feel like it helps me stay on track to reach my goals.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

I want to go into medicine, I am interested in long term patient care but I don’t know what specialty I would want to go into. I like the idea of having my own practice one day that focuses on holistic and preventative medicine. I am also interested in serving underrepresented populations such as homeless and rural communities.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I think I was nominated because I’ve lead sessions for 4 or 5 semesters now and I turn in good folders. Also I try to do as much as I can to help the students and my fellow leaders. I do my best to substitute whenever I have a gap in my schedule and make my sessions feel like a family for the semester.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

I like making things, I think it’s so fun to think of a project and see it come to life. My favorite things are sewing and knitting because they both take time and a type of concentration that I don’t get to express through my normal studies. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends and family whether that be staying at home watching movies all day or going out and dancing, I love being around people.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

If not for science I think I would have liked to own a coffee shop where people can come, have good food and enjoy each other’s company.

What advice would you give new leaders?

You’re probably going to be nervous your first few sessions and that’s okay. Just breathe and talk to the students like you would any other person in your class. No one is expecting you to know everything and it is beneficial for the students if you just let them figure it out themselves. They know more than what they think they do, all you need to do is help them build their confidence. Once you do that they will contribute to the conversation and they can figure out the answers themselves.

What advice would you give to students?

You’re going to need to study more than you think you should. I know I’m done studying when the information is boring because I have been over it too many times. Once you are done studying for you, get together in a group of 2 or 3 people and listen to their questions, they might have thought of something you didn’t and vice versa. Also don’t wait until the last minute to start because you won’t give yourself the proper time to go over the material sufficiently and it won’t benefit you. Last but not least, become a PLTL leader you’ll go over the material again from a different perspective and it will help you gain a deeper understanding of the material that will help you when you go to take your upper division classes and graduate school entrance exams.

JULY SPOTLIGHT

Rosangela Garcia

What is your role in PLTL?

Currently my role in PLTL is a Research Assistant Peer Leader (RAPL). My group and I conduct research in Metacognition.

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

Well besides the amazing friendships, PLTL has given me so much personal growth. I chose to participate in PLTL because I wanted to help other students. My motivation to continue PLTL is definitely the drive to learn more; with PLTL you are constantly learning more and there are so many people you learn from.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

My goal is to go to medical school and become a doctor. I’ve always been really interested in doing Geriatrics but we’ll see what the future holds for me.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

Well besides my great humor, I think I was nominated because I have been with the program close to 4 years.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

Besides PLTL, I go to the movies. Like a lot. I also watch a lot of cooking shows.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

If I wasn’t a Biology major, I would’ve pursued a major in Computer Science.

What advice would you give new leaders?

My advice to new leaders would be to get as involved as possible with the program. PLTL has offered me so many opportunities all because I chose to do more.

What advice would you give to students?

Take advantage of all your resources! A wise man knows that he knows nothing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

JUNE SPOTLIGHT

Michael Delamo

What is your role in PLTL?

GD Leader

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

I get to meet new people and continue to grow as a person. Being more confident in who I am and what I know and the fact that I’m helping people makes me feel better as a person.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

My goal in life is just to help people as much as I can, when I can. I know you can’t help everyone but trying counts. As for career plans I want to continue my studies so I can become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2 -3 years.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I honestly didn’t see this coming. I guess cause I’ve been in the program for close to 9 years. I’m trying to break 10.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

I love going to the movies and going down to the keys to go kayaking.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

I would be an actor. I mean that’s still my plan B.

What advice would you give new leaders?

Being nervous your first time means you care about what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it. You will make mistakes and that’s fine. As long as you admit it and go back to fix it you will be a better leader for it.

What advice would you give to students?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can’t move forward unless you do. Be kind and thoughtful to your peers because they are in the same place as you.

MAY SPOTLIGHT

Richard Suarez

What is your role in PLTL?

I am a Research Assistant Peer Leader (RAPL). My role involves the development of a critical thinking assessment known as the Critical Thinking Assessment in Biological Sciences (CTABS). This project is meant to evaluate the critical thinking abilities of Peer Leaders.

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

PLTL offers me the opportunity to explore the various aspects of education research, exposure I would not normally have. I originally participated as a part of the office staff and was inspired by the program and all it does so I became a leader. When I saw the chance to conduct research, I chose to take it. I continue to be a part of the program because I believe in the effectiveness of the program on student performance; I also truly enjoy conducting research as it is eye-opening and has the potential to be impactful. The family community developed by the program is another motivating factor.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

My goal is to attend medical school to become a doctor, specifically a neurologist. I also wish to continue my research, both in education (critical thinking) and HIV, in order to better my community.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I believe I was nominated because of my hard work and progress on my team’s research project, which involves the development of a critical thinking assessment in biology.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

I attend salsa classes and conduct research in HIV.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

If I was not a science major, I would probably have pursued a degree in criminal justice to become a lawyer. I have always been interested in the justice system and I enjoy the idea of representing and defending my fellow man.

What advice would you give new leaders?

I would recommend to be a part of the program for as long as possible. Not only do you get the satisfaction of helping your peers succeed by facilitating discussions to increase their understanding of difficult concepts, but also it strengthens your knowledge as well as your ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

What advice would you give to students?

I would try and take any class with PLTL as part of the curriculum. The program makes you think about the material on a different level, increasing your understanding and retention.

APRIL SPOTLIGHT

Viviana Montalti

What is your role in PLTL?

I am a PLTL Peer Leader. My role includes facilitating learning and enhancing learning activities of students through making them think critically and making them think of how they are thinking when it comes to biology.

What do you personally get out of PLTL? Why do you participate in PLTL? What motivates you to continue in PLTL?

I enhance my learning by helping others with their learning. It personally helps me understand my thinking and how to reach conclusions having to do with academic concepts in a discussion and having my opinions and questions based on background knowledge. I participate in PLTL because I find it fulfilling and a good experience specially because it helps me remember concepts important in my major that will help my future understanding. I like helping people and doing PLTL includes helping people and helping yourself simultaneously. I want to continue PLTL because I make connections and friendships with people through a subject that I love and I am part of a family with other PLTL Leaders that encourage and empower each other to do better, learn better, and facilitate the learning of others effectively.

What are your goals, your life aspirations, and your career plans?

I wish to become a physician in the future and volunteer in places where healthcare is not easily accessible.

Why do you think you were nominated? (Don’t be humble)

I think I was nominated because I usually substitute for the leaders that need me to and I took up another session because sadly another leader could not finish the semester of PLTL with his students so I stepped in to help.

What do you do for fun besides PLTL?

I travel a lot, I go to concerts, I volunteer with different organizations and play 18 musical instruments.

If you weren’t a Science major, what would you do with your life? (Even if you aren’t a science major… what would have done other than your major?)

I would probably become a social worker and save up until I am able to open an orphanage abroad and help children in need. If not I would like to become a biology or math professor.

What advice would you give new leaders?

Do not stress yourself with too many sessions if you know you are taking too many classes, take a breath. Also do not stress when you have to organize your binder, just stay organized and follow directions. Get to know your students and build a bond with them so they get more comfortable in your sessions and that will lead them to participate more with the other students.

What advice would you give to students?

Don’t be afraid of your leader or asking questions. We are students too and we just want to help. Let us help you, don’t be embarrassed if you do not understand something.