Today’s world is full of information. For someone with the right computer skills, that data can represent tremendous opportunities to help people.
College of Engineering and Computing Senior Lara Garcia has a passion for using data to solve problems. She is using her computer science and engineering skills to promote social change.
Garcia’s previous work has included creating maps to show researchers how to provide medical care to under-served communities as well as creating illustrations to show philanthropists the true impact of their investments.
“I find the data very fascinating,” Garcia said. “From one perspective, it is just a set of numbers that look tabular and static. But data can represent anything. It can stand for human behavior, economies, and nations.
Garcia arrived at the university from Venezuela as a International Baccalaureate Graduate. Along with his elective credits, he took an Honors College course taught by start up FIU Director Bob Hacker about entrepreneurship and innovation.
Garcia said, “I was that student who would sit in front of class on Tuesday mornings at 9:30, ask lots of questions and engage in deep philosophical debates.”
after competing in Hult Prize Challenge And while talking with the hacker, Garcia is offered a job at startup FIU. She helped Innovation Hub streamline internal reporting and joined the student leadership team, where she co-facilitated entrepreneurship boot camps.
“Lara is a very talented woman,” says Hacker. “He is exceptional in bringing mathematics and computer science calculations into practical applications for social impact.”
In his sophomore year, Garcia interned at the MIT Media Lab, an interdisciplinary center for research and learning. She joined Biomechatronics Group, focused on providing prosthetic and diabetes care to under-served communities in Mexico, Sierra Leone and the United States.
Garcia said a variety of factors can prevent people with diabetes from getting the care they need. High poverty rates, political climate, and poor public infrastructure are just a few. If left untreated, diabetes and its complications may lead to the need for lower limb amputation.
The MIT Media Lab was working on deploying mobile health clinics to areas in need of medical care and prosthetics. First, they needed to know where to go.
“I played a strategic role in taking all these communities, analyzing the hotspots, and determining the best places or areas to travel,” Garcia said. “I had to account for so many different aspects of such a very complex problem.”