Sofia Mendoza

From park ranger to researcher, Sofia Mendoza finds her path at Iowa State University

Sofia Mendoza, one of the seven 2019 Louise Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research interns, came to Iowa State with no intentions of pursuing her current career path.

“I came in [to Iowa State] as an environmental science major. I wanted to be a park ranger.”

Now a kinesiology major focused on research, Sofia explained that finding the right major for her came in part from taking classes she enjoyed.

“I didn’t really enjoy school in high school,” said Sofia. “The classes are very generalized so I wasn’t a big fan of school. But as I’ve gotten into classes that I actually enjoyed, I don’t want to leave school.”

One of her favorite classes was James Lang’s Physiology of Exercise (KIN 358) course. Lang, an assistant professor in kinesiology, immediately recognized her enthusiasm for learning.

“It was my first class here at Iowa State,” Lang said. “She was just a star student and really hungry and wanted to learn more and more.”

Lang ended up helping Sofia apply, and ultimately obtain, a 2019 Louise Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research Internship.

“Dr. Lang notified me of it,” Sofia said. “He told me that it would be a good opportunity for me and would allow me to have my own project.”

“I was a little nervous about the amount of work it would involve, but once we talked through it, and talked about different ideas and projects that I liked, I figured I might as well try and go for it.”

Sofia is currently throwing herself into the challenge of leading the research process.

“Most of the time I think of undergraduate research as collecting data for someone else’s study. In this experience, I’m designing the project. I’m the one in charge.”

Sofia’s Rosenfeld research focuses on preventative medicine, which aligns with her future plans of being a health care provider and focusing research that can be used in primary care.

“I’m designing a project right now to look at muscle oxygen saturation rates and looking at different populations, whether that be athletes versus non-athletes or females versus males.”

Besides the leadership experience and opportunity to do research that she is passionate about, Sofia has higher hopes for her current project.

“Being published would be great, but I hope the research gets some use. I think it can better society in some way, which is kind of the purpose of research.”