Lucia Ramirez

Mexico

Lab Manager at Stanford Genome Center

My name is Lucia Ramirez and I came from Mexico City. I met my husband, an American, in Mexico and after a few years of dating; I decided to come to the US to see if I actually wanted to live here. That was in 1989, 30 years ago.

I went to Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) where I got my degree in general biology but I always wanted to do research and was very interested in genetics and the human genome project. I came to the US in part to see if I could do research as there was hardly any opportunity for me to do this work in Mexico.

My first job was in University of California in San Francisco. I got my first interview. I started from zero. I had no history, I came from another country, English was not my primary language and I was an undergraduate. So I had to really start from the bottom.

I applied as a laboratory assistant, just making solutions. When I started doing it, I thought this is an opportunity to start showing people that I can offer more than just preparing solutions, etc. In general, a lot of the work was doing solutions and helping with the purchasing of supplies and running inventories, organizing the lab. I’m usually very organized and I organized the lab to the point that I had some free time.

Then I asked my principal investigator if I could start working to do more biology like isolating DNA and helping one of the post docs. He gave me that opportunity. It turned out that I was very good and soon I was helping 3 different post docs.

The Principal Investigator, Dr. Richard Myers, was offered a job at Stanford and he asked me to join his team. He offered me a promotion. I have this passion for learning and always wanted to understand the biology behind the protocols. After that, I escalated very fast into a research assistant I, II and III, and currently I’m a supervisor of Dr. Michael Snyder lab at the Stanford Genome Center. There are 30 researchers in the lab and I do more than just being a lab manager. I had done a lot of next generation DNA sequencing for many years, so I’m always trying to give them a lot of advice and doing some sequencing for some of the post docs that they need because I kind of know how to run the next generation DNA sequencing.

I do not think I would have the same opportunities if I came now. There are more stigmas about immigration and people are probably more afraid of hiring immigrants. I just feel because of all these anti-immigrant feelings it would be much harder to pursue my scientific goals.

I’m a naturalized citizen. I did it because I married an American and I immediately started doing all the — as soon as possible, to become a citizen. Just because I always feel that it was important for me to have some good access to — I noticed that a lot of the United States in the society, always they ask me like are you citizen or you are a resident? And I noticed that you had more opportunities as a citizen than a resident. So I kind of decided I had to do my work to become a citizen as soon as possible. So I did it.

I feel America needs to change its policies towards immigrants. America is a country that gives people opportunities that we don’t have in Latin America. They have to accept the contribution from immigrants because this country is built on immigrants. Immigration is always going to happen, no matter what. You don’t have to have only people with PhDs or very highly educated people to make the fabric of a society. You need everybody from the top to the bottom to be able to function.

Sometimes these people don’t want to really live here, but they want an opportunity to make some money and support their families. If there was a program that would allow them to be working for few years and then go back home, there would not be so many people coming illegally. It’s hard to compete when United States agriculture is subsidized and in Central America or in Mexico, you lose your crop, there is no support. Currently there is no respect for these migrants as humans- they are coming as refugees, seeking asylum and we are just putting them in cages.

Anybody can become a refugee especially with the consequences of global warming. We might be the next refugees flying to the south and going to Central America. Who knows?

I think we need to be more compassionate, more understanding of the migrants trying to come here. Because for some people their jobs to sustain their family is their dignity. So by destroying that dignity, what is left for us as a human? I think we need to kind of be more compassionate about it and instead, find why or how to help these people instead of fighting all these humans coming to find a better life. It’s not a crime to try to find a better life. Anybody in that situation would try to find a better life or better opportunities.

Everybody can contribute to the United States. To me, even if you have a babysitter from another country you should value these people. They’re leaving their kids to take care of another kid so then the parents can go work. I think in our society, I feel there is space for everybody. We just need to be a little better at evaluating and come with solutions and help each other. Because this is why we are here.