Outstanding graduates: Maria Jose Medrano Matamoros, class of 2023
Maria Jose Medrano Matamoros, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering, says her education is her ‘superpower’
Maria Jose Medrano Matamoros’ path to imaging was a bit serendipitous. As a doctoral student at the McKelvey School of Engineering, she happened to sit in on a talk led by Ulugbek Kamilov, assistant professor of electrical & systems engineering and computer science & engineering, and liked what she heard.
“The way Professor Kamilov presented imaging and the problems he was addressing really interested me,” Medrano said. “I sent him an email and met with him, and while I ended up not working directly with him, he pointed me in the right direction.”
That direction led Medrano to become a researcher in the lab of Joseph O’Sullivan, the Samuel C. Sachs Professor of Electrical Engineering.
“Dr. O is very involved with the imaging science program,” she said. “It felt like I had a bigger community than just his lab, and I became really connected with a lot of the imaging science PhDs and students.”
Medrano earned her doctoral degree in electrical engineering in December 2022 and is now a postdoctoral researcher in the Radiological Sciences Laboratory in the Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Dr. O's lab is strongly connected to the Department of Radiation Oncology at the School of Medicine, which gave me a chance to collaborate with medical physicists at the Siteman Cancer Center and to work directly with clinical CT machines and patient data,” Medrano said. “That gave me a skillset that has been very valuable in my current research at Stanford.”
The transition from the small liberal arts university where she did her undergraduate work to a research-intensive institution like WashU was initially challenging for Medrano. Not only was the research much more rigorous, but she said she felt isolated as one of only a few women Hispanic students in her department and in the school.
“Successfully overcoming that imposter syndrome is one of my greatest accomplishments,” she said. “Now, it’s like I have this superpower. I have the freedom to explore problems that are interesting to me and the experience to mentor students from Latin America and other countries. That’s the thing that excites me most: I once needed help but now I can help others.”
Medrano said she plans to return to St. Louis to take part in the Engineering Recognition Ceremony, as well as to receive the 2023 Outstanding Doctoral dissertation Award from the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering.
“During my PhD, I got married, I got my green card and I was able to move into a field that was vaguely related to what I did in my undergrad,” she said. “It was a very successful five years and I want close it out in a proper way.”