A child of the Andes, Stephany Flores Ramos was born in the Sierra (highlands) region of Peru to a soldier and a girl that fell in love despite the prejudice of her father’s family towards her mother’s family of campesinos, farmers of indigenous Quechuan descent. The familial struggles, in addition to the economic stressors they imposed, made it impossible for Stephany and her parents to live in peace, motivating her parents to move the family to the United States when she was just seven.
Stephany grew up on the island of Maui playing Uno with her younger brother. While her parents worked maintaining other people’s houses, Stephany dedicated her time to reading. She was a big dreamer and often got lost in her thoughts. Thoughts such as, how does a pencil sharpener’s motor work? Stephany still remembers her mother’s frequent refrain, “Get your head out of the clouds!”
Despite being an idealist, Stephany was also very cognizant of the strife and efforts her family took to give her the life she had. She used the resourcefulness she learned from their struggles to explore ways she could achieve her goals of higher education, an endeavor which led her to Questbridge, a program that connects low-income, high-achieving students to some of the top colleges in the nation. Places like Amherst College, where Stephany studied.
At Amherst, Stephany was surrounded by similar minds that also pondered how the universe works. There, she discovered that we live in a microbial world while working in Professor Alexandra Purdy’s lab and decided to dedicate her life to microbial research. After graduating, Stephany became a research assistant in Doctors Katherine Lemon’s and Christopher Johnston’s lab where she studied microbial interactions in the human nose—work that earned her a publication in Science.
Currently, Stephany is searching for microbially-derived metabolites that could be used to treat metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. She is also an active member of her program’s diversity committee, working alongside faculty to increase representation and retention of underrepresented minorities in her program and beyond.