JEAN CARLOS SERRANO FLORES

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Harvard University

Heritage: Puerto Rican

By: Frank Morris Lopez

 

Awards & Recognitions:

  • MIT Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) Diversity Fellowship

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship

  • MIT University Center for Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) Sloan Scholar

“To be honest, I’m a super nerd.”

That’s how Jean Carlos Serrano Flores describes himself.

“Ever since I was a kid, I was really passionate about science, physics, and understanding the natural world. That was my passion,” he said. “What drove me was that we could improve other people’s lives.”

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Serrano Flores moved to Boston at age 23 to pursue graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He ended up getting a master’s in mechanical engineering with a focus on medical technologies, before going on to pursue his Ph.D. He’s now a postdoctoral fellow researcher at Harvard University.

Throughout his six-year career in Boston, Serrano Flores has worked to address disparities in healthcare by developing biomedical technologies that have greater accessibility and consideration to diseases that affect under-attended socioeconomic groups, including Latinos.

“Knowledge is power. You can predict things, you can build things, you can actually use it to improve the quality of life of other people,” he said.

So, what are biomedical technologies? “These range all the way from creating small-scale organs that mimic the organs we have. We can use these to understand diseases, to screen drugs, or create ways to test or diagnose diseases,” Serrano Flores said.

He’s currently developing an affordable diagnostic way to allow for rapid, highly-sensitive, at-home testing of viral and bacterial infections.

Working in biomedical research at MIT, Serrano Flores’ doctoral work led to the development of new technologies to study and treat cardiovascular disease and cancer metastasis — both having a higher propensity to affect Latinos.

 

“From personal accounts, there's a high incidence of cardiovascular diseases in my family, and there’s a high rate among Latinos. Living in Puerto Rico, it was affecting everyone around me,” he said. “And also, of course, cancer. These are diseases that had personal influence on my family and are really detrimental to the quality of life — but also, I saw space to improve quality of life in patients.”

His research efforts resulted in 10 peer-reviewed journal publications, as well as collaborations with bio-pharmaceutical companies, Amgen Inc. and Novartis, to develop new therapeutics.

In addition to his research, he was awarded the MIT University Center for Exemplary Mentoring Sloan Scholarship for mentoring, recruiting and retaining underrepresented students to the field.

“I was the first in my family to go into STEM. Latinos in STEM, we’re lacking. When I came to MIT, there were 110 students at MIT that got accepted, and of those, there were three Latinos and one Black woman. We need to work to increase representation,” he said.

To Latinos interested in pursuing a STEM-related career, he says, “you need to show, represent and be you.”