Our Leadership Academy Alumni Spotlight Series continues this summer with Nicolas Soria Zurita'19, who is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at Pennsylvania State University. Nico was a PhD student in mechanical engineering at OSU, and was a graduate research assistant during that time. Read on to learn more about Nico, his experiences as a post-doctoral student, and what he gained from his time in the Leadership Academy!

How did you first get involved with the Leadership Academy?

In 2017, I was looking for different professional development workshops at OSU, and I learned about the Leadership Academy Summit. During this great event, I had the opportunity to meet Scott Paja, who described the Leadership Academy and its objectives to me. I just love the idea and joined the group.

What advice would you give to students who are in the Leadership Academy, or who are new to it?

The Leadership Academy is a unique opportunity that will allow you to grow as a person and as a professional. Take advantage of the sessions, the workshops, and especially of the network that you can build. The people you will meet during these activities will help you to learn the skill you need for a particular class project or grant you an internship for next summer. Be active, get involved, and make new connections.

In what ways have you been able to incorporate some lessons from the Leadership Academy into your current role and experiences at Penn State?

In Penn State, I am leading research with engineering graduate and undergraduate students. Thanks to the Leadership Academy workshops, I learned the soft skills that allow me to lead these students and succeeded with our research. 

Now is my turn to become a mentor and share the values and skills that I learn during my time at the Leadership Academy to my new students.

What were some of your favorite parts of the program? What did you enjoy?

The professional network I created with industry, alumni, and students. Sharing our experiences with this group of fantastic people allowed us to learn new skills and make authentic connections. Some of the people I met in different activities are now great friends of mine. 

How do you think the Leadership Academy most impacted you?

The Leadership Academy definitively gave me the tools that allowed me to lead and mentor my group of students. I apply the concepts from the five pillars of the Leadership Academy all the time to foster collaboration in my group.  

Can you describe your title and the work you do at Penn State?

Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Pennsylvania State University. My work focuses on identifying attributes that can enhance the complementary nature of both humans and computers working together in hybrid teams to solve complex engineering problems. I am bringing together perspectives from engineering design and human psychology to investigate human-computer hybrid teams' interaction.

As you've been working at Penn State, what have been some opportunities and challenges for you in your role?

One of my current research benefits is my collaboration with experts in engineering design, machine learning, computer science, data analysis, and human cognition at different institutions. Nevertheless, keeping track of all the various activities happening with so many people can be challenging and overwhelming. Keeping a clear communication channel helps me keep track of all the deliverables and task distribution among my team. 

Can you list all the activities/programs you were involved with at OSU?

During my time at OSU, I was actively involved with the Association of Latin American Students ALAS, and I was part of a group training class named DAM Fit. I recommend all of you to get involved in different activities at OSU. You will meet make new friends and learn valuable skills that will make a difference. 

Any last thoughts about anything (Leadership Academy; post-grad life; etc.) you would like to share?

If you want to learn more about my research or graduate school, please don't hesitate to contact me. I am always open to help and support other students at OSU. Go Beavs!!