Melissa DeSantiago’s Inspiring Journey with PEER WISE

April 25, 2024

By:  Beth Anne Johnson

Melissa DeSantiago, a 2014 Biosystems Engineering grad
Melissa DeSantiago, a 2014 Biosystems Engineering grad

As we embark on the April recap of PEER WISE Connections, prepare to be captivated by the extraordinary journey of Melissa DeSantiago, a shining star within our community. Melissa’s story is noteworthy, filled with determination, passion, and a commitment to making a difference.

Serita Acker, Executive Director of PEER WISE, beautifully encapsulates Melissa’s impact, describing her as nothing short of inspiring. Melissa’s multifaceted trajectory from undergraduate to Ph.D. candidate is a testament to her unwavering dedication and passion for making a difference.

“Melissa is the epitome of inspiration,” Serita Acker remarks. “Her ability to seamlessly transition from industry to academia while staying true to her roots in PEER WISE is truly remarkable. She embodies the spirit of our organization and serves as a beacon of hope for aspiring scholars everywhere.”

Indeed, Melissa’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of friendship and mentorship. Beth Anne, PEER WISE Community Engagement Coordinator and close friend of Melissa sheds light on their profound bond, emphasizing its pivotal role in her personal and professional success.

“Melissa’s friendship has been the cornerstone of my journey,” Beth Anne reflects. “From our days as undergraduates to navigating the challenges of adulthood, her unwavering support and guidance have been instrumental. I owe much of my success to her, and it’s through her that I discovered the invaluable opportunities PEER WISE offers, first as an undergraduate myself and now as a working professional. I am so thankful our students had the opportunity to connect with her.”

Melissa’s trajectory is nothing short of extraordinary. As a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, her research in exposure science and environmental epidemiology is paving the way for meaningful change. Collaborating with the ongoing Maule Cohort (MAUCO) study in Chile, Melissa’s innovative approach to assessing environmental and occupational exposures to agrochemical mixtures is poised to impact vulnerable working communities significantly.

Melissa shares her wisdom with students, advising them, “Follow your instincts and values with conviction. You will never be happy if you compromise yourself or your values. You know what work still needs to be done, so go out there and do it because the world needs you.”

PEER WISE Connections is a professional development series hosted by the PEER WISE department that introduces current students to alumni and industry professionals. Serita shares, “Melissa is the perfect speaker to end the 2023 to 2024 academic year with because she has a heart of gold. May all PEER WISE students see her heart and, in her likeness, do a world of good.”