College of Engineering News Room

Persistence brings achievement to USF mechanical engineering student

Elise Daniela Zamora Alviarez POET Never Satisfied Scholar USF Engineering

By Brad Stager

The experience of University of South Florida mechanical engineering student Daniela Zamora Alviarez is one that exemplifies the goals of a scholarship recognizing how academic achievement often comes with a lot of sacrifice.

The Never Satisfied Scholarship program of the biofuel company POET provides $5,000 awards to students whose experiences and goals reflect that organization’s core philosophy of continuous growth and achievement, often in the face of considerable obstacles.

That aligns with Alviarez’s story, starting with her family moving to the United States from Venezuela when she was three years old. The relocation provided opportunities her family was seeking, but also some of the obstacles she faced later when pursuing a college degree after graduating from Palm Beach Gardens High School.

Daniela Zamora Alviarez USF mechanical engineering

Daniela Zamora Alviarez

“Although I graduated with 53 college credits, a near perfect SAT score, and as salutatorian of my graduating class of almost 700 students, I would be denied a realistic transition to the university level because of my legal status,” says Alviarez, who cites ineligibility for in-state tuition, financial assistance and scholarships because of her immigration status as obstacles at the time.

Rather than accept the situation as it was, Alviarez responded with a plan and the determination to see it through to the end. 

“Although I couldn't afford to attend university yet, I moved to Gainesville after high school in hopes of being near UF. I joined a UF club called CHISPAS, an immigrant activist group, and joined the executive board as the external core director,” says Alviarez, who besides advocating for tuition equity for DACA recipients, also distinguished herself as a medical technician and phlebotomist while earning an Associate of Arts (A.A.) in biological sciences from Santa Fe College.

Since beginning her bachelor’s degree studies at USF last fall, Alviarez has found a nurturing and inclusive space within the College of Engineering, with organizations like the Society of Women Engineers, Student Green Energy Fund and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM).

“USF has so many opportunities to get involved in improving our world, and it makes me proud to be a USF student,” says Alviarez who adds that she has found a focus for her studies at USF, and eventual career.

It was during a S-STEM workshop when Alviarez was introduced to Sayandeb Basu, the director of the Office of National Scholars, who mentored her successful application to the POET Never Satisfied Scholarship program.

While attending S-STEM meetings, Alviarez also interacted with graduate students who encouraged her to explore an undergraduate research opportunity in the NanoMechanics, NanoMaterials, NanoManufacturing Laboratory with Michael Cai Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Alviarez and her graduate student mentor are investigating the potential for two-dimensional materials to act as supercapacitors and energy storage devices. She hopes their research will one day contribute to better batteries.

“The path I have forged for myself has now led me to my passionate interest in the energy sector and working with renewable energy technology,” Alviarez said. 

While Alviarez says she enjoys research and plans to pursue a PhD, there are other objectives to achieve, which is the kind of positive approach that befits a POET Never Satisfied Scholar.

“As I attain success, my goals are to give back to the community that uplifted me and will always keep the University of South Florida in my heart. It is my dream to become well-established one day so that I may be able to create initiatives and programs for future generations to achieve their dreams, despite the challenges and obstacles that may be present in their lives.”

Alviarez will spend the summer working on the "2D Materials and Hydrogen Evolution" project at the NSF Binghamton University Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in Renewable Energy Generation and Storage site.