ADI Spotlight: Kristina Solorio-Kirpichyan

Dec. 5, 2022

Kristina Solorio-Kirpichyan             

Department: Molecular Biology

Program Year: G6

Undergraduate/Other Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles (B.S. in Biology)

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

ADI Affiliations:


Tell us about your background.

Both sides of my family arrived to the U.S from Mexico in search of a better life. I was born and raised in Los Angeles with 4 siblings and we grew up witnessing the hard work, perseverance, and the many sacrifices of our parents. It was instilled at a very young age that all they ask of us was to give our best.

We are extremely family-oriented and we were surrounded by DOZENS of aunts, uncles, and cousins who all live in the same town. Every weekend consisted of either a birthday party, a baptism, a Quinceañera, or a wedding. I was very happy going to UCLA for undergrad because that meant I could make the 1-hour drive and be home on the weekends to partake in family festivities. My home and my family are my comfort, so it was no easy task making the cross-country journey to Princeton. Not only was I the first in my family to move so far away, but I am also the first in my family to pursue my PhD.

In addition to leaving my family, I was also in a long-distance relationship for four years to my now husband. With my loved ones in Los Angeles, I think I have almost mastered the art of sleeping on Red Eye flights. Any opportunity I had I would take a long weekend trip to visit my family. I have still missed many important celebrations, but I know I will one day be back in Southern California with them.


What are your research interests?  What excites you about it?

I am in the Molecular Biology department and my interests are specifically in structural biology. I get to use very fancy and powerful microscopes to obtain 3D reconstructions of proteins and with this we can gain insight into the regulating mechanism of a stress-response kinase. What excites me the most about what I do is that we get to study life at the basic, molecular level and there are tools accessible for me to do it.


What does your family think you do in grad school?

Develop the cure for cancer.


How has ADI programming impacted you? 

ADI programing has really helped me believe in myself and given me the community I most desperately needed.


What advice would you give prospective, incoming, and/or first year underrepresented Princeton graduate students?

Participate in the programs put on by the ADI team or other affinity groups. They are not only a way to meet other students, but they really do help build a sense of community. As someone who has organized these types of programs with the ADI team in the past, I can tell you that they are meant to help you navigate through graduate school by making resources accessible, introducing you to different campus organizations, and by giving you the opportunity to connect with Princeton faculty and administrators.


What's been most helpful to you in acclimating to Princeton?

Having a community where I feel accepted. Imposter syndrome sneaks up on me from time to time, but having a community of other graduate students at Princeton with similar backgrounds and experiences has really helped me realize that I belong.

One way I managed being away from home and loved ones was by immersing myself in ADI efforts. Being a Diversity Fellow with the ADI team really felt like home away from home. When planning events, I tried incorporating different aspects of my culture, my hometown, or things I just loved doing. I also loved attending other events and getting to know students from different or similar backgrounds. Being able to share a part of me with other students while also learning about others brought me so much joy and a sense of acceptance. 

Another thing that really helped was learning how to make my favorite dishes from back home. I enjoyed FaceTiming my parents or grandmother as they explained "their way" of cooking a dish. It felt as if they were there with me in the kitchen. 


What should the ADI community know about you?


I had my struggles when it came to navigating graduate school. No one in my family has ever done something like this before, so it was extremely difficult not being able to ask my parents and family for help. I really enjoy science and having the creative freedom to pursue my research of interest, however my mental health still struggled at times. I have considered quitting my program more times than I can count. But I am still here! Do not lose sight of what your main motivators are. For me, that’s my family. Not once have they ever doubted my ability to succeed, so why should I? Even though my parents cannot help me with the logistics of graduate school, they have taught me essential life lessons when it comes to achieving goals and that I have what it takes to accomplish anything I set my mind to.


What do you know now that you wish you’d known before?

It is okay if I do not have the answer. It is more important knowing how to find the answer.


What activities do you engage in beyond research?

I enjoy baking, cooking, and trying new recipes. I also love knitting while I enjoy my morning coffee.


What is, or would be, your super power?

I wish I could have a perfect memory! (I tend to forget a lot of things)


What would you be doing if you weren’t in grad school?

I would probably be teaching Biology to underserved students in the Los Angeles Public School system.


What’s your perfect day?

Completing everything on my to-do list while making sure I am eating a well-balanced meal and getting in a workout.


What’s the most interesting thing about you?

Maybe not the most interesting, but my most recent and proudest accomplishment was hiking up the tallest mountain in the UK (Ben Nevis in Scotland)!


What’s on your mind?

I will be finishing my PhD in a few months and writing these responses has pushed me to reflect on my journey and appreciate how far I have come.