- Gender: Male
- Major: Engineering
- University: Princeton University
- Country: Colombia
David Zuluaga decided early on in life to focus on his studies, as he viewed higher education as a path toward “a better future” and financial stability, for himself and his family. He recounts the struggles he and his mother faced while he was growing up. When she was still pregnant with him in Colombia, his father, who served as a pilot, was shot down while flying between Colombia and Peru. Not long after, David’s mother’s employer went bankrupt, and she lost her job as a flight attendant. It was then that she decided to move to the US, for chance at a better future for herself and her son.
Once in the US, however, David’s mother faced the obstacle of making ends meet. He recalls a particular instance that has since provided him with the motivation to reach his goals. “At that moment, I decided that I was going to take control of what I could, which was my education,” he says. He grabbed his Algebra book, and studied hard, applying this level of determination to all of his studies, throughout his educational career.
That determination has paid off, as today, David is a senior at Princeton University, where he is pursuing a major in Electrical Engineering, with minors in Computer Science and Statistics and Machine Learning. When he arrived on campus, he says he knew he wanted to try new things and be challenged, so he joined the men’s rugby club, in spite of never before having competed in a team sport. He also became involved in Business Professionals of America, Society of Hispanic Engineers, Princeton Debate Panel, and Committee on Discipline.
After graduation, he plans to work in the tech industry as either a software developer or program manager, with a ten-year target timeframe to become an expert in creating and launching new technologies. To that aim, he has interned with both Pinterest and Amazon, and, this summer, will intern as a technical program manager at Facebook. Ultimately, he hopes to start his own tech company, with a focus on autonomous robots.
In 2019, he was a finalist for HSF’s Male Scholar of the Year award, a recognition of his academic excellence and exemplification of HSF’s mission and vision. Prior to this designation, he was also named a US Department of Education Presidential Scholar, an award, established in 1964 by executive order of the President, that recognizes the “nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.”
Additionally, last September, David was one of 118 Scholars invited to attend HSF’s STEM Summit. The event is an annual Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math conference that provides top HSF Scholars with an inside track to career success in STEM fields, through a combination of mentoring, leadership development, professional insights, career guidance, and internship and job opportunities.
He says the experience offered more than he ever imagined, even connecting him with an internship, and he views the HSF network as a conduit that allows him to work with his peers to help change the Latino narrative. “Just as the speakers and Latinx leaders at the conference have made the path for us easier,” he says, “I want to make it easier for the next generation.”