Karien J. Rodríguez: 2020 Early Career Award recipient

// Biomedical Engineering

Photo of Karien J. RodríguezKarien J. Rodríguez (PhDBME ’10)
Research technical strategist-life sciences, global research & engineering, Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Karien is a biomedical engineer who is shaping the personal care industry through her creative and innovative research.

How did your experience in the College of Engineering shape your career path?

My experience at UW-Madison set the trajectory for a fulfilling career, which today includes my favorite work yet, creating breakthrough skin health research for Kimberly-Clark and the iconic Huggies brand. My background is chemical engineering, so I completely switched programs to biomedical and I apply the skills I sharpened at UW-Madison daily. The program set a strong foundation for critical thinking and teamwork—which is so important because research is a team sport! Also, working in a research group with people from different backgrounds and experiences helped me to tap into the diversity within teams, which leads to richer solutions and outcomes. I was not only an individual researcher, but I worked with a lot of undergrads and became a leader within my research group, which highlighted the importance of creating a collaborative environment where all voices and points of view are valued. It’s one of the lessons I continue to live by today.

Who has played the greatest role in your achievements?

I had several great mentors throughout my career, even starting with my undergrad. I had a professor at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez who encouraged me to pursue graduate studies. It wasn’t something that I was considering, but making that decision was life-changing. Another person who has been instrumental in my success has been my PhD advisor, Biomedical Engineering Professor Kristyn Masters. She’s an amazing educator, researcher and encourager! The fact that she believed in me and my potential helped me become a stronger researcher. She also pushed me to improve my writing skills. Our relationship has continued to grow over the years, and we still stay connected. Lastly, having support from my family, especially my husband, has been extremely important for me.

What are among your best memories from your time at UW-Madison?

You can only imagine my first memories were about the cold! Coming from Puerto Rico, it certainly made an impression. But truly, not only did I meet many of my closest friends, but I developed long-lasting relationships with professors and mentors. My husband and I always reminisce about how much fun we had on campus, especially spending Friday afternoons at the Memorial Union Terrace, cheering for the Badgers, going hiking and camping, and just getting together with friends.

Any family members you’d like to mention?

My husband, Rafael; son, Lucas; daughter, Amalia; and mother, Ana, who have been instrumental in my success. I come from a very small town in Puerto Rico, and I could have never imagined being where I am today if it wasn’t for my mom’s support and for always pushing me to be better and believing in my potential. It inspires me as a mom to do my best every day because my children are watching!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

As a Research Technical Strategist in Kimberly-Clark, I lead global research on healthy infant and adult skin. This position gives me a huge opportunity to impact the world through research and education, but also to follow my passion for developing talent, especially for underrepresented minorities in the scientific field. This is a passion that I discovered during my time at UW-Madison. I’m proud to have also served as chair of Kimberly-Clark’s Latin American Network for Diversity Employee Resource Group, which exists to grow the professional and personal development of Hispanic employees. I also mentor junior scientists and strive to serve as an example for all the women and minorities who may not think it’s possible to be in a role like mine or to pursue science. I’m honored to tell them anything is possible because I’m proof!

Author: Staff