Five decades later, professor still loves her job

Five decades later, professor still loves her job

By Brittney Bomnin

Five decades later, professor still loves her job

By Brittney Bomnin
With more than 50 years of experience working at the University of Miami, Diana Lopez, professor of microbiology and immunology, says passion and students keep her going.

At age 83, Diana Lopez, professor of microbiology and immunology, has seen the University of Miami change and grow over the years—57 to be exact. Her first job at the University began in 1964, a little more than a year after arriving from Cuba. A mother of three and wife of a—now retired—pediatric endocrinologist, her initial role was as a biochemistry technician. Lopez remembers when the University’s medical school was mainly located in an old building near the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. “Campus looked completely different,” she said. “Even the expressway was unfinished. There were only a couple of buildings on the medical campus, and I worked on the sixth floor of the Rosenstiel Building on 10th Avenue.”

After completing her doctoral studies at the University of Miami in 1970, Lopez began teaching at the Medical Campus. Eventually she also started spending time on the Coral Gables Campus instructing undergraduate students and conducting research at a lab, which she said she enjoyed very much.

A career of passion and dedication.

According to Lopez, she has been blessed with a job and career that continues to bring her joy. “I love teaching and doing research,” she said. “I’m very proud of all my students and fellows. Through the years, I have had fellows from all over the world that have come to my lab.” A few of her former students are now full professors and one post-doctoral student is the director of a cancer center. “I tell the students, ‘whenever you choose a career, find something you like because then your work is pleasurable also,’ ” Lopez noted.

Although she stepped away from the laboratory four years ago, Lopez’s decades of research focused on breast cancer, immunology, and tumor progression, working closely with the team at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the UM Miller School of Medicine. In lieu of retirement, she chooses to stay in the classroom—virtually for now—and enjoys advising students and assisting new professors when they need help writing grants or organizing their classes. “I keep doing the things I love,” she explained. “It's rewarding to be able to continue to do something. As long as I can, I will do it.”

With more than five decades of experience conducting research and teaching microbiology and immunology, Lopez has worked with and mentored countless students and colleagues. She has been recognized at the University and abroad for her research and instruction in the field, including outstanding teaching awards, which are often voted on by the students. She also received the Zubrod 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award at Sylvester, named after the cancer center’s first director who was a renowned pioneer in chemotherapy. 

“Sometimes I go crazy with everything because we have to do everything online,” she admitted, noting the changes to the teaching and learning environment during the past year. But, she is up for the challenge—learning to use Zoom for her virtual instruction and advising students while she continues to work from home during the pandemic. This semester she taught a multi-hour course that ended at 9 p.m. “I enjoy what I am doing,” she declared.

When asked to give advice to younger colleagues, Lopez offered the following: “Try to get involved in the community. And be helpful to everybody; because by being helpful to others, you are being helpful to yourself. By doing that, you can not only integrate yourself, but feel happy and complete.”


Diana Lopez was among the colleagues honored during the University's Long Service Award Ceremony held virtually on April 27, 2021, which recognized those who have served the University for 25 milestone years or more. Learn more about the event.