Growing up in a poor, Latino community in El Paso, Texas, Dal Soto’s main focus was quite different from that of his peers. He had no intentions of going straight to work after high school. He was going to study science and math at the University of Texas at El Paso. And he did. But a difficult home situation eventually caused him to abandon his goals.

He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and was amazed by the many opportunities available to him. He traveled the world, holding tight to his dream to one day earn his college degree. After four years in the military, and armed with his GI Bill, Soto enrolled at MiraCosta Community College. He soon transferred to CSUSM, struggling the entire time to pay his bills and coming close to homelessness.

Throughout his many hardships, he has remained focused on his education and on using his knowledge of rehabilitation engineering to help veterans returning with combat injuries. He’s served as an ambassador for undergraduate research, placed first in the statewide CSU research competition in 2011, successfully completed a prestigious summer internship in robotics at MIT and has applied for graduate study at Berkeley, MIT, Northwestern, Brown and the University of Michigan.

“Entering CSUSM has played a crucial role in my professional development and academic career,” said Soto. “In particular, I have received valuable direction through programs like the Minority Access to Research Careers and have been exposed to many interesting and stimulating ideas through exceptional professors…the growth I have experienced here has been invaluable.”

“Dal’s contributions reach far beyond the research lab and veteran communities,” said President Karen Haynes, who honored Soto in early May with the President’s Outstanding Graduate Award -- the most prestigious award bestowed to one graduate each year at CSUSM.

“His accomplishments are a tribute to his talent and hard work, and serve as a point of pride for his family, friends and for CSUSM,” she added.

Dal Soto at Commencement

As a member of the Senior Class Giving Campaign, Soto has been instrumental in helping the Class of 2012 leave their mark by giving back to the university. Working with University Advancement, he has shared his story to help promote student research and raise funds for student programs. Soto recently co-authored a manuscript published in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering and has two more in progress. He has also presented research at several high-profile sports medicine, science and engineering conferences.

“I hope to continue to serve veteran amputees by contributing to the research and development of limb neuro-prosthetics and to teach the next generation of scientific and medical professionals… having experienced first-hand the effect of quality academic programs and exceptional faculty at CSUSM, this is the least that I can do,” said Soto.

“Dal's accomplishments are a tribute to his talent and hard work, and serve as a point of pride for his family, friends and for CSUSM,” said President Karen Haynes.