Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Full Circle

    I received exciting news yesterday: I have been admitted into the University of Minnesota’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Graduate Program! Ever since I decided last summer that physical therapy was something I wanted to pursue, this is the program I’ve been eying, and I’m ecstatic that the waiting is now over. The past year was a lot of work, I had to take more credits in the fall and spring than I ever had to before, I had to persevere through long hours of PT shadowing and running in the dark over winter break, and I had to stay determined in the classroom. The e-mail I received yesterday reaffirmed that everything that’s happened over the past year has been worth it, things have come full-circle now.
    Choosing Minnesota’s program was easy for me. It’s one of the most highly regarded programs in the Midwest, and has a lot of perks to offer. For PT school, you can’t really go wrong choosing any school, all are well respected and are competitive for admission. Minnesota stuck out to me because it’s based in Minneapolis, where my family still resides and a town I’ve grown to love. It also offers a research based component that will allow me to work with other students and professors on a meaningful project that will hopefully lead to significant contributions in the realm of PT. Another aspect that really appealed to me was the service projects the University participates in throughout the community. During my first year, I’ll have an opportunity to gain experience and help others in the clinic in some of the poorest areas of Minneapolis. The “U” has many other graduate programs as well, and even has the option of a joint DPT/Ph.D. program. Becoming a professor to teach was something that interested me greatly when I was thinking about pursuing graduate school for chemistry, now I’ll have the same option to do so at the University of Minnesota if I choose to pursue that route. Finally, cost is always a factor as well. I’ve racked up quite a few loans at Drake over the past four years, and Minnesota’s program is one of the most affordable because it is a public University. Ultimately, I feel blessed to attend a fantastic program. My journey will begin next July.
    So what now? I have three courses in Des Moines I still need to complete (one for my math major, two for physical therapy prerequisites). Outside of my courses, I’ll be working at the Drake Diner as a waiter (you should stop in for a meal!), and as a chemistry, math, and Spanish tutor. Outside of this, I’m training for my first half marathon this fall, and hoping to enjoy some good time with friends in Des Moines before it’s time to leave next year.
    This will probably be my last post for Drake. I’d like to thank Tim in the marketing department for the wonderful opportunity to write for three years. It all started with the dream of being selected for the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program (which I was!), and became much more than I ever thought. My Drake experience has been phenomenal in every way, from my time on the cross country and track teams, to my academics and research experiences, to the clubs and extracurricular activities I was able to get involved with, and to grow in faith with Jesus Christ. Out of all the things I’ll remember, the people at Drake will stand out the most to me.
    With Freshman moving in tomorrow, I wish I could rewind four years and go through “the Great Divide” one more time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Closing Time

    One month ago today, I graduated. It’s hard to believe that one month has come and passed, but it’s even harder to believe that four years have come and passed! Technically, I have not earned my degree yet, I’m taking an online writing class right now, and once that is finished, and then I will have my B.A. in chemistry.
    So what’s next? Right now I’m working at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa for the summer. We’re two weeks into summer club, and things are going really well so far.
    In a few weeks, I’ll be applying for physical therapy admission. If I get it, I would begin school in the summer of 2014, which basically leaves this year as a “gap year”. Following the summer, I have three more classes to finish up – two physical therapy prerequisites and one math class for my math major. Since I’ll be taking those part-time, I also hope to hold down a full-time job once the summer is over, so I can save up a bit of money for PT school.
    I’ll try to update my journey periodically. One song that resonates with me during this transition period is “Closing Time” by Semisonic. Although my four years at Drake were amazing, and it’s bitter sweet to see them come to the end, I’m not at the beginning of a new adventure and phase in my life. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Couldn't have made it these four years without my wonderful family!

We did it!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 4: Top 10 Pictures

Delayed, but as promised, my top 10 favorite photos from my four years at Drake. Here they are, in no particular order:

How could this girl not make the list?

Tons of great times with the chemistry club! This was before the relay for life event in the spring of 2012.

I helped out with the Campus Fellowship Valentine's Day Dinner all four years, and CF played a huge role in my life at Drake. Here I am with my mom and sister in 2010.

Spain! The summer of 2010 was amazing. Dad, my sister, and great aunt.

Cross country and track were the things that really drew me to Drake, and it was a great career. My first xc race in 2009.

I was lucky enough to have been able to attend the "Altitude Project", a Christian running camp in Mammoth Lakes, CA for three weeks in the summer of 2010 and 2011. Here I am with Ryan Hall, an awesome marathoner and Olympian!

At a Real Madrid Game with my cousin Yas and her friend Fran.

Halloween was always fun!

The Pecoraro group at the University of Michigan, where I conducted research last summer.

Street Painting was a blast!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day 3: Top Five Memories

    This day may be the hardest to write about, there are so many good memories to choose from; it’s hard to pick just five! I’ll aim for specific moments rather than broad events. Here’s my best shot:

1.    Coming to Grips with Christianity – I grew up going to church my whole life, but it never meant much to me until my freshman year of college. On May 7, 2010, I was at Smokey Row Coffee Shop with some friends, and after reading through the book of Romans and with a little help from my friends, I had an epiphany and Christianity finally clicked for me. I realized that my efforts to live a good life did not line up with God’s holy, perfect standards. I realized that the only way I could ever be reconciled in God’s eyes was if I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I chose to make that decision that night, and my life has never been the same.
2.    Hubble – So many good meals shared with friends, but one sticks out in particular. Freshman year, I got a meal with my organic chemistry partner after we finished up with some homework. She invited her friend to join us, and turns out a few years later we’d begin dating and still are. Funny how things work out.
3.    Workouts at Raccoon River Park – During cross country season, the squad would often head out to Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines to do some harder runs. It was nice getting a change in scenery from the usual Kingman Blvd., and everyone always seemed to be in good spirits.
4.    Change! – After about two weeks into my research experience at the University of Michigan, I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in research. It was a challenging summer, but I had so much support from my family back home, and my academic advisor, Dr. Vitha helped me out a ton too. I eventually figured out that I thought I’d really like to be a physical therapist. Not ideal to have a major career shift before your senior year of college, but better late than never! Synthesizing a molecule that had never been made before stands out from this summer too!
5.    Move in Weekend – the anticipation of starting college was tremendous, I remember the day so vividly. One of the things that stands out most is during the first night when you meet everyone on the same floor of your dorm, I met a guy who lived across the hall from me who would also be on the track team. Turns out we hit it off pretty good, and have now lived together with a few other guys for the past three years!

Last year's Drake Relays theme was "Memories in Motion".

Day 2: Top Five Experiences

    What have been the best five experiences in my time at Drake? Most of these experiences I think are unique to my time at Drake, I probably wouldn’t have gotten involved with these types of things if I went elsewhere.

1.    Christianity – I never expected to get involved with a Christian organization (Campus Fellowship) in college. Not only was this a life (and eternity) changing experience, I’ve my best friends through this organization, and have been able to live out my faith in Christ with others who do also. I also met my wonderful girlfriend through the Bible study I was involved in last year, she’s pretty great
2.    Drake Cross Country and Track and Field – This was a dream of mine since high school, and I got to experience four years of NCAA Division I distance running. I’m thankful for the relationships, memories, and lessons I’ll take away from this experience. It was fun pushing my body to the limit, being on a college team, and travelling to cool places to compete.
3.    Study Abroad in Spain – A fantastic summer, where I lived with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Spain, and also took an art class for credit. During the last few weeks, I traveled throughout the country with my dad and sister, and visited London for a few days. I grew so much this summer, and really developed an interest for art, and got the bug to travel and see more of the world. Study abroad is a must do for every college student.
4.    Undergraduate Research – It can be hard to do this at many institutions, but at Drake, I was able to start research with a professor during my freshman year. I ended up working on three different projects and Drake, and spent last summer at the University of Michigan synthesizing some new molecules. An incredible learning experience really made the material we learned in lecture come alive.
5.    Chemistry Club – It was fun getting involved with a philanthropy based club related to my major. I was involved all four years and got to serve as president last year. It was another great opportunity to learn and serve.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Five Days of Finals: Day One - Favorite Courses

    The end is here. Today marked the beginning of the most dreaded week on campus: finals. Grades will be finalized, and the semester will come to a close, and for many seniors, including myself, it marks the last obstacle before commencement on Sunday. I haven’t been good about blogging lately, so I’ve decided to use blogging as a study break this week. Each day this week, I’ll write about a specific part of my college experience, and I’ll attempt to come up with a “top 5 list”. This will be difficult, but I’ll start day one with the best courses I’ve taken at Drake.

1.    Art in Spain – I took this course over the summer between my sophomore and junior years in Madrid. What an amazing course! We learned about some of Spain’s greatest painters in the classroom, then hopped on the subway to check out the masterpieces in person. It really gave me an appreciation for art, an experience I will never forget.
2.    China and the World – I’m still not sure why I decided to take an upper-level politics course for an Area of Inquiry requirement, but I’m glad I did. The content of this course was relevant, interesting, but most of all, this class challenged me like none others. I was forced to critique, analyze, and write about America’s relationship with China, and it was hard. Out of all classes at Drake, my reading and writing skills were improved most in this course.
3.    Advanced Inorganic Chemistry – The hardest class in my major bar none. Inorganic chemistry turned out to be my favorite sub-discipline of chemistry (which surprised me), however the best part of this class was that I was forced to learn how to teach myself. The laboratory component of this course was based off of the primary literature, and I was forced to do a lot of the learning on my own. This class helped me establish independent learning, which has helped me immensely in so many areas of my life.
4.     Quantitative Chemical Analysis – A course that invoked immense amounts of detail! Truly showed me that it’s not worth doing something unless you do it the right way!
5.    Introduction to Philosophy – This course also challenged my reading, critical thinking, and writing skills. I most enjoyed the diverse topics we covered such as the concept of free will and proofs for the existence of God. Some of the concepts we learned about sparked my curiosity to learn more about God, seek truth, and set me on a path to examine my own views and beliefs.

One thing that stands out to me about this list is that only two out of the top five courses were within my majors. I never would have expected this coming to Drake, I’m so thankful that we’re required to take AOIs! They’ve helped me grow as a student and person more than the courses in my major in terms of the skills that I’ll need for the rest of my life (critical thinking, reading, writing).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Finishing It Up!

    The end is near, and this past week made it clear. The biggest thing I had going on was I had to present my senior chemistry capstone on Friday afternoon. For this, I gave a 50-minute presentation on the research I did at the University of Michigan last summer, and also had to write it up as a thesis as well. Basically, this was the last thing I had to do related to chemistry to get my degree, so I’m glad that’s done.
    The DUCURS conference was a huge success this year! There were more poster presentations than ever this year (60!), and those who came to check it out were curious and had lots of good questions.
    This coming Friday will be the annual street painting event that kicks off Drake Relays! Earlier this week, I met up with some others from the chem club to synthesize (haha) a design for this year’s theme, “Defining Blue”. The theme is always abstract and open ended, so we decided to go a little geeky on this and interpreted it literally (blue light has a wavelength of 475 nm). Check out the design below. Weather pending, the square should be painted this Friday.
    On a less fun note, because of the shortened semester and due to relays next week, this week will not be fun at all. I have three tests, and a huge paper due next weekend. On the bright side, there shouldn’t be much happening school wise during relays, so that’s a plus. Hard to believe that classes will be finished in less than a month!
With my Metallacrown poster at DUCURS

The 2013 Chemistry Club Street Painting Design!