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!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


    This Thursday, the 10th annual Drake University Conference on Undergraduate Research in the Sciences (DUCURS) will take place on campus. It’s an opportunity for students who have conducted research at Drake (or through an internship) to present and share their findings. Departments from biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science and policy, psychology, neuroscience, mathematics, computer science, biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology, and pharmaceutical sciences will all share their findings.
    It’s a full day event that includes oral and poster presentations and a lunchin including a keynote speaker. This will be the first year I’ll be presenting at DUCURS. I have a poster display summarizing the chemistry research I did last summer at the University of Michigan. The title of my poster is: “Synthesis of Chiral Zinc Metallacrowns for Application in Second Harmonic Generation”. I’ll be sure to share my reaction and some pictures from the event. To learn more about DUCURS, click HERE.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

    One idea a current student had for me to blog about was this: if you could go back, what would be one thing that you wished you would have brought to college?
    For me, I wish I had brought more pictures and keepsakes from home. Drake has plenty to keep you busy, but over the years I’ve steadily added more pictures to my walls and desk to remind me off all the good times with friends and loved ones. If you had to do it over again, what more would you have brought?

Monday, March 25, 2013

A True Break

    For the first time I can remember, I decided to make this year’s spring break, a true break. I didn’t bring any work home and didn’t have any plans during the week to do anything but rest and relax. And that’s what I did!
    I’ve usually viewed fall and spring break as an opportunity to catch up on work. The weeks before each are usually pretty hectic, there’s a flurry of exams, projects and papers due, and most times I feel like I need to spend those days off from class catching up on things I didn’t study for while I was focusing on my exams. This year was no different; I’ve got some big tests, projects, and even my senior chemistry capstone looming on the horizon, but this break I really felt like I needed to be a “true break”. The toll of running, classes, and other commitments really took its toll during the first seven weeks after a long winter break that I spent shadowing physical therapists most of the time. I’d been burning the candle at both ends of the stick for too long, and it caught up to me.
    Today I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and motivated to tackle the last seven weeks of the semester and my final track season. It’ll be madness for most of the time, but I’m looking forward to it. Hard to believe that eight weeks from now I’ll be graduating. Time to buckle up for the rest of the journey, it’s about to get crazy!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

On Writing

    The biggest area I’ve improved in academically in my time at Drake has been my writing. In high school, I focused heavily on math and science, and my ACT writing and reading sections showed that. I carried this mindset into college, and really didn’t care at first about any of the classes I was going to take outside of chemistry and math.
    However, I believe the most rewarding classes I’ve taken in college have been my area of inquiry (AOI) courses that span across all disciplines of academia. Surprisingly, I’ve found that these courses have challenged my critical thinking and writing skills the most, and have significantly made me a better student in math and science.
    AOIs have been the most challenging courses I’ve taken, and besides being a source for new interests, all have had significant writing components. In the past four years, I’ve had to write about various philosophical issues, China’s relationship with the U.S., leadership in my generation, technological ethics, nutrition, the significance of art, and more. Not to mention the numerous scientific reports. Although none of those issues may be directly relevant to me in my career as a physical therapist, they’ve sharpened my intellect and provided ways for me to think in different perspectives about many issues. This will undoubtedly serve me well in my career and in all areas of life.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"The Bubble"

    Often times on campus, you’ll hear students refer to Drake’s campus as “the Bubble”. It’s kind of like it’s own little world within a major city, all buildings on campus are relatively close to each other, with only Drake buildings covering the span between 25th and 31st street and University and Forrest Ave.
    The thing I love most about “the Bubble” is how quickly it is to get from one end of campus to the other. I live in an off campus apartment, and to make it Olin Hall (the Biology building), it only takes me 10 minutes! And that’s the farthest I have to walk for any of my classes.
    I didn’t consider Drake’s compact size as a factor when I was thinking about coming here, but I’m really thankful for it. Some of my friends who go to big state schools, like the University of Minnesota, have to leave upwards of 40 minutes before their classes start just to make it there on time… and they live on campus! Drake has so many little things just like this that make it a great place to live and learn.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Get Knocked Down... But I Get Up Again!

    This Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships were held this past weekend at the University of Northern Iowa, marking the end of the indoor season for most athletes. I ran in the Distance Medley Relay and the 5,000m for Drake to cap a successful season marked by big improvements in fitness.
    I was able to lower my 5k PB (personal best) from 15:34 to 15:15. For distance runners, our training is set up to have a big outdoor season, and specifically I’m looking to run a fast 10,000m and score some points (place in the top eight) at the outdoor conference championships which will be hosted by Drake in May.
    My senior season has been a bumpy ride, I had a cross country season ending hamstring strain in the fall, and have dealt with a few dings here and there throughout the indoor season. Starting tomorrow, after a two day break, I’ll get back to the grindstone to put in some hard work to cap my collegiate running career with my best times and races yet.
    There’s a catchy 90’s song that’s stuck in my head right now thanks to one of my teammates. Throughout my career, I’ve been “knocked down” frequently with injuries, but “I get up again, they’re never gonna keep me down”!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The "Mild" Des Moines Winter

    One thing that I’ve really appreciated about Des Moines that I didn’t consider before choosing Drake is how much more mild the winters are down here compared to the Twin Cities. From a running stand point, the warmer temperatures and less snow make it much easier to get in consistent and enjoyable training compared to three hours north.
    Yesterday was absolutely beautiful! The high was 47 degrees, and I went running in only shorts and a t-shirt! Back home, it’ll be at least another month before we’d experience similar weather. It’s getting a bit colder again for the week, but I’m thankful for the temperate weather that we’ve been able to experience for the most part. Disclaimer: this is written from the perspective of a Minnesotan.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

When Learning Gets Real

    One of the classes I’m most looking forward to this semester is my abnormal psychology class. Besides discussing and learning about disorders such as schizophrenia, bulimia nervosa, and post-traumatic stress disorder, we’ll cap off the class with a ten page term paper about a specific disorder we’re assigned. Sounds fun right?
    The paper will be a departure from the specific term paper. Instead of using strictly scientific, peer-reviewed sources, the main objective is to portray our knowledge of a specific disorder (alcohol abuse for me) by stating what we learned through first hand accounts of Internet blogs. For this reason, it’s called a “Lurking on the Internet” paper, and I’m excited to dig in and get going! I think the firsthand, vivid accounts of individuals and their family and friends who are affected by alcohol will transcend the traditional information that textbooks and other teaching methods can deliver. This is an area that impacts our society so much, and I’m excited to learn about it on a first hand basis. I look forward to comparing and contrasting the textbook cases with first hand accounts. I’ll keep you updated on what I find!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Branching Out

    A week ago I did something I thought I’d never do: I registered for a business class. The course I signed up for is called “Seminar In Business And Values”, is only one credit, and meets once a week. I initially heard about this class from a friend, and although it is offered through the business school, the material is relevant and applicable to all careers.
    The objective of the course is “to discover the role of work in one’s personal life, including the integration of work responsibility with life mission and purpose.” In the first class this past Friday, we talked about our “work philosophies”, primarily whether or not work is solely just a means to an end.
    There are about 12 of us total in the class, and almost all of us our Christians, so God is brought up a lot in the conversations. I’m looking forward to gaining more insight to a lot of thoughts about work from a lot of cool people. It’s courses like these that epitomize the Drake education. At many schools, it would be difficult to take courses from the biology, business, chemistry, health sciences, and math departments all in one semester. After one week of classes, I can tell it’s going to be a challenging and rewarding semester. I look forward to sharing what I learn along the way.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The "College" Experience

    I was recently asked, “What is the college experience all about?” When I took some time to think about it, the beautiful thing I realized was that it’s really that time period in life where you discover who you are and what you’re meant to do. You start to get some insight into some of life’s most profound questions like “What am I here for?”, “Why do I exist?”, and “What’s the purpose of my life?”.
    Before I came to Drake, I probably would have said it’s a time where you’re supposed to have fun, one grand finale of being a kid with limited responsibilities. Then once you graduate and have to get a job, then it’s time to grow up and take life seriously.
    Now in my fourth year of college, I’ve realized the opposite is true. By discovering who I am and what I’m meant to do, I feel like I’ve found the real me. I feel like I’m making an impact on the world now, even if the results aren’t immediate right away. Each day, I’m learning more and more, and eventually one day that knowledge will culminate and I’ll be able to help and serve others as a physical therapist. In essence, all that hard work will finally pay of and be meaningful in some way other than to myself. And that’s just the academic side of things.
    Ultimately, the “College” experience is really what you want to make of it. At Drake and other schools, there’s endless clubs, opportunities, and endeavors you can pursue, but time is limited. The things and people you invest your time into will be what makes your college experience unique from everyone else.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Little Wonders

    When I came to Drake, I knew there would be fun, big, and exciting things to look forward to each year: the Drake Relays, street painting, running fast races, finishing finals, earning your degree. I thought that it would be these moments that would really define my college experience. Those would be the times that I would remember when I reflect on my time twenty years from now. In essence, all moments like those above are of the type that I could anticipate and hope for. I’m not trying to discredit or belittle any of those moments; some of the ones I’ve mentioned above have been incredibly exciting and fulfilling, however they’re still not the ones that stand out.
    The moments I’ll remember most from college are when the seemingly normal or ordinary grew and developed into something extraordinary. When my plans and expectations didn’t pan out like I thought, they developed into something richer, more satisfying, and beautiful than I ever could have dreamed of. It’s these “Little Wonders” that give life its vigor and essence. I never would have thought that the friendships and relationships at Drake could develop into what they are today. I thought my summer research experience at the University of Michigan would culminate with a completely different ending. I envisioned my life four months prior to graduation to be vastly different from what it is now. It’s these “twists and turns of fate” that stand out and will still remain for a lifetime.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

    As I mentioned last week, I like to set goals at the beginning of the year. It keeps me focused, gives me something to work toward, and is a good way to evaluate progress. Good goals need to be specific, realistic, and meaningful. Here are some of my Drake specific goals for this calendar year (in no particular order):

•    Acceptance at a Physical Therapy Graduate Program – this is probably the biggest goal of the year. There aren’t a lot of programs out there, so the application process is very competitive, most schools only accept 20-25% of their applicants. I’ll apply this summer and have a few schools on my radar.
•    Land a Great Summer Job – the past two summers have been great (study abroad in Spain and chemistry research at the University of Michigan), and I expect this summer to be no different. Right now I have my sights set on a physical therapy research job at nearby Des Moines University.
•    Graduate Summa Cum Laude – to do this, one needs a 3.90 G.P.A. or higher. If I get 4.0s this spring and in the fall, I should be able to make it happen
•    Blog Once/week – As a volunteer blogger, sometimes blogging gets shoved to the back burner if school gets crazy busy. I really do want to be diligent and consistent in my blogging this year though because Drake has given me an incredible experience, and it’s one way I can show my gratitude. I also want to make my blogging more specific towards someone who is going through the college application process. I’m asking some classmates and friends for input too, and if there’s anything you’d like to hear more about, I’d appreciate if you let me know too! michael.rodriguez@drake.edu
•    Run Fast! – Much of my collegiate running experience has been hampered by injuries. I’ve been able to have good consistent training over most of the past year, and I’m looking forward to seeing the hard work I’ve put in pay off. This season, I’d like to run faster than 14:45 and 31:00 in the 5k and 10k, respectively. I’d also like to score points for the team at the indoor and outdoor conference meets and run an event on the track at this years’ Drake Relays.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year, New Beginnings

       I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging over the past month or so, but now I’m back. This New Year has been off to a fast start for me, let me update you on where I’ve been.
       Finals came and flew by quickly, and luckily grades turned out well. That weekend, I had the honor of being a groomsmen in one of my best friends’ wedding, which turned out really well. Right when the wedding wrapped up that night, I came home to Minneapolis for a week full of physical therapy shadowing and volunteering. Over break, I’ve been getting experience in a variety of different settings to see which might be the best fit for me, and also to obtain more hours to apply for physical therapy school this coming summer.
       Tomorrow, Drake’s inaugural J-term begins, however I’m staying back in the Twin Cities to get some more shadowing in. I’ve also been busy putting in some miles for the upcoming track season, our first competition is less than two weeks away, and my legs are feeling strong, so I’m optimistic for another season filled with personal bests and good memories.
       One of the things I enjoy doing at this time of year is setting goals for the next 12 months. I’ll share some next week. I've got some ambitious goals for school, running, and more