February 2013, Volume 17, Number 1

Making Their Mark

Mitch Rodríguez
Mitch Rodríguez is transferring to a top research university after studying at MDC.

An Experiment in Success

Student Mitch Rodríguez in the laboratory
While at MDC, Rodríguez conducted research using polymers to remove heavy metals such as lead and arsenic from industrial wastewater.

In high school, Mitch Rodríguez was so sure college wasn’t in his future that he didn’t even take the SAT. Fast-forward a few years and now, with an MDC associate degree in hand, he is bound for the University of Florida, one of the largest research universities in the nation.

“Overall, my experience at MDC has opened a plethora of doors for me,” said Rodríguez, who found a passion for learning through MDC’s STEM-TRAC program, which works to attract promising Hispanic and other underrepresented students to studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Developing His Passion for Science

Rodríguez has come a long way in his brief time at MDC. He entered the College needing remedial math classes, which often are a stumbling block for even the most promising and creative STEM students. So Rodríguez took classes in MDC’s innovative Developmental Education program, which helps students learn the real-world applications of the subjects preventing them from pursuing their academic dreams. Conquering math, Rodríguez went on to become one of 50 students selected to participate in the Summer Research Institute in MDC’s STEM-TRAC program.

Housed at MDC’s North Campus and funded by a $5 million collegewide grant from the U.S. Department of Education, STEM-TRAC promotes enrollment and retention of students in these fields as well as degree completion and transfer to four-year programs through a combination of high-impact educational practices, including STEM-specific advisement, peer-led team learning and undergraduate research.

In the Summer Research Institute, Rodríguez conducted pertinent research using polymers to remove heavy metals such as lead and arsenic from industrial wastewater.

Impressing Grad Students

This rare chance to take part in research at the undergraduate level has had a positive domino effect, including opportunities to attend impactful symposia presentations and an invitation to publish the results of his research in a national publication. He also was the only undergraduate student presenting at the American Chemical Society national conference in Raleigh, N.C.,

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