Starting next fall, 2014 Lakeland College graduate Ricardo Rosas will begin pursuit of a doctoral degree in organic chemistry at Marquette University.
As is generally the case for students enrolled in science-based Ph.D. programs, tuition will be waived and Rosas will receive a stipend to defray his cost of living.
“I’m excited, and my parents are really happy,” he said during a recent visit back to campus. “They were not so keen on me becoming an MMA fighter.”
He smiled when he said that, and talking to Rosas now, it’s hard to believe his goal as a high school wrestling standout at Sheboygan South was to become a mixed martial arts star.
Rosas was drawn to Lakeland by then head wrestling coach Pete Rogers, and he enjoyed his time as a college athlete. But his transformation from a student who was undecided on his major to a Dean’s List regular and academic superstar was more impressive than what he accomplished on the mat.
“The Lakeland experience was crucial for me,” said Rosas, who graduated with a triple major (biology, chemistry and history). “That one-on-one experience with the professors, all of whom were willing and happy to work with me, meant so much.”
Though he gravitated toward the natural sciences and formed bonds with the faculty in that division, Rosas also enjoyed a close relationship with Associate Professor of Writing Nate Lowe – with whom he had a couple of classes.
“He was a real mentor to me,” Rosas recalled. “We would sit and talk, and he would ask me about my interests and really probe what I wanted to do with my life.”
Rosas admitted he once feared science classes, but after succeeding in the Life Science I course, he kept taking science classes. By the time he reached Organic Chemistry, he was hooked.
“Then, during my junior year, everything clicked; it all made sense to me,” he said. “Everything came together. That’s when I felt like I can truly leave an impact on this world.”
Lakeland Professor of Chemistry and Physics Brian Frink said Rosas has an “unparalleled work ethic coupled with curiosity,” and is so driven, “he simply won’t let anything stop him.”
“Ricardo is that student you want, someone with above-average intelligence who doesn’t think he has that, so he compensates for what he believes is a deficiency with extreme hard work and perseverance,” Frink continued. “When he finally realizes he’s an above average student, he truly begins to become something special.”
Frink said he is proud of Rosas, as he is of all Lakeland students who “blossom and do things they’ve never done before.”
Since graduating last May, Rosas had been busy working full time Monday through Friday at sāco Polymers as an associate chemist, then doing research on the weekends with Marquette Assistant Professor of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry Christopher Dockendorff. He has left sāco and will now focus on research at Marquette.
“I love it,” Rosas said. “Dr. Dockendorff and I get along really well, and it’s a lot of fun. I’ll be starting there on Monday, continuing with the research until classes begin. It will be really nice to concentrate on one job.”
Rosas, 24, enjoyed his time at sāco Polymers, but would like to do his own research down the road and prefers medicinal chemistry over polymer chemistry.
While his time at Lakeland has come to an end, the Rosas name remains a fixture in the Lucius P. Chase Center for the Natural Sciences. His younger sister, Suzette, is a current Lakeland student.
As Suzette discovers her Lakeland path, Ricardo moves on, and is excited to dive into the future. But not without looking back fondly. In a recent email to members of Lakeland’s Natural Sciences Division, he wrote: “I could never have done this without you guys, so thank you.”