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Scholars

Gabe Rangel

2011-12 Goldwater Scholar

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

College: College of Agriculture

Major: Biochemistry

Additional Programs:  College of Agriculture Dean's Scholar, University Honors Program

How did you learn about the Goldwater Scholarship? Why did you decide to apply?

I heard about the Goldwater through a weekly newsletter sent out to Biochemistry students, and was encouraged by one of my friends and a professor to apply to the scholarship. I looked through the application questions and met with Cristy Gosney, and decided to apply after I realized that even just the experience in applying would be very valuable to me as I continue with my science education and apply to other programs and awards.

What advice can you give to Purdue students who are considering applying for the Goldwater Scholarship?

Do it! You have nothing to lose in applying for the Goldwater Scholarship. It costs no money and relatively little time considering the benefits of applying. As a winner of the scholarship, you are immediately placed in the top tier of undergraduate researchers in the nation, and you are advised directly about various incredible undergraduate and post-undergraduate opportunities. But even if you are not a winner, the application forces you to consider your future plans and it gives you the opportunity to articulate clearly and justify your long term goals. This is something that is absolutely invaluable for future applications to internship or graduate programs. The application process also gives you experience in scientific writing at an elevated level, which will be a central part of the future careers of most applicants.

A successful applicant should have a genuine passion for research, have career goals that involve research, and, most of all, should know themselves very well. Also, a successful applicant will begin the application as early as they can, which will account for all the unforeseen difficulties that inevitably arise during application.

How did you get involved in research?

As a high school student I had a vague idea of scientific research, but it was exciting to me. As a researcher, I could potentially be the one writing the textbooks and generating new knowledge! I actually chose to come to Purdue because of the ease of getting involved in undergraduate research. In my opinion, one of the best parts about this university is the willingness of faculty to give undergraduates the opportunity to experience what research is about. To get into a lab here, it just takes a little work and courage. Take the time to look at faculty members' profiles online, and find a few topics that interest you. Then build up the courage to contact those faculty members and ask if you could meet with them to learn more about their work. If you show genuine interest, and they have the resources and time, most faculty members are excited to work with undergraduates!

What are your career plans?

I have developed a strong passion for researching neglected tropical diseases, or as it has been more accurately put, the diseases of neglected people. The immensity of the medical issues that surround populations of developing countries is staggering. Unfortunately, the existence these issues are not as apparent to people outside of these populations, so while hundreds of thousands of people die from malaria, schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and other tropical diseases, most people in developed countries don't have the opportunity to learn much about it, much less take action against it. I hope to make my difference in the laboratory, developing our understanding of some of the diseases and treatments. I also hope to make a difference on a public health level where educating communities about the basics of hygiene and preventative measures can drastically reduce disease.