Joshua Badal-Rodrigues says knowledge, access, and community have helped him to flourish
December 2, 2021
“Working with live brain cells in Professor Wilmore Webley’s lab in the summer was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had,” says Joshua Badal-Rodrigues, a junior at UMass Amherst. “You need to be extremely careful with everything you do, and any slip-up means you lose all your progress.”
A double major in microbiology and Portuguese, Badal-Rodrigues had the opportunity to work with Webley’s lab through the William Lee SIP Scholars program.
The Lee SIP program matches undergraduate students with faculty mentors who share similar research interests in order to expand and broaden undergraduate students’ participation in research. Lee SIP scholars gain valuable lab experience and participate in professional development workshops — all with the aim of preparing them for a wide range of science-based careers.
Badal-Rodrigues says that as a first-generation college student, he has learned “how to fend for myself and be proactive in everything I do.”
Despite being so proactive, he says that navigating the complexities of university opportunities is particularly challenging for first-gen students. “As much as I love my parents, they didn't go through the American schooling system — they don't know what resources I should look for.”
The research work he did with his principal investigator, Professor Webley, Badal Rodrigues says, “has definitely given me a lot of insight on what I want to do in life, and it's really helped me navigate who I interact with and how I interact with people here at UMass.” He adds that Webley is also his mentor and "he’s made me so much more confident in what I'm doing.”
A pro at navigating the university system now, he shares some tips for other first-gen students at UMass: “Everything is within your reach. You just need to remind yourself that you're here for a reason and that you can achieve everything you've set out to achieve. I know for sure that I’ll be going to med school in the future.”
He adds that it’s “extremely important for first-gen students to strive to create their own communities, because in the end, that’s how you will succeed and thrive here at UMass.” For his part, Badal-Rodrigues has been a member of the Doo-Wop Shop, the oldest (and only all-male) a cappella group at UMass, since his freshman year. “It’s a great de-stressor for me,” he says.
Badal-Rodrigues encourages his peers to keep in mind that they’re never alone. “You might think you're alone, but throughout your entire journey there are people who are alongside you who share your experiences. You might not know it, but they 100 percent do.”