Microbiology major and Goodnight Scholar Alex Rojas is putting his leadership skills to work to get rapid COVID-19 tests to those who need them.
As a Goodnight Scholar at NC State, Alex Rojas ’20 has embraced every experience that has come his way.
He has served as a Goodnight Ambassador, planning and leading events within the community. As a mentor, he helped first-year students with their transitions to college. And through the program, he has been able to visit Boston, study abroad in France and hike Machu Picchu in Peru.
But it’s the trip Rojas didn’t take that might end up having the greatest impact.
Like many students, he decided to cancel his spring break travel this year as the novel coronavirus spread. He found himself with a week to fill when one of his NC State advisers forwarded an email request for interns to assemble boxes and ship COVID-19 tests.
“I figured I’d give it a shot,” he said.
Rojas was hired to intern with BioMedomics, a Morrisville-based diagnostics company that has developed rapid testing for COVID-19. And on that first day, he did assemble boxes. But he quickly found himself going above and beyond his original job description, serving as a liaison between interns and the leadership team.
“It’s evolved to where now I’m managing a team of 14 interns, coordinating our day-to-day activities, organizing orders with leadership and identifying priorities,” Rojas said.
It’s rewarding work — and surprising. “I knew I was a go-getter, but this has given me a real, tangible way to exemplify it. I see something new in myself,” he said. “And it’s really special knowing that whenever a truck leaves this place, it’s going to deliver tests to people who need them.”
Rojas sees his success at BioMedomics as a product of his time in the Goodnight Scholars program. From developing public speaking skills as an ambassador to finding role models in his fellow scholars, he’s grown as a leader, identified impactful leadership styles and learned how to apply that knowledge.
While courses have resumed, Rojas continues in his role at BioMedomics. This semester marks the end of his undergraduate studies, but as he finishes his degree in microbiology, with a concentration in microbial biotechnology and a minor in biomanufacturing, he’s also working on the first year of an accelerated master’s program. In the fall, Rojas will return to NC State to complete his master’s degree in microbial biotechnology.
“Scholarship support from the Goodnight Scholars program has opened up a lot of time for me that I otherwise would have spent figuring out how to pay for school or secure loans. It’s given me freedom and flexibility to pursue what I want to do,” Rojas said. “That’s what has allowed me to pursue the accelerated master’s program. I was able to tackle a heavy course load without financial worries.”
The Goodnight Scholars community has helped keep the goal of an advanced degree in reach for Rojas, a first-generation college student. He looked to both older students and program staff for advice and guidance.
“Thankfully, our director and associate director have had the time for regular conversations about my needs and wants, and they’ve helped me stay on the right track and keep the experience enjoyable,” he said.
One of those enjoyable experiences has helped connect Rojas with his next professional venture. His master’s cohort partners with local researchers and biotech firms, offering strategies for commercializing technology, identifying consumer audiences and scaling up production.
“I stumbled across a career fair, and a conversation with a representative from Deloitte opened my eyes to the path of consulting,” he said. “I realized I’ve been doing that through my practicum projects.”
This summer, he looks forward to the chance to try consulting full-time through an internship with Deloitte. In addition to the practicum, he continues to develop his skills by volunteering with Consult Your Community, a student-run pro bono group that provides consulting services to small businesses in the Raleigh area run by people from underrepresented populations.
As Rojas considers the next steps in his career path, he knows his experiences at BioMedomics will serve him well.
“It’s been an extraordinary opportunity,” he said. “I’ve had the flexibility to demonstrate what I’m able to do, without limits. I still haven’t found the limit. Every day is different, and I like planning for that, identifying ways we can be more efficient, seeing how many tests we can get out in a day.
“It’s not a glamorous thing we’re doing, but the end result — providing these tests — feels amazing. I’m satisfied and excited about each day.”
This post was originally published in Giving News.