• Explore Their Path

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Alessandra Maisielou Rivera, Medicinal Synthetic Chemistry Major and Catholic Studies Minor

Alessandra RiveraName: Alessandra Maisielou Rivera

Major(s), Minor(s), Program(s): Major: Medicinal Synthetic Chemistry, Minor: Catholic Studies, Program: St. Ignatius Institute

Previous Major (s), Minor(s), Program(s): Previous Major: Psychology, Previous Minor: Neuroscience

What attracted you to your initial major(s) and minor(s)?:

I originally wanted to major in neuroscience or cognitive sciences going into college, but USF did not offer those as a major so I settled for what was similar. I had always been fascinated with the brain and wanted to study more about it and psychology had the most similar output. I also thought if I can’t major in neuroscience, might as well minor in it and major in something else.

What inspired you to change programs?:

My first semester of college, I was taking 2 psychology classes, general chemistry, and theology. I was doing really well in my classes, but I wasn’t feeling challenged enough or was learning the material I hoped to learn in psychology. I became more fascinated with my chemistry and theology class more than my major classes. I talked to a couple different departments, but what really stood out to me was chemistry. I talked to my professor and told him about my situation, met the faculty and talked to students within the major and knew it was the right fit for me.

I was also doing well in general chemistry and had always been more of a math and science person, so I bit the bullet and switched majors. I was really attracted to the logical thinking of chemistry. It’s like a puzzle. All the pieces are given to you, and it’s your task to piece them altogether to create the bigger picture.

What do you like best about your current major(s) and minor(s)?:

I like how challenging my major can be. It really gets me thinking and pushes me to think outside of the box and stay curious. I like to think that chemistry is the mid ground between physics and biology. There’s physical chemistry, there’s biochemistry, there’s medicinal chemistry, etc. being able to see all these different subjects come together within the frame work of chemistry is amazing!

What I like about minoring in Catholic Studies is that it helps me balance between my science classes and humanities classes. I had always been involved with the youth ministry growing up and being able to learn more about it and how it pertains to different fields has been really intriguing. I feel like the contrast between my major and minor really allows me to express both of my passions rather than having to settle for one or the other.

What is most challenging about your current major(s) and minor(s)?:

The most challenging part about Chemistry is trying to balance between my academic and social life. My classes can get very taxing at times and requires a lot of studying outside of classroom instruction. If I fall behind in one of the topics, it gets really difficult to catch up so I’m constantly hitting the books and going to office hours. However, at the same time, I am a social butterfly and love going out with friends and exploring the city. Sometimes, I find it difficult when I have to decided whether to be a good student and stay in to study or go out and catch up with friends at Wing Wednesday.

What sort of internship and career opportunities have you explored?:

I interned at the SF Medical Examiner’s Office in the Toxicology Department and I interned for the Diocese of Oakland with their Cultural Ministries. I’m also a volunteer with UCSF’s Corpus Clinic as a clinical coordinator and pre-med volunteer.

I have also explored opportunities in the biotech industry by participating in the Trek Tours through Career Services where I got to tour and visit Genentech and Gilead.

What sort of extracurricular activities have your participated in?:

I am currently involved with our USF Club Rock Climbing Team, Hui’O Hawaii, GO Team, University Ambassadors, Corpus Clinic, American Chemical Society, University Ministry, and St. Ignatius Parish.

What resources helped you with your exploration journey?:

I talk with my major advisor a lot and found it really helpful to talk to my other professors during office hours and get to know them and build a network. I’ve also utilized Career Services and have also found it helpful to talk to upperclassman about their experiences and ask them about tips, advice, and opportunities they would recommend.

What advice do you have for students exploring majors?

Don’t be afraid to do something for the sake of curiosity. You start to understand what your passions and interests are the more you get involved with different clubs and activities, talk to different people, and take different classes. You don’t need to get everything right the first time around, it’s ok to switch majors. Just keep exploring, utilize all your resources, and build a strong network of individuals who can help you find your way.

Keyaira Lock, Former Sociology Major Changing the Word From Twitter

Pciture of Keyaira Lock on USF CampusRead about Keyaira Lock, a former Sociology major and Esther Madriz Diversity Scholar who uses her job as a University Recruiter for Twitter to increase representation of women and underrepresented minorities in tech. She says, “One of the best gifts the sociology program has given me is a deep-rooted community of family, friends, and mentors.”


Janelle Nunez, Majoring in History While Pursuing Pre-Med

Check out this video with Janelle Nunez sharing how “really analyzing what makes me happy? and who am I?” helped her decide to major in History while pursuing a Pre-Med path. She also is minoring in Public Service and Community Engagement though she didn’t discuss that in her interview.

Video and interview by Karen Ver Trinidad and Alexander Flores.  Music by Bensound.com