Both a great bachata dancer and brilliant chemist, Jose Lopez ’17 is a friendly and cheerful person that is always encouraging others. As his research assistant in Professor Christopher Goh’s lab, I have had the privilege of seeing both his professional and goofy sides. I have learned a lot from him and been witness to his incredible patience.
So I know that you are working on a thesis. How is that going?
Well, it’s a year-long process, and I am working on renewable polymers and taking fatty acids that you find in your everyday fruits and vegetables and hoping that we can extract the fatty acids found inside them and be able to form what would be known as new polymers. Because the current polymers that exist today are very much monomer-based, and those monomers are, unfortunately, fossil-fuel based. It is an unsustainable system; we hope to be able to find a greener alternative to form these new polymers.
Awesome. Have you ever had any incidents in lab?
I stabbed myself with a syringe the other day. [Laughs.] Wasn’t intentional, but it happens.
The other day, you were showing me pictures of your nephew, and I’ve heard you’ve been showing them around a lot. So tell me more about him. How old is he?
He is … what is he? He should be six months in a couple of weeks. He is the sunshine in my everyday life. He is what has really pushed me to continue with my work and thesis and to be able to finish my last year because it has been a rough year. Just being away from my family, and especially now being away from him, and everything that has happened as a result of it. He is … oh! He is going to be up here for graduation, so he’ll get to see Williams and I’ll be able to show my family around.
That’s so cute. How about after graduation? What are your plans?
I’m hoping to enter the chemical industry for a couple years. I do plan on going for a Ph.D. in chemistry eventually, but for the time being, I am pretty tired, so I think I’ll take a couple of years off before I jump into the Ph.D. program … hopefully at UCLA or UC Berkeley, but we’ll see.
I also know you are in Ritmo Latino. How is that? How did you start? When did you get in?
[Laughs.] I’ve always joked about entering Ritmo since, like, my first year. I had a girlfriend at the time that was kind of like, [Laughs.] “no, you can’t be in it because you dance too close to the other girls,” and all this stuff. So being the good boyfriend that I was – I knew it wouldn’t have bothered her, but I still decided not to join because I was like, “nah.” I didn’t want to stir up any trouble. And then, I actually joined because my friend Steph told me, “you should really try out! Even if you don’t get in, even if you don’t want to join, at least you tried out, and at least you learned something.” I was hesitant, but I still joined because I was like, “alright, cool. This should be fun,” and now I am choreographing a bachata for the spring show. [Laughs.]
That’s awesome. Are there any other activities that you are involved in on campus?
I’m also a neighborhood director, which is a part of the neighborhood system. Basically, it is a supervisory role to the house coordinators who are responsible for programming and snacks inside the upperclassmen residential living. And it’s been one of my favorite programs to be a part of, obviously, because I have been a part of it for three years now, but I’ve always been pretty involved with community-building on campus, and it’s always awesome to get emails or just run into people, and they are like, “wait! You are the Dodd neighborhood director. Yo, you were my house coordinator and I really appreciated all the events you threw and all the things that you’ve done.” So it’s just something that I have really enjoyed, since I come from a very close family, and being able to take what I’ve learned from my family and be able to implement it in some fashion at Williams has made my experience so much better.
That’s so awesome. So, what was a fun event that you were able to direct as a house coordinator?
I’ve basically been responsible for battle balls.
What is that?
Battle balls are those huge – well I don’t know if you have seen those YouTube videos of people that are surrounded by these huge bubble balls, and you play soccer and essentially tackling each other in those, and that is always one of the big events. We do it every single Winter Study, and it is a lot of fun. We get a lot of people jumping around in these balls, running into each other, and it is hysterical. It is hysterical to watch, but it’s super tiring. It’s a long event, but it is, I think, one of those events that people always remember.
What got you interested in being a house coordinator?
My family. I originally wanted to join because I am a first-generation Latino student and come from a very loving family. Every single day we wake up, we give each other a kiss on the cheek, and even when we are saying bye, it’s a kiss on the cheek, and growing up with that made me really comfortable with my family and able to express myself to them. Whenever I had problems, I always went to them, but here, since I didn’t have that access to them because I was three thousand miles away, that was rough at first. So my friend Donnie Kost ’15 actually told me that, since I came from a family like that, I could use that and be able to bring people together at the house. Obviously, not to the point where you give each other kisses on the cheeks, but just having that kind of experience and being able to share those experiences with other people can bring them together and makes living on campus so much easier, and that’s exactly why I decided to apply. I actually applied two or three hours [laughs] before the deadline. It was a super last-minute decision, but I was like, “you know what? I think I am going to do it because I think I would be great at it,” and now I am overseeing an entire neighborhood because I really wanted people to connect and feel comfortable at a place like Williams, where it can be very stressful and difficult to go through everyday life.
Do you know someone that you think should be featured in One in Two Thousand? Email rbs2 or jdp4 with nominations – we’d love to hear your suggestions!