Friday, January 4, 2013

Juan Santana, a Ph. D. candidate in the University of Iowa’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetics, is doing exactly what he wants to do.

Professors at the University of Puerto Rico-Humacao impressed on Santana what the study of genetics as a discipline meant for all living things.

“It really fascinated me,” says Santana, who majored in microbiology as an undergraduate. “I knew genetics was the route I was going to take.”

Pursuing this fascination has led Santana on a journey from his hometown of Las Piedras, Puerto Rico to Iowa City.

While considering Ph.D. programs, a friend talked to him about her positive experience as a summer research student at the University of Iowa. He applied and was invited to interview and meet faculty members.

“They treated me incredibly well, and after that interview I was completely sure that if I was accepted I was going to come here,” says Santana. “I had interviewed at other universities, but this one was a really incredible experience.”

Santana appreciates the interdisciplinary approach of the UI program, which exposes students to the true breadth of the genetics field. “In the Genetics program, all of the faculty are part of different departments, so you can rotate through labs when you are starting out, and you get to experience many different fields that have genetics as the base.”

After his second year as a Ph.D. student at Iowa, professor Eberl suggested Santana return to the University of Puerto Rico Humacao to let other students know about opportunities at Iowa (the Genetics program sponsored the visit).

“I graduated from there two years before, so I still knew a lot of the students there. I gave a talk about what I was doing here at Iowa and about the program and the university,” Santana says.