The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Meet the Majors: Microbiology and Portuguese

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Joshua Badal Rodrigues, a student at the University of Massachusetts, smiles and wears a black shirt and black tie.

Choosing a major is not easy. There’s a lot of factors playing into your choice, from personal preference to career options, choosing a major can be a very personal decision. Here at the University of Massachusetts, we believe it’s important to open your mind and explore multiple options that will allow you to tailor your education to fit you perfectly.

Take a look at what Joshua Badal-Rodrigues, a freshman microbiology and Portuguese double major, who hopes to use both his language and future medical skills to help increase medical accessibility to Portuguese-speaking communities, had to say.

Q: Why did you choose UMass?

A: On the academic side, what I was really looking for was the place where I get my foot in the door of research, if that makes sense. So, I could just get involved with research. And UMass Amherst being a very cost-effective institution was something that really attracted me.

On the social side, it's a much larger university. I wanted a place where I could get as involved as I want because there's so many resources to pursue here. So, it gave me a lot of options regarding what I can do with my time here.

Q: What do you like to do outside of class?

A: I'm part of the UMass Doo Wop Shop, which is the oldest and only all-male a cappella group on campus. Beside my a cappella group, I am part of Lambda Upsilon Lambda, which is the only Latino fraternity on campus. It aims at bringing underprivileged and Latino students into higher education. This is really important to me because I personally want to become a surgeon, and I think that representation in our fields is really important. So, getting other Latino students into higher education is the first step.

Q: Why did you choose those two majors?

A: For microbiology, I want to be a pediatric surgeon, and I've always been involved in cell biology and epidemiology. I saw microbiology as a really cool way to introduce myself into those fields.  

And Portuguese because I'm Brazilian, and I grew up learning the language in more of a spoken manner and never really in more of a written manner.

A big part of me actually learning written Portuguese is because I want to use it in my professional life. So, if all goes well, I want to be a doctor in Massachusetts, hopefully the Boston Area. And I know there's a lot of Brazilians there, but also there's a lot of Cape Verdeans. There's also a lot of Portuguese people in this area. So, I feel like it would make me a good candidate to have another language under my belt.

Q: What are your classes like and do you have a favorite one?

A: I am taking Advanced Grammar and Portuguese; Biology 152 and 153, which is introductory biology and a lab; Chemistry 112, which is just like the next step in chemistry; honors English, which is a prerequisite, as well as Statistics 240, which is part of my premed prerequisites.

I think my favorite class would be Biology, and obviously that doesn't really come as a surprise.  Especially with what's happening now, we're learning a lot about COVID-19 and how we're testing for infections. We're also learning about how it functions as a virus.

Q: Let's say you didn't want to be a doctor; you changed your mind somewhere along the way. What do you think you could do with your degree?

A: Yeah, I could definitely look in the public health field. I could try to get a job interpreting with my Portuguese background. I know that you have to get a separate interpreting degree, but I feel like if I already have the Portuguese background it would make it easier cause I wouldn't have to learn a language from the ground up.

Q: Do you have a favorite professor or a professor that has really influenced you in some way?

A: Professor Razvan Sibii from the journalism department. He challenges all the beliefs that you hold, and forces you to actually think about why you believe what you believe.

It's really awesome just because it helps you grow as a human being. Especially in my class because it was about identity, incarceration and immigration. So, you’re used to talking about topics that are related to those three broad topics all the time in class. However, he really would always be trying to play devil's advocate for everyone and force them to understand: why do you think the way that you think?


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