Ivan Barrera, EC alum, pursues a Pharmaceutics Master of Science program at MCPHS University.
When asked what made him want to study chemistry, Ivan mentioned that he was undecided when he first started out. With math being his favorite subject, he wanted to use it in conjunction within another field. “This is when chemistry came into play” states Ivan. Not thinking he was “smart enough,” Ivan ruled out chemistry initially but was eventually attracted to the opportunities that came along with it. Ivan was made aware that once fall semester sophomore year came around, the only way for him to fulfill all his requirements was to take the accelerated introductory chemistry course which was taught by Dr. Ryvkin. Ivan gives praise to Dr. Ryvkin saying that “Up to this day, I don’t think I would have stuck with chemistry had it not been for Dr. Ryvkin and the way she pushed me that semester and in all of the other classes I took with her later, especially the rough one, P Chem.”
Ivan says that the reason he chose Emmanuel was because of its location, the variety of programs it has to offer, the opportunity to play soccer, and the close community. One of his best experiences was being on the soccer team which changed him for the better as well as the long-lasting friendships he was able to make.
When asked how Emmanuel prepared him for this new Masters program, Ivan shared that, “having the opportunity to experience undergraduate research while taking other classes and being a student athlete taught me great time management skills”. Also, “being a teaching assistant for one of Dr. Gerdon’s chemistry classes. This helped me in terms of knowing what to expect once I started doing it as a graduate student.” Analytical Chemistry and Instrumental Methods of Analysis also helped Ivan out in both his research and as a teaching assistant.
Ivan is currently in a Pharmaceutics Master of Science program at MCPHS University. During his last semester at Emmanuel, he was able to get an internship at the Harvard Institutes of Medicine. Even though it was more of a molecular biology lab, Ivan saw it as an opportunity to learn different techniques and concepts. After graduation, Ivan continued to volunteer at the lab and with the help of his principal investigator, he applied and was granted an NIH fellowship that allowed him to keep working at the lab for an additional two years. Although there wasn’t as much chemistry involved as he would have liked, Ivan made the best of his opportunity and decided to go for it. Ivan said that one of his duties while at the lab was to administer drugs to the experimental mice.
After administering drugs and experimenting on the mice, Ivan realized this is when he truly became interested in the Pharmaceutical Sciences and, more specifically, Pharmaceutics. He asked himself questions such as, “what happened to the drug after I gave it to these animals, how long did it stay in their system, how did their bodies get rid of it, and why did they require the dose they needed to see any kind of effect?” All these questions were questions that the Pharmaceutical Science field could answer. It was then that Ivan started to look at schools so he could pursue a graduate degree. Ivan chose MCPHS because of its reputation as a pharmacy school and because he wanted to stay in Boston. MCPHS also reminded Ivan of that “small school feeling” that he’d been successful with up until that point.
When asked what it’s like to be a graduate student and what he sees himself doing after graduation, Ivan says that, “being a graduate student is different than being an undergrad. Courses go at a much faster pace and you also must find a way to balance coursework and research. Most of us are also teaching assistants and proctors for exams so those are things that we need to balance in terms of preparation and time management.” During the second semester Ivan was a teaching assistant for a graduate level chromatography class and, as a first-year student, it was a very challenging and time consuming position.
Right now, Ivan sees himself doing drug metabolism research for a Pharmaceutical company. And as for the future, Ivan plans to be open minded on whether to continue towards a phD.
As for advice to give to the underclassmen, not being pressured after graduation, as well as not ruling opportunities are two things that Ivan would recommend. “I was extremely reluctant to turn my internship into a 2-year job” says Ivan, “but I never may have realized what I was really interested in it if I hadn’t done so. I think it’s really important to always be open minded and give different things a chance.” Ivan did this when he decided to major in chemistry and when he turned his internship into a job, which were two of best decisions he said he could have ever made.
On a final note, “regardless of whether you know where you’re going or not, reaching out to professors is extremely important”, advises Ivan, “they are a great support group and can give you valuable advice. One thing that I’ve learned so far, is that they will always advise you to do things they know you are capable of doing.