How I Got Ready: Joselin’s Story

Joselin Rodriguez Santiago has firsthand experience with the difference that interpreters can make.

Rodriguez Santiago, a native Spanish speaker, moved to Wisconsin from Puerto Rico for her final year of high school. Not only did she work hard to advance her English studies at her new high school, but a family member also counted on her for translating doctor appointments.

“I realized that the only people who could understand us and help us were interpreters. They were going the extra mile for us,” she recalls.

In fact, Rodriguez Santiago recalls bonding with one interpreter who shared her Puerto Rican heritage.

“She told me that she wanted to become a medical interpreter to help people and make sure that they could communicate with the doctors,” she recalls. “I wanted to follow what she was doing.”

So when Rodriguez Santiago enrolled at Alverno, she supplemented her biology major with a minor in Spanish/English health care interpretation. She enjoys exploring the ethics of the profession as well as serving as an interpreter at parent-teacher conferences for a local elementary school.

“Having this minor helps me communicate not just with the scientific community but also with people from my background. It helps me keep my roots,” she explains.

Rodriguez Santiago, who expects to graduate in 2022, is exploring health-related careers where she can work in a lab setting, such as a medical examiner or a public health researcher. She credits her professors for alerting her to new opportunities, such as joining Alverno’s Doherty Scholars and New Futures in Science and Mathematics. These programs have allowed her to learn about graduate school and to participate in hands-on scientific research with faculty and classmates during the summer.

“Both have helped me shape my path professionally as well as who I am personally,” she says.

This past summer, Rodriguez Santiago was one of approximately two dozen Powers Fellows, a program that provides paid research positions to Alverno students as well as faculty and peer mentorship. Her project involved the technique of steam distillation, i.e. using vapor and steam to extract essential oils from plants such as lemongrass, sweet basil and sweet mint.

“Each plant is different, so we have to determine how much we need and how much we’ll extract,” says Rodriguez Santiago, whose studies sought to explore the public health implications of essential oils as well as how to share her techniques with future Alverno students.

The experience not only equipped Rodriguez Santiago with new scientific skills but also the ability to ideate and carry out a research project from scratch.

“Every day I come in, I’ve learned to do something new,” she says. “We started with so many ideas but not all of them made sense for the lab setting. I learned how to get organized and back up everything that I’m doing with a scientific purpose.”

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