June 2011 Queens College graduate Erica Rodriguez, the daughter of immigrants, double-majored in biology/neuroscience and psychology at Queens College and was recently accepted to Duke University's PhD neurobiology program with full tuition. While at QC Rodriguez also found time to excel in athletics as the award-winning captain of the 2010-11 women's swim team.
Whether in the swimming pool or laboratory, Erica Rodriguez moves with strong, sure strokes. “I am very determined,” she says. “I want to be good at everything.”
Recently accepted to Duke University’s PhD neurobiology program with full tuition and a substantial stipend, Rodriguez is realizing the dreams her parents, immigrants from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, have always had for her.
“Erica has been a consistent mainstay of my laboratory,” says Carolyn Pytte (Psychology), whose studies of neurogenesis and memory in songbirds may lead to a better understanding of human memory. “From early on in her research, I have treated her like a graduate student and she has always exceeded my expectations. She is a big picture thinker who sees the forest as well as the trees.”
“My work in research at Queens College granted me a number of stupendous opportunities for further research,” says Rodriguez, who through QC’s MARC U-STAR (Minority Access to Research Careers) program landed a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Rockefeller University in the lab of renowned neurologist Fernando Nottebohm, assisting his investigation into the biology of vocal learning and nerve replacement in songbirds.
Despite the obvious demands of her double major in biology/neuroscience and psychology, this Macaulay Honors College student found time for her other passion: swimming. The captain of this year’s women’s swim team, she earned her team’s Most-Improved Swimmer award. In 2009 and 2010 she earned all-Metropolitan Swimming Conference honors. She also gave swimming lessons to children enrolled in QC’s aquatics program. Last spring QC recognized Rodriguez’s achievements both in and out of the pool with the Paul Paplin Scholar Athlete Award.
Of Rodriguez’s Duke acceptance, Women’s Swimming Coach Alicia Lampasso-Dillon says, “I am very proud of Erica's accomplishments. This was no small feat, considering the hours and months that are dedicated to swimming, working, and studying.”
Favorite book: The Harry Potter series
Favorite music: Indie, dance, and hip-hop
Surprising fact: “I like to eat lemons with salt and I like to eat seasoning alone.”