Inspired by his professors, 2021 biotechnology grad aspires to become a professor himself

Rising Up at KUEC: In this Q&A series, outstanding 2021 KU graduates share how the KU Edwards Campus has helped them start, advance or change their career. Meet Andy Cardona.

Andy Cardona, 2021 bachelor's in biotechnology graduate

Described by his professors as “the most enthusiastic student we have had,” Andy Cardona is preparing for the next step in his education after graduating this May with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Biotechnology. The 21-year-old, originally from Guatemala, has struggled with immigration challenges, but using his hardships as inspiration keeps him motivated to achieve his goals. Cardona’s other motivators include his faith and his fiancée, Theresa.

Cardona’s interest in biotechnology began in high school and took him to Johnson County Community College (JCCC) to earn an associate degree in biotechnology before transferring to the KU Edwards Campus for his bachelor’s degree.

The smaller class sizes at KUEC helped Cardona facilitate stronger relationships in the classroom. For him, the “family-like” atmosphere fostered connections with his fellow students and professors that also increased his engagement in the material. Cardona plans to earn a doctorate in either immunology or pathology and eventually become a college professor.

“Good teachers truly make a difference,” Cardona said. “I would like to be a good professor to someone one day.”

Learn more about his journey!

Q: What as a typical day in your life like as student?

A: I love starting my day by making coffee and spending time in prayer and reading my Bible. That time is what sets the trajectory of my day and fills it with peace. From there, if I didn’t work, I headed to KUEC and started doing research. In my spare time I like to read, listen to music and serve in the organization Friends of Internationals.

Q: What makes you the happiest?

A: My time in prayer, reading my Bible and church services make me the happiest. Not only do I find happiness there but also joy. Besides those things, my soon-to-be wife, Theresa, makes me happy.

Q: What motivates you?

A: I like when things get challenging. I knew I wanted to go to college. I had no money for it, but the thought of completing a challenge motivates me. When things get hard, I don’t enjoy it, but it’s a good feeling when I look back.

Q: Why did you choose KUEC?

A: Back in high school, at Shawnee Mission West, I took some biotechnology classes. There I found out that learning was awesome, especially biotech. My teacher, Mrs. Bott, told us that KU had a campus nearby and a new biotechnology program. I knew I could not afford the “college experience,” so I got a scholarship to JCCC to do their biotechnology associate degree, which worked great to transfer to KU Edwards Campus. Ever since I moved to the United States from Guatemala, I wanted to be a Jayhawk.

Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?

A: I had no idea what to expect in the biotech program here at KUEC at all. The first day was amazing and challenging. From there I learned that what makes this program amazing are the professors, Dr. Logan and Dr. Treml. Since I came from JCCC, my classes were always small, and since I am very outgoing and like to make friends, being able to connect with my professors has always helped me to like to study and perform well. Not being able to relate or get along with my professors would lead to just been uninterested in the class or finding the class hard. At KUEC, I liked my time with my professors, not just in class, but also during offices hours as I learned insight and knowledge. It’s this experience that motivates me to go to grad school.

Q: How has your KU degree prepared you for the future?

A: As I reflect in how much I know and how I think based on scientific reasoning, I’m shocked. I cannot believe that I learned all of this in this program. I just had fun while I learned!

Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?

A: Not having the financial resources to pay for tuition made it hard. The more I dwelled on it, the more I would get stressed. It made studying harder and less fun. But by gracious scholarships, I’m able to write this as a senior in college. Thinking of how I don’t deserve this makes me just want to be thankful, always, on my faith in Christ in his provision.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?

A: It would have to be getting all A’s last spring semester, when COVID-19 surprised us all. I learned a lot. Not just because we couldn’t leave our houses, but because immunology and other biotech classes are just fascinating. I was a terrible student growing up in Guatemala and the fact that I got A’s in college is amazing.

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?

A: Being encouraged by my professors as I presented data of my project. Research is hard. Not just mentally but also emotionally. You get attached to your project with the hope of great data, but it’s not always like that. One time, as I walked to Dr. Treml’s office to show him data, though I was discouraged, he just encouraged me to keep going. Likewise with Dr. Logan. My favorite times here are how family-like it feels with my fellow classmates and professors.

Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

A: I would like to go to grad school for a Ph.D. in either immunology or pathology. I would love to teach in a college setting. I had a good teacher once in middle school, when I was still learning to speak English, and ever since I understood how good teachers truly make a difference. I would like to be a good professor to someone one day.

Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?

A: Make whatever you are learning fun. Learn new methods and put hours into whatever is hard. Ask questions to your instructors, despite fearing you might sound dumb. I felt like that many times, but I wanted to make sure I knew the material.

The Bachelor of Applied Science in Biotechnology degree program is supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle.

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