NVC Advanced Materials Tech (Nanotechnology) Program Producing Future Scientists

Northwest Vista College’s Advanced Materials Technology program, formerly known as Nanotechnology, is producing future scientists.

David Cadena, who received a Nanotechnology certificate from NVC a few years ago, was just awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship that will pay for his PhD program in NanoEngineering at the University of California at San Diego.

Getting to San Diego though didn’t come without a lot of help along the way. He said if it wasn’t for his advisors and instructors at St. Philip’s College, NVC, and UTSA he wouldn’t be where he is today.

It was also John Bruno, Ph.D, an adjunct faculty instructor at NVC, that helped David get the coveted fellowship. Dr. Bruno wrote in a recommendation letter that:

“I have first-hand knowledge of how hard David works in life as I have also witnessed him laboring at odd jobs outside of his academics to survive. I am quite inspired by David’s determination to achieve and his very strong work ethic. As such, I feel compelled to relay all the great aspects of David that I know and to strongly support his future training and career.”

David said he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit and has already operated his own fitness-based business and a promotions/marketing company. But the turning point for David came when he witnessed family members suffer through cancer and the devastating effects of chemotherapy. Cancer also impacted his college career.

“I had dropped out of school and started working full time. I didn’t know how to be a successful college student (with my family going through so much). I shocked my family when I told them I wanted to be a scientist (after watching a YouTube video about nanotechnology). There were times when I bombed exams and fell asleep in college buidings trying to study for classes,” said David, who graduated from Brackenridge High School.

David said he also made good use of the tutoring labs at St. Philip’s, NVC and UTSA to help him with some of his courses. Now, David will graduate on May 12 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from UTSA and will head to San Diego for a program that takes students from a bachelor’s degree to a PhD. His ultimate goal is to work in a medical lab to use nanotechnology to help fight cancer and other diseases.

When David changed his major from business to engineering, he finished his associate degree at St. Philip’s College and knew he was headed to NVC. Among the five Alamo Colleges, NVC is the only one that offers a nanotechnology program.

“Most students don’t know what they can do with Nanotechnology. NVC has a really nurturing environment where they propel us to transfer to a university. I also have never taken a (nanotechnology) class at a community college where they give you so much hands-on experience. That’s uncommon to me in this field.”

David has also received several scholarships, and has had three science-based internships, with the latest internship being in San Diego, which is why he wanted to go back.

David said he still can’t believe he received the fellowship and encourages other students to don’t give up on their dreams – even if they are not the best at science.

“A lot of students disqualify themselves because science is difficult. It felt comforting to know that I had professors telling me I could do this and don’t give up. I didn’t get anywhere on my own. I had a lot of people guiding me.”

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