You know you’re destined to be a scientist when in high school you enthusiastically create a play to explain how the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, affects immune cells.
“We had blankets and sheets and a spray bottle,” recalls Jordon Aragon, a Fort Collins native who will graduate with a degree in microbiology from Colorado State University. “My friend was a macrophage in a white sheet. I was the cytotoxic t-cell and I had a spray gun to kill him. It was really funny.”
All jokes aside, Aragon said that creating the play, an assignment for a two-week anatomy class, sparked his interest in immunology and research. When the class was over, he pursued research projects on his own.
Since his first year at CSU, Aragon has worked in the lab of Alan Schenkel, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology and director of the department’s undergraduate research program.
He is also currently working as an intern at SiVEC Biotechnologies, a startup founded by CSU alumna Lindsay Linke, whose company is working on a technology that inhibits the avian flu virus from replicating that can be used on flocks before they are infected.
Schenkel said that it’s been wonderful to see Aragon progress from a naïve freshman into a confident young man. “He’s always worked really hard, and I am excited to see how graduate school goes for him,” he adds.
Starting in July, Aragon will pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
During his time at CSU, Aragon has presented his research at the Multicultural Undergraduate Research Art and Leadership Symposium, or MURALS, and at Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity, or CURC. This year, he received college honors for his research presentation at CURC. Aragon is also a first-generation college student, and credits his parents with inspiring him to pursue a degree.
Aragon says that he hopes one day to conduct research for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, or the World Health Organization.
His advice for incoming freshman includes: Don’t be a slacker, and, if you’re interested in research, get into a lab.
“That’s your calling card,” he says, reflecting on his own research experience and how it’s opened doors for him. “I talk to a lot of people and some of them aren’t sure about what they want to do. Research is amazing and I never want to stop doing it.”
During his senior year, Aragon received a scholarship through the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology.