Andrew Pastor

Name: Andrew Pastor

Year: Senior (Transfer)

Major: Molecular and Environmental Biology

“I am a proud transfer student from Mt. San Antonio College, a community college in Walnut, California. I did not plan on going to community college but a mix of family and financial circumstances as well as needing some more time to figure out what I wanted to do made it the absolute best option at the time. Although I wasn’t super happy to be missing out on what I perceived to be the ‘college experience’, I very quickly realized how lucky I was. It became pretty clear to me that as long as you’re surrounded by people who care there is always amazing potential for personal growth. It wasn’t always easy balancing a full schedule of classes and work throughout my two years at Mt. SAC but it was always worth it. So, when I got to Berkeley and they told me ‘Here’s some money. Now you don’t have to work,’ I knew there was no excuse for me not to soak up as much as possible. I was definitely nervous but I was so ready for Berkeley and I wasn’t going to shy away from diving into the community.”

“I’ve always remembered warnings from one of my professors telling me how hard it’d be up here. Cal has definitely pushed me pretty hard as a pre-health student; it even made me question if I really wanted to follow this path. But all of these challenges made me stronger in my commitment and Cal ended up shaping me in a way that makes me pretty excited with where I’m headed. As long as you know why you want to pursue something, everything else comes naturally. I’ve grabbed as many opportunities as I could during my time here from researching to teaching a DeCal to volunteering with a free clinic to playing with Cal Raijin Taiko. It’s been an awesome ride. What I’ve found makes it possible for me to manage and enjoy my time is being involved in things that make me feel fulfilled in some way. Sometimes, we’ve got to stretch for that feeling, I think, but it’s super important to remember why you’re spending your time the way you are, especially because it’s so limited. Not just for a line on the resume, hopefully, but to actually become a better human being. Always remembering where I came from, what I am a part of now, and what I am working towards keeps me moving forward.”

*If you would like to learn more about Andrew, particularly his research interest, please continue reading. His research is mainly focused on reproductive health issues.*

“For me, reproductive health should act as the baseline for how we approach health. If we are not providing education and resources that are necessary for women to make decisions for themselves and their families, we are not going to have stable public health. I’ve always been interested in exploring public health and looking at people who are suffering from preventable health outcomes. I remember reading a book, Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, during my sophomore year. It really opened my eyes to the shear disparities in health that exist in the world. I began thinking, ‘If we can’t even provide resources for women to have healthy babies, how can we expect any other health outcomes to improve?’ Public health is all about moving up the stream, so you want to prevent negative health outcomes from occurring in the first place. In terms of our life, it doesn’t get much more upstream than maternal and prenatal health so I guess, here I am.”

“Research at the Bixby Center in the School of Public Health was the first thing I got involved with during the summer before my first year at Berkeley. It’s social science research, so already a bit of a departure from the typical pre-med. We mainly look at reproductive health issues in sub-Saharan and Western Africa. The first project I got involved with involved scaling up the operationalization of some legal changes in Rwanda to create further access to safe, legal abortions. It was mostly working with data on a computer, but it was really great getting exposed to the field I had already read a lot about. Since then, I’ve gotten involved with another Bixby initiative called E4D or Evidence for Development. It involves a partnership with USAID/West Africa with the goal to provide evidence for HIV/AIDS prevention/treatment and family planning capacity building. It’s been amazing getting to work with ridiculously passionate people at Bixby.”

“I also recently got research fellowship to work in Eva-Harris Lab through the MHIRT Fellowship funded by the NIH.  She researches various viruses of the Aedes mosquito in Latin America such as Chikungunya, Dengue, and most recently Zika. I’m actually getting funded to be in Nicaragua for 12 weeks over the summer working in the lab of the Ministry of Health, so that’s pretty cool. I’m pretty nervous to be going abroad for such an important reason, but I also couldn’t be any more excited. Two years ago, waiting for my transfer applications to come back, I never would had even dreamed of ending up where I am now with the experiences I’ve had. It’s really thanks to a number of mentors I have had both at Mt. SAC and here at Berkeley that have provided guidance in some of the most pivotal moments of my life.”

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