Last May, a select group of 15 University of Rochester juniors earned the most prestigious of academic honors: They were named members of the Phi Beta Kappa community.
Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa invites for induction outstanding students at America’s leading colleges and universities. PBK champions the liberal arts—the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences—in higher education and in society at large.
UR’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was formed in 1887.
New members are elected each spring by the current members of the Iota chapter, at the recommendation of the nominating committee. The main criteria for selection are academic achievement, broad liberal scholarship, humanistic values, leadership potential, co-curricular activity, and personal character.
Phi Beta Kappa is celebrating its 239th birthday this week, and we honor the 15 UR undergrads who proudly wear the title.
Here’s a capsule look at the Fabulous 15:
Major: Optical Engineering
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota
Plan after this academic year: PhD in optics or electrical engineering
Ultimate career goal: Work in industry or a national lab in research and development of novel optical technologies.
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappan status? “It was a great honor to be initiated into Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. I appreciated the recognition of my academic achievements.”
Major: Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Hometown: Henrietta, New York
Plan after this academic year: I plan to gain more work experience in an area related to my major with hopes that this will help me get a better understanding of what I would ultimately like to do.
Ultimate career goal: Although I am still somewhat unsure of my ultimate career goal, I would like to have a career that allows me to give back to others.
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “I was very honored to be recognized for my hard work. It is a privilege to be held in such high regard as past inductees to the Phi Beta Kappa society.”
Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Plan after this academic year: I plan to go to graduate school for a Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Ultimate career goal: To either own or be the VP of engineering of a small software company.
What did it mean to earn PBK status: “It was a recognition of years of hard work and study. Knowing that I am among a select group of successful individuals bodes well for my future endeavors.”
Major: Double major in Mathematics and Physics
Hometown: Franklin, Massachusetts
Plan after this academic year: To attend a MSc program in the UK for theoretical physics.
Ultimate career goal: Upon obtaining my MSc, I will attend a PhD program in theoretical physics and then conduct research in the field.
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “It was an absolute honor and privilege to earn Phi Beta Kappa status. Being recognized for my academic achievements in subjects that I have loved to study for such a long time was an amazing feeling.”
Major: Triple majoring in Political Science, Psychology, and Philosophy
Hometown: Hunt, New York
Plan after this academic year: To attend law school.
Ultimate career goal: To become a District Attorney and eventually a judge.
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “I was incredibly honored to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa because of the rich tradition behind it. There are so many extraordinary individuals that are members who have accomplished so much throughout their careers, and I was very excited to be selected.The University has provided me with so many amazing opportunities. The curriculum here has allowed me to study the disciplines I am most passionate about and has created a great environment for learning.”
Major: Computer Science and Applied Math
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Plan after this academic year: Graduate school for Computer Science
Ultimate career goal: Something involving programming and research
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “I was honored to be invited to join such a prestigious organization. I was proud that my academic accomplishments were being recognized.”
Hometown: Lexington, Massachusetts
Plan after academic year: gap year to explore something interesting before applying to graduate school
Ultimate career goal: Find a job that is fulfilling and meaningful
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “It came as a great surprise, so I appreciate the recognition.”
Major: Anthropology, Linguistics
Hometown: South Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Plan after this academic year: Fulbright ETA in India, or work/internship
Ultimate career goal: work in the Collections Department of a cultural museum
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “With the UofR’s competitive admission rates, most students come from a high-achieving academic backgrounds, yet with its fairly collaborative student work environment, I don’t experience much grade comparison among my peers. I don’t often think of myself, therefore, as being in the top percent of my class, and Phi Beta Kappa wasn’t even on my radar. It’s an honor to receive this recognition and be counted among a national group of such outstanding scholars.”
Hometown: Falls Church, Virginia
Plan after this academic year: Wrap up my research projects, maybe take on some new ones.
Ultimate career goal: To be happy doing whatever ends up being my career.
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “It’s like the cherry on top of a sundae that took three years to make. It is satisfying, but it’s not everything. It definitely made my parents happy, though. That was nice.”
Hometown: Carmel, Indiana
Plan after this academic year: Graduate school
Ultimate career goal: Math professor
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? I was proud to have been chosen – it feels good to be recognized for the work you do.
Major: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Hometown: East Chatham, New York
Plan after this academic year: PhD program
Ultimate career goal: Research ecologist for a federal agency
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “To me PBK is all about honoring my family. I know my grandmother, a librarian, would be so proud; as would my other grandmother, from Lithuania, who never had the chance for an education. And it is special because it reaffirms that my mother, who homeschooled me, has been and is a truly amazing teacher.”
PEDRO VALLEJO RAMIREZ
Major: Optical Engineering
Hometown: Panama City, Panama
Plan after this academic year: I want to pursue a PhD in Optics and do research in either biophotonics, computational imaging, or biomedical imaging.
Ultimate career goal: “I’d like to work as a researcher/technical consultant in the medical device industry, or start my own company to deliver engineering solutions that combine optical and digital complexity for medical applications. Ultimately, I would like to be an executive, either for a corporation or my own company. Concurrently to my industry career, I’d like to be a science communicator, and address issues on energy and technological innovation at a national or international policy level.”
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “It was an honor! I felt privileged to be surrounded by such accomplished students and faculty members (whose accomplishments sound a lot more important than any of mine ). Sitting on PBK board meetings allows me to interact with professors in many different departments ( religion, philosophy, political science) that I would’ve hardly met otherwise, and to discuss current issues such as activism and freedom of speech on college campuses with them on a person-to-person basis.”
Major: European History
Plan after this academic year: Training as a Latin Dancer in Puerto Rico & Cuba, learning Spanish
Ultimate career goal: Physician
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappa status? “Achieving Phi Beta Kappa status was an incredible honor for me. It affirmed for me that my discipline in college is recognized in the outside world, (and it gave my parents something to talk about all of Thanksgiving dinner.)”
Major: International Relations and Spanish
Hometown: Des Plaines, Illinois
Plan after this academic year: Applications to several fellowships and jobs are in progress!
Ultimate career goal: Currently, my interests fall most squarely in the areas of international development and migration. Working for an organization like the International Organization for Migration aligns well with my current goals.
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappan status? “It was especially meaningful to receive Phi Beta Kappa status as a junior, as it was affirmation that all of the effort I put into my academics did not go unnoticed. It’s an honor to have this type of recognition, which I will be able to point to for years to come.”
Major: Molecular Genetics
Hometown: North Haven, Connecticut
Plan after this academic year: Medical School
Ultimate career goal: Physician
What did it mean to earn Phi Beta Kappan status? “Joining Phi Beta Kappa meant becoming part of a larger group that encourages and recognizes academic growth and achievement. It is an honor to be in an organization with so many incredibly successful individuals, including former presidents, supreme court justices, and nobel laureates.”
Tomorrow: Our tribute to Phi Beta Kappa week continues as Joy Bian ’17 profiles one of the Fabulous 15, Pedro Vallejo Ramirez.