Student of the Year John Whatley wants to develop new ways to treat illnesses

Dr. Diana Doyle, president of ACC, presents student of the year award to John Whatley.

Image via Courtesy John Whatley

Dr. Diana Doyle, president of ACC, presents student of the year award to John Whatley.

Carolyn Jarvis, Arapahoe Pinnacle Reporter

Humans of ACC is a series of Q&A presentations about students, faculty and staff.

Today’s focus is on John A. Whatley, President of the Colorado Region Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society, and current Student of the Year at Arapahoe Community College

Arapahoe Pinnacle: What are your goals at Arapahoe Community College and beyond? How do you plan to achieve them?

John A. Whatley: My academic goals are to complete a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a doctorate in molecular biology. I plan on achieving these goals by going to good schools that offer these degree programs, The Colorado School of Mines for biochemistry and the University of Colorado, Denver for molecular biology. I know the courses will be difficult, but I plan on studying very hard to do well.

AP: How has a community college education helped you the most?

JW: I believe the education I’ve received at Arapahoe Community College has been in many ways superior to what I could have received at any other institution, including universities. I have been able to develop personal relationships with my professors who are experts in their respective fields. This has allowed me to better understand the complex subjects I have been studying. I know that with their help I have been able to maintain very good grades, whereas I probably would have gotten lost in the sea of students who attend universities. Also, I have to admit the comparatively low cost of community college education has been very advantageous in obtaining this excellent education.

AP: Tell me a little bit more about your chosen career and why you selected this career field?

JW: I wish to use the degree in molecular biology to develop new techniques in the treatment of illnesses. I am especially interested in viruses and want to work on medicines to either prevent people from getting sick or as a means to treat viral infections. As a child, I used to get sick a lot, and this developed into a curiosity as to what was making me ill. I found viruses particularly fascinating because they have some aspects which make them seem alive and others where they act more like chemical reactions. After a childhood of being sick I decided I wanted to devote my life to prevent people from getting sick as well.

AP: What motivates you?

JW: Besides last minute panic? The desire to do my best at any task I have. I am my own worst critic, but I find this helps drive me to do better than I thought I could.

AP: What has been your favorite moment of 2015? (Besides becoming Student of the year, of course.)

JW: That’s a tough one. I’ve had a lot of good things happen to me this year. I was awarded the title of Colorado’s Coca-Cola New century Scholar, which is the highest ranked member of the All-Colorado Academic team. It also means that I am one of the top 50 ranked community college students in the country. I was elected the President of the Colorado Region of Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society. I was candidate finalist for the position of Vice President of Division IV for Phi Theta Kappa. I had a photo published in The Progenitor which won one of three Outstanding Photograph citations from the American Scholastic Press Association. Of course, there was participating in commencement in May. I was the first child in my family to receive a college degree.

John Whatley with a friendly wolf at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center.
Courtesy John Whatley
John Whatley with a friendly wolf at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center.

JW: [Continuing] But I think maybe my favorite thing that happened to me this year was visiting the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. As a graduation present, my mom paid for me, my husband and two younger brothers (one who also graduated shortly after I did) to visit the wolves up close. One of the wolves, Navi, decided that he really liked me and rubbed his head all over me as I was sitting on the ground. It was a very encounter with an amazing animal and something I’ll never forget.