To fourth-year Chemistry major Kole Joachim, being involved on campus meant more than joining clubs or applying for internships. In order to actually get involved in a new environment, Joachim believes, you have to be able to challenge yourself “to try something you might otherwise have avoided because it is not something you are immediately comfortable with.” Joachim provided the beginning of his college career as an example; he was “incredibly shy,” and admitted to still being a bit shy, but much less now than he was back then thanks to the ways in which he challenged himself to get out there. He ran for student government and “eventually became the student body vice president even though the idea of public speaking initially terrified [him],” Joaechim said. He also became a student advisor, which is where he formed a lot of his closest friendships at WC. He is grateful for the opportunity to be able to do these things, as he believes: “I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for challenging my initial level of comfort and forcing myself to grow.”
Joachim started his journey at Whittier College a bit earlier than most — not because he enrolled early, or anything like that, but because he had family attending WC and was able to integrate into the community through them. While he was still in high school, both his cousin, Hannah Ellett, and his brother, Gunner Joachim, attended WC. He would often visit them on campus, which led to him becoming comfortable with the College’s community “well before [he] stepped onto campus [his] first semester,” he said. To him, enrolling in Whittier College felt like the “natural” thing to do after spending so much of his time becoming familiar with the campus. He felt “lucky” to have the opportunity to concurrently attend WC with his brother before he graduated after Joachim’s first year.
“Whittier has always felt like home to me,” said Joachim — though, as is the case with any college student, the comfort did not spare him any stress. He truly did feel like he “belonged to” the community of Whittier College, though. Stress aside, he credits his journey through WC as helping him to grow into the person he is today, both in terms of his personal interests and his academic career goals.
Joachim also attributes much of his success and excitement to the professors he has had at WC, who “motivated [him] and stoked [his] interest in science and research.” He is thankful for his research mentor, Assistant Professor Ralph Isovitsch, who “guided [him] through [his] first experiences with research,” and provided Joachim with much-needed motivation and support. Together, Joachim and Dr. Isovitsch researched “the photophysical properties of various chemical compounds utilizing computational chemistry software that involved constructing theoretical models and performing optimization experiments to compare to laboratory results,” said Joachim. The two were even accepted for publication in The Journal of Biological and Chemical Luminescence recently.
Joachim hopes to further his research, “utiliz[ing] topics of theoretical chemistry,” for his senior project, and, after graduation, to continue his work with the Stanford School of Medicine, where he intends to research “the quality of care of patients seen by the Stanford Hypertension Center” while he prepares for the Medical College Admission Test. He has already been accepted into the Harvard Summer Research Program in Kidney Medicine, but, unfortunately, his enrollment was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Until the Summer of 2021, when his admission will resume, he will be taking a gap year and, if it is safe to do so, will spend some time traveling.
Despite the things COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into, even quarantine was not able to get Joachim down. He took the time he has had, being in isolation, to explore hobbies that he might not have had time for or interest in otherwise — drawing and playing guitar, inspired by his favorite musician, Gregory Alan Isakov, whose music “has always been comforting” to him. Before quarantine, Joachim would often go to indoor gyms around L.A. for rock climbing, and he cannot wait to get back into it once things are safer.
Overall, it is Joachim’s positive, outgoing attitude, quick integration into the school, and supportive staff that has made his time at WC so enjoyable. He was thrilled to be able to be involved in research at the College, citing it as “one of the best experiences [he] had on campus.” He was also very thankful to the College’s chemistry department, which he credited as being “incredibly inviting and passionate about helping their students succeed.”
Regarding any advice he has for current WC students, Joachim said, “I always think it’s funny when people ask for advice when it comes to new students at Whittier College because the cliché response that first comes to mind is to get involved.” Ultimately, though, Joachim does encourage students to get involved on campus, in ways that are “different than its surface value of enrolling in different clubs or pursuing that on-or-off campus internship.” Step out of your comfort zone, and “challenge yourself to try new things,” Joachim encourages: “After all, college is not only about growing in your academics, but also growing as an individual as well.”