After high school, Adrian Raygoza enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he became a sergeant and served for 10 years.
“During the height of the war in Afghanistan, I felt called to serve my country,” he said. “Once my service ended, I realized I could only go so far without a college education. That’s what enticed me to come to College of DuPage and explore what my educational options were. It was also notable that COD has a magnificent track record of serving military veterans.”
Raygoza enrolled at COD with an interest in criminal justice, but he was surprised to find that his science classes immediately peaked his interest.
“I thought criminal justice was the right path for me, but when I started my classes at COD, I realized there were a lot of similarities between my science and criminal justice classes,” he said. “They both involved researching and investigating, which is what I developed a passion for. When I became unsure of what path to take after graduation, my COD professors helped me in my decision to pursue science by setting good examples with their own career paths.”
Raygoza graduated from COD with an Associate in Arts degree and transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences. During his undergraduate years, he began working as a research assistant for UIC’s Division of Infectious Disease alongside teams of seasoned researchers who mentored and taught him how to conduct professional clinical research. He helped play an integral role in numerous vaccine trials, most notably a global HIV vaccine clinical trial.
Raygoza is currently working at UIC College of Medicine as a project manager for their COVID-19 rapid response team and as a clinical research coordinator for Chicago’s first COVID-19 vaccine trial through the biotech company Moderna.
In Raygoza’s dual role, it’s not lost on him that UIC’s vaccine trial could be life-changing.
“This vaccine may help change the world and put an end to this global pandemic,” he said. “I can’t let the pressure of what this might mean for our future seep into my work. I have to focus on the task at hand and where can I help.”
The road to working in public health has been long and, at times, challenging for Raygoza with many pivots along the way. Despite his current workload on the COVID-19 vaccine trial team, Raygoza is working toward a master’s degree online at Boston University School of Public Health. He credits his passion to continue his education to many of his COD professors, including Biology Professor James Ludden.
“I did a study abroad trip with Professor Ludden in Canada for an ecological field research class, and during our week-long excursion, he encouraged me to go as far in my education as possible,” Raygoza said. “I didn’t even have my associate degree yet, but he knew I had the potential and the passion to do great things. A fire was lit in me after that.”
In addition to Raygoza’s professional achievements, he is a nationally certified peer recovery support specialist for Veterans Prevail, a cognitive behavioral change platform where military veterans help each other overcome challenges post-service.
“Through my work with other military veterans, I am able to share my experiences and find common ground that can help them process their time in war zones and life post-service,” he said.”
After completing his work on the vaccine trial team and earning his master’s degree, Raygoza, interested in a long-standing career in clinical research, plans to pursue a doctorate degree program in public health.
“There is still a lot that I want to accomplish,” he said. “I’m nowhere near my end game professionally. I found my love for science at COD, and I will always credit my experience there to starting me on a career path that I am truly passionate about.”