Eder Izaguirre - Valedictorian Class of 2007
Interviewed by Norma Archer
Tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Honduras and came to the U.S. in 2002. I entered CCNY in Spring 2003 as an Electrical Engineering major. My most difficult times at CCNY were mastering English and the fact that I was out of school for a year and “rusty.” I was placed in PreCalc (Math 195), which for me was devastating since I always felt math to be my greatest strength. To get around the language barrier “I watched English television; and made an effort to only read and speak English. It was not easy, my English was really bad.”
On my first math test I got a 66, which was devastating for me. I went home and told my father, all the time thinking “my dad is going to kill me.” But to my surprise my father was totally supportive. He said, “I did not expect for you to do well because you are just starting.” That’s not like my father. He’s such a perfectionist. However, he has always supported me by reinforcing “you can always do better.” I always knew I was good in math, so I knew that with some effort on my part and good discipline I will get good results.
I was lucky that everyone “bombed” the exam so the professor gave a make-up and I got a 99. After that everything just felt into place for me. I continued to do better.
Why did you switch from Electrical Engineering to Physics?
During my third semester as an Electrical Engineering major I took general physics with Prof. Boyer and I was hooked. He was such an inspiring teacher. He made physics interesting by including in his lecture short stories about the greatest physicists in history. That encouraged me to pick up the biography of the most influential physicists of the 20th century. I knew there and then that physics was my calling. When I look back I’m very happy to have made the switch to Physics.
However, during the beginning of my third semester I applied to Cooper Union and I was accepted with full scholarship to pursue the Electrical Engineering major. This was a dilemma for me because I really wanted to do physics. I met with Prof. Boyer to let him know about what I was thinking. He gave me his impartial opinion about both careers. Because of the freedom I received from my family to make my own decisions I decided that the best course of action for me was to stay at CCNY to pursue my newly found dream, ‘Physics’.
Aside from Prof. Boyer is there anyone else who stands out as someone who guided you and assisted you during your stay at CCNY?
When I think among the people who have been most influential; I will have to include Professor Smith, who's always been happy to advise me in physics and in life. I have popped into his office a million times, but he has never said to me that he's too busy to talk to me.
I also have to mention my relationship with the Student Advising Office/CCAPP, specifically Dr. Roth. She’s one of a kind. Dr. Roth is like that one guy in every neighborhood who knows everything that is going on, and can put you together with whatever you need. She knows everyone and mostly everything that goes on in the Division. She always finds a solution to practically any academic problem. And in terms of research, she has the ability to match you with a professor that meets your research interests and personality.
As a CCNY science student, what has been your proudest moment?
My proudest moment as a City student happened when I did an internship at CERN. The largest particle physics lab in the world! Before going to the program I was very apprehensive because I felt I was not at the same level academically as the other students. But as soon as I got there I found out that a person from Stanford or any other school possessed the same level of physics as myself. Academically we were all the same.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduating from CCNY I will be attending Stanford University to get my Ph.D. in particle physics theory. I am really looking forward to my next five years at Stanford. My life dream is to investigate some of the most fundamental puzzles about nature as a professor at the university level.