Student Spotlight: Patrick Torralba

Patrick Torralba
Patrick Torralba

Chemistry major transferring to U of M College of Biological Sciences

Patrick Torralba, 20, is graduating from Inver Hills Community College in May 2020 with an Associate of Arts (A.A.) and a Chemistry Transfer Pathway Associate of Science (A.S.). Patrick will be transferring to the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) at the University of Minnesota this fall with plans to major in Genetics, Cell Biology and Development.

According to CBS: “Genetics, cell biology, and development (GCD) focuses on the mechanisms by which genetic information is used to specify cell structure and function, and how that information drives cellular interactions that convert a single cell to develop into a complete organism. GCD students learn about advances in the field by studying model organisms like plants, fruit flies, zebrafish, and mice.”

After earning his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in GCD, Patrick has plans to attend graduate school. “I am still quite unsure what I want to particularly pursue,” he said, “but I want to become involved in research pertaining to genetics, stem cells and/or oncology.”

Patrick is the ideal kind of student. He proactively collaborated with his classmates and me to achieve exceptional success in Anatomy and Physiology. His fellow students swarmed around him for help with the course outside of class.
His humility was notable as he acted as a helpful leader and fostered a positive attitude. I look forward to hearing about his future accomplishments.
James Schneider
Biology Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

Patrick recently learned that he has been accepted for a summer biology research project at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is looking forward to this important opportunity to develop the critical STEM skills he needs to achieve his academic and career goals. He is considering his options regarding his future career in the biological sciences.

“Honestly, I’m still unsure about my career plans,” he said. “I’m balancing out my inner career desires and realistic goals. My inner career desire is to become an academic professor at a four-year institution where I research and teach subjects such as genetics, cell biology and anatomy.

“However, this goal is incredibly difficult to achieve because of logistical obstacles such as low employment opportunities and extreme competitiveness. Realistically speaking, I am open to other careers such as genetic statistician, genetic counselor or genetic engineering.”

Patrick received a $500 Inver Grove Heights B.E.S.T. Foundation Scholarship in 2017. He participates in TRIO Student Support Services at Inver Hills and is a member of Engineering Club. He serves as a biology and chemistry tutor and also works as a chemistry lab assistant in the evenings.

“I worked multiple jobs prior to my current positions at the college,” he said, “including dietary aide at Good Samaritan Society in 2018, sandwich artist at Subway and pharmacy technician at Hy-Vee, both in 2019. During the summer of 2019, I worked at Subway and Hy-vee at the same time, working 45+ hours a week on top of Calculus II.”

Patrick has been working with me since September 2019. He sought out TRIO because he felt trapped; like he’d never get out of community college and reach his dream to work in genetic counseling. He didn’t feel ready or like he could compete academically with university students.
We worked together every week to get his applications ready to submit, found him a job working as a lab assistant in the Chemistry department, and worked through more than 12 REU applications. Although it’s Patrick’s news to share, I can proudly say he was ACCEPTED! Into his top school and major, which is extremely rigorous and competitive to get into!
Patrick is tenacious, careful, methodical and dedicated to his studies. He’s also exceptionally compassionate and willing to put time into his studies to be successful. He’s passionate about TRIO, is very active in our program and is well-liked and respected by his fellow students. I’ve enjoyed watching him realize how intelligent he truly is and that he will go far beyond what he’s dreamed. I have no doubt one day he will move mountains in genetic counseling while continuing his support of TRIO.
TRIO is dedicated to helping students be successful here at Inver Hills to reach their academic potential. We are a federally funded grant program, able to work with 140 students between two advisors and our director. Each student is assigned an advisor.
We believe in a two-pronged approach: proactive academic advising where we get to know our students as individuals to provide guidance through the transfer process, including exploration of other campuses and holistic development of our students as humans. We know that for many Inver Hills isn’t their last stop in education; rather it is the first of many stops on their path to their dreams.
Alicia Atwater
TRIO SSS Academic Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

More about Patrick…

Patrick grew up in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, and graduated from Simley High School in 2017. Patrick’s sister, Niki, 18, is a PSEO student at Inver Hills. Niki is studying biology at the college, aiming to earn her  Biology Transfer Pathway A.S. degree and an A.A. degree. She is graduating from Simley this spring.

Patrick’s father, Franklin, is an operator at an area oil refinery, and his mother, Selisa, is a pharmacy technician at Hennepin Healthcare. Patrick’s mom and dad are originally from Batangas City in the Philippines. They immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1980s. Patrick has visited the Philippines on three previous occasions and looks forward to visiting again soon.

“The Philippines is a very beautiful country,” he said.

Patrick met his girlfriend, Han Phung, in high school. Han is studying psychology at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with plans to go on to graduate school to become a clinical or pediatric psychologist.

In his free time, Patrick enjoys boxing, cooking, jogging, working out and jamming on his guitar. He’s looking forward to boxing Golden Gloves in the future. He also likes making YouTube videos. He resides with his family in Inver Grove Heights.

Patrick is a first-generation American of Filipino heritage and a native Tagalog speaker. He is a dedicated volunteer who uses his bilingual skills to help others. Patrick’s story is unique because he came to Inver Hills in a period of personal uncertainty. During his time here, he discovered his intellectual strengths.
Patrick’s story speaks to the power of the college community in supporting our students. He received a lot of support from TRIO staff, James Schneider in Biology and me. When Patrick’s application to the College of Biological Sciences languished and was overlooked, I contacted a faculty colleague at CBS, who then contacted the transfer admissions staff at the University of Minnesota and got Patrick’s application into someone’s hands, where it received immediate attention.
Mary Petrie
English Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

Patrick Torralba gallery

More about the Chemistry Transfer Pathway A.S. at Inver…

The Chemistry Transfer Pathway Associate of Applied Science (A.S.) offers you a powerful option: the opportunity to complete an A.S. degree with course credits that will directly transfer to designated chemistry bachelor’s degree programs at Minnesota State universities.

The entire curriculum has been carefully designed to guarantee junior-year status when you’ve been admitted to one of the seven Minnesota State universities, where you can complete your bachelor’s degree by earning 60 additional credits.


More about Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver…

Our #1 transfer degree!

The A.A. degree is an ideal choice if you are planning on transferring to a four-year college or university. You will save money and have the added advantage of working one on one with your instructors.

A.A. Program Planning Guide

The A.A. degree is 60 credits and contains three parts:

Total: 60 credits


Patrick Torralba Q & A

Patrick Torralba
Patrick Torralba

What is one thing every chemistry major should know?
Organic chemistry is an entirely different animal; take everything you know from your previous chemistry courses and throw it out the window! (Also watch your sig. figs)

What do you like best about studying chemistry?
Chemistry isn’t purely an academic subject where you can rely on your memory, and you cannot math your way through it. This discipline requires a combination of critical-thinking skills, including problem-solving, analysis, interpretation and inference. Furthermore, chemistry combines a multitude of subjects such as biology, physics and algebra that makes an interesting course.

What is the most challenging aspect of studying chemistry?
hemistry can be incredibly abstract sometimes. Certain ideas are difficult to understand because it is hard to relate it to everyday life or even imagine concepts. For instance, stereochemistry is difficult for me to understand because essentially I am given a 2D chemical reaction and then I am asked to visualize it in 3D.

What branch of chemistry interests you the most and why?
Probably a cross between analytical chemistry and physical chemistry. In terms of analytical chemistry, I like using instruments and methods to determine the identity of an unknown compound or performing qualitative analysis. In terms of physical chemistry, I like applying algebra and concepts from physics to solve problems such as finding a specific temperature for a substance under various conditions.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What advice would you give students thinking about making chemistry their career path?
Chemistry is similar to cooking a dish. It’s impossible to become a pro chef just by cooking one dish; similarly, it’s impossible to be pro at chemistry just by practicing one example. Becoming good at anything, especially chemistry, requires time, patience and attitude. Furthermore, chemistry has many career applications such as in biomedical research, chemical engineering, pharmacy and food science.

How has TRIO Student Support Services helped you succeed at Inver Hills?
Prior to TRIO, I was unsure of my next academic goals after Inver Hills. I originally intended to transfer to CBS, but I lost interest in transferring to CBS because I believed that I was intellectually inferior compared to the other applicants and current CBS students. Furthermore, I believed that my pursuit to become involved in medical research was compromised because I lacked the mental capabilities necessary for this field.

However, through the encouragement and direction that TRIO has provided, I realize now all along that I always had the potential to achieve these goals. The unconditional support and guidance that TRIO has provided such as personal appointments with my counselor and the opportunities that they provided me have tremendously assisted in my journey towards my academic and career goals.

For instance, TRIO has reviewed my transfer application to CBS in depth and also covered the application fee. Furthermore, they also reviewed several of my summer undergraduate research applications across the United States, including Johns Hopkins University, Mayo Clinic, University of San Francisco and many more.

In a time where I was lost and did not believe in myself, TRIO stood by me and continually pushed me to achieve my academic and career goals.

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Patrick Torralba 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Boxing
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Apo Island, Philippines, because I miss my grandma and the islands are very beautiful.
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Traveled to the Philippines alone when I​ was 16.
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Try to remain anonymous 2) Hand pick a team of financial and legal advisors 3) Move to Hawaii and relax every day
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Breaking Bad (totally not related to chemistry)
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: ​Parasite
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: ​Become a mentor toward people who are currently like me. I want to provide the guidance and direction they seek so that they may achieve their academic and career goals.
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: ​Chicken because fried chicken is my favorite food.
  9. Dream occupation: ​Academic professor
  10. Person you would most like to meet: ​Manny Pacquiao
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: ​The ability to sleep with the snap of my fingers and then wake up early without an alarm clock.
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: ​The lack of empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand and experience another person’s emotions. I think many people are judgmental and lack empathy, which allows them to mindlessly ignore others or view them as objects to be used for selfish gain.
Learn more about Chemistry at Inver Hills by contacting:

Adam Prowatzke
Chemistry Faculty

Learn more about Biology at Inver Hills by contacting:

Kristin Digiulio
Biology Department Coordinator/Chair

Learn more about TRIO Student Support Services at Inver Hills by contacting:

Matt Kruger
TRIO Student Support Services Director
Travelers EDGE Director

Alicia Atwater
TRIO Student Support Services Advisor

Catima Wilson
TRIO SSS & EDGE Academic Advisor

Learn more about English courses at Inver Hills by contacting:

Nicholas Nownes
English Department Chair
English Faculty

Learn more about earning an Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

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