David Garcia

Scientist, Video Gamer, Debater

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. A debilitating myth in those kinds of towns is that college is something you can only accomplish, achieve and go to if you’ve somehow been able to academically excel and get a full ride. The myth isn’t true. It is completely possible to go to a school like Ripon and get a fantastic education whether or not you have the money for it.

At Ripon, I did more hands-on work than I probably could have at any other school. This experience is invaluable. At bigger schools, you might get more access to big-name professors and big-time research, but it is often the professor accomplishing those things rather than the students.

I majored in chemistry and history with a minor in economics. I think the humanities have a very important place in teaching critical-thinking and writing skills.

That’s why I continue to take history courses and participate in forensics. These activities force me to think outside of the basic box that is science. It’s really important to step outside your general field of knowledge. Otherwise, you don’t really know how to do much of anything else.

"At Ripon, I did more hands-on work than I probably could have at any other school"

Every time you hear about a new topic, read a new paper or are assigned a new project, you build up more and more questions. But science is not really about answering the big questions or winning the Nobel Prize. It’s about building up communal knowledge so we eventually have something we can use toward improving mankind.

The Fisk University and Ripon College Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, exposed me to a culture drastically different from my own at a historically black university. My goal is to become a professor and teach science the same way they do at Ripon. The professors do a lot of research on their own and still run extremely interesting classes.

Ripon College has a long-established student exchange program with Fisk University, a historically Black college in Nashville, Tenn. Students wishing to spend a semester in residence at Fisk University may enroll in the full range of courses at Fisk for which they meet the prerequisites. In addition to semester-long student exchanges, the two colleges conduct short-term exchanges of faculty, administrators, students, performing groups and collections, and the two institutions annually conduct a joint conference on issues of mutual interest, usually centering around issues of race and diversity. Learn more at ripon.edu/fisk

I really saw the importance of forensics my senior year. I didn't even have to practice my senior seminar presentation!

Founded in 1913, the Ripon College Forensics Team performs at the highest levels of collegiate forensics and competes at the district and national tournaments of the American Forensic Association (AFA), in addition to other regional and national invitational tournaments, including the Mid-America Forensic League (MAFL) and the National Forensic Association (NFA). The team travels across the country and over the past decade has appeared at tournaments from Long Beach, Calif., to Lincoln, Neb., and Austin, Texas, to Ithaca, N.Y.

The Ripon College Forensics Team recognizes a student’s commitment to forensics, service to the greater forensics community, and academic excellence. Scholarships of up to $5,000 per year are available through a process of application, interview, and audition. After the performance, the students will be coached to determine their ability to adapt to suggestions and recommendations and acceptance of feedback and criticism.

Learn more about how Ripon students are engaging in Dialogue.

My senior research project involved exploring whether termites could play a role in producing the fuel that your car runs on.

Basically, termites are able to digest wood and turn it into energy.  Could the process they use be harnessed by us to take plant matter and turn it into energy on a larger scale?

The goal was to see if bacteria produced in termite guts could produce glycol hydrolytic enzymes capable of breaking up cellulose (one of the primary components of plants such as trees) into sugars. Those sugars, in turn, could be used in fermentation tanks to make biofuel and ethanol.

Using cloning procedures in the lab, I was able to show that, if done properly, the enzymes created in the termite's gut can be used to produce that fuel. It's only a viable theory at the moment, but if someday you find yourself driving a hovercraft running on fuel produced by termite stomach enzymes and tree pulp, it all started with my work at Ripon :)