Mildred Maldonado-Molina, Ph.D., associate professor, and Chris Delcher, Ph.D., adjunct research assistant professor, had a tough decision on their hands after interviewing applicants for a single undergraduate mentored research position within the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy.
Applications from qualified candidates poured in after they announced the position through UF’s Honors Daily Opportunities Listserv. However, two candidates stood out: Chelsea Valenzuela and Michelle Duong.
For Valenzuela, a first-year microbiology major, and Duong, a first-year student enrolled in the pre-pharmacy track, the position offered an entry point into the world of health research.
“I thought the idea of advancing scientific knowledge to promote public health and looking at health disparities in health outcomes suited me well,” said Duong. “When Dr. Delcher explained what the job would be like, I thought of how well this job was tailored to me.”
During her interview, however, Delcher informed Duong of another qualified female candidate he was also considering for the position.
“I had this feeling it was my roommate, Chelsea,” Duong said. “We went to the same high school together and have similar interests in regard to the subject of health.”
Like her roommate, Valenzuela said she felt the experience aligned with her desire to craft a career in medicine and health outcomes.
“I applied for the position because I really wanted to get involved in health-related research,” said Valenzuela. “When I read about this particular research position opportunity I jumped at it because it was exactly what I had been looking for.”
Throughout the interviewing process, neither mentioned their association with the other. Drs. Delcher and Maldonado-Molina decided to offer the mentored research opportunity to both Michelle and Chelsea. When the students opened their respective congratulatory emails, it made for an unexpected surprise.
“We never intended to hire two students for the position,” said Delcher. “When Mildred and I found out both candidates were roommates after the fact, we smiled at the coincidence (and the convenience) of the situation.”
Though their official start dates are in the spring, the two have already organized reviewer comments from a submitted paper, prepared documents for a research contract, and helped prepare diagrams of a scientific process for a grant application.
“So far I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn,” said Valenzuela. “I did not realize how many unique components were involved in conducting and publishing research findings, but I’m looking forward to learning about all this and more in the upcoming semester.”