URI chemistry student plans medical career

Posted on
KINGSTON, R.I. – September 30, 2010 –When University of Rhode Island student Joshua Potvin was in the fourth grade at Oaklawn Elementary in Cranston he decided he would become a doctor and cure disease.

While his focus has slightly changed—he now wants to become a surgeon—his medical aspirations haven’t.

That’s why the 21-year-old student majors in chemistry. “Chemistry,” he says, “is a building block of science. It’s everywhere—in medicine, biotechnology, engineering, pharmacy, nursing, and physics. Even the brownies you eat for dessert are created with a chemical formula.”

On Nov. 2, Rhode Islanders will be asked to vote on a $78 million higher education referendum (#2) that seeks $61 million to finance a modern chemistry facility at URI, designed with advanced research labs and classrooms in order to provide superior training for Rhode Island’s knowledge-based economy.

Potvin will speak about his educational experiences at URI on Oct. 4, as part of a higher education bond referendum kickoff hosted by ChemArt, a Lincoln-based company.

The future doctor got hooked on chemistry as a sophomore when he took organic chemistry with Professor Brett Lucht. Recognizing the young student’s academic talent and enthusiasm, the professor asked him to become a member of his research group.

Since then, Potvin has worked in Lucht’s lab year round. His projects have included synthesizing thermochromic paint pigments, which change color with a change of temperature, and the degradation of plant cellulose into glucose for the synthesis of biofuel. “I love it,” the URI student says of his involvement with research.

So how does this experience help Potvin get into an operating room?

“There’s definite research application,” says the pre-med student. “The research process is the same whatever your focus.”

In addition to his URI research, Potvin has spent time at Rhode Island Hospital, shadowing physicians in operating and emergency rooms and in clinical settings.

“I’ve a growing interest in trauma and neurosurgery,” says the future doctor who will graduate in May 2011, missing the opportunity to study and research in the new facility.

“The new Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences building will triple the space for teaching labs and nearly double the space for research labs,” he says.

“Right now there’s only one organic chemistry lab in the current building and students can get pretty jammed up waiting for space,” he says. “The new facility will give students the labs they need with some much-needed elbow room.”

ABOUT BOND REFERENDUM #2: The $78 million higher education referendum includes $17 million for the renovation and construction of an addition to the Art Center at Rhode Island College.

Pictured above

Joshua Potvin with Professor Brett Lucht. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photos by Nora Lewis.