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Alex Patrick ’19 ChE: Varsity Athlete & Villanova Engineer

Alex Patrick is a top varsity athlete and a successful Villanova Chemical Engineering student.

Who: Alex Patrick ’19 ChE—ranks 10th on the all-time Villanova performance list in the long jump with a personal best mark of 5.53 meters

Why did you choose engineering?
In high school, chemistry and mathematics were my favorite subjects. When I was a senior at Cardinal O’Hara trying to decide where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to study, I talked to my family members about their careers. I ruled out healthcare, accounting and finance, but when I spoke to my cousin, Kate, a 2003 Villanova Chemical Engineering graduate, I was very intrigued. She told me that studying engineering teaches you how to think critically and outside of the box. It teaches you how to be innovative and solve difficult, important problems.

I decided to come to Villanova to study engineering because I wanted to push myself throughout college, learn how to collaborate in a team environment, and form a good understanding of complex, technical concepts.

Did your family influence your decision to choose Villanova?
I knew I was going to at least apply to Villanova because my mother, as well as some of my aunts, uncles and cousins are alumni. Other members of my family went to St. Joe’s, so there is a bit of a family rivalry. When I was looking into Villanova my senior year, I thought the campus was beautiful, the University had what I was looking for academically, and I felt that sense of comfort and belonging when I envisioned myself as a student. When I was offered the opportunity to compete for a legendary Division I Track & Field team, everything fell into place and the decision was an easy one.

How long have you been competing in long jump?
I have been competing in long jump since I was 10 years old. When I was given the opportunity to continue my jumping career in college for Villanova, I knew it was a chance that I could not pass up.

How do you balance engineering and athletics?
Balancing engineering and athletics has been definitely challenging, but not impossible. Personally, I think I am more productive when I have a lot of things on my plate. Having multiple tasks helps me settle into a routine and be productive when I know that I must use my time wisely to accomplish everything. A big thing I try to do is to be in the moment and focus on what’s happening now. When I’m in class or the library, my main priority is engineering. When I’m on the track, my main priority is improving my technique. Often times, I find myself using track as my outlet when my course load becomes overwhelming. It’s a way for me to relieve my stress and direct my energy on something else that I love to do.

Have you had any engineering experiences (internships, research, etc.)?
This past summer I was fortunate to have a 10-week internship with DuPont’s Industrial Biosciences business in Wilmington, Delaware. I was a research intern, working alongside the Applications team in the Biomaterials group. I spent the summer in the lab where my primary focus was to test various primers in polymerization reactions of a specific biomaterial. I also performed analyses on the products of these reactions to see if their characteristics were viable for certain applications.

What are your post-graduation plans?
I have secured a full-time position as a Manufacturing Improvement Engineer for DuPont’s Electronics and Imaging business in Towanda, Pennsylvania.

What advice would you give to other varsity athletes who may be considering engineering?
When I came to Villanova on an official sports visit during my senior year of high school, I spent time with a junior pole vaulter on the team. She was a Chemical Engineering major and I got to shadow her for the day and attend her classes. Right away, I thought they looked challenging, but I was intrigued and asked her if she found it hard to take these engineering classes and be a full-time athlete. She told me that it was difficult, but doable. As I’m approaching my final semester as an athlete and a ChemE student, I would give that exact same answer to another varsity athlete considering engineering.

The biggest piece of advice I would give is to develop a routine and learn how to effectively manage your time. If you can stay on top of due dates, allot time for homework and studying, and find a reliable group of friends to do assignments with, you will succeed in the classroom.

When it’s time for class, I take notes and make sure I have an understanding on the material. When it’s time for practice, I put in the work and find ways to improve. When it’s time to study for tests and complete projects, I meet with a study group and work for as long as I need. If you are willing to put in the time and energy, you can be a successful student-athlete.

Another piece of advice I’d give is to make sure to take time for yourself. School and sports are important, but they aren’t everything. Taking time to do fun things with friends or to relax and decompress will greatly help when the semester/season become overwhelming. Being an engineering student-athlete is possible as long as you work hard, stay focused and surround yourself with a positive support system.