GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — ‘Why?’ —it’s one of the fundamental questions of scientific research. As a first-generation student at Guilford College, John Romero Alfaro started in the Biology Department wanting answers to why certain home remedies worked.
“Coming to college and learning why this stuff works and actually happens really proves to me that our culture makes sense and is justified,” Romero Alfaro said.
‘Intro to Molecules and Cells’ was the first course he took to help unlock unanswered truths about his Mexican-American culture.
“We actually made concoctions and herbs and oils in order to see if it actually helps with E.coli and things like that,” Romero Alfaro said.
The teacher behind his epiphanies is Biology Professor Michele Malotky.
“I have a really personal connection with Michele because of that and she was able to bridge that gap of my culture and biology and make it make sense,” Romero Alfaro said. 
Professor Malotky isn’t just making those connections for Romero Alfaro on the Guilford college campus. They just got back from learning abroad.
“Growing up in a household that was so interested in education and really tried to instill that in myself and my brothers, it was a real privilege to have the opportunity to travel abroad as a young person and so it’s been really wonderful to share that with my students and I think they sense that when we get there because I get all giddy too,” Malotky said.
Professor Malotky has taken students around the world.
“I’ve taken them to Madagascar and I’ve gone with them to Northern Italy,” Malotky said. “England was one of the more recent locations.”
Alfaro joined Professor Malotky on that three-week visit.
“As a Mexican American, we do a lot of natural remedies at home,” Romero Alfaro said. “One of the aspects we had on this trip was that we learned about poisons and their natural remedies of them. I focused on Aloes which is one of the herbs I use at home just to bring it back to my culture and bring it back to my family and prove it does work.”
Whether at home or afar, Malotky wants this learning cycle to continue.
“I love teaching. It’s a form of life-long learning because I’m always learning along with my students,” Malotky said.
“She’s amazing,” Romero Alfaro said. “She’s a very powerful woman in STEM and I really look up to her.”
   
 
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