BMCC student Ted Hadges recently faced a daunting dilemma.
In April 2016, the engineering science major found out he had been accepted to Columbia University.
“Initially, I was excited but that soon turned to stressed and frustrated because I had no idea how I would pay for it,” said Hadges.
Hadges had maxed out on student loans after spending four years at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where he earned a BA in Music Performance.
After Hadges graduated Berklee in 2009, he found himself working for Carnival Cruise Line on the boat Carnival Liberty where he spent a year playing saxophone for the showband. Then in 2011, he made his way to New York City where he has played gigs at nightclubs and other venues.
Landing at BMCC
In Spring 2014, Hadges landed at BMCC where he originally planned to take just one math class and then transfer to a four-year school. But he realized quickly, it made financial sense to enroll full time.
Two classes, Critical Thinking with Professor Anna Mockler and Speech with Professor Kenneth Antrobus had a profound impact on his decision.
“They provided me with a core foundation for the classroom and my career. I knew I wanted to stay at BMCC and learn all I could here,” Hadges said.
Hadges immersed himself into the BMCC community. He joined the Chess Club, Rowing Club and was vice president of the Engineering Club. He also began to realize that the study of all things STEM related stimulated the same part of his brain as the study of music.
Hadges became more involved in campus life and was elected Communications Officer for Phi Theta Kappa. Hadges and BMCC alumna Elizabeth Ildefonso, now at New York University, coordinated the Phi Theta Kappa members volunteer program at Manhattan Early College Schools for Advertising, or MECA during the 2014-2015 academic year.
Awakening a Love of Science
During a physics class in his third semester, Hadges was introduced to BMCC’s research program through Dr. Helene Bach. Hadges was eventually paired with Dr. Lauren Wickstrom, who became his research mentor.
In his research Hadges investigates the binding mechanism of the most common fungal pathogen in humans, Candida, by using molecular dynamics simulations. The project is funded by a grant from the CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP).
"This research is especially challenging because students must apply knowledge of biochemical concepts often introduced at a senior level in college or in grad school," said Wickstrom, Science Professor at BMCC.
Hadges presented his work at BMCC’s annual research symposium, and was selected to present it at an April 2016 statewide undergraduate research conference where he won an Honorable Mention award in the Natural Sciences Lower Division. Hadges was the first student from BMCC to ever take home an award for an oral presentation at the CSTEP regional conference.
Hadges has demonstrated great intellect, maturity and excitement for new challenges in coursework and research, Wickstrom says.
In Spring Semester 2015, Hadges enrolled in Professor Kibrewossen Tesfagiorgis’s AutoCAD class. Midway through the semester, Tesfagiorgis told the class about a paid internship opportunity at a company called Aspex Inc. where students could use their classroom skills. Hadges quickly applied for the position.
Aspex Inc., designs custom microscope inspection tracking systems for the synthetic fiber industry.
In April 2015, while Hadges was attending the national Phi Theta Kappa convention in San Antonio, Aspex’s owner and President called him to arrange an interview. Two weeks later Hadges was hired. During the course of the year, the part-time internship he first learned about in a BMCC classroom turned into a full-time job.
On to the Ivy League
By the time the acceptance letter from Columbia had arrived, Hadges felt comfortable enough to approach Aspex company owner and President BJ Henrici, and ask if there might be an arrangement that could help him with tuition.
“We have a company policy, if an employee gets a B average or better, we’ll pay for their school and books,” said Henrici, who says he had taken night classes at BMCC back in the mid-1990’s.
Starting in Fall 2016, Hadges, who has maintained a 3.9 GPA during his time at BMCC will likely take two classes each week at Columbia and work at Aspex at least four days.
In the meantime, he continues to make time for music with his jazz and funk band Pink Fabric. Hadges says he is grateful for his time at BMCC and excited about his future.
“I think that if I were to lay out a long-term plan, I would finish a bachelor’s degree in Biology or Biochemistry, for the required grounding, then a master’s degree and PhD in Neuroscience,” says Hadges.