Triple major is in a league of his own

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

By Cheyenne Dunn

Every morning Alex Angel wakes up at 6 a.m. Before heading out the door for his first class, he thinks about his schedule for the day. Classes all morning. A lab and a meeting with his advisor in the afternoon. Two club meetings in the evening.

As busy as he is, he wouldn’t trade a moment of it — every meeting, every class is an opportunity to learn. If college has taught him anything it’s that he loves to learn.

“Since being at Purdue, I feel like the luckiest man in the world,” he said. “Every day I get to wake up, go to class, and learn all day. How neat is that?”

Angel, a junior from Fort Wayne, Indiana, has not just one, but three, majors: plant science, biochemistry, and history. At first glance, it may be hard to see how these different interests work together, but Angel’s intellectual curiosity makes them a perfect fit.

Choosing a major in the College of Agriculture was not a surprising decision for Angel. He said he was always curious about agriculture and enjoyed finding out where things come from.

“Ever since I found out about YouTube, I’ve been subscribed to farmers’ pages, ag podcasts, and things like that,” he said. “I’m always thinking things like, ‘Where did that concrete come from? How did that bridge get there? Where does my food come from?’ And ‘What are the people like?’”

Angel’s decision to narrow his agriculture curiosity down to a major in plant sciences was easy, he said.

“After touring the department, the people in botany sent me a handwritten letter,” Angel said. “None of the other schools did that, and I decided this was the place I needed to be.”

Once he started taking classes at Purdue, he found himself wanting to go more in depth. In one class, he was learning about genetic traits, but his curiosity nagged at him. What are the underlying chemical processes? He needed to know. So, he decided that he also needed to major in biochemistry if he was going to know the answers.

Photo by Cheyenne Dunn
Although study breaks are rare for Alex Angel, a triple major from Fort Wayne, Indiana, he does take time to pick persimmons at one of his favorite spots on campus.

“Biochemistry goes into the smaller level of detail I was wanting,” Angel said. “It can be pretty tough at times, but it’s so cool.”

It’s easy to see how studying plants and the chemistry that makes them function work together. But history? Angel said sees his history major as a sort of hobby. After taking his first history class, his curiosity demanded him to learn more and it eventually turned into his third major. But studying history is more than just a novelty. Angel said it helps him be a better scientist.

“History has indirect benefits on my other majors,” Angel said. “I have seen my writing and research skills improve greatly since adding the major.”

Those enhanced research skills came in handy over the summer for the triple major. As an intern for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, he combined his enhanced plant knowledge and fact-finding abilities to teach coworkers about the products they were using.

“A guy I was working with thought the pesticides were really dangerous to him,” he said. “I was able to find, read, and understand the USDA safety reports and explain to him that the chemicals were designed to affect insect cells, not human ones.”

While each of his subjects have helped him in real-world situations, Angel said it isn’t always easy to stay focused. He relies on others for help.

“When I’m on my own, I fall off track,” Angel said. “Going to class every day and having other people there to hold me accountable is key.”

Though completing homework and readings isn’t always fun, Angel said the work he puts in will be well worth the effort. From libraries and events to scholarships and award-winning professors, he loves having access to just about any information he could want or need.

“I get to knock on the door of the expert in a certain field and just ask them how they’re doing,” he said. “How many other people can say they have that kind of opportunity at their fingertips?”

Find out more

Purdue Botany and Plant Pathology

Purdue Biochemistry

Purdue Department of History




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