When Pedro Guajardo Jr. was a student ambassador for Washington State University Tri-Cities, he told prospective students they should use college to maximize their future options.
The 22-year-old junior took his own advice to heart.
Guajardo recently was invited to present his biofuel development research at an undergraduate showcase on the Pullman campus, and his work also earned him a $1,000 fellowship.
That's on top of his work as an electrical engineering student, time as a student ambassador and volunteer firefighter, and the jobs he holds down to pay for rent and food.
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"It's just the way I work," said the Wapato native.
Friends and others who have worked with Guajardo said he has always looked for new ways to better himself, and that has made him an exceptional student.
"I'm not sure what Pedro will be doing in 10 or 15 years, but I'm sure I'll read about it in newspapers," said Brad Liebrecht, an admissions counselor at the Richland WSU campus.
Guajardo said his parents always pushed him to do well academically, but it wasn't until he joined the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement, or MESA, program, that he really focused on his studies and thought about college.
The program works to bring more minorities and underrepresented groups into science- and math-related fields. Guajardo said that was when he became fascinated with computers and met friends who pushed him in his education.
"Those are still my closest friends from high school," he said.
He wanted to continue his education and planned to go to a community college because of the expense of a four-year university. But MESA staff helped him get a scholarship and he enrolled at WSU.
He decided to attend classes in the Tri-Cities partially so he could be close to contractors and companies connected to Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
An internship at PNNL the summer after his freshman year inspired him to go into engineering.
The summer after his sophomore year, he worked with Xiao Zhang, assistant professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering, and others on figuring out the best way to prepare woody materials, specifically Douglas fir, for biofuel production.
That earned him an invitation to the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, or SURCA, on the Pullman campus, where he presented his work.
Zhang said he liked having Guajardo in the lab.
"He's very energetic and has an interesting personality," he said.
Liebrecht said Guajardo's natural curiosity and drive help feed his success.
"He's always learning new things," Liebrecht said. "At one time he was learning Arabic."
He's also found time to be a volunteer firefighter for Benton Fire District 4 while also working to pay his bills. He currently works at the rollerskating rink in Richland.
Senior Alice Loc said she met Guajardo when he was a student ambassador and was impressed with his friendliness, outgoing personality and his ability to multi-task.
"It really amazes me how he balances so many different things," she said.
That won't be stopping anytime soon. Guajardo recently received the Fire Protection Engineering Internship at PNNL for the summer.
He's also contemplating taking the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, just to see how he'll do.