When curiosity leads to opportunity

Paolo Fermin

Paolo Fermin is a member of the Honors Residential Commons in East Ambler Johnston where he serves on the HRC Council historian committee. He’s an actor in a student-led production, perfecting the art of faking death on stage. He’s also a research volunteer at the Hume Center, contributing to the study of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Would you believe he’s a first-year student? In just three months of college, Paolo has invested himself fully into experiencing Virginia Tech.

Paola said, “As a freshman engineering student coming in to Tech, I thought that I would be spending all of my time on classes or engineering-related activities. But the HRC has enabled me to try so many new things.”

One of those new things was joining a book club, reading and discussing Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. His nominator wrote, “Paolo came to these discussion groups exhibiting a deep curiosity about the topics that he was studying, such as automated intelligence and social media. He approached our discussions about what it means to be human and what society requires with fierce curiosity.”

Paolo’s description of his Google calendar is a perfect visual representation of his curious nature. He said, “As I have joined more and more activities, my calendar has grown into a colorful mess that only I can really understand. My schedule is packed with activities that have helped me learn, make new connections, and get things done. I had to borrow a friend’s bike so that I could get across campus from one activity to another quickly, maximizing the time I can spend at each. There is rarely ever a moment where you will see me truly doing nothing.”

Can you tell Achiever is his top Strength? Not surprisingly, Learner and Input are next on his list.

The highlight of his time at Virginia Tech thus far has been his research experience at the Hume Center, which is the result of his reaching out to a speaker who presented in his Engineering Research Seminar class.

He said, “It was a shot in the dark, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have been taken on, seeing as I’m only a freshman with little experience compared to the juniors and seniors on the team.”

This is why he advises others to step out of their comfort zone. For Paolo, reaching out to professors like the one who connected him with the research team is beyond what feels comfortable. Yet it’s the exact thing that’s helped make college memorable and worthwhile for him.

When he graduates in 2022, he intends to pursue a master’s degree and a career in artificial intelligence and robotics. Being from Alexandria, Virginia, he’s particularly excited about possibilities with the new Amazon HQ. He said, “Things could still change in my four years here, and I am open to new paths as opportunities present themselves!”