Augusto Alonso of the football team talks about life beyond the gridiron.
Oct. 5, 2011
Scholar Athlete Profile
Major: Biomedical Engineering (Mechanical)
As told to Farren Benjamin, USC Sports Information Student Intern
What drew you to biomedical engineering?
I have had a lifelong interest in medicine, but as I was contemplating a major while in high school, I was drawn to engineering for the design and product development aspect. I felt like I could have great impact in the world of medicine through developing a new product, so I decided to combine engineering and medicine with biomedical engineering.
What careers do people with a biomedical engineering degree go into?
A biomedical engineering degree allows people to venture into a variety of fields. Physicians and engineers for biotech companies are the most common careers, but they can also go into law, consulting, academia, and government R&D, etc.
What is your dream job?
My career goal is to initially work for one of the large biotech companies, then once I eventually acquire enough resources and skills, begin my own start-up biomedical engineering company. My main interests as far as products go include diabetes care, cardiovascular-related devices, and biomechanical implants.
What has been your inspiration and motivation?
You scored a perfect 36 on the ACT in high school. How much studying did that take or are you naturally good at taking standardized tests?
My late father was a cardiovascular surgeon and throughout my life, I have had many people come up to me when they recognize my last name and tell me how he saved their lives through his work. This amazed me every time, and I have been inspired to potentially do the same for people through my line of work. Also, my little sister was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 2, while I was a senior in high school. Through this, I learned a great deal about the available devices that help improve the quality of life of those with diabetes and it has motivated me to work on creating something that would help them even more.
I found that standardized testing was never about how much one studied, but more about one's mentality going into the test. For my ACT, I tried to get everyone to relax by buying 24 assorted donuts and conducting a donut draft before the test with those that were taking the test in the same room as me. I hoped it would help everyone loosen up, answer the questions calmly, and get a high score.
With that kind of score on an ACT, college choices must have been pretty open for you. What drew you to USC and why?
My college decision came down to here, Stanford, Harvard, or Duke. I was drawn to and eventually chose USC because of the environment, and I saw it as a school on the rise. I love that USC is in the middle of urban Los Angeles because I feel like I am actually in the real world, whereas other universities foster a bubbled off sense of reality that I did not agree with. Being around here gives one perspective, and the work that Steven Sample began and Max Nikias continued also factored in greatly. USC is actively striving to improve every year, which I admire.
I read that you had 9 varsity letters in high school in football, track and lacrosse. What was the key to time management for you?
I am a firm believer that one can find time for anything if that something is important to them. People would be shocked if they realized how much time they waste in any given day, and I am guilty of that too. But when it comes to activities that mean something to me, like my education or athletics, it's easy to find time if you look for it and plan accordingly.
Did you find any specific skills that helped you across the board in terms of playing 3 different sports in high school?
While the three sports I played varied a great deal, the one thing I have always strived to do in any sport is be exact with my technique over anything else. I was never the fastest in football or strongest in track and field, but I competed with others by mastering the technique and form of each sport. I always just tried to put myself in the right position at all times and do my job, and good results would usually follow.
You have the highest GPA on the football team. How do you manage to fit football into your schedule and still be one of the top people in your class?
College has been a much greater challenge in terms of scheduling and managing to balance everything, mostly because of the 20-hour football weeks and engineering course load. I've been lucky enough to still be able to take 18 units every semester despite football practice, but like I said earlier, it's all about prioritizing what is important to me. Also, my mom said that if my GPA fell because of football, then she would not support it so I had no other choice than to keep my grades up while playing.
What do you miss most about your hometown in Nebraska?
I love my hometown of Omaha, so there is much to miss. The weather -- I actually enjoy having seasons-- the people, the lack of traffic, and my family and friends come to mind first. I am a gigantic fan of all things Midwest, especially when around all of the California folk, but unfortunately I don't get to go back often with everything going on here.
Tell me a little bit about your involvement with "Engineers Without Borders" (A national student group that designs and implements sustainable engineering projects around the world) and how you got involved.
I joined EWB my freshman year as a Spanish-English translator for a few documents. From there I got more involved and was lucky enough to lead a group of engineers on a trip to Honduras to begin construction on a water delivery project. I fell in love with the community and have been back two more times to continue construction of the project. We will be returning this December-- one advantage of no bowl game--to hopefully finish everything and bring clean water to the village of La Estanzuela, Honduras.
How did you get the nickname Goose?
My older brother gave me the nickname when I was very young. My real name, Augusto, is pronounced uh-Goose-toe, so it was a natural nickname to avoid people calling me uh-Gus-toe. I've gone with it ever since to make life easier.
What does it mean to you to be playing football for one of the most storied programs in college football?
I was definitely intimidated when I first had the idea to play football at a place like USC, especially after being away from it for two years. Now after being in the program for two years, I recognize how much of an honor it is to play on this team. It was definitely worth the work it took to come back to the game.
What do you enjoy doing during your free time, the little bit you may have?
Whenever I get some free time and I am not catching up on sleep, I usually try to hang out with my sister (a sophomore at USC) or unwind with a variety of television shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office.
What is your favorite class here at USC?
My favorite series of classes here has been the Honors Physics track (PHYS 161, 162, 163) taught by Professor Gene Bickers. They are definitely not for the faint of heart, but Dr. Bickers is an amazing instructor and made the most abstract and unusual topics interesting. He even lied down on a bed of nails and walked across burning coals to demonstrate different physics concepts.
Tell me something you have learned in one of your engineering classes that would blow my mind.
I think everything I learned in PHYS 163 blew my bind. This was basically a Quantum Physics class taught by Dr. Bickers and I just had to accept that a particle could act as a wave or that a beam of light could act as matter, despite that not making any sense physically.
Are you applying to be a Rhodes Scholar? If so, what would that recognition mean to you and help your future?
Yes I am applying to be a Rhodes scholar. I actually just submitted my application this morning. The recognition and honor would mean a lot to me, but more so to the different groups I represent. I would love to be named a Rhodes Scholar to bring recognition to USC, the Viterbi School of Engineering, the football team, my hometown, my high school, etc.. Personally, I care much more about the program that I would be able to enroll in at Oxford, which would allow me to get my master's in biomedical engineering and a second master's degree -- likely an MBA -- in two years of studying there. At this point, I just have my fingers crossed that they liked my application.