CSU microbiology graduate ranked No. 2 ROTC cadet in nation

Rick Cookson

Colorado State University microbiology student Caitlin Lozano works on feline immune deficiency research in Sue VandeWoude's lab, December 17, 2014. (Photo courtesy of source.colostate.edu)
Colorado State University microbiology student Caitlin Lozano works on feline immune deficiency research in Sue VandeWoude’s lab, December 17, 2014. (Photo courtesy: source.colostate.edu)

Recent Colorado State University graduate Caitlin Lozano was not only an exemplary student, but also the Army ROTC’s No. 2 cadet in the nation.

Lozano’s dreams started earlier than most with what she said was a critical thinking module in the fourth grade — students were given the situation of a hypothetical disease outbreak in a new town and attempted to solve the problem. Along with that, her father served in the Air Force for 20 years, and so from a young age, Lozano had her future planned out: microbiology and the Army.

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“My dad was in the Air Force for 20 years, so as a kid, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Lozano said. “And I was always interested in infectious diseases and wanted to become an infectious disease specialist.”

When first arriving at CSU, Lozano immediately looked for ways she could start studying and working within the realms of her interests. During her first semester, she entered the Army ROTC program. During her second semester, she applied to different research positions around campus and ended up with the Associate Dean for Research in Dr. Sue VandeWoude’s Laboratory in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“She was an excellent student,” VandeWoude said. “Caitlin was always very organized and very thorough in her research. A very good scientist — never deterred by hard work or big projects.”

Lozano graduated in May with a 4.0 GPA from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and her research has even been published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. For VandeWoude, as well as Lozano’s friends and co-researchers, Lozano’s determination was incredibly obvious, but they had no idea how elaborate and extended that determination was.

“I knew she was in ROTC, and for the most part, she was pretty private about it, but I had no idea that she was such a tenacious warrior in ROTC,” VandeWoude said.

The news of Lozano’s No. 2 ranking out of the 5,617 ROTC students who graduated in 2015 — which came in November 2014 — was also a surprise for Ryan Troyer, an associate professor of animal virology at Oregon State University who previously did research with Lozano in the VandeWoude Laboratory.

“I had talked a lot with her about ROTC when we were in the lab, but when I heard about her ranking, I was shocked,” Troyer said. “She was always very humble and wasn’t the type of person to broadcast her achievements.”

Troyer was the main person who Lozano did research with for two and a half years up until her junior year when he left for OSU. From beginning to end, Troyer said his time with Lozano inside the lab was full of joy and inspiration.

Caitlin Lozano in Sue VandeWoude's lab, December 17, 2014. (Photo courtesy of source.colostate.edu)
Caitlin Lozano in Sue VandeWoude’s lab, December 17, 2014. (Photo courtesy: source.colostate.edu)

“She was great from the start and always wonderful to work with,” Troyer said. “It was impressive that she would come into the lab with ROTC and all of her other stuff going on. And when she came in, she always had an organized plan, which she would execute very well.”

Lozano admitted how rigorous it was balancing ROTC with school and work, but she remembered that during her time at CSU, she always had time for relationships.

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“It was tough balancing it all, but I’ve always been good at time management.” Lozano said. “Even within doing all of the work, I always made time to hang out with my friends, and if something came up, we would always find a way to work around it.”

The tougher balancing act was being spontaneous with her life and being able to see past school, work and ROTC, Lozano said. Following her dream and accomplishing her goals was one thing, but she didn’t want to miss out on experiencing everything that Fort Collins and college have to offer. According to her friends, she did that with flare.

“It never seemed like any of her commitments with school or work ever got in the way of her enjoying her free time,” said Megan Kunkel, a friend of Lozano’s and a fellow biomedical sciences student. “She always found a way to get her free time.”

After graduating, Lozano is heading to New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, to continue studying infectious diseases. She said she hopes to get her medical practicing license there and go straight into the U.S. Army Medical Corps to do what she thinks is the best thing for her.

“After I graduate (from New York Medical College), I’ll be going into active duty as an infectious disease specialist in the Army,” Lozano said. “The people in the Army protecting this country, they make the ultimate sacrifice, but who takes care of them? I think it will be really cool to be the person who helps them.”

According to VandeWoude, Lozano’s future of becoming a medical practitioner in the U.S. Army is as much of a realistic prediction as it is Lozano’s dream.

“Caitlin is just a wonderful human being and an all-around great person,” VandeWoude said. “I feel completely competent in her being a medical care provider.”

Collegian Senior Reporter Rick Cookson can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @RickCookson1.