New Bedford native Justin Pine '06 will be the first person in his family to receive a college degree, before he departs to Portugal to study chemistry on a Fulbright scholarship. (Photo by Kris Brewer)
Making the Most of His Opportunities
The son of a fisherman prepares for his life's next great adventure
By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs
It has been a difficult year for the fishermen of New Bedford Harbor.
Faced with skyrocketing fuel costs, heightened federal restrictions, increased foreign competition and the lurking threat of a red tide scare, there has been little cause for celebration in the proud, overwhelmingly Portuguese fishing community that has made a living from these waters for generations.
That community will receive a much-needed boost on May 22, however, when New Bedford native and Fulbright Scholar Justin Duarte Pine receives his undergraduate degree from Boston College.
The son of a scallop boat captain from the Azores and a physical therapist's assistant from Coimbra, Pine will become the first person in his family to receive a college degree and one of the first in his community to graduate from a university of the caliber of Boston College.
In a city still influenced heavily by old-world traditions, and where the aspirations of most young men is to follow in their father's footsteps as fishermen, Pine will graduate with honors with degrees in chemistry and philosophy before embarking to study chemistry on a Fulbright Scholarship at the Instituto de Tecnologia, Quimica e Biologia at the New University of Lisbon.
"I feel absolutely blessed to have received a Fulbright, as it will allow me to return to my parents' homeland and study something that I love," says Pine. "On one hand, I will be learning more about my heritage and my family's origins, and on the other hand, I will be performing organic chemistry research at one of Portugal's best research institutions where I hope to strengthen the scientific bonds between Portugal and the United States.
"This experience will assimilate all of the important things in my life and give me a greater appreciation and understanding of who I am. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity."
Making the most of opportunities has become a staple of Pine's life.
During summers of his pre-teen and high school years, Pine unloaded fishing boats alongside his father, uncles and cousins in New Bedford Harbor, where he expressed his strong desire to become a fisherman. "I always admired the work ethic and found beauty in the labor," says Pine.
His parents, however, insisted that he get an education to avoid the occupational dangers of fishing that have affected so many in the New Bedford community. "My parents made education the number one priority," says Pine. "They pushed me to do well in school and to take AP classes so that I would have opportunities that they never had. My father made so many sacrifices by going out to sea, often for two to three weeks at a time. I will always be appreciative of what they have done for me."
After excelling in New Bedford High and earning acceptance to Boston College, Pine accepted a challenge from Vanderslice Professor of Chemistry T. Ross Kelly to work in his lab, provided that he received "A's" in Kelly's demanding introductory organic chemistry class. Pine succeeded, thereby introducing himself to the world of organic chemistry and synthesis and enabling him to work with a team of post-doctoral fellows on Kelly's acclaimed chemically powered and continuously rotating molecular motor.
The subsequent coursework and lab experiences provided Pine with his knowledge base and passion for research that formed the basis of his Fulbright proposal.
"Justin's project is built on his commitments to scientific research, to volunteering with the Portuguese Institute's cultural research program and to promoting connections between Portuguese and American chemists," says Assoc. Prof. Margaret Thomas (Slavic and Eastern Languages), BC's Fulbright coordinator. "His sincerity and dedication to all these activities is most impressive. He will make an excellent representative of the United States and of Boston College."
It is a sentiment shared by Kelly. "I have seen how exceptionally hard working, motivated and productive he is. He is a talented and driven individual who will not only make the most of the personal opportunities provided by the Fulbright Fellowship, but will also be outstanding at building bridges between the US and Portugal."
For his part, Pine is quick to praise Boston College for opening him up to so many possibilities he says he never would have received elsewhere.
"I came to BC because I knew it was a fantastic school and because its Jesuit, Catholic ideals appealed to me," says Pine, a bilingual catechist at Monte Carmel Catholic Church in New Bedford throughout high school. "I had always been a math-science person, and I knew I wanted to study theology and philosophy at BC because they were not offered at my high school.
"This year, I took Philosophy Professor Brian Braman's course Modernism and the Arts, which helped me to appreciate art and music in a way I had never before. It was one of the best classes that I took at BC, and a great way to cap my educational experience."
While his decision to major in both chemistry and philosophy would be considered unusual in most research universities, it was clearly encouraged at BC where a wide-ranging liberal arts curriculum is an integral component of Jesuit education. That breadth of inquiry has affected Pine in a way he says has shaped his future ambitions.
"While my life's focus is on increasing the scientific interchange between American and Portuguese speaking chemists, my dream job eventually would be to introduce liberal arts education to Portugal whose colleges are so professionally oriented," says Pine. "The liberal arts education I received at BC has had such a profound effect on me. To share it with others would truly be a joy."
After working this summer in the laboratories of pharmaceutical company Novartis AG, Pine will depart for Lisbon in early September. With his grandparents having recently moved back to Portugal to the village where his mother was born, he says he is also looking forward to the opportunity to spend time with them and with his extended Portuguese family, many of whom he has never met.
"My family is so happy that the next generation appreciates their heritage," says Pine. "This Fulbright Scholarship is my way of sharing my appreciation for the Portuguese culture and for them."