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Joseph Rohde

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Franciscan Faces

Joseph Rohde

On Track With Chemistry

Autumn 2022 | Maura Roan McKeegan

In This Article

While some Franciscan University students spent their summer working as camp counselors, traveling, volunteering for missions, or staffing the University’s summer conferences, sophomore chemistry major Joseph Rohde ran chemical computations to simulate molecules in space.

As an intern in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Duquesne University, Joseph had the opportunity to explore computational chemistry—a branch of chemistry that was new to him.

“In the past, I had only done organic chemistry research,” explains Joseph. “I wanted to explore different aspects of chemistry, so I applied for this internship.”

This was Joseph’s third summer working in chemistry labs. Before college, he spent one summer working in Franciscan’s labs under senior research scientist Dr. Mira Kanzelberger and another summer doing an internship run by his father, Franciscan University organic chemistry professor Dr. Jeff Rohde, in collaboration with AbbVie, a biopharmaceutical company.

As the son of two chemists—his par- ents met while pursuing their PhDs in chemistry—Joseph always had a natural inclination toward science.

“When it came time to choose a major, I knew I enjoyed science and chemistry, so I thought I’d try it,” he says. “It’s been a lot of fun so far. It’s very cool to see how chemistry, especially combined with physics and math, can help explain the world around us and why things happen the way they do. It’s also cool to explore those interactions and see how we can influence them directly.”

When he’s not running chemical computations, Joseph’s often running races. Sports have been an important part of his life since he was very young. Growing up, he ran dozens of 5K races with his three younger siblings, completed several youth triathlons, and was a competitive speed skater for eight years. And as a student at Catholic Central High School in Steubenville, Joseph was on the soccer, basketball, cross country, and track teams.

During his freshman year at Franciscan, Joseph joined the cross country and track teams, setting school records in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter races and in the 4×400 meter relay, and winning four NCAA All-Conference awards.

“The cross country and track seasons were amazing,” recalls Joseph. “It was great to have mentors who were upperclassmen to introduce me to college athletics. I’m really looking forward to the next few seasons, to seeing where our team can go and what we can do together.”

Another highlight of his first year in college was going to the March for Life. “Getting to go to Franciscan has been really good for me and for my formation as a person and as a Catholic,” he says. Joseph’s current goal is to pursue a PhD and eventually do pharmaceutical research, but his plans are still taking shape.

“If other things pop up or I become interested in something else,” he says, “I’m also willing to explore other things as well.”

For now, he’ll work on optimizing molecular structures; after that, he’ll see where life takes him.


Maura Roan McKeegan is co-author, with Dr. Scott Hahn, of the children’s book “Seven Clues: A Catholic Treasure Hunt” (Emmaus Road).

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